Top NBA centers for 2023-24: Ranking all 30 starters from Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid to Anthony Davis

Which teams have the strongest starters at each position, and which ones have the weakest? We’re ranking all 30 starters by position at The Sporting News for the 2023-24 season.

For years now, centers have become increasingly devalued. But there are some extremely good centers that have been dominating the top of the league. 

Even further down the middle of these rankings, the starting centers are very good players who are capable of taking over games. But the gap between the bottom five centers and the rest of this list is massive. The lesson here is that if you don’t have a top 25 center, then your team will be facing a significant talent disadvantage.

MORE: Ranking all 30 starting power forwards from Giannis Antetokounmpo to Victor Wembanyama

Here are how all 30 starting centers rank. 

NBA center rankings 2023-24

1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Jokic was the best player in the NBA last season. He proved it by crushing in the playoffs and bringing the Nuggets their first championship. 

Jokic is one of the best offensive weapons that we’ve seen in the modern NBA. He’s one of the few players left who is a true post threat, his Sombor Shuffle fadeaway jump shot is unblockable, and he shot 38 percent from 3 last season. To make things even more unfair, he’s a better passer than he is a scorer.

The knock on Jokic has always been his defense, but he showed why people who watch him closely have been insisting for years that he’s better on that end than he had been given credit for. While he certainly has mobility problems, his knack for kicking the ball and his great hands throw a wrench in opposing offenses. He’s a smart positional defender who absolutely maximizes his mediocre tools. 

2. Joel Embiid, Sixers

The reigning MVP has turned into a scoring machine. His 33.1 points per game last season was the highest mark that anyone has had over the past three seasons. 

Embiid is also a defensive force. Teams were afraid to attack the rim with him stationed near it. Media recognized his impact, placing him ninth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. 

Injuries are always a concern for Embiid. But when healthy, he is always in contention to be the best player in the league. 

3. Anthony Davis, Lakers

Davis is a two-way force. He was the only player to average over 25 points and 12 rebounds per game last season. He and Jaren Jackson Jr. were also the only two to average at least two blocks and one steal per game. His rim protection and ability to guard on the perimeter are both among the best at the position.  

Davis was in early MVP and Defensive Player of the Year discussions before injuries took him out of a big chunk of the middle of the season. That’s always been the issue for him. When healthy, he is an elite player on both ends of the floor. 

4. Bam Adebayo, Heat

Adebayo is a terrific jack-of-all-trades defender who finished fifth in Defensive Player of the Year voting and made his fourth All-Defensive team last season. He can play in multiple different schemes and guard up and down lineups, making him extremely valuable. 

Offensively, Adebayo is a good passer and averaged a solid 20.4 points per game last season. But he can disappear for stretches, and his scoring tends to drop off in the playoffs. 

5. Domantas Sabonis, Kings

Sabonis was a massive part of the shift in Sacramento, acting as the hub of the league’s best offense of all time based on offensive rating. He’s a terrific screener and passer who has developed great synergy with De’Aaron Fox on pick-and-rolls. 

Sabonis did show some of his warts in the playoffs, getting manhandled by Kevon Looney on the glass and struggling to impact the game when left completely wide open on the perimeter. But he is still a huge plus offensively and one of the highest-skill bigs in the league. 

6. Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics

Porzingis had the best season of his career last year in Washington, averaging 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He’s upped his efficiency tremendously by becoming a better 3-point shooter, hitting a career-high 38.5 percent of them last season, and getting to the line more frequently. That should make him a killer weapon in the Celtics’ 3-point-heavy offensive system. 

Porzingis is also one of the better rim protectors in the league. He’s averaged 1.7 blocks per game over his career thanks to his massive 7-foot-3 height. He can’t guard well on the perimeter, but he should be protected by the solid perimeter defenders that Boston has around him. 

