We complete our offseason ranking series today with our projected Top 25 centers ahead of the 2022-23 season.
This position group is an interesting one in that the top-two guys on the list are MVP candidates – the No. 1 and No. 2 finishers in the voting for the award over the last two years, in fact – while the bottom of the ranking is made up of a fairly average group of low-level starters and high-level backups.
Regardless, thanks to the top guys in the ranking, the center spot has made a resurgence in the modern NBA in a big way after many thought the position to be left in the past due to the importance of versatility, three-point shooting and the abandonment of low-post play in today’s game.
Below, check out the Top 25 centers for the 2022-23 season, as voted on by a panel of our writers and editors.
Richaun Holmes (Sacramento)
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Injuries shortened Richaun Holmes’ 2021-22 campaign to merely 45 games, outings in which he averaged modest numbers, 10.4 points and 7.0 rebounds nightly on 66.0 percent shooting from the floor.
Holmes is far from a star but he is a solid starting center who can score around the rim and rebound, using his impressive athleticism to finish at a high level around the rim.
In fact, in his healthier 2020-21 season, Holmes was one of the league’s best finishers out of the pick-and-roll, producing 1.30 points per possession (PPP) as the roller, the fifth-best mark among players with at least 100 such chances.
An athletic weapon out of the pick-and-roll, Holmes will be depended on by the Sacramento Kings – and by point guard De’Aaron Fox specifically – next season to help get the club back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06. Between Holmes and Domantas Sabonis, the Kings should actually have a stout, productive frontcourt, their strongest in years.
Of course, Holmes could revert back to a bench role behind Sabonis, allowing Sacramento to start the floor-spacing Harrison Barnes at the 4, but we still expect him to make a positive impact for the team whatever his role winds up being.
For the latest Richaun Holmes rumors and salary info, click here.
Isaiah Hartenstein (New York)
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After a slow start to his career, Isaiah Hartenstein has turned the corner over recent seasons, especially in his breakout 2021-22 campaign in which he averaged 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 62.6 percent shooting from the floor for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Hartenstein was especially effective as a finisher out of the pick and roll where he produced 1.26 PPP as a roll man, the 15th-best mark in the league among players with at least 100 such possessions. The 2017 second-round pick was also an underrated rim protector, as Hartenstein allowed foes to shoot just 56.5 percent on shot attempts from within five feet of the basket, the second-stingiest mark in the NBA among players who faced at least 500 field goals from that vicinity.
Hartenstein’s solid two-way play earned him a healthy contract from the New York Knicks worth two years and over $16 million, where he’ll be tasked with backing up a player coming up a bit later on our list. We consider that a solid value signing for New York, as Hartenstein should continue his growth playing on a solid Knicks roster.
For the latest Isaiah Hartenstein rumors and salary info, click here.
Alperen Sengun (Houston)
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Already a fan favorite among hardcore Houston Rockets fans, Alperen Sengun boasts a highly unique level of skill that helps him overcome the fact he’s lacking in the athleticism department for a modern center.
As a rookie, Sengun averaged 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists to go with 0.8 steals and 0.9 blocks in just 20.7 minutes of nightly action. Sengun may not be much of an outside shooter yet (24.8 percent from three in his first season), but he’s a chore to defend in the post thanks to his abundance of crafty moves down low. He’s also got special passing potential, as Sengun tossed out some dimes last season that were reminiscent of the player coming up at No. 1 on this very list.
Adding to the excitement for Rockets fans this offseason has been Sengun’s play for his native Turkey in FIBA competition, where he’s been able to be a more focal point on offense than he was as a rookie in Houston.
Thus far, the results have been exciting:
His 6-foot-9 body and ground-bound style of play might hinder him from ever becoming a superstar in the NBA, but there’s no doubt Sengun has a pretty impressive ceiling as a scoring, playmaking big man, the likes of some other European transplant centers in the modern Association.
For the latest Alperen Sengun rumors and salary info, click here.
