Even as the NBA has metamorphosed into a backcourt-dominated game, the importance of a dominant center cannot be overemphasized. To stay relevant in the modern-day NBA that is focused on shooting, centers have evolved and can now do a bit of everything.
The goal of basketball is to put the ball in the opposition net that stands at 10 feet. Who better to do it than a seven-foot big man standing just under the rim?
The likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have shown just how important a center is in scoring and rebounding the ball. More recently, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard have been the NBA's gold standard with regards to how a big man should play.
As we countdown to the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, here are the top ten centers.
#10 Christian Wood
Christian Wood was by far the most improved player during the first half of the 2021-22 NBA season. Unfortunately, his impressive run was cut short due to injury.
Wood was on course to have his breakout season in his first year with the Houston Rockets. He was a versatile scorer but proved that he can be productive on both ends of the floor. In 41 starts for the Rockets, he averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.2 blocks while shooting an efficient 51.4% from the field.
#9 Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas did not get as much credit as he deserves for his role in getting the Memphis Grizzlies to the 2021 NBA playoffs. He played with so much poise and experience, averaging a career-best 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds.
Although it is unclear how good a fit he will be playing alongside Zion Williamson in the 2021-22 NBA season, the Lithuanian is undoubtedly an asset. He is a capable scorer who can help ease the scoring burden for Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
#8 Clint Capela
The Atlanta Hawks benefited a great deal from Clint Capela's partnership with John Collins at the frontcourt. In his first season with the Hawks, he created a synergy with the team that would be improved upon.
Capela was a beneficiary of several of Trae Young's lobs. Defensively, he is a solid rim protector and rebounding machine. He finished the 2020-21 NBA campaign with 15.2 points and 14.3 rebounds (league leader). With the Hawks maintaining their core roster, the partnership will certainly flourish.
#7 Nikola Vucevic
It will be exciting to see how the Chicago Bulls will utilize Nikola Vucevic, especially since they made a splash in the offseason and acquired Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan. With so many scoring options, one would wonder how Vucevic would fit into the team.
However, he is one of the best centers in the NBA right now and will be a huge factor in the Bulls' failure or success in the coming season. He is an incredible floor spacer, which will bode well for the explosive players on the roster.
After a trade deadline move away from the Orlando Magic, he was quick to deliver the goods in a Bulls uniform, finishing the 2020-21 NBA season with 21.5 points and 11.5 assists per game in the 26 matches he featured in for the Chicago Bulls.