Big Al Jefferson is so big he can barely fit on this page.
With the season beginning on Christmas Day, we wrap up the 2011-12 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit today with our final Fantasy basketball cheat sheet. The NBA version of the Wire Troll will appear each Saturday of the season, starting either next week or the week after (depending on how hung over I am next weekend). So while you get ready to watch games that count on Sunday, let’s take a look at the top 35 centres.
Grabbing a top notch Fantasy centre is difficult because there are so few. You definitely don’t want to wait too long and be stuck with the likes of Andris Biedrins as your big man. The other big issue is the lack of fives that offer a complete game. Take Dwight Howard and you’ve got to cover your ass in FT percentage with the rest of your picks. Pick Al Horford and you won’t be getting an elite level of blocks.
The good news is that many power forwards also qualify at centre, and tend to offer a bit more all-round production.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (4): Howard is yet another superstar that wants to be moved to another team. Orlando isn’t sure it will be able to deal him anytime soon, so this situation could hang around all season. Regardless of the potential distraction, there’s no question about what Superman is capable of doing on the court. He enjoyed his finest campaign last season, sinking more freebies than ever (even slightly improving his rate), had another huge rebounding season – especially on the offensive glass – and reached a new personal best in points per game. The Nets are desperately trying to land Howard, but this deal doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen immediately if at all.
2. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks (11): Horford has become one of the top studs on the Hawks, and it will be interesting to see if they start feeding him the ball more this season. The 25-year-old has made steady and strong progress in every season of his career, and last season he became a bigger part of the offense – a trend I’m really hoping continues. Horford did respectable work on the defensive glass, but his O-boards dipped a bit. He made up for that by showing a deft passing touch for a big man, averaging 3.5 dimes per game (without any increase in turnovers), but his block numbers dipped slightly. Expect the former Gator star’s numbers to keep progressing this season, but pay close attention to the shot attempts. If Horford gets closer to 15 touches per game, he will take it to the next level.
3. Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz (7): Big Al is an absolute beast in the low post and he proved it again with a big first season in Utah. His FG percentage dipped slightly, but more touches translated into more field goals. I’d still like to see him do a better job of getting to the charity stripe, but he did do a better job than ever of actually canning his free throws last season. Jefferson continues to be mentioned in trade rumours, but wherever he’s playing this season, he’ll be a constant 20-10 threat.
4. Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks (2): Part of a massively improved Knick frontcourt, Stoudemire had a superb first season in New York, getting more touches than ever before. However, his FG percentage plummeted, which is weird, because he actually showed a pretty nice touch from outside, taking more from downtown than usual – although that’s still a tiny part of Stat’s game. Stoudemire’s O-boards dipped, and he got into more foul trouble than usual, but his points and blocks more than made up for that. He wound up in the top six in scoring last season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him defer to Melo more this season, so keep an eye on the number of touches Stoudemire gets. His rebounding could also dip with Tyson Chandler aboard.
5. Nene, Denver Nuggets (14): Nene was courted by several teams this month, but opted to return to the Nuggets, saying he never wanted to leave. (But I’m sure he would have had someone thrown enough Brazilian reals at him.) A few minor ailments limited him to 75 games last season, and his PT was down, but he never shot better, pacing the NBA with a 61.5 FG percentage, anchoring many a Fantasy team to victory in leagues that track that cat. Nene’s assists were down, and his blocks haven’t risen over one per game in the past couple of seasons, but his scoring was up thanks to his sweet touch. The Brazilian should again be one of the better Fantasy centre options this season.
6. Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns (NR): Gortat joined the Suns a year ago in a big deal with the Magic that finally freed him from the shadow of Howard. With Orlando, Gortat was doing fine work on the offensive glass in limited minutes, but once he arrived in Phoenix, he took off, seeing way more touches and dominating the offensive boards. From that big trade, Vince Carter – the main component at the time – is now gone, but Gortat remains a key part of the Suns.
7. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls (19): Noah plays the game so hard that injuries are always a worry, and last season he was sidelined for 34 games, mostly because of a thumb injury. Still, when he’s been healthy, he just keeps getting better and last season Noah’s FG percentage bounced back. His blocks dipped slightly, but he made up for that by averaging a steal per game for the first time. The former Gator has become a much better pro player than I expected.
8. Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks (12): Bogut has been a real leader for the Bucks, but unfortunately for them – and his Fantasy owners – he’s had a hell of a time staying on the court, failing to reach 70 games in any of the last three seasons. Last season, no one major injury felled him, but he still missed over a fifth of the campaign with a variety of health ailments. When active, Bogut’s performance slipped as he never shot a lower percentage from the field – or the line, where he was particularly atrocious, making Dwight Howard seem like Ray Allen. On the plus side, Bogut had his finest rebounding effort, especially on the defensive glass, set a new high in blocks and his assist total bounced back. He’s lost weight this season and sounds healthier (notwithstanding some back issues), so there’s reason to be bullish for a recovery, but as always, he will remain an injury risk.
9. Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers (NR): If the Lakers are going to make one more run at a title while Kobe Bryant is still playing, Bynum will need to: (a) stay healthy; and (b) reach his potential. Last season, injuries and ineffectiveness again dogged the Laker big man. The strides Bynum made in his FT shooting disappeared, as he sunk freebies at his lowest level since he was a rookie. On the plus side, his blocks and boards were up, but his scoring dropped dramatically. Don’t forget that Bynum will begin the season by serving a four-game suspension, but because of his upside, he remains an intriguing choice because one of these days he’s going to put a monster season on the board.
10. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (13): After testing free agency this month, Gasol re-upped with the Grizzlies for four years. The 7’1” behemoth will always need to watch his waistline and last season he took a substantial step back after his breakout in 2009-10. His touches were down and his rebounding reached career worst levels. On the plus side, Gasol’s assists were higher than ever, but that’s not really want you’re looking for out of your centre, is it? Thankfully, improved block numbers helped offset his reduced scoring. Gasol remains a force on both ends of the floor, and we’re betting that his new contract will help him bounce back and perhaps exceed what he did two seasons ago.
11. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (NR): As a rookie last season, Monroe emerged as an up and coming post presence. He did a fine job on the glass, stayed out of foul trouble – rare for a young big – and limited his turnovers. Detroit is in rebuild mode, but Monroe is one of the better building blocks on this team and should be a double-double threat for years to come.
12. JaVale McGee, Washington Wizards (NR): McGee has serious talent, and if he could ever figure out how to sink more free throws, he’d soar up this list. After breaking through as a full-time starter last season, he really took a major step forward, improving his shooting touch by leaps and bounds (which is impressive, considering he’s not the most selective shooter) and becoming a force on the glass. McGee even picked up the pace in assists and steals, but those are two cats he’s never really going to help you much with.
13. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (10): The Raptors’ only No. 1 overall selection better improve defensively or he will soon be done in Toronto. Last season was his finest effort offensively as the team force fed him the basket, but a seven-footer than can’t rebound? Ugh. Bargani sunk a lot more buckets, but had to work a hell of a lot harder for his points and his 3-point shooting continues to deteriorate. On the plus side, he did better work at the line and his steals were up, but that’s not a strength. You’ve got to love the points, but you need more boards and blocks from your big man. If Bargnani can commit to playing better D, he’ll again be a top 10 centre.
14. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (NR): Cousins is still raw and struggling to find both maturity and consistency, but man does this kid have mad skills. He enjoyed a nice rookie campaign, avoiding injury and getting a decent amount of burn. We’d like to see a better FG percentage out of big man, but he did a good job of earning trips to the foul line. Cousins has great potential as a rebounder and the fact that he averaged a steal per game was also promising. He’s a star in the making and could easily be a No. 1 centre by season’s end.
15. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks (NR): Sent to the Knicks in a three-team deal earlier this month, Chandler is coming off a nice comeback season in Dallas during which he became one of the top waiver wire picks. He got more touches than usual and did a better job of getting to the line. Chandler upped his modest steal numbers and was a double-double threat on an almost nightly basis. The Knicks have positioned themselves for a serious run in the East, and the addition of Chandler is a key component of that strategy.
16. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers (23): Hibbert oozes talent, but we’re still waiting to see him explode with a monster Fantasy season. He’s been durable the past couple of seasons and while he continued to improve last season, he didn’t make that monumental jump many expected. Hibbert got more looks and got more points at the free throw line, although he didn’t hit them as frequently. His rebounding improved and he continued to prove he’s a decent passing centre. Having just turned 25 a couple of weeks ago, the time is now for Hibbert to move into the upper tiers among Fantasy centres.
17. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (NR): Believe it or not, Jordan is the longest-serving Clipper at four years, but for a while it looked like his tenure with LA’s stepchild of a team would end this winter. But the Clips ponied up and re-signed the young, developing centre that’s coming off a season in which he took a big step forward. He stayed healthy, improved his steal count and developed into a serious shot blocking presence. Jordan’s going to help you in boards as well, but staying out of foul trouble could be an issue.
18. Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets (25): Despite less offense than usual, Okafor had a nice season with the Hornets in 2010-11. He did a better job of earning trips to the charity stripe and upped his rebound numbers. The addition of Chris Kaman, however, muddies the water for Okafor this season. Don’t be shocked if Okafor is jettisoned with the amnesty clause next summer if he doesn’t enjoy a big season.
19. Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets (5) 122: The normally durable Lopez continued to develop offensively last season, but what happened to his rebounding? He continues to get more touches, but didn’t do as good a job of getting to the line last season. The fact that his block total dipped was another disappointment for his owners. Still, given that Lopez was one of only three centres in the NBA to be in the top 20 in scoring last season justifies what a valuable commodity he is at the five spot. Oh, and that durability thing? Foot surgery will cost him the first 6-to-8 weeks of the season, so that’s why he’s so low on this list. But because of his upside, Lopez is definitely worth stashing as long as you’re covered at the position.
20. Samuel Dalembert, Houston Rockets (NR): Sammy D was on the verge of re-signing with the Kings, but then the Rockets – who need him badly – swooped in. It’s a better Fantasy fit for Dalembert, who has proved quite durable in recent seasons. Last season wasn’t his best, but given that he spent much of it coming off the bench, he was fairly productive. He slightly improved his FT shooting, but his block numbers dipped with less PT. On the plus side, Dalembert maintained his steal total, although it’s never been a key component of his game.
Others to Consider
21. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers (NR)
22. Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets (17)
23. Marcus Camby, Portland Trail Blazers (22)
24. Chuck Hayes, Sacramento Kings (NR)
25. DeJaun Blair, San Antonio Spurs (NR)
26. Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City (NR)
27. Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors (NR)
28. Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers (NR)
29. Kwame Brown, Golden State Warriors (NR)
30. Ekpe Udoh, Golden State Warriors (NR)
31. Chris Andersen, Denver Nuggets (NR)
32. Darko Milicic, Minnesota Timberwolves (NR)
33. Brendan Haywood, Dallas Mavericks (NR)
34. Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons (NR)
35. Timofey Mozgov, Denver Nuggets (NR)
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