Kevon Looney (Golden State)
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Kevon Looney probably has the least impressive counting stats of any player in this ranking, but the fact he’s blossomed into such a reliable starter for the Golden State Warriors and played a part in two of the team’s three recent championship runs went a long way with our voters.
In 2021-22, Looney averaged 6.0 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor. Moreover, in the past two seasons combined, the UCLA product has made the Warriors 3.8 points per 100 possessions better when he’s in the game, a solid mark considering the level of talent on Golden State’s roster.
Looney knows his role – to finish easy opportunities that are spoon-fed to him, to get after it on the glass and to defend the paint and ball-handlers on switches, which he’s actually quite decent at – and plays it well, never trying to do something outside of his skill set.
So sure, he may not put up impressive numbers nor will he ever, but teams with high aspirations could do a lot worse than having a role player of Looney’s caliber manning the 5-spot.
For the latest Kevon Looney rumors and salary info, click here.
Kevin Love (Cleveland)
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The runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 2021-22, Kevin Love did a great job as a veteran on what was a solid Cleveland Cavaliers club last season, averaging 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 39.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Now that Cleveland appears to be on an upward trajectory, boasting a roster that should be strong enough for a playoff berth in 2022-23, the talk of Love wanting out has completely dissipated, and with good reason, as the UCLA star probably covets his role, both on and off the court, with the young, exciting Cavaliers of today.
Love isn’t putting up the insane numbers he did in his heyday way back but in his capacity as a role player, he has excelled, using his outside shooting, low-post scoring and rebounding to help give Cleveland a big boost whenever he’s on the floor.
With the likes of talented young pieces such as Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to play off of, Love’s playmaking has also gotten a chance to shine while the supremely athletic, shot-blocking duo have helped mask his defensive deficiencies.
Not only does Love wonderfully fit Cleveland’s roster for what it needs right now, a big man who can space the floor off the bench, but his veteran status is also likely highly valued by the organization, as the young group of Cavaliers needs a leader to guide them, something Love, a champion in 2016 with the team, can provide.
For the latest Kevin Love rumors and salary info, click here.
Ivica Zubac (LA Clippers)
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Part of the reason the Clippers were all right with letting Hartenstein walk in free agency was the emergence of Ivica Zubac, who is coming off of one of the better seasons of his career.
Last season, Zubac was solid in his role as the starting center for L.A., putting up 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting a tidy 62.6 percent from the floor.
He does get played off the floor at times due to his slow feet that get exposed by opposing ball-handlers after switches, as well as due to his lack of playmaking chops, shooting and at times poor finishing down low.
But as a starter who gets just 25 minutes nightly, one who can finish games on certain nights depending on matchups, Zubac is reliable on the glass and protecting the paint, and can occasionally produce a solid scoring night against smaller foes.
For the latest Ivica Zubac rumors and salary info, click here.
Mitchell Robinson (New York)
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Now 24, Mitchell Robinson may just be who he is at this point, as the athletic big man has failed to show major progress over the course of his four seasons with the Knicks but even so, he’s a solid center who possesses two elite traits: his rim-protection and paint-finishing prowess.
Last season, Robinson performed decently, averaging 8.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 76.1 percent from the floor. With athleticism, a freakish wingspan and solid-enough hands, Robinson blocks shots at a high rate and finishes just about everything fed to him down low, which isn’t as easy as he makes it look.
Of course, the problem with that is Robinson very rarely shoots from outside the paint, with 91.8 percent of his shot attempts last season coming from within three feet of the basket and zero percent coming from beyond 10 feet of the rim, making him a limited offensive weapon.
Regardless, when he’s out there, Robinson can be counted on to protect the rim and to finish down low, so he does provide the Knicks with some value even if he isn’t the most dynamic weapon on either end of the floor.
For the latest Mitchell Robinson rumors and salary info, click here.
Steven Adams (Memphis)
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If one were to look simply at his raw averages last season – 6.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game – one would imagine Steven Adams is on a steep decline in his career.