7. Brook Lopez, Bucks

Lopez finished runner-up to Jaren Jackson Jr. in a somewhat close Defensive Player of the Year race last season. He would have been a deserving winner — he’s one of the best shot blockers in the league, averaging 2.5 blocks per game last season. He’s also one of the best at avoiding defensive 3-second violations, spending as much time as possible near the rim and anchoring a Bucks defense that finished fourth in the league. 

Lopez still has a nice post arsenal, but he’s mostly used as a stretch shooter. He hit a career-high 37.4 percent of his 3’s last season and has kept getting better from outside as his career has progressed. Entering his 16th season, he still has some gas left in the tank. 

8. Rudy Gobert, Wolves

It was a rough first year in Minnesota for the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Gobert never seemed to develop any chemistry with his teammates, leading to the lowest scoring average that he’s had over the past seven seasons. His defensive impact was also muted as he learned to adjust to playing next to Karl-Anthony Towns. 

Gobert should be better this season. He’ll have a full year of old friend Mike Conley Jr. feeding him the ball, and he has had some more time to work alongside Towns and Anthony Edwards. His rough hands are always going to be a problem, so having that familiarity is vital for him to succeed. 

MORE: Ranking all 30 starting small forwards from Jayson Tatum, LeBron James to Jimmy Butler

9. Jarrett Allen, Cavs

Allen had a solid year for the Cavs last season, averaging 14.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s a limited player, rarely stretching out past the free throw line on offense. But what he does, he does well.

Allen is an A+ athlete who is a great lob threat. His 179 dunks last year were the sixth-highest total in the league, per Basketball-Reference. He’s also a good rim protector who helped anchor the paint alongside Evan Mobley for the No. 1 defense in the league. 

10. Myles Turner, Pacers

Turner took on a bigger offensive role after the departure of Sabonis, seeing his scoring rise from 12.9 points to 18.0 points per game last season. That was partially driven by an increase in his 3-point shooting, up to 37.3 percent. He’s also a good finisher at the rim. 

Turner is also a fringe All-Defensive defender, although he’s never been named to a team. He’s a terrific rim protector, averaging 2.3 blocks last season. He isn’t the best rebounder in the world given his 6-foot-11 size, but he’s a good two-way center that is one of the more underrated players in the league.

nicolas claxton

11. Nic Claxton, Nets

12. Deandre Ayton, Blazers

13. Kevon Looney, Warriors

14. Jakob Poeltl, Raptors

15. Nikola Vucevic, Bulls

  • Claxton is one of the most exciting young defenders in the league. His footspeed is excellent when switched onto guards, and he is also great at blocking shots. His offensive game is limited, but he’s a good finisher at the rim. 
  • Ayton, the former No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft, still struggles with bouts of inconsistency. When he’s on, he looks terrific. But he also floats through stretches of the season, and his tendency to settle for midrange shots (while he’s good at them) can be maddening given his size and athleticism.
  • Looney is as dependable a center as they come. He’ll happily do the dirty work, getting a ton of rebounds, screening to get other players open, and playing great defense. His game isn’t glamorous by any means, but he’s always willing to do whatever the Warriors need in order to win games. 
  • Poeltl changed the direction of the Raptors’ season, providing great screening, finishing at the rim, and defense. He’s got an ugly yet effective push shot that doesn’t extend much and his career 54 percent from the line is always a concern, but he’s fantastic at the other aspects of the game. 
  • Vucevic is one of the more high-skill bigs in the league. He’s a good passer, 3-point shooter, and his footwork in the post is excellent. He doesn’t get to the line much, which hurts his overall efficiency. He’s also got lead feet on the perimeter. But he’s a smart player that has been part of numerous top 10 defenses by filling his role. 
Walker Kessler

16. Walker Kessler, Jazz

17. Clint Capela, Hawks

18. Ivica Zubac, Clippers

MORE: Ranking all 30 starting shooting guards from Donovan Mitchell, Paul George & Kyrie Irving

