Breaking down the NBA free-agent center market

While the center position has gone out of vogue, big men still have value. Teams no longer build around the post, but everyone wants a solid defender and rebounder to anchor the defense. This free-agent class features a good mix of young players with upside and solid, defensive-minded veterans.

  1. Christian Wood
    Age: 25

At first glance, you might say, “Who?” But Wood had a breakout year with the Detroit Pistons. His presence as a younger (and less expensive!) option is a big part of why Detroit was willing to trade Andre Drummond. In his first season as a full-time rotation player, Wood delivered big numbers, averaging 13.1 points per game on 56.7% shooting from the floor, while he grabbed 6.3 rebounds per game in just over 21 minutes a night. Wood also expanded his range to the arc, as he knocked down 38.6% on over two three-point attempts per contest. If that wasn’t enough, Wood dominated after Drummond was traded with a stat-line of 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and one block per game. He’ll be handsomely rewarded this summer, likely by the Pistons.

Fits with: Pistons, Knicks, Hornets, Suns, Hawks

  1. Andre Drummond (player option)
    Age: 27

Drummond is in a bit of an interesting spot. He got only eight games with the Cleveland Cavaliers after they acquired him at the trade deadline. But those eight games, and an uncertain free-agent market due to COVID-19 have it looking like Drummond will exercise his $28.7 million player option for next season. Drummond is young enough to fit with the Cavs young core, so it’ll be one more year of growing together. After that, Drummond will hit what should be a more stable and flush with cash, market in 2021.

Fits with: Cavaliers

  1. Tristan Thompson
    Age: 29

Thompson has had a kind of weird career. Right as he was figuring out his place in the NBA, LeBron James returned to Cleveland and the Cavs were title contenders. A few years later, James and Kyrie Irving were gone and Thompson was a luxury for a rebuilding team. Now, he’s finally a free agent. With Andre Drummond likely the Cavs center moving forward, and Kevin Love (and his giant contract) entrenched at power forward, Thompson is probably moving on. Several contenders will lineup to add the veteran big in free agency.

4. Marc Gasol

Age: 35

Could this be it for Gasol? The veteran center is fully into the role player phase of his career. Gasol is now a stretch-five, as over half of his shot attempts come from behind the arc. He’s still a solid defender and rebounder, but has slipped far from his Defensive Player of the Year days. If the Raptors run it back one more year, Gasol probably comes back. If Toronto goes another direction, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gasol call it a career. Or he could go home and play in Spain to wrap up his career. If he wants to keep playing in the NBA, but not for the Raptors, several contenders will offer Gasol a role as a 15 minutes per game opener in the middle.

Fits with: Raptors, Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets