After a week of ranking point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards, it’s time to finish off the position rankings with the big fellas. The center position is fairly strong, but nowhere near the “old days” when I started playing fantasy basketball in the 1990s when you’d have a choice of Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing to name a few dominant centers. Nowadays, there’s only one killer pick in the bunch. Also, I used to walk 50 miles one way to get to school. In the snow.
1. Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic
2009-10: 82 G; 18.3 PPG; 1.8 APG; 13.2 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 61.2 FG%; 59.2 FT%; 0.9 SPG; 2.8 BPG; 3.3 TO
2010-11: 78 G; 22.9 PPG; 1.4 APG; 14.1 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 59.3 FG%; 59.6 FT%; 1.4 SPG; 2.4 BPG; 3.6 TO
If Howard played during the 90s, he would have held his own against the likes of the aforementioned legends. He’s got adult-sized heads for deltoids, strength, size and is supremely athletic, which makes D12 the alpha male of the center spot. He doesn’t have the most polished offensive game and still gets a lot of dirty and easy points (putbacks and alleys), but who cares in fantasy, right? Just get the points! Howard basically controls the boards and blocks categories, as well as field goal percentage. His oft talked about ineptness at the charity stripe is Howard’s only flaw, but that’s why you have other positions to fill to make up for it. Me telling you that D12 will be the first center off the board is like saying “Good Will Hunting” is the greatest bro movie of all-time. Duh.
2. Al Jefferson, PF/C, Utah Jazz
2009-10: 76 G; 17.1 PPG; 1.8 APG; 9.3 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 49.8 FG%; 68.1 FT%; 0.8 SPG; 1.3 BPG; 1.8 TO
2010-11: 82 G; 18.6 PPG; 1.8 APG; 9.7 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 49.6 FG%; 76.1 FT%; 0.6 SPG; 1.9 BPG; 1.3 TO
Jefferson is an undersized center, but he’s plenty good. He’s a potential double-double player, having done it three seasons before in his career and barely missed out the past couple of seasons with Utah, averaging 9.3 and 9.7 rebounds, respectively. His scoring and rebounding has declined since joining the Jazz, but the numbers still warrant him being one of the better centers in the L. Jefferson also gives you very good blocks and field goal percentage numbers and is a career 70.4 percent free throw shooter, so you won’t suffer the usual “big man not good at the line” stigma. One thing to be wary of is that Jefferson could possibly be traded this season as the Jazz look to get younger. Sure, he’ll only be 27 years old in the next couple of weeks, but he probably has the most trade value of the Jazz’s available bigs.
3. Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
2009-10: 81 G; 14.2 PPG; 2.3 APG; 9.9 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 55.1 FG%; 78.9 FT%; 0.7 SPG; 1.1 BPG; 1.5 TO
2010-11: 77 G; 15.3 PPG; 3.5 APG; 9.3 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 55.7 FG%; 79.8 FT%; 0.8 SPG; 1.0 BPG; 1.6 TO
Horford gets crazy love from NBA heads and I can understand why. The dude is relentless and is the epitome of a team player. However, in fantasy, I tend to think he gets overrated by some people. The statistics are nice, but nothing really jumps out at you. Horford has never averaged a double-double, but has come close in every single one of his four seasons, missing out because of rebounding numbers (9.7, 9.3, 9.9, 9.3, respectively). Even still, in those same seasons, he’s only averaged 10.1, 11.5, 14.2, 15.3 points. Obviously, he’s not the first or second option most nights on the floor, but in fantasy basketball, it is what it is. Numbers don’t lie. A lot of Horford’s value is in his consistency, which there is a lot to be said for that, and potential for some points production upside, particularly if someone is stupid enough to trade for Joe Johnson’s ludicrous contract. Orlando? Figures. (FYI, if Brook Lopez were healthy, he would have gone in this spot because of his 20-point potential (again) and solid fantasy production all-around. Well, except in rebounds.)
4. Nene Hilario, C, Denver Nuggets
2009-10: 82 G; 13.8 PPG; 2.5 APG; 7.7 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 58.7 FG%; 70.4 FT%; 1.4 SPG; 1.0 BPG; 1.5 TO
2010-11: 75 G; 14.6 PPG; 2.0 APG; 7.6 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 61.5 FG%; 71.1 FT%; 1.1 SPG; 1.0 BPG; 1.8 TO
Nene was arguably the most sought after free agent this past offseason, but it sure did take him a while to get a new contract. He re-signed with the Nuggets and this will pretty much give you an idea of what to expect, fantasy-wise since he’s been mile high his whole NBA career — nice points and rebounds with excellent contributions in field goal percentage and collective defensive stats. Nene doesn’t give his fantasy hoops owners anything outstanding, but he won’t hurt a team either. He could grab more boards with Kenyon Martin in China and because of my utter lack of faith in Timofey Mozgov doing anything. Yes, I do think Nene will eventually switch back to playing the five spot and he will add very good production to any fantasy team.
5. Joakim Noah, PF/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: 64 G; 10.7 PPG; 2.1 APG; 11.0 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 50.4 FG%; 74.4 FT%; 0.5 SPG; 1.6 BPG; 1.8 TO
2010-11: 48 G; 11.7 PPG; 2.2 APG; 10.4 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 52.5 FG%; 73.9 FT%; 1.0 SPG; 1.5 BPG; 1.9 TO
Ranking Noah here ahead of the following guy is a big leap of faith in a couple of things: 1) Noah’s upward projection in points scored continues and 2) he remains healthy. Both things are certainly possible, but its the latter point that is most important since a player has to be on the floor to put up fantasy statistics. Noah is very good in the boards and blocks category, which is almost satisfactory enough for the center position in fantasy, but a jump in scoring would do very nicely in solidifying Noah’s ranking here amongst centers. Let’s hope it happens. I know Chitown fans do.
6. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies
2009-10: 69 G; 14.6 PPG; 2.4 APG; 9.3 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 58.1 FG%; 67.0 FT%; 1.0 SPG; 1.6 BPG; 2.0 TO
2010-11: 81 G; 11.7 PPG; 2.5 APG; 7.0 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 52.7 FG%; 74.8 FT%; 0.9 SPG; 1.7 BPG; 1.8 TO
Gasol is a classic big man and still has a lot of potential. However, he’s sort of being fantasy-blocked by Zach Randolph, who basically works in the same space as Gasol. I have to say though that the duo seem to have things figured out and are living in harmony. Of course, Z-Bo benefits more in regards to statistics. Gasol has the potential to score more points than last season as he proved the previous year and the same goes for rebounding. Regardless, he should put forth solid numbers there and appreciable production in percentages and blocks. He even gets a fair share of steals, and just like his brother Pau, Gasol is pretty nifty in the passing category.
7. Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks
2009-10: 69 G; 15.9 PPG: 1.8 APG; 10.2 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 52.0 FG%; 62.9 FT%; 0.6 SPG; 2.5 BPG; 1.9 TO
2010-11: 65 G; 12.8 PPG; 2.0 APG; 11.1 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 49.5 FG%; 44.2 FT%; 0.7 SPG; 2.6 BPG; 1.9 TO
Bogut would go a lot higher than this, but the man just can’t seem to stay healthy enough on the hardwood. When on the court, Bogut has averaged double-doubles the past three season, with excellent block production the previous two seasons in particular. These three basic categories (points, boards and blocks) are the ideal places where you want your fantasy center to come up big. However, only averaging 56.7 games per season the past three is not ideal. Is there a possibility of Bogut getting hurt? History certainly suggests that as he hasn’t played a full season since his rookie campaign in 2005-06. It bears watching how he does in a compacted season as he’s a high-risk, high-reward type of player.
8. JaVale McGee, C, Washington Wizards
2009-10: 60 G; 6.4 PPG; 0.2 APG; 4.1 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 50.8 FG%; 63.8 FT%; 0.3 SPG; 1.7 BPG; 0.9 TO
2010-11: 79 G; 10.1 PPG; 0.5 APG; 8.0 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 55.0 FG%; 58.3 FT%; 0.5 SPG; 2.4 BPG; 1.3 TO
I almost wanted to jump McGee ahead of the two previous players on the list and that would have been appropriate considering McGee’s ridunkulous hops. However, I’m a bit more on the conservative side here because of the small sample size from him in his career. He definitely has some high upside and very well could end up in the top five of this list thanks to his ability to snuff shots and the likely outcome of a double-double season. Especially if he gets the minutes, which he should. Of course, his free throw shooting is a detriment and if he gets to the line more often, thanks to attack mentality and increased number of shots, it can be more of a burden on your team for that category. But he’ll make up for it in a few others.
9. Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns
2009-10: 81 G; 3.6 PPG; 0.2 APG; 4.2 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 53.3 FG%; 68.0 FT%; 0.2 SPG; 0.9 BPG; 0.6 TO
2010-11: 80 G; 10.2 PPG; 0.9 APG; 7.9 RPG; 0.0 3PTM; 56.1 FG%; 72.5 FT%; 0.5 SPG; 1.1 BPG; 1.0 TO
Gortat injured his thumb before the season and that will definitely affect the beginning of his season. However, the Polish Hammer is giving it a go and is starting for the Suns and who can blame him? Once he got the starting job last season, Gortat averaged 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 55.9 percent from the floor and 1.3 blocks in 14 games. He only averaged 33 minutes per start, but he was very effective in those minutes. Even if he came off the bench, Gortat’s per minute production is solid, and unless Robin Lopez goes bananas at some point, expect Gortat to get the bulk of blow on the court.
10. Greg Monroe, C, Detroit Pistons
2010-11: 80 G; 9.4 PPG; 1.3 APG; 7.5 RPG: 0.0 3PTM; 55.1 FG%; 62.2 FT%; 1.2 SPG; 0.6 BPG; 1.0 TO
I’m a fan of Monroe, having followed his career at Georgetown, but would be a huge fan if he could ever block a shot. His 0.6 last season in the category is as pathetic as Brook Lopez’s 6.0 RPG. OK, maybe not as bad, but players with Monroe’s height and ability should put up better rejection numbers than that. However, the potential for averaging a low double-double is there for Monroe with excellent shooting from the field and steals numbers for the position. As with most bigs, the free throw percentage could hurt, but supplemented with better shooters from the charity stripe, choosing Monroe won’t be a detriment to your team. He’s still an upside pick — along with the Toronto Raptors’ Ed Davis who barely missed getting in on this ranking — but at this point of his career, you’re not choosing Monroe to be more than your second center in a standard-sized league.
This ends the position rankings! Someone ring the bell! However, have no fear, The Fantasy Jump Off returns this coming season. To steal from another sport – CAN’T WAIT!