But that isn’t the case, at least not according to the advanced analytics, as Adams’ BPM in 2021-22 (+2.0) was actually the second-highest rate of his career while his WS/48 (0.163) was the third best of his time in the NBA.
What’s more, with Adams on the floor, the Memphis Grizzlies actually improved by 4.2 points per 100 possessions, proving that the 7-footer from New Zealand is making a largely positive impact during his playing time.
An enforcer on the glass, as a rim-protector and as a screen-setter, Adams knows his role and never tries to do too much, making him the exact type of veteran presence the young Grizzlies need down low, one willing to do the dirty work that great teams need to be done.
For the latest Steven Adams rumors and salary info, click here.
Bobby Portis (Milwaukee)
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Milwaukee Bucks big man Bobby Portis, always at 100 when it comes to energy on the hardwood, is the kind of player you hate when your team has to play against them but the kind of player you would love to root for if he were on your side – and we mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
Portis’ antics work, too, as his energy seems to envigorate his Bucks teammate while, at the same time, frustrating their opponents. And it’s not like Portis is solely a gadget energy guy off the bench – his play is also quite productive and impactful.
In 2021-22, Portis averaged 14.6 points, a career-high-mark, to go with 9.1 rebounds while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. He doesn’t provide much in terms of defense but his low-post scoring, his face-up abilities and his floor-spacing make him a hugely valuable weapon on an annually contending Bucks squad that needs all the shooting it can get around MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Portis was so impactful last season, in fact, that he made Milwaukee 7.9 points per 100 possessions better during his playing time, a huge number and one indicative of the type of player the former Arkansas standout has blossomed into.
For the latest Bobby Portis rumors and salary info, click here.
Brook Lopez (Milwaukee)
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Another Bucks center comes in at the next spot in our rankings, as although Brook Lopez was limited to just 13 games last season due to injury, we expect him to bounce back and return to his place as one of the NBA’s better shot-blocking, floor-spacing 5-men in 2022-23.
Further buoying that belief was the fact that Lopez was able to return for the 2022 playoffs and performed admirably despite the long layoff, averaging 10.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, albeit while hitting just 21.4 percent of his three-point opportunities.
Still, Lopez’s outside shooting should normalize to his respectable career rate and when it does, the Bucks will get back to having one of the NBA’s best frontcourt rotations, featuring the 7-footer out of Stanford, Antetokounmpo and Portis.
For the latest Brook Lopez rumors and salary info, click here.
Jusuf Nurkic (Portland)
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2021-22 was the first time we’ve seen Jusuf Nurkic look like his pre-injury prime self and the results were impressive, despite the sample size being limited to just 56 games.
On the year, Nurkic averaged a double-double at 15.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game to go with 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals on 53.5 percent shooting. He was hugely impactful, too, with the Portland Trail Blazers being an astounding 13.8 points per 100 possessions better with the big Bosnian on the floor.
Nurkic has offensive versatility to his game, putting him a level above the role-playing starting 5s in the league. He can be tasked with creating and scoring from the mid-post even if his range doesn’t extend to the three-point line, where his solid passing allows him to find cutters and spot-up shooters. Nurkic also sets strong screens and is a beast on the glass on both ends of the floor, helping clean up messes and score on putbacks.
In addition, with a defensively versatile Jerami Grant now in the mix in Portland’s frontcourt, Nurkic now has a partner who can help mask some of his deficiencies on the defensive end, which should allow him to shine further.
For the latest Jusuf Nurkic rumors and salary info, click here.
Nikola Vucevic (Chicago)
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His shooting fell off a cliff last season as Nikola Vucevic hit just 31.4 percent of his threes while his defensive presence left the Chicago Bulls wanting. In fact, over his season-plus with the Bulls, Vucevic has been a negative-impact player, posting a -4.2 swing rating in 2020-21 and a -3.7 mark last season.
