The NBA is home to several explosive centers, but only a few are recognized widely. The likes of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic tend to garner most of the attention because of how impactful they are for their respective teams.
While not all NBA players can have the spotlight on them, there are a few that deserve some praise for their contributions on the court. With more playing time, there could be more MVP-worthy performances from most big men.
Five underrated centers in the NBA this season
The new centers in the NBA often don unconventional roles for their teams. There was a time when big men seldom attempted 3-point shots, as it was perceived that they had no business beyond the arc.
However, these days, centers attempt and make 3-point shots at any given opportunity. Most have also developed spectacular court vision and drop dimes regularly. On that note, let's take a look at the top five underrated centers in the NBA this season.
#5 Chris Boucher
The center played only one game for the Warriors, recording one rebound and one 3-point attempt. That season, the Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Chris Boucher became an NBA champion in his first season in the league but was waived off by the Warriors in the off-season.
He subsequently signed with the Toronto Raptors in July 2018. A few months down the line, his contract got changed to an NBA two-way contract that saw him play for the Raptors' G League affiliate. His contract was then converted to a standard NBA contract in February 2019 before the Raptors defeated his former team in the 2019 NBA Finals.
Boucher has become a force for the Raptors, leading the team in blocks (1.9) despite coming off the bench. He is averaging 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He is also making 1.5 out of 3.8 3-point attempts per game.
His work at the defensive end is commendable too. If he gets more playing time, he could be a thorn in the flesh of other centers in the NBA.
#4 DeAndre Ayton
DeAndre Ayton was selected as the first overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 2018 NBA draft. He got into his stride immediately, recording a double-double on his NBA debut against the Dallas Mavericks. He ended his rookie season with 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game.
His sophomore season started terribly, though, as he was suspended for 25 games following the season opener after he tested positive for a diuretic. As the season progressed, Ayton broke several franchise records, producing jaw-dropping performances.
In the Orlando bubble, he helped his team to an 8-0 run, their first since the 2009-10 season.
He has continued with the same record-breaking performances in the 2020-21 NBA season despite not being as effective at the offensive end.
Ayton is leading the Suns in rebounds (10.7) and blocks (1.1). He is the third-leading scorer (15.1 points) behind Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
#3 Clint Capela
The Houston Rockets selected Clint Capela in the 2014 NBA draft and held on to the center for the next six years. The rookie did not make a fast start, though, averaging only 2.7 points and three rebounds in 12 appearances.
Things picked up for Capela in his sophomore season as he scored better and averaged a decent field goal percentage. In the 2017-18 campaign, he led the NBA in field goal percentage (.652) and accumulated 16 double-doubles in 28 games.
Capela was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in February 2020 but made his debut only in December that year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. In January this year, the center recorded his first career triple-double in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
So far, it has not been his best scoring season, but he is leading the Hawks in rebounds and blocks. He is the leading offensive rebounder in the 2020-21 NBA season, with 256 offensive boards. He is averaging 2.2 blocks, 14.7 rebounds and 15.5 points, with a .601 field goal shooting percentage.
#2 Richaun Holmes
Richaun Holmes was selected in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2015 NBA draft. After averaging ten points and five rebounds in the summer league, he was offered a contract.
He spent three seasons with the 76ers, where he started a fair number of games due to the unavailability of Joel Embiid and the trade of Noel Nerlens. His contributions helped the depleted 76ers win a few games.
The 76ers traded Holmes in 2018 to the Phoenix Suns. In the one year he spent in Phoenix, he recorded 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. In March 2019, he had a spectacular outing against the Houston Rockets, recording 12 points and 11 rebounds in only 16 minutes of play.
In July that year, Holmes signed a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings. The 27-year-old is having the best season of his career this season, leading the team in rebounds (8.9) and blocks (1.6).
It is also the best scoring season of his career, as he is tallying14.1 points per game and a .642 field goal percentage.
#1 Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic started his professional career with the Philadelphia 76ers. He was selected as the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. The rookie did not get much playing time with the 76ers but managed to average 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
His career took off after he was traded to the Orlando Magic in August 2012. On the last day of the year, the big man set a franchise record of 29 rebounds in a single game. He ended his sophomore season with a double-double - 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds.
In the nine seasons he spent in Orlando, Vucevic broke some of the franchise records set by world-class players like Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.
Vucevic is ranked first in all-time field goals made for the franchise (4,490) and second in rebounds (6,381). He was also responsible for helping the team qualify for the 2019 postseason, ending a six-year drought.
He was traded to the Chicago Bulls in March 2021 after helping the Magic to a hot start in the season. Since he arrived in Chicago, he has featured in 17 games, averaging 22.2 points and 10.2 assists per game. He is shooting 43.3% from the 3-point arc.