Amare Stoudemire loves to score, and is a better rebounder than he’s given credit for.
We’ve taken a break for about a week, but now that the 2010-11 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit is complete, we’re turning our full attention on the 2010-11 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit. With the NBA preseason kicking off this weekend, let’s take a look at the top 25 centres in Fantasy basketball.
Fantasy centres are often the cornerstones of your Fantasy roster, so choosing your big men should be a task not taken lightly. When building your rankings, the first question you’ll face seems simple enough, but it’s one that has tripped up many a well-conceived strategy: Is my guy eligible at centre? Some leagues have position eligibility requirements that defy logic, so it’s important to know before your draft which players are eligible to man the post.
Once you have your list of potential centres in mind, know this: Do not wait very long before pulling the trigger on your big man. Elite centres are rather scarce this season, and those players that contribute in three or more categories without the added liability of awful free throw percentage or atrocious turnover numbers are few and far between indeed. Most leagues require you to start two centres, and if you procrastinate you may end up with guys named Darko, Erick or Eddy as your low post enforcers. Yikes…don’t be that owner.
Note: Position designations are taken from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports. Players in italics are centre-eligible in Yahoo leagues, but not in the ESPN game. Check your league settings to confirm.
1. Pau Gasol, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers: An injury cost Gasol the first 11 games of the 2009-10 season, but once he made it onto the court he was his same old reliable self: Points, boards, blocks, assists and the great percentages that have characterized his NBA career. His scoring was down a tick, but he averaged double-digit rebounds for the first time – and those numbers should stay up while the perpetually injured Andrew Bynum is sidelined. Draft Gasol with confidence; his across-the-board production makes him our No. 1 Fantasy centre.
2. Amare Stoudemire, PF/C, New York Knicks: Amare loves to score, and once Amare scores he wants the ball back as quickly as possible, so he’s a perfect fit for the Knicks’ “run, gun and shun (defense)” style of play. While Raymond Felton is no Steve Nash, he’s a solid NBA point guard that should have no problem getting Stoudemire the rock. All told, Stat’s move east should have very little effect on his status as an elite Fantasy big man.
3. David Lee, PF/C, Golden State Warriors: Lee was a double-double machine last season, but the big news was the 3.6 assists and 1.0 steal he averaged per outing. Factor in his outstanding percentages and it’s easy to see why Lee is one of Fantasy’s top big men. Don’t count on him to block many shots, and his scoring numbers might drop a bit given all the gunners in Golden State’s offense, but Lee is as solid as they come. It’s also comforting that he won’t have to deal with former coach Don Nelson’s infamous lineup Tilt-A-Whirl.
4. Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic: If your league does not count turnovers, bump D-12 up this list a bit — especially in head-to-head play. Howard’s scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking make him a H2H beast for those managers willing to punt free-throw percentage, but his high-volume, low-percentage performance at the stripe can be a boat anchor in roto formats. This ranking represents something of a “median” for Howard, but his unique skill set demands that you adjust his grade depending on your specific league settings.
5. Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets: Lopez stepped up big in his sophomore season, rewarding his Fantasy owners with some top-notch big man stats (18.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG) and throwing in some high-volume, high percentage free throw shooting as a bonus. Newcomer Troy Murphy might nick a few of Lopez’s points, but there’s no reason to expect anything but another stellar season from Jersey’s main man in the middle.
6. Chris Bosh, PF/C, Miami Heat: Bosh probably stands to lose the most Fantasy value of the Big Three — at least in terms of scoring — but he should still post quality peripheral numbers. Twenty points per game is probably Bosh’s ceiling, but he should still grab close to ten boards and block at least one shot per night. Throw in his characteristically strong shooting percentages and Bosh projects as a very solid fallback option if you miss out on the top tier of big men.