It didn’t help, however, that Patrick Williams, Chicago’s projected starting power forward and a defensive ace who would have covered multiple positions and helped protect Vucevic defensively, was lost after just merely games before returning just ahead of the playoffs.
With a full offseason to gel now, Vucevic and Williams should be able to form a strong partnership, one that should help the skilled center regain his All-Star form.
Vucevic does remain a stout rebounder who can do a good amount of scoring in the post and on face-up chances.
His raw numbers were solid enough, too, at 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists last campaign, but the Bulls are going to need more out of their center if they want to become something more than first-round playoff fodder in 2022-23.
For the latest Nikola Vucevic rumors and salary info, click here.
Al Horford (Boston)
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After an unimpressive stint with the Philadelphia 76ers, Al Horford went back to the Boston Celtics and immediately returned to form as one of the more uniquely impactful two-way big men in the league.
Horford’s raw numbers weren’t huge, as the Dominican center averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 blocks nightly, but his impact was enormous, as the Celtics were 3.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, a number that grew to 5.1 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs.
It’s not difficult to see why, either, as Horford was versatile on both ends, able to score down low, on face-up opportunities, space the floor and create for others on offense, as well as protect the paint and use his still-quick feet to not get destroyed by opposing ball-handlers when asked to switch.
With the Celtics reaching the Finals last season and coming within two games of a championship, expectations will be high again in 2022-23, and we expect Horford to do his part next year in helping Boston remain a contender.
For the latest Al Horford rumors and salary info, click here.
Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio)
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Coming off the best season of his career, Jakob Poeltl was a somewhat common name to hear in trade rumors last season thanks to his high level of play and the fact that his team, the San Antonio Spurs, are in the early stages of a complete rebuild.
In 2021-22, Poeltl averaged career-high marks in points (13.5), rebounds (9.3) and assists (2.8) while also contributing 1.7 blocks and shooting 61.8 percent from the floor.
Defensively, Poeltl is hugely impactful, with feet quick enough to not get totally exposed when defending ball-handlers and rim-protecting instincts that help him disrupt a lot of shot attempts at the rim. When opponents attempted a shot near the basket with Poeltl defending, they shot just 59.8 percent, one of the stingier marks in the NBA.
Poeltl has also developed a ton offensively, especially out of the pick-and-roll where he created 1.16 PPP as the roll man last year, a mark healthy enough to place him in the league’s 61st percentile. He’s also adept at creating for others out of the short roll, finding spot-up shooters when defenses have caved in to stop his roll attempts.
The advanced analytics respected his production, too with Poeltl ranking in the Top 70 of VORP (1.7) and BPM (1.6), and in the Top 40 among all players in Win Shares (6.9).
Quietly, Poeltl has become a very solid starting center and it’ll be interesting to see if a contender is willing to give up draft capital to acquire him ahead of the 2022-23 deadline. Though by then, if his play continues to improve, he might have gotten too expensive to trade for.
For the latest Jakob Poeltl rumors and salary info, click here.
Clint Capela (Atlanta)
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A perfect fit alongside Trae Young in the pick-and-roll, Clint Capela has acquitted himself wonderfully since joining the Atlanta Hawks, retaining his status as one of the league’s top centers despite just missing out on a Top 10 spot in this ranking.
Capela averaged 11.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last season while shooting a healthy 61.3 percent from the floor. As the roll man for Young, the Swiss center was deadly, producing 1.37 PPP on the play type, the fourth-best mark among players with at least 125 such chances. The Hawks were also 3.9 points per 100 possessions better during his time on the court, proving his worth as a positive-impact player.
Capela’s length, bounce and reliable hands make him a huge threat on both ends of the floor as a shot-blocker and roll-man expert, although his shooting, especially from the free-throw line, does hold him back some.
It’ll be important to see if Capela can bounce back to his 2020-21 form, however, as he did experience a dip in production last season, one that cost him a Top 10 place on this list. If Capela can back to being the player who led the league in rebounds two seasons ago at 14.3 nightly while chipping in 15.2 points, he’ll outplay his spot on this ranking.
