We’re ranking the top 30 NBA starters at each position during the offseason. The center is next.
A few caveats before we get started: Coaches don’t release their starting five before games start, let alone in October, when they’ve barely seen how their players perform together. These starting units for the 30 teams are my best guesses, but there will inevitably be a few where I’m wrong.
Some of these positions may also seem a bit weird. But what do you do with a team like the Raptors when their forward, power forward and center are all between 6-7 and 6-9? Paste them all somewhere.
Increasingly, teams play a positionless form of basketball. As Jalen Rose pointed out in his Skip Bayless live performance, positions are more designations for fans than anything else these days.
With that out of the way, here are the top 30 centers for the 2022-23 season.
MORE: Offseason additions and departures for all 30 teams
2022-23 NBA Center Rankings
1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Choosing between the reigning two-time MVP in Jokic or Joel Embiid to take the top spot on this list is very tricky. But Jokic gets the nod here because of his string of storied offensive seasons and much-improved defense.
He is the greatest passer of all time, unstoppable in the post and his “Sombor Shuffle” jump shot is a beauty to watch. He’s tearing up the advanced stats, but he was also the best offensive player in the league last year based on the eye test and basic scoring stats.
2. Joel Embiid, 76ers
Embiid is an elite defender, impossible to guard with a single player in the post and has shot more than 37 percent from 3-point range in each of the last two seasons. His pick-and-roll chemistry with James Harden was the best in the league last year.
He’s a tough player who overcame an orbital fracture and torn thumb ligament in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
3. Rudy Gobert, Timber Wolves
Gobert is by far the best rim protector in basketball. He looked bad in the postseason, but eventually he’ll have at least a few teammates who can deftly protect in Jaden McDaniels and newcomer Kyle Anderson. The Wolves should improve from what was the No. 13 defense last season, and Gobert will likely be back in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation again.
Gobert is much more limited on the offensive end. He doesn’t have good hands and can’t do much more than catch lobs for dunks. The post-ups of him are a mess to watch.
Despite those weaknesses, his defensive impact makes him one of the best bigs in the league.
4. Pascal Siakam, Raptors
After a slow start to the season, Siakam was named to an All-NBA team later in the year thanks to his 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He has developed into a good playmaker and midrange threat, tasked with creating much of the team’s offense.
Defensively, Siakam is a disruptive player who is excellent both on and off the ball.
5. Bam Adebayo, heat
Adebayo is probably the most versatile defender in the league. He earned All-Defense honors three straight years and finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season.
He’s also a complete offensive center, though he struggled in the Heat’s series against the Celtics.
6. Jarrett Allen, Knights
Allen is a shot-blocking force and a big reason the Cavaliers surprised everyone with a 44-win season.
He is a great athlete who can get up for thunderous balloons. He was a well-deserved All-Star for the first time last season.
7. Domantas Sabonis, Reyes
Sabonis switched teams from the Pacers to the Kings, but his role has remained much the same. He is still the center of the offense, using his advantage in passing and screens to set up his teammates. He is also a solid post player and rebounder.
While Sabonis competes hard on defense, he ultimately doesn’t make a difference at that end of the floor. His short wingspan makes it difficult for him to protect the rim, which leaves him a bit low on this list.
8. Deandre Ayton, Suns
Ayton is one of the best two-way centers in the league. He’s a fierce rim protector and can also score a bit on the perimeter. That helped him become one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the league. His communication has also improved as he has gained experience.
While he hasn’t shot a ton of 3s, Ayton has great touch on his jump shot and has been one of the best mid-range shooters in the league. He’s also a solid finisher, though he could handle being more aggressive down the stretch.
He has been unhappy with the Suns in the preseason; It’s not yet clear how that affects his game on the court.
9. Myles Turner, Pacers
Turner is one of the best rim protectors outside of Gobert. He has never been named to an All-Defensive team, but he is one of the top five defenders at his position because of his shot-blocking ability and good mobility on the perimeter.
Turner’s bread and butter on offense is his long shot. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shot it that well. If he can be a bit more precise, that would unlock the rest of his game.
10. Kristaps Porzingis, Magicians
Porzingis’ biggest flaw has been his availability. He is averaging just 48 games played in his seven seasons.
He’s been a great rim protector and a solid 3-point threat when he’s healthy.
