Over the course of this week, the 76th Sense team will rank the Top 5 players at the guard, forward, and center positions through the first quarter of the season. Click here for Tuesday’s breakdown of the top guards and Wednesday’s breakdown of the top forwards. Let’s jump into our Top 5 centers in the NBA so far this year.
1. Joel Embiid
Stats: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 46% FG
Embiid has been a terror this year for opposing centers. He seems to enjoy mentally destroying his opponent and it shows in both the box score and the win column for the Sixers. Philly is 19-10 and in 3rd in the Eastern Conference behind Embiid’s MVP-like campaign. JoJo is ranked 3rd in Player Impact Estimate (PIE) only behind Giannis and LeBron, while sporting the 3rd highest usage rate in the league. It is incredible to see Embiid’s progression to the NBA’s elite in only 122 career games. Embiid is the best center in the league and it’s not even close.
2. Nikola Jokic
Stats: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 1.5 steals, 48% FG, 29% 3PT
The Joker is picking up right where he left off to end last season. His 8 assists per game are a career-high, leading all centers, and is 9th among all players. He is 7th in the NBA in assist percentage, at 38%, trailing 6 point guards. Assist percentage measures the percentage of field goals made by a team that a particular player assisted on while in the game. Jokic is truly a unicorn and his strong play has led the Nuggets to an 18-9 record and the 5th best point-differential in the NBA. The Nuggets are starting to look like a team that could really compete in the playoffs.
3. Nikola Vucevic
Stats: 21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 54% FG, 40% 3PT
Vucevic has always been a consistent contributor over his eight year career, however he has taken a giant leap this season. Shockingly, he is ranked 4th in PIE ahead of the likes of Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard. He’s averaging career-highs in points, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. Vucevic started shooting threes consistently last year and averaged 31%. He clearly worked on his shot over the summer and is shooting 40% from beyond the arc on three attempts per game. Vucevic picked the perfect time to take the next step as he enters this summer as an unrestricted free agent. If he continues his torrid start, he should be in line for a hefty payday.
4. Marc Gasol
Stats: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 45% FG, 40% 3PT
The Grizzlies have been one of the early season surprises. Gasol has been a key contributor for a Memphis team that sits at 16-11 and 6th in the Western Conference He’s averaging his most assists since 2012, while averaging a career-high three-point percentage. Gasol is also anchoring the 5th best defense in the league, while averaging a career-high in steals. He ranks 3rd in defensive rating among starting centers, only behind Steven Adams and Joel Embiid. Gasol’s strong start has put him firmly in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
5. Andre Drummond
Stats: 18 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assists, 1.4 steal, 1.7 blocks, 51% FG
Andre Drummond is dominating virtually every center in the league excluding Joel Embiid. He leads the league in rebounding and is averaging a career-high in points and field goal attempts. He has posted 12 games of at least 15 points and 15 rebounds, the most in the NBA. Drummond has led the league in total rebounds the past three seasons and offensive rebounds in the past five seasons. The combo of Drummond and Blake Griffin has been pretty lethal this year and the Pistons are eyeing their first playoff appearance since 2015.
What rankings would you like to see us do next? Comment or send us an email at the76thSense@gmail.com