For the latest Clint Capela rumors and salary info, click here.
Myles Turner (Indiana)
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Myles Turner is who he is at this point, as he has shown little to no sign of major development basically dating back to his earlier years as a pro.
That’s not entirely a bad thing, however, as Turner remains an impactful two-way center who can space the floor from one end and protect the rim at the other, filling a valuable, still-rare archetype for the Indiana Pacers.
Last season, Turner was his usual solid self, averaging 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.5 triples while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor. He also made Indiana 5.2 points per 100 possessions better during his time on the floor, proving that although his game hasn’t evolved much, he’s still a positive-impact presence.
Making a projection for Turner a bit trickier, however, is the fact we’re not sure what team he’ll play for in 2022-23, as rumors continue to circulate about the Los Angeles Lakers being interested in the three-point-shooting center.
Regardless, if he does get dealt, we expect more of the same out of Turner, solid play on both sides of the court.
For the latest Myles Turner rumors and salary info, click here.
Jonas Valanciunas (New Orleans)
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There’s a lot of buzz and excitement surrounding the New Orleans Pelicans in 2022-23 and although a majority of it is due to the return of Zion Williamson and the play of Brandon Ingram, an important piece of the team that should not be ignored is Jonas Valanciunas, who was excellent last year.
The Lithuanian big man put up big numbers in 2021-22, averaging 17.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists while slashing 54.4/36.1/82.0 percent shooting splits.
Valanciunas uses his almost-7-foot frame and high-level strength very well, bulldozing opponents on the glass and setting some of the hardest screens seen around the NBA. But he’s also got skill for a center, able to shoot threes at a respectable-enough rate and boasting underrated playmaking chops, especially for a player of his position.
If Valanciunas continues the level of play he’s been at over the past few seasons, there will be talk of him being one of the league’s better players without an All-Star nod under their belt, as not many non-superstar bigs are putting up the kinds of numbers Valanciunas has.
For the latest Jonas Valanciunas rumors and salary info, click here.
Robert Williams (Boston)
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The second Boston center on our list, Robert Williams was one of the Celtics’ most important players on their 2022 run to the Finals, boasting a huge presence down low as a shot-blocker, altering shots and making life extremely difficult for opposing rim attackers.
On the campaign overall, Williams put up career-high marks across the board, including 10.0 points nightly, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.2 blocks while shooting an astounding 73.6 percent from the floor. Even his free-throw shooting, formerly as a weakness, was far less troublesome, with the Texas A&M product hitting a solid 72.2 percent of his shots from the stripe.
Does Williams have another gear in him to become more of a focal point on offense?
His lack of outside shooting touch and unrefined post-up moves indicate that maybe not, but even so, the supremely athletic big man with the ridiculous wingspan can finish just about everything down low as evidenced by his field-goal percentage, and his hands have improved to the point he’s a huge threat out of the pick-and-roll.
In 2021-22, Williams produced 1.33 PPP as the roll man, the 15th-best mark league-wide among players with at least 60 such chances. Williams also feasts on the offensive glass, where he created 1.24 PPP on put-backs, a mark healthy enough to sit in the league’s 75th percentile.
All in all, Williams may not be ready for an expanded role on offense, but he remains a beast on both ends of the floor in his current role anyway, so that doesn’t matter. In the Williams and Horford duo, Boston has the best 1-2 punch at center of any team in the Association.
For the latest Robert Williams rumors and salary info, click here.
Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento)
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Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis will have heavy expectations on his shoulders in 2022-23, as the Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2005-06 and will surely be hoping to change that in the upcoming season. That, coupled with Sacramento taking a huge gamble by trading young starlet Tyrese Haliburton for Sabonis, will put a good amount of pressure on Sabonis to perform – and at a high level – right away next season.
