It wasn’t that long ago that many fans of the NBA considered center to be the weakest position in the league. However, that has completely changed with the NBA experiencing a boom in talent at center dating back to the 2014 Draft, when a future MVP was drafted.
Since then, there has been a steady stream of talented big men, and suddenly center is arguably the deepest position in the league and includes two of the best players in the NBA. It’s pretty clear who the two best centers are but where do all 30 starting fives rank? Let’s find out!
NBA Tier 6: Young starting centers
30) Daniel Gafford-Washington Wizards
29) Jalen Duren-Detroit Pistons
28) Mitchell Robinson-New York Knicks
27) Walker Kessler-Utah Jazz
26) Alperin Sengun-Houston Rockets
25) Wendell Carter Jr.-Orlando Magic
24) Chet Holmgren-Oklahoma City Thunder
2022 number-two overall pick Chet Holmgren headlines Tier 6, which features several up-and-coming big men. Holmgren has the talent to be a top-5 center, but he has yet to play a regular-season game. Still, he projects to be a versatile player on both ends of the floor.
On offense, he can drain threes and can attack in transition off-the-dribble, face up, and even score in the post. On defense, he is an elite shot-blocker who can also defend away from the paint. Other potential fast risers include Sengun, Kessler, and Duren. Sengun is a skilled offensive player who has terrific footwork in the low post and often relies on ball fakes and spin moves to finish in the paint. He has range out to the 3-point line and is also a good passer.
Kessler put together a surprisingly strong rookie season, averaging 9.4 points on 72% shooting as well as 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 23 minutes per game. Finishing in the top five in blocks as a rookie is clearly impressive, but it comes with increased expectations in year two with increased minutes.
Duren started for Detroit during the second half of last season and is expected to start over two recent high lottery picks, Marvin Bagley III and James Wiseman. He proved highly productive as a part-time starter, averaging 9.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 23.4 minutes. Putting up strong numbers on the worst team in the NBA isn’t impressive in and of itself.
But Duren has the potential to be a terrific shot-blocker who can defend away from the rim. His stellar rebounding numbers also track with his play at Memphis, where he was a strong on the glass. He and several other young players may not be long for this low tier if they live up to expectations.