19. Steven Adams, Grizzlies

20. Mitchell Robinson, Knicks

  • Kessler turned in a terrific rookie season for the Jazz in which he was one of the most impactful rim protectors in the league. He’s a great finisher at the rim and only takes good shots, hitting 72 percent of his field goals last season. But he doesn’t have much of a jump shot, and his 51.6 percent from the line makes it difficult to play him at the end of games. 
  • Capela is a good lob threat who pairs well with Trae Young. He averaged a solid 12 points and 11 rebounds per game last season, fulfilling his role of hitting the offensive glass hard, finishing at the rim, and playing good defense. 
  • Zubac averaged 10.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks for the Clippers last season. He is capable of having some crazy games, such as his 31-point, 29-rebound explosion against the Pacers. More often than not though, he’s a solid role player with good size whose lack of shooting and mobility give him some limitations. 
  • Adams’ stat line of 8.6 points and 11.5 rebounds last season doesn’t give justice to how much of a glue guy he’s been throughout his career. He is the foundation of the Grizzlies’ physical style of play, mashing players on the glass. And he’s one of the best screen setters in the league, helping to get more dynamic offensive players open. 
  • Robinson is a great lob threat, a good defender, and a terrific rebounder. He’s very limited offensively, taking almost all of his shots within three feet of the basket. His poor free throw percentage also hampers his effectiveness — he shot a career-low 48.4 percent from the line last year. But he converts layups at a good rate, and his rim protection is excellent. 
Wendell Carter Jr.

21. Wendell Carter Jr., Magic

22. Alperin Sengun, Rockets

23. Chet Holmgren, Thunder

24. Jonas Valanciunas, Pelicans

25. Jusuf Nurkic, Suns

  • Carter is good-not-great at pretty much every aspect that you’d want in a center. He can shoot it a little bit from deep, he’s a good passer, and he’s a versatile defender who can guard the basket well. He’s not a great leaper, but he’s a high skill and very well-rounded player. 
  • Sengun is one of the more creative passers in the league. That can get him in some trouble —  he will try some passes that have no shot at getting through the defense. But he’s generally good at setting teammates up and a good post player. His lack of speed can limit him defensively. 
  • After missing his entire rookie year with a foot injury, Holmgren has a decent chance to upset Victor Wembanyama for the Rookie of the Year award. He’s a terrific shot blocker and 3-point shooter who looked back in form during the Las Vegas Summer League. He probably won’t ever be a huge scorer, but he can be a nice two-way player for the Thunder. 
  • Valanciunas has developed into a decent 3-point shooter, hitting 35.7 of his career attempts from deep. But his bread and butter is using his strength advantage in the post, where he is a great scorer. His lack of footspeed limits his defensive effectiveness, but he’s a great rebounder who can do his job within a team scheme. 
  • Nurkic was up-and-down last season, bizarrely failing to convert on numerous easy layups throughout the course of the year. He’s generally been a pretty dependable player though, providing good screening and rebounding with his 7-foot-0, 290-pound frame. He’s a good rim protector, but he struggles to defend in space. 
Isaiah Stewart Detroit Pistons

26. Isaiah Stewart, Pistons

27. Mark Williams, Hornets

28. Dwight Powell, Mavs

29. Daniel Gafford, Wizards

30. Zach Collins, Spurs

  • Stewart had some success stretching out to 3 last season before a shoulder injury derailed him. He’s a good undersized defender who rebounds well and adds toughness when he’s on the floor.  
  • Williams didn’t get much of a chance to show what he had early in the Hornets’ season. When he finally did get some burn, he improved the team’s defense with his shot blocking and rebounding. He’s not much of a shooter, but he’s a good play finisher. 
  • Powell is a limited player who has filled his role well for the Mavs. He can catch lobs, play hard on defense, and be a good locker room presence. 
  • Gafford is a terrific shot blocker, but he can be undisciplined at times and put a team’s defensive scheme in jeopardy. He’s a good athlete who can rack up dunks but doesn’t have much offensive skill beyond that. 
  • After bouncing around the league for years, Collins filled the Spurs’ starting center role admirably towards the end of last season. He shot a solid 37.4 percent from deep and showed some good passing acumen, earning the starting job this season.

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