That shouldn’t be too difficult for the Gonzaga product, as Sabonis is one of the league’s top centers and that was no different last year, as the big man averaged 18.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game on 57.3 percent shooting.
The advanced analytics rated Sabonis well, too, with VORP (3.2) putting him among the league’s Top 25 players, BPM (4.1) at No. 21 and PER (21.9) at 18th.
Sabonis’ playmaking will help take some of the load off of Fox but it’s out of the post where he’ll do the bulk of his damage, as the left-handed big man is a great finisher down low, with a face-up game to complement his low-post prowess, too.
He has his deficiencies defensively and he doesn’t shoot threes all that well, but Sabonis is uber-productive and one of the league’s well-rounded centers on offense. We expect his first full year in Sacramento to be more of the same.
For the latest Domantas Sabonis rumors and salary info, click here.
Jarrett Allen (Cleveland)
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Jarrett Allen may not be as skilled as some of the other centers in this portion of our ranking but he’s so good in his role as a pick-and-roll threat and shot-blocker that it doesn’t matter… he still finishes just outside of the Top 5 of this list.
Allen is coming off the best year of his career, earning All-Star honors for the first time after putting up 16.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting a pristine 67.7 percent from the floor.
He feasted on the offensive glass, producing 1.24 PPP on putbacks (77th percentile league-wide) and he was just as adept finishing out of the pick-and-roll, where his 1.28 PPP placed him in the NBA’s 79th percentile.
His long arms and top-notch athleticism, as well as his reliable hands, make him a beast near the basket and on the glass, and he plays with great effort when he’s on the court. So although Allen isn’t launching threes, facing up foes or finishing with fancy post-up moves, he’s still one of the best the league has to offer at the position.
For the latest Jarrett Allen rumors and salary info, click here.
Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)
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With the drama surrounding his long-term future now settled, Deandre Ayton is in line for another big season in 2021-22 where he’ll be tasked not just with helping the Phoenix Suns repeat their regular-season success but to get even further in the playoffs after their disappointing second-round exit last year.
Ayton hasn’t quite hit All-Star level yet, but he has shown why Phoenix found him worthy of the No. 1 pick back in 2018.
In 2021-22, Ayton averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 63.4 percent from the floor. Ayton does the bulk of his work in the low post and mid-post, where his feathery soft touch allows him to be one of the league’s more adept finishers nearer the basket, but he’s also shown flashes as a shooter, both from the midrange and beyond the arc.
His issues with consistency still need some sorting out, as when he’s on, Ayton makes a huge impact on both ends of the floor but when he’s off, he can get played off the floor, which happened in the playoffs last year.
But he’s so talented and productive as is that Ayton is still one of the NBA’s best centers as is. And with Chris Paul and Devin Booker there to continue to feed him opportunities, it should be another big season for Ayton in 2022-23.
For the latest Deandre Ayton rumors and salary info, click here.
Rudy Gobert (Minnesota)
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The biggest splash of the 2022 offseason was made when Rudy Gobert was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves after spending the first nine years of his career with the Utah Jazz. Gobert heads to Minneapolis with three All-Star campaigns under his belt as well as a 2nd Team and 3rd Team All-NBA.
Now, expectations will be huge for Gobert and his new team, as the French big man, paired with Karl-Anthony Towns, our No. 3 projected power forward for 2022-23, will give the Timberwolves the NBA’s best frontcourt next season and one of the stoutest we’ve seen in a while, as both players are All-NBA-level performers in their primes.
Gobert should fit well with Towns, too, with the former a paint-bound monster and the latter a more agile athlete who can space the floor and create for others.
Minnesota should be a beastly regular season team, in large part thanks to its frontcourt, but it’ll be the playoffs that tell us whether or not the Gobert acquisition was a success. Because like it or not, the big Frenchman hasn’t enjoyed the most postseason success despite how good his former Jazz teams were in the regular season.
Can he change that narrative in 2022-23?
