In basketball, height is might, but in the NBA where the best of the best play, and competition is always at fever pitch, the truly great players stand out from the rest.
Which just made us think: who is the better center playing in the NBA today?
There are a lot of good centers currently in the league. Great players like Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Indiana’s Myles Turner, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic, Bam Adebayo of Miami, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis, and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers, just to name a few. But two names have stood out from among the high-calibre NBA centers this season. They are Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. To find out who is mightier, we break it down in a little mano a mano.
In basketball, when the buzzer in the arena sounds—and it’s not a time out—it’s because the game has ended, and whoever has the higher score wins. In this particular field, Denver's Jokic thus far is averaging and leading his team with 27.4 points per game while Philadelphia's Embiid is averaging a whopping 29.7 points per game. In scoring, Embiid is slightly better than Jokic.
For any center, rebounding is what your teammates and coaches will mainly look for as a key metric. After all, centers should be the tallest in the team to be assigned to this position. Philly's Embiid averages 10.8 boards a game while the Jokic averages 11.1 rebounds per outing. The latter has a slight edge on rebounding.
Gone are the days when centers are just assigned to score and rebound. Many good centers now are able to pass the ball to open teammates. In this category, Denver's Jokic averages 8.6 assists per game while 76ers’ Embiid gets 3.1 assists per game. Jokic has a big lead per game in this key metric.
As an NBA center, not only do you have to defend, but it helps that you can grab the ball from opponents as well. Good centers can find that right tempo to do so. Embiid averages 1.3 steals per game while Jokic averages 1.6. The latter has a slight edge in this category.
Centers have to protect the rim and not allow any player from scoring. Being the tallest man on the court usually means you can block another players’ shot attempt. It’s a big bonus if the player can block. Jokic gets 0.6 blocks per game while Embiid gets 1.2 blocks per game. Embiid gets the better stat here.
These are the top metrics, but there are many other things to consider—a player’s chemistry with his team mates, his attitude on the court, his charisma with reporters. Also, one is better in assists while the other one is clearly a better shot blocker. Which is more valuable? Which truly makes a better center?
In the standings, as of this writing, Philadelphia 76ers leads not only the Atlantic Standings but the Eastern Conference as well. On the other hand, Denver Nuggets is at the 8th spot. But there are a lot of games yet to be played in the season, so lots of things can still happen.
If I have to choose who is better, and this is just my opinion, I’d put more weight on players that can pass the ball more because it just makes the game a little more elevated and exciting to watch.