7. Al Jefferson, PF/C, Utah Jazz: Big Al’s sub par performance in 2009-10 will depress his 2010 draft value, but a strong supporting cast in his new digs in Utah should help him regain his dominant ways this season. Standout point guard Deron Williams will find ways to feed Jefferson the ball, and a return to 20-plus points and 10-11 boards per night is certainly within reach. Big Al is typically good for about 1.5 blocks per game, but his career free throw percentage of just under 70 per cent is somewhat problematic.
8. Carlos Boozer, PF/C, Chicago Bulls: The Booze Cruise docks in Chi-Town this season, and he should be roughly the same player he was during his days with the Utah Jazz. The Bulls have several scoring options, though, and Joakim Noah may snag a few of Boozer’s boards – so some slight regression may be in the offing. New environment notwithstanding, Boozer is what he is: a top rebounder and excellent scorer that is only an adequate free throw shooter and doesn’t block more than about 0.5 shots per game.
9. Tim Duncan, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs: The Big Fundamental did his thing again last season — he just didn’t do it quite as well, quite as much or for quite as long as in years past. Duncan is still a fine scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, but his advancing years have prompted the Spurs to limit his playing time when possible — and his Fantasy value has suffered as a result. Duncan is a very safe pick if you “go small” early in your draft; just be sure to draft some free-throw sharpshooters to cover his pedestrian numbers from the stripe.
10. Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, Toronto Raptors: Bosh’s departure leaves the Big Chair empty in the Raptors’ offensive kingdom, and Bargnani stands as the most likely heir to the throne. Il Mago posted career highs in points, rebounds, treys and blocks last season, and even better numbers should be in store now that the 25-year-old is the Raps’ top offensive option. Bargnani’s rep is as a three-point shooter, and while that’s true enough, his 111 blocks of a season ago should not escape your notice on draft day.
11. Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks: Horford is a well-rounded centre that doesn’t draw much notice (that kind of thing happens when you play for the Hawks), but gets the job done night in and night out. His scoring has improved markedly in each of his first three seasons, he remains an excellent shot-blocker and rebounder, and his percentages are stellar for a big man. If you miss out on the top couple of tiers of Fantasy centres, Horford makes a great consolation prize.
12. Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks: Until an elbow injury ended his 2009-10 season in early April, Bogut was an absolute beast – averaging 15.9 points, 10.2 boards and a ridiculous 2.5 blocks. He still can’t shoot free throws, but his rather low volume limits his damage. Bogut will practice without restrictions in camp, and the towering Aussie should be viewed as an injury-risk option with considerable upside given his huge ‘09-10 numbers.
13. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol was a pleasant Fantasy surprise last season, posting strong numbers in all of the “big man” categories while relegating top draft pick Hasheem Thabeet to a reserve role. Thabeet is still in the picture, but the youngster lacks Gasol’s polish and versatility. While Gasol is a fine option once the top centres are off the board, his 67 per cent free throw shooting (at medium volume) needs to improve if he hopes to ascend further up the Fantasy ranks.
14. Nene, PF/C, Denver Nuggets: Good news: The oft-injured Nen played in all 82 games last season – marking the second straight campaign he has logged at least 77 appearances. The bad news (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) is that his numbers took a slight downturn from his fine ‘08-09 showing. Nene creates a lot of steals for a big man, will block about one shot per night, grab about 8-to-9 rebounds and score about 13-to-14 points. He has a great touch from the field, but is mediocre at best from the stripe.
15. Zach Randolph, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies: Z-Bo went off in his first season with the Grizzlies, averaging 20.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and one steal per game. Randolph can be a monster when he’s motivated, and the fact that he’s in a contract year should ensure that more big numbers are coming this season. Blocks are his bane, but his 78 per cent (at medium volume) free throw shooing helps to kill that pain. If Randolph is centre-eligible in your league, he makes a great complement to that defensive specialist you drafted earlier in your draft.
16. Andray Blatche, PF/C, Washington Wizards: Upside? You say you want upside? Meet Mr. Blatche, who exploded into Fantasy stardom following the trade of former platoon mate Brendan Haywood in mid-February. How good was he? After the Break, Blatche averaged 22.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks – while rescuing the Fantasy fortunes of many a manager astute enough to snatch him off the waiver wire. More of the same should be coming this season – and should be available at a relatively low price.
17. Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers: After missing big chunks of the previous two seasons due to injuries, Kaman enjoyed a nice bounce-back campaign in 2009-10. If he can remain healthy again this year, this ranking will look like a joke by season’s end; he is absolutely capable of top-10 centre numbers. Sure, the Clips will probably stink like zoo dirt again this season, but that doesn’t mean Kaman won’t reward your mid-round faith in him.
18. Troy Murphy, PF/C, New Jersey Nets: Like Bargnani, Murphy’s prodigious three-ball is his claim to fame — and that skill gives him a unique Fantasy appeal. Murph will drop close to two treys per night, while averaging a double-double to boot. Unlike Bargnani, though, Murphy is not much of a shot-blocker, though his stellar percentages help to offset that shortcoming.
19. Joakim Noah, PF/C, Chicago Bulls: Noah is and should remain a strong rebounder and shot blocker, and his 10.7 PPG in 2009-10 was a career best. The arrival of Boozer may erode some of Noah’s numbers, and he is something of an injury risk, but the youngster with the crazy locks should keep piling up the blocks even with the Booze Cruise ported at the Windy City docks.
20. Kevin Love, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves: With Big Al Jefferson off to Utah, Love becomes the primary inside scoring threat in Minnesota. Injuries limited K-Love to just 60 games in 2009-10, but the 14 points and 11 rebounds he averaged should state loud and clear what this kid brings to the table. With Big Al out of the picture, Love could make a run at an 18-to-20 point average in 2010-11, and he should be available in your draft’s middle rounds.
21. Anthony Randolph, PF/C, New York Knicks: Randolph was hugely hyped entering last season, but injuries and an extended stay in Don Nelson’s Chateaux Bow-Wow pretty much cancelled his coming-out party. That was then, this is now. Randolph is freakishly athletic, and should find a nice niche in the Knicks’ pinball offense. Fifteen points, 8-to-9 boards and close to two blocks per game is not out of the question this season, and Randolph’s numbers could soar even higher if he can harness his amazing potential. Upside? Oh yeah.
22. Marcus Camby, PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers: Camby is one of the league’s premier shot blockers and rebounders, but his career continues to be defined by those two little words, “when healthy…” In fairness, Camby played 74 games last season, but he has eclipsed 70 appearances only four times in his 14-year NBA career. He is a liability on offense, but he should post double-digit rebounds while blocking close to two shots per night. Watch the Cambyman’s status if/when Greg Oden makes it back onto the court.
23. Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers: Hibbert averaged 11.7 points and a stellar 1.6 blocks in just over 25 MPG last season – though he needs to improve his rather meager 5.7 rebounds per contest. We think he can; the departure of Murphy should free up minutes for the massive Hibbert, and a breakout season could be in the offing. The youngster will need to stay out of foul trouble (3.5 per game in those 25 minutes a season ago), but if he can he could be a huge draft-day bargain.
24. Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets: Yao looks to be ready to go in 2010-11, but it sounds as though he may only “go” for around 24 minutes per night. Even if the Rockets stick to their guns on this one, Yao is still capable of 14-to-15 points, 7-to-8 boards and over one block per outing. Follow this closely of course, and be prepared to bump Yao up your draft board if Houston softens its “Yao Rules” a bit. Proceed with caution, though: Calling Yao injury-prone is like describing Lady Gaga as “eccentric.”
25. Emeka Okafor, C, New Orleans Hornets: Okafor had a disappointing first season in the Crescent City, setting new career lows for points, rebounds and blocks per game. Even so, 10.4/9.1/1.6 is not a horrible Fantasy line, and if Okafor can bump his numbers up a bit closer to his 13.3/10.3/1.8 career averages he’ll make for a fine draft-day bargain. He has not missed a game in three seasons, so it’s time to drop the “injury prone” label.