For the latest Rudy Gobert rumors and salary info, click here.
Bam Adebayo (Miami)
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One of the most versatile players on this list, Bam Adebayo is uniquely skilled for a big man, with the ability to grab a rebound and bring the ball down himself, set up the Miami Heat’s offense and create plays at a high level.
The one thing missing from Adebayo’s arsenal is the willingness to shoot threes. Notice we didn’t say the ability to because we know from word of mouth that Adebayo can knock down threes, it just hasn’t translated to NBA action yet despite Jimmy Butler publicly pressuring Adebayo to let it fly more often.
If Adebayo were to become even a league-average three-point shooter, he could take his game to yet another level, a scary proposition for foes.
As it is, Adebayo is an All-Star-level center, one who put up 19.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals on 55.7 percent shooting from the field in 2021-22. He can score on face-up opportunities, he finishes out of the pick-and-roll, he can run some pick-and-roll as a ball-handler himself and is even hitting midrange jumpers now.
And that’s without even discussing Adebayo’s defensive fortitude, with the big man able to legitimately guard all five positions on the floor, protect the rim, jump passing lanes and create havoc on the less glamorous side of the court.
Adebayo vs. Gobert was a tough call, but ultimately, our voters sided with the Heat center, with the 25-year-old set for another huge season in 2022-23.
For the latest Bam Adebayo rumors and salary info, click here.
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)
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If it weren’t for the existence of a certain big man out of Serbia, Joel Embiid might have an MVP trophy or two under his belt by now and be considered the best center in basketball.
Although that might not be the case, Embiid remains one of the best 5-men in the league and one of the Association’s best players overall. He’s a dominant force on both ends of the floor, an elite-level scorer and one of the most impactful defenders in the sport.
In 2021-22, Embiid arguably posted his most masterful campaign, averaging a league-leading 30.6 points per game to go with 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks while hitting a respectable 37.1 percent of his triples. BPM (9.2) ranked Embiid as the NBA’s third-most impactful player, as did VORP (6.5), as did PER (31.2) and Win Shares (12.0).
He can score on face-ups, he’s a monster in the post (Embiid produced 1.05 PPP on post-ups, the second-best mark in the league among players with 150 such chances), he’s a huge threat out of the pick-and-roll, he can create for teammates – he legitimately does it all.
And Embiid contributes all of that while remaining one of the league’s stingiest down-low defenders.
2022-23 could be the year Embiid finally takes home the league MVP award he’s been so close to nabbing in recent years. Unless the next player has something to say about it – again.
For the latest Joel Embiid rumors and salary info, click here.
Nikola Jokic (Denver)
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What’s there to be said about Nikola Jokic that hasn’t already been said?
The analytics believe him to already be an all-time great in the sport – as if the two league MVP awards didn’t make a strong enough case for him – with combined career BPM ranking him No. 2 in NBA history (yes, you read that correctly), behind only Michael Jordan and just ahead of LeBron James thanks to his +8.9 mark. PER, meanwhile, places Jokic third overall all-time with a 27.1 clip, behind Jordan and James.
Sure, those numbers will take a hit when Jokic eventually slows down due to age but considering his style of play, which should age quite well, when will that even be? A decade from now? Longer?
Jokic is coming off his second MVP season in a row, one in which he averaged huge numbers – 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.5 steals on 58.3 percent shooting – while guiding a depleted Denver Nuggets team of the playoffs despite injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, the team’s second- and third-best players.
The one thing missing from Jokic’s legacy now is the all-important ring, but it’s hard to fault its absence on the superstar big man, as there’s not much more Jokic could do to get the Nuggets to those heights. He’s even far improved as a defender, where his quick hands and unreal instincts help him pick pockets and predict where opposing passes are going to pick those off, too.
2022-23 will come down to the contributions of his teammates; if Murray and Porter return to form and join an MVP-level Jokic, we could be looking at a deep Denver postseason run.
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Story originally appeared on HoopsHype