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11. Robert Williams III, Celts
12. Brook Lopez, Bucks
13. Clint Capela, Falcons
14. Wendell Carter Jr., Magic
15. Jakob Poeltl, Spurs
- Williams is one of the best athletes in the league. He covers immense ground defensively, which makes it extremely difficult to score anywhere near the rim. He is also an excellent lob threat and an underrated passer. However, another offseason surgery on his knee is concerning.
- Lopez is not as mobile as other centers on this list. He’s trying to stay in the paint as long as possible. That’s because he’s great at altering shots when he’s there. He went from being a threat in the post to being more important later in his career.
- Capela’s effectiveness was limited by Achilles soreness earlier in the season, and he later suffered a hyperextended knee. Despite a poor season, he still provided good rim protection and a vertical threat to the Hawks’ offense.
- Carter finally started letting his 3-pointer fly last season. He only got 32.7 percent of those looks right, but that new element opened up the rest of his game. He has been a solid rebounder, passer and defender for the Magic.
- Poeltl has a unique game. He is a great athlete and a top level defender. Offensively, he struggles from the line and can’t shoot 3s, but he’s a good pick-and-roll partner. He uses an ugly but effective push shot to keep defenses honest.
16. Nikola Vucevic, Bulls
17. Jonas Valanciunas, Pelicans
18. Kevon Looney, Warriors
19. Jusuf Nurkic, Trail Blazers
20. Steven Adams, Grizzlies
- Vucevic has been a bit of a disappointment to the Bulls scoring-wise. At 31.4 percent last season, his 3s fell off a cliff. But he is still effective as a blocker and passer. He is an average team defender, but he is flawed there with his lack of vertical burst and mobility.
- Valanciunas has one of the best pumping fakes in the league. He has become a good 3-point shooter to balance his strong post game. While he brings definite value to the offense, his lack of mobility limits his defensive effectiveness.
- Looney was an NBA Playoffs hero for the Warriors, consistently providing offensive rebounds, toughness, and defense. He’s a limited offensive player, but he makes tons of game-winning plays and blocks his other stars well.
- Nurkic is a complete and solid center. He can defend at the rim, pass and score. He is somewhat limited by his mobility and his inability to shoot 3-pointers.
- Adams is one of the strongest players in the league. He’s also a great teammate, a smart defender and a good passer, particularly on backdoor cuts. He is limited as a scorer, and his career free throw percentage of 54.7 is approximate.
21. Mitchell Robinson, Knicks
22. Ivica Zubac, Clippers
23. Nic Claxton, Networks
24. Alperen Sengun, Rockets
25. Isaiah Stewart, Pistons
- Robinson is a great lob threat and shot blocker. He is elite in the things he does well. But he’s not a great passer and he can’t stretch the floor at all.
- Zubac isn’t flashy and never shoots from the 3-point line, but he’s a solid starting center in the league. He is a good defender, blocker and finisher at the rim.
- Claxton is a good rim protector with decent switching ability. However, his problems shooting from the outside and the free throw line make him difficult to play, especially with Ben Simmons also on the Nets’ roster.
- Sengun is one of the funniest passers in the league. He plays with creativity and craft. He’s not the fastest guy in the league, but he finds ways to be effective.
- Stewart, affectionately known as “Beef Stew,” is a very good rebounder and defender who can deftly switch up on the perimeter. He is a limited offensive player.
26. Mason Plumlee, Hornets
27. JaVale McGee, Mavericks
28. Damian Jones, Lakers
29. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Thunder
30.Walker Kessler, Jazz
- Plumlee was a stopgap solution to the Hornets’ center woes last season. He’s a veteran who won’t get you killed, but he’s a position they’re looking to improve on long-term.
- The Mavericks brought in McGee to be a vertical threat to Luka Doncic and a shot blocker. It’s a good, limited role for him.
- Jones went from rebounding around the league to potentially being a starter for the Lakers. (Thomas Bryant is also in the running.) He’s a good athlete and might have some shooting ability.
- For the 32nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Robinson-Earl has already exceeded expectations. He is undersized at 6-9, but competes hard on defense and positions himself very well for a young player. He is a good athlete who can block shots. And he showed some shooting ability last season, shooting 35.2 percent of his 3-pointers.
- Taken with the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, Kessler is a small project. He is a good shot blocker, but will probably have trouble scoring.