The five position has changed a lot over the years; centers used to be massive walls that kept opponents from scoring buckets.
For the most part, offensively speaking, big men were thought of primarily as dunkers in the ’80s but then a seven-foot kid named Shaquille O’Neal got drafted by the Magic with the first overall pick in 1992 and while, yes, Shaq could block and dunk, he also was quite athletic for his 300-pound frame. He could move around the court a bit too.
Nowadays, the role of a big man is so much different than in the years that Bill Russell played at the five. Maybe some of it has to do with the foundation that Shaq laid during his 19-year Hall of Fame career. Maybe it’s because of the way the game has evolved; all positions are expected to play some elevated level of defense.
There are a few centers that have even redefined what Shaq transformed the position into in the mid-90s while others stay true to what the traditional center is thought of. Both types of centers are still needed depending on what scheme their coach runs.
We’re taking a look at who we believe the best centers in the NBA are to start the 2017-18 season. Note: players that play hybrid positions (Draymond Green, Kristaps Porzingis) are not included, as we’re going with players whose designated position is center.
10. Joel Embiid
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 Stats: 20.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.5 BlPG
Embiid’s biggest downfall has been his ability to stay on the court, but he showed enough in the 31 games he played last year to be a finalist for rookie of the year.