Free Agency 2021

2021 NBA Free Agency: Who are the best centers available?

Free agency is quickly approaching, with Aug. 2 being the first day teams can begin negotiating with free agents.

Ahead of free agency, we're going to take a closer look at what could happen. And today, we're looking at who the best players are at the center position.

It's a group that features a rising star in Jarrett Allen and a number of veterans, including Nerlens Noel and Andre Drummond.

With that in mind, let's get to it.

5. Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks

Status: Unrestricted

Age: 27

2020-21 averages: 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks in 24.2 minutes per game

Noel's career would look very different had he accepted the four-year, $70 million contract the Dallas Mavericks reportedly offered him in 2017. Seeking a maximum contract at the time, Noel hasn't developed into the star many thought he could be when he was selected No. 6 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, but he has become one of the league's better role players at the center position.

This season, Mitchell Robinson's injuries paved the way for Noel to start at center for the Knicks. He made a big impact, averaging a career-best 2.2 blocks per game while anchoring New York's stingy defence. While he lacks the size to take on bruising centers, Noel is a high-energy player with great instincts who can play above the rim on both ends of the court. He even offers some switchability.

4. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers

Status: Player option

Age: 27

2020-21 averages: 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists in 22.9 minutes per game

After winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20, Harrell made the decision to stay in Los Angeles but switch teams, going from the Clippers to the Lakers. Despite playing fewer minutes under Frank Vogel, Harrell continued to do what he does best - bring scoring and energy off the bench.

Unfortunately for Harrell, he once again saw his role diminish in the playoffs, going from playing 22.9 minutes per game in the regular season to 9.8 in the postseason.

What's next for Harrell? He will become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $9.7 million player option for the upcoming season. His limitations can hold him back in the playoffs, but he's a proven regular season player.

3. Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings

Status: Unrestricted

Age: 27

2020-21 averages: 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 29.2 minutes per game

Holmes began his NBA career as a backup, first behind Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, followed by Deandre Ayton in Phoenix. As a free agent in 2019, he decided to join the Kings, where he's flourished with more minutes and opportunities as a starter. Last season, he averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, both of which were career highs at the time. He improved upon those numbers this season, averaging 14.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

One of the league's more underrated players, Holmes is an energetic big who thrives in pick-and-rolls and as a cutter. He's flown under the radar for much of his career, but he is looking to make a big splash this offseason, as his team is reportedly looking for a contract in the $80 million range.

2. Andre Drummond, Los Angeles Lakers

Status: Unrestricted

Age: 27

2020-21 averages: 14.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals in 27.0 minutes per game

Few players spark as much debate as Drummond does. He's a historically great rebounder, but his decision-making on both ends of the court has come under question. He was a young star in Detroit, but Cleveland parted ways with him to make way for Jarrett Allen, and he wasn't able to make as much of an impact as expected in Los Angeles.

Still, Drummond is a two-time All-Star and four-time rebounding champion who is entering his age 28 season. He will likely receive interest from a number of teams in free agency, although it'll be interesting to see who pursues him and how much they're willing to offer.

1. Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers

Status: Restricted

Age: 23

2020-21 averages: 12.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks in 29.6 minutes per game

Allen is one of the players the Brooklyn Nets parted ways with to acquire James Harden.

The No. 22 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Allen has proven himself to be one of the league's rising centers. Standing at 6-foot-11 with a reported 7-foot-5 wingspan, he's a massive presence in the paint, capable of making an impact on both ends of the court.

Allen looks like a foundational piece of the Cavaliers, so the most likely outcome is that the two sides will reach an agreement. And even if they don't, Allen being a restricted free agent gives the Cavaliers the option to match any offer he receives in free agency.

Allen is the best center available this offseason, but time will tell how "available" he actually is.

Originally published in NBA Spain and translated by NBA Canada's Scott Rafferty.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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