Advertisement

NBA free agency: Top centers on the market

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 01: Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets dunks the ball in the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on April 01, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Nic Claxton is the best big man on the market. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

While the crop of centers in this year’s free agent class doesn’t consist of Tier 1 talent, it does have depth and a wide variety of vastly different players who can fill different roles.

Defensive-oriented shot-blockers, inside scorers, excellent rebounders, hustle players and 3-point shooters — this list has it all, which further underlines how vast a transformation the center position has undergone over the past decade.

This year's top free agents: point guards | shooting guards | small forwards | power forwards


Status: unrestricted but agreed to a new deal
2023-24 salary: $9,625,000
2023-24 digits: 11.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists

It's not often you find a 25-year-old center on the market who is both unrestricted and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate. However, that is the case with Claxton, who finds himself in the position of having control over his own destiny.

The two-way menace is extremely agile and only scratching the surface of the nuances of interior defense. As good as he is already, he's bound to improve further, given his work ethic and the fact that centers tend to take longer to reach their full potential.

He agreed to a four-year, $100 million extension to return to the Brooklyn Nets.


Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal
2023-24 salary: $9,245,121
2023-24 digits: 11.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists

When Hartenstein signed with the Knicks two years ago, he signed for far less than his current value. Those days are over.

Hartenstein agreed to a three-year, $87 million with the Thunder.

Hartenstein is a rock-solid defender, elite rebounder, underrated playmaker from the high post and is more than just a lob threat. His ability to find the right spot and even manufacture his own chances are all reasons why he is valuable.


Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal
2023-24 salary: $15,435,000
2023-24 digits: 12.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists

It's already been reported the Pelicans are going in a different direction, so it wasn't a surprise when Valančiūnas agreed to join a new team.

That team being the Wizards is a bit of a surprise, though. At 32 and not a strong defensive presence, Valančiūnas could have joined a contender as a backup. Instead, he will get three years and $30 million from Washington.


Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal
2023-24 salary: $3,360,000
2023-24 digits: 8.4 points, 9 rebound and 0.5 assists

In recent years, Drummond has come off the bench. He's made the pivot that Valančiūnas is on the threshold of. However, Drummond's impact could be viewed as starting caliber-worthy through the proper lens.

As his generation's best rebounder and one of the best of all time in that department, Drummond is elite on the offensive glass (3.4 in 17.1 minutes this year), which will give highly potent offensive teams more bites at the apple.

Drummond's ability to step into the starting lineup, which is a familiar concept to him, is an added luxury in case a team suffers a few big-men-related injuries.

He will fit in well with the 76ers after agreeing to a two-year, $10-plus million deal and is great insurance for Joel Embiid, whose one major issue is the injury bug.


Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal
2023-24 salary: $5,417,386
2023-24 digits: 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1 assist

There's no other way to say this: On a per-minute production basis, Smith is up there as one of the most impressive young big men in the league. That doesn't mean he doesn't have his warts. He averaged 17.2 minutes for a reason.

But he'll give teams potent offensive production, a steady presence on the glass, 3-point shooting and a high conversion rate near the rim, all wrapped into a strong, physical 24-year-old body.

The Bulls and Smith agreed on a three-year, $27 million deal.

Status: restricted free agent
2023-24 salary: $4,379,527
2023-24 digits: 7.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists

While he never broke out as some people believed he would, Achiuwa is a rock-solid big man to come off the bench. He's versatile, can play a position down next to another center and help on the glass.

If he ever gets a handle on that 3-point shot, which he hasn't so far, his value is going to skyrocket, as teams will be able to use him in far more sets.

For now, he's a ball of energy and one who is steadily building a reliable floor game on top of his enthusiastic play. It's difficult to see a team break the bank for him, and the Knicks do have the right to match. If Hartenstein is signed by someone else, keeping Achiuwa becomes a far bigger priority.


Status: Unrestricted free agent agreed to deal
2023-24 salary: $12,119,440
2023-24 digits: 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists

Look, the trade to Detroit never made sense, and it didn't help his development whatsoever. That leaves him in a weird position going into free agency.

The Pacers decided to take a low-risk gamble by agreeing to a two-year deal with the 23-year-old.


Mo Wagner, Orlando Magic

Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal

Offensive-minded big man who scores efficiently. The Magic declined his $8 million team option to pave the way for a two-year, $22 million agreement.

Xavier Tillman, Boston Celtics

Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal

Underrated young big man who moves the ball, is a decent defender and comes with some scoring upside. Boston agreed to a two-year deal to keep the big man.

Daniel Theis, Los Angeles Clippers

Status: unrestricted free agent

Veteran center who has always been consistent on both sides of the floor. Very mistake-free. Contenders can always use someone like him on the bench.

Kevin Love, Miami Heat

Status: unrestricted free agent agreed to deal

We're coming to the end of Love's impressive career, but until he's firmly out, he's going to give you 3-point shooting and rebounding. He agreed to a two-year, $8 million-plus deal to return to the Heat.