NBA: Pre-Season Center Rankings

Ryan Newell

Our final set of rankings is an ode to the NBA’s most endangered species, the center. Long gone are the days of back to the back behemoths like Shaquille O’Neal, who are now being replaced by athletic rim protectors like Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside.


Also Receiving Votes: “Next Men Up”

  • Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
  • Gorgui Dieng – Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Kyle O’Quinn – New York Knicks
  • Alex Len – Phoenix Suns
  • Ed Davis – Portland Trail Blazers


Tier #7: “The 90’s Relics”All three of these players are currently battling issues to some degree, but their real decline lies in the style of their games. Pek, Mozzy, and Asik are all back to the basket centers on teams looking to push the pace on offense.

25.) Nikola Pekovic – Minnesota Timberwolves

24.) Timofey Mozgov – Cleveland Cavaliers

23.) Omer Asik – New Orleans Pelicans


Tier #6: “The Glass Cleaners”This tier of centers fits the profile of the modern center, offering a high degree of rim protection, good rebounding numbers, and being adept at rolling to the rim or catching lobs. Expect limited upside on point production.

22.) Mason Plumlee – Portland Trail Blazers

21.) Tyson Chandler – Phoenix Suns

20.) Robin Lopez – New York Knicks

19.) Marcin Gortat – Washington Wizards


Tier #5: “5’s on the Rise”This group of centers are all 25 and under and entering situations that will allow them to maximize their talents, whether it’s Monroe and Kanter on two deep and innovative squads or Towns being mentored by future HOFer Kevin Garnett. Excellent keeper value amongst this group.

18.) Greg Monroe – Milwaukee Bucks

17.) Enes Kanter – Oklahoma City Thunder

16.) Jusuf Nurkic – Denver Nuggets

Nurkic showed flashes of being one of the 5 best players from last year’s draft despite being hindered by foul trouble and inability to stay on the court. Nurkic proved to be an effective rebounder (13th amongst centers at 18.8) and flashed a versatile back to the basket game. If the Bosnian Bear can avoid foul trouble, look for a drastic improvement in his numbers across the board.

15.) Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves

14.) Jahlil Okafor – Philadelphia 76ers


Tier #4: “The Three Prototypes”This trio is essentially a museum of NBA centers, with Duncan representing the classic franchise cornerstone of a defensive lynchpin with a back to the basket game, Howard playing the role of modern athletic rim protector, and Jefferson possessing a post-game that would make Kevin McHale pine for the 1980’s.

13.) Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs

12.) Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets

11.) Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets

I will preface this by saying I am an unabashed fan of Big Al’s post game after seeing him put up 38 and 19 in person against the Miami Heat in 2014 (Which was rightfully overshadowed by Lebron James’ 61 points that same game). Jefferson is now on the wrong side of 30 and has had injury problems in addition to 11 years worth of mileage. With a clean bill of health, however, Jefferson could return to close to his 2013-2014 levels of 21.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg, and 2.1 apg. May see a minutes reduction with the additions of Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes.


Tier #3: “Low Post Presences”Most players in this group could anchor an entire frontline by themselves but are in situations that dictate them as complimentary players. Some (Such as Valanciunas, Drummond, Whiteside, and Vucevic) could make a big leap this season.

10.) DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers

9.) Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks

8.) Jonas Valanciunas – Toronto Raptors

7.) Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets

6.) Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons

5.) Hassan Whiteside – Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside, the rare 7 footer who slipped through the cracks, may have found a home as a #HEATlifer. While only playing 48 games last season, Whiteside led all centers in PER (26.26) and looks to be an elite rim protector and rebounder (Whiteside also led all centers in Rebounding Rate at 25.4). Count me in as a believer in the mystique of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, as I expect Whiteside (in a contract year, no less) to flourish in one of the NBA’s organizations.

4.) Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic


Tier #2: “The Brothers Gasol”The Spanish brothers are paired together not because of their common ancestry, but because their versatile blend interior skill, finesse passing, and basketball IQ separate them from the pack. Marc is coming off a near MVP-level season, where he posted career highs in PPG (17.1), PER (21.73), and usage (23.5). Pau, while nearing the end of his career, should have a mini-renaissance with new offensive minded coach Fred Hoiberg and should approach 2009 levels of productivity (18.9 PPG, along with 10+ RPG and 3+ APG).

3.) Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies

2.) Pau Gasol – Chicago Bulls


Tier #1: “The New Normal”

1.) Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

The Stifle Tower is the new prototype of NBA centers, blending freakish athleticism (29 inch vertical leap) with crazy length (9 feet 9 inch standing reach). Once the Jazz swapped out the defensively deficient and plodding Enes Kanter for Gobert, the Frenchman finished the season with 11.4 PPG, 13.7 RPG and 2.5 BPG on 57.5 FG%. Coming in at 6th in PER (21.60) and 7th in Estimated Wins Added (11.8) amongst centers, Gobert’s numbers as a starter over 82 games should explode.


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