The center position is back in style. After the Warriors dynasty led some to question to relevancy of “big, slow 7-footers,” the last two seasons have finished with centers as the two leading MVP vote-getters. It’s more than Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid too. The center position has changed, but more than ever, the NBA is starting to realize the value of size. So long as that size is accompanied by skill and athleticism.
Our mid-season rankings focused on starting centers. This time around, with the 2022 offseason in full swing for most teams, will we rank the top 30 centers period. There are backups who should probably be starting, and teams who don’t even start proper centers. So, we’ve cut out the noise. These are the best centers in the game of basketball right now.
Let’s get the ball rolling…
C, Charlotte Hornets
Top 30 NBA centers — 30. Mason Plumlee, Hornets
Mason Plumlee was the worst free throw shooter in basketball last season. Not ideal, but even so, he remains quite useful at the center position. He’s nimble in space defensively, he rebounds, and he does all the little things offensively: solid screens, excellent passes out the short roll, efficient finisher at the rim. He makes life easier for the perimeter players around him, even if he’s sort of milquetoast as far as starting centers go.
C, Golden State Warriors
Top 30 NBA centers — 29. Kevon Looney, Warriors
Kevon Looney has been lost in the shuffle time and time again with Golden State. He’s a starting caliber center on a championship team! He’s a reliable rim protector and easily Golden State’s most consistent interior finisher, which is important when you’re playing off of passes from Draymond Green and Stephen Curry. He’s not special, per se, but Looney is completely serviceable and probably better than his counting stats might suggest.
C, Orlando Magic
Top 30 NBA centers — 28. Mo Bamba, Magic
Mo Bamba finally delivered on some of the pre-draft hype last season. He still has a long way to go, but the list of 7-footers who can occupy Bamba’s role offensively (spot-up 3s, face-up scoring, nimble transition threat) while also being mega-long rim protectors is slim. He needs to get more efficient around the rim, he needs to get stronger battling in the post, and he needs to cut down on fouls, but Bamba is legitimate. He’s finally on the rise and he looks like a keeper, if not for Orlando, then for some lucky team elsewhere.