Ranking the Top 5 Centers in the NBA

By Jordan Foote
Oct. 28, 2017

Welcome to the final installment of The Best Foote Forward's "Top 5 in the NBA" series. This week, we've ranked the top 5 players at each position in the NBA. I've developed a scoring system for each position that varies based on the importance of each category to the position at hand. Today, we'll be focusing on the center position. Ranking the centers was by far the most difficult of all positions. There are so many players that are similar in skillset and boast so much talent. Nonetheless, I've managed to do it. The scoring system is explained below (out of 60 points):

Shooting: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to efficiently shoot the ball from inside and outside the three-point arc.

Inside Scoring: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to get to the rim and finish with , along with being able to score points under the rim in rebounding situations.

Athleticism: Out of 10 points. Overall athletic ability of the player. Graded based on top-end speed and quickness while handling the ball and vertical ability on jump shots, layups and dunks.

Defense: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to guard opposing players. Graded based on technique, ability to steal the ball from opponents, ability to block shots, overall IQ on defense and defensive real -minus.

Passing: Out of 5 points. Ability of the player to make routine passes, difficult passes and distribute the ball on offense. Not graded solely based on assist numbers, but the ability of the player to find the open man and make his team better. This number is out of 5 for centers instead of the 10 used for point guards because these guys aren't called upon to distribute the basketball as much as point guards are.

Rebounding: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to grab offensive and defensive rebounds.

Durability/Toughness: Out of 5 points. Ability of the player to avoid injuries or play through them.

Understand the system? Good: let's get to the rankings!

5: Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)

Hassan Whiteside is a very interesting player to watch. He can rebound and block shots with the best of them (14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game last year) but lacks range and passing. At the age of 28, the late bloomer is running out of time to expand his arsenal on offense. Rumor has it Whiteside is going to take a lot more threes this year, but I'm not sure if that's going to be a good thing or not. If it's a bad thing for the Heat, at least they'll still have a player who can score 17+ points a game, grab 12-14 rebounds and block a couple shots every night. Not too shabby for a guy who was in the (then) D-League a few years ago. Here are Whiteside's ratings on the 60-point scale:

Shooting - 6

Inside Scoring - 9

Athleticism - 9

Defense - 10

Passing - 1

Rebounding - 10

Durability - 4

Overall - 49/60

4: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Nikola Jokic's ranking is solely based on what he did last season. It's a small sample size to go off of, but he was so impressive during his time in the starting lineup last year that he's earned a spot in the rankings. 19 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists on nearly 60% shooting from the field? Insane. The Joker is also a threat from deep, knocking down 32% of his shots from that range last season. If that figure improves, his overall offensive game will look that much more impressive. Jokic is an elite passer and a triple double threat every night as a center. His only issue is... defense. He's a very bad defender and although he flashes a bit of potential at times, it's hard to tell whether or not he'll ever become respectable on that end. Much like Karl-Anthony Towns, Jokic's ceiling is limited by his lackluster offerings on the defensive end. Check out Jokic's ratings on the 60-point scale:

Shooting - 9

Inside Scoring - 8

Athleticism - 7

Defense - 5

Passing - 5

Rebounding - 9

Durability - 5

Overall - 49/60

3: Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)

Many of you will say Gobert needs to be ranked lower on this list, but it's not happening. If Gobert played as his 2016 self for the rest of his career, he'd go down as a perennial DPOY candidate and guy who offered 14 points and 12 rebounds a night on 66 percent shooting from the field. That's pretty darn good. He's already a great player. Gobert worked on his offensive game a lot this offseason and it's safe to assume that at the age of 25, we haven't yet seen his peak. If he ever develops a jump shot, he'll be a threat for 16-18 points per night. If he extends that shot beyond the three-point arc, we could have a 20/10 guy on offense and one of the best defenders in the NBA. That's scary. Gobert's ratings on the 60-point scale are below:

Shooting - 6 (efficient, but no range until proven otherwise)

Inside Scoring - 8

Athleticism - 9

Defense - 10

Passing - 1

Rebounding - 10

Durability - 5

Overall - 49/60

2: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Karl-Anthony Towns is just 21 years old. Keep that in mind. In his second season in the league, he averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds and a block per game. He shot 54% from the field and 37% from deep. If these were offensive rankings, some could argue that KAT belongs in the top spot. However, defense is a big part of the scoring system. KAT is not a good defender, or even an average one. He scored as one of the worst-defending bigs in the NBA last season. Until this improves, he'll be stuck in the second spot in these rankings. Check out Towns' ratings on the 60-point scale below:

Shooting - 9

Inside Scoring - 9

Athleticism - 9

Defense - 6

Passing - 2

Rebounding - 10

Durability - 5

Overall - 50/60

1: DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans)

The number one spots for each position have been easy picks, and this one is no exception. Boogie is the most complete, most exciting and most dominant center in the NBA. He's expanded his game to the three point line over the past few years and is now a bona fide threat from that range. He's still a monster on the boards and can give you 1, sometimes two blocks a game to go with a steal as well. 25+ points a game is no joke, either. No center in the NBA can do what Boogie does and until KAT becomes capable of playing defense, no one is a threat to Cousins' spot. Check out his ratings on the 60-point scale below:

Shooting - 8

Inside Scoring - 9

Athleticism - 9

Defense - 8

Passing - 4

Rebounding - 10

Durability - 4

Overall - 52/60

That's it for the "NBA Top 5" series! We've covered point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and now centers. With how the NBA is evolving, there are more and more players by the day that can play multiple positions on the court. I tried to narrow the best players throughout the association down to one position so it's easier to rank them. I believe it turned out well. Get in touch with me and let me know what you think about the rankings! I'd love to chat with you about it.

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