Dwight Howard should be renewed in Houston. (Lakernation.com)
The 2013-14 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit is back today with our final cheat sheet. So while you wonder whether the NBA going to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the Finals as opposed to the old 2-3-2 schedule is a good idea or not, let’s take a look at the top 35 centres in Fantasy basketball.
The true big man in the NBA has been in decline for some time, so this is by far the scarcest of positions to fill. Fortunately, many power forwards also qualify at centre, helping ease the sting somewhat. And while there is some young talent here (Nikola Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas, etc.) that suggests we could be looking at more depth a year from now, right now, if you don’t invest early, you’re going to be stuck with an undependable option.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (5): The Grizzlies are going to try to find opportunities to rest Gasol to keep him fresh all season, but weren’t not worried about his ability to remain the crème de la crème at center. He’s been quite durable the past three seasons (other than a minor woe in late-March) and had his minutes trimmed slightly last season, yet still managed a career best in assists and steals, while finding time for some serious heroics (see video below).
2. Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks (6): Horford bounced back last season after an injury-plagued 2011-12, hence his upward move on the list after checking in at No. 6 a year ago. He enjoyed a career year and set a new personal best with 43 double doubles despite missing eight games. Hell, he even jacked up six treys (after hoisting just 12 in his first five years combined) and nailed half of them.
3. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets (3): Howard left the nightmare behind in LA, opting for less cash, but perhaps a better chance to win a ring in Houston. Of course, just how bad was the Laker disaster? He still averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 boards and 2.4 blocks per game. Even though Superman’s Kryptonite remains his FT shooting, we think getting to the line more often is the key to a rebound this season. Howard is back to full strength, and that’s going to be trouble for the rest of the NBA and, as we mentioned in our Shooting Guard Rankings, it’s going to be a blast watching him alongside James Harden.
4. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats (1): The Bobcats’ biggest acquisition isn’t exactly off to a great start in Charlotte, suffering a sprained ankle that puts in question his ability to start the season on time. A very reliable fantasy option, Big Al slipped last season as his FT shooting regressed slightly and his rebounding also dipped. He’s going to provide Charlotte with a steady low post scoring threat and having escaped Utah, he could be ready to get back to the kind of numbers he had in Minny.
5. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets (16): Health is the key here, but what happened to the rebounding skills he flashed during his first two seasons? Last season, Lopez bounced back nicely and while he shot better from the line, his volume of freebies dipped. With all the excitement over a revamped Net lineup, it may be Lopez’s ability to be one of the top centres in the game that is the true key to this squad.
6. Larry Sanders, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks (NR): Sanders is dealing with an illness this fall, but it’s no big deal for a dude that enjoyed a major breakthrough last season. He spent most of the season starting (although he missed some time in mid-April) and became a much bigger part of the offense while establishing himself as a serious shot-blocking, double-double threat. The fiery Sanders was one of the most improved players in the game, earning himself a multi-year extension from Milwaukee.
7. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (4): Cousins’ ability to dominate makes him a top 10 centre, but his propensity to disappear and/or implode is what keeps him from being a top five centre. Could this be the season the talented big man breaks out? Last season, he missed a few games because of injuries and suspensions/benchings, and his PT remained the same, but he continued to makes strides in his shot selection, getting closer to the kind of FG percentage you expect out of your centre. Cousins has a chance to be a very, very special player if he keeps his head screwed on straight.
8. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers (10): An All-Star in 2012, Hibbert’s FT shooting bounced back last season and he’s taken another step forward in that regard again this fall. His scoring is also up, but Indy has a lot of options in the frontcourt, so you’ll need to monitor his touches. Hibbert’s steals have gradually risen, but he’s still not much of a source of them. Was last season’s offensive explosion in the playoffs (17 PPG) a sign of things to come?
9. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls (110: Noah is dealing with a groin injury this fall that could cause him to miss the start of the season. Of course, playing through pain is nothing new to this tough dude, who had more shots per game last season than ever (the absence of Derrick Rose was a major factor there) and he showed very nice passing skills for a big man. We’ve downgraded Noah slightly because of the uncertainty of his status.
10. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic (38): Vucevic will likely be the most valuable player on a Magic team that is going to struggle this season. The youngster has already proved he can pull down boards with the best of them (11.9 per game last season) and there is a ton of upside here remaining. He’s dealing with an elbow issue this fall, but it sounds minor. Vucevic was a popular sleeper pick a year ago and didn’t disappoint, becoming a larger part of the offense and doing a much better job of sinking his shot. Apparently, Miami tried to acquire this dude for Mario Chalmers last year and that deal would have been a serious steal for the Heat.
11. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (7): For a guy that takes a lot of low-post shots, Monroe sure has trouble finishing. If that improves, he has a chance to become a 20 PPG centre and he needs to score and rebound because he doesn’t really block shots. Just 23, Monroe has tons of room to develop, and we already love the strides he’s made as effective passer for a big man. If the scoring keeps rising like we expect it to, he’ll easily be a top 10 centre a year from now. One interesting story to watch this season is the fact that Detroit apparently is not interested in offering Monroe a contract extension because of the promising play from Andre Drummond. Could Monroe be dealt, possibly to Chicago?
12. Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves (18): After missing 20 games last season, Pekovic is healthy this fall and ready to live up to the big contract the T-Wolves game him. Last season, he took a big step forward, becoming a bigger part of the Minnesota offense, although he didn’t shoot as well. With PG Ricky Rubio healthy this season as well, Pekovic is poised to take an even bigger leap.
13. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors (23): Talk about a big man ready to blow up. The Raps plan to give their young centre way more PT this season, and that’s only going to mean big things for his Fantasy value. A big breakout is coming for Valanciunas, coming off a rookie season in which he didn’t attempt a single trey, but did a pretty good job of getting to the line. More development in that regard will allow him to become a double-digit scorer – especially if the Raptors start feeding him the pumpkin more often this season.
14. Omer Asik, Houston Rockets (30): This Turkish big was dealing with a calf woe early in training camp, but seems good to go now. He’s going to play alongside Dwight Howard in a Twin Towers type of alignment that could cause opponents grief and prove to be a dominating rebounding presence. Asik had every reason to be pissed about the Rockets’ acquisition of Howard, but if he gets to keep starting, his value won’t take as big a hit as we expect. Last season, Asik took a massive step forward, and the durable big man became a full-time starter and saw a huge jump in PT. More mobile bigs – especially those that play outside the paint – are going to make it tough for the Rockets to have both Asik and Howard on the floor together, so we are skeptical about this experiment working long term.
15. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks (13): Chandler experienced a slight decline in his second season in New York, and at the age of 31, we expect that regression to increase. Not surprisingly, his FG percentage dipped after he shot a career best 67.9 per cent in 2011-12, but his blocks also dropped a fair amount. Chandler remains an important part of a playoff team, but how much he has left in the tank is a worry.
16. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers (17): To say that Sideshow Bob is injury prone is a bit of an understatement – he’s only appeared in 81 games over the last three seasons combined. You know what he can do when he’s healthy (namely, dominate the glass), but he’s so risky because of the health concerns. Varejao enjoyed a career best 14.1 PPG last season, but it’s doubtful that will happen again considering how much more talent the Cavs have. Cleveland has added Andrew Bynum – another injury-prone centre – and the two of them will hopefully equal one complete healthy big man, but from a Fantasy perspective, it’s tough to rely on Varejao.
17. JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets (15): Take a look at what McGee did last season and then check out how little he played. Used exclusively off the bench for the first time in his career, he shot better and still tantalized us with his per-48 production. Denver is committed to giving McGee more PT, so it’s time for this 2008 first rounder to finally break through to the next level.
18. Nene Hilario, PF/C, Washington Wizards (14 at PF): With Emeka Okafor possibly out all season, Washington will desperately need Nene to reverse a three-year regression. Of course, Nene has dealt with plenty of health concerns himself over the years, and he’s not getting any younger. His shooting touch really slipped last season, as did his rebounding. Oh, just in case you were confused, he thankfully has nothing to do with the TV show I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding.
19. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors (19): What a surprise. Bogut is dealing with an injury this fall – a hip and glutes woe (yes, those who have owned him in the past know all about the glute pain associated with having him on your Fantasy team). The Warriors don’t sound concerned, but come on. The big Aussie is always day-to-day. He’s capable of dominating down low, but is a frustrating player to own because just when he gets going, he’s fallen by some calamity. Bogut has been in regression the past three years, last season struggling more than usual from the line and averaging a full board less from under his own bucket.
20. Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz (NR): A prime candidate to outperform his ADP, Kanter is going to benefit greatly from a Jazz squad now devoid of both Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Kanter took a nice step forward in his second season, seeing more action and doing a much better job from the line, but that’s nothing compared to the leap he’ll make this season. One caveat: he’s coming off shoulder surgery, so isn’t quite in top shape yet.
21. Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns (8): Gortat seemed to suffer without Steve Nash last season, but it’s not as if he was awful. Injuries were an issue and he didn’t earn as many points from the line while his rebounding work dipped significantly. We expect somewhat of a bounce back, but he may never again be as good as he was in 2011-12.
22. Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers (2): The Cavs hope that Bynum can help shore up what was a poor defense last season. Of course, first he’ll need to recover from a knee woe that cost him all of last season. We know how good Bynum can be when he plays (two seasons ago, he broke through, averaging nearly 19 points, almost 12 rebounds and a shade under two blocks, staying healthy enough to play in 60 of 66 games). Philadelphia got burned by Bynum; let’s see if Cleveland can avoid a similar fate.
23. Jason Thompson, PF/C, Sacramento Kings (37 at PF): Thompson’s offense bounced back a bit last season, but this season he faces a threat to his PT from upstart Patrick Patterson. Thompson remains a solid option who has proved fairly durable the past couple of seasons, although we’d like to see him get to the line more often. He’s entering his sixth season and if there’s substantially more to see in his game, now’s the time for it to emerge, but we have our doubts.
24. Tiago Splitter, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (27): The Spurs opted to re-sign Splitter for four years and $36 million after he continued to show improvement last season. He became a bigger part of the offense, and while he didn’t shoot as well, he did a better job of getting to the charity stripe and sinking his freebies once there.
25. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (22): Jordan regressed slightly last season, yet still set a career high in double-doubles. If he ever becomes more consistent, look out, because when this dude is on, he’s a serious animal. Jordan’s been very durable the past three years, although we’d like to see him get more PT this season if he’s going to bounce back and hopefully find the upside that is obviously there.
Others to Consider
26. Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers (24 at PF)
27. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics (NR)
28. Alex Len, Phoenix Suns (NR)
29. Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, Charlotte Bobcats (38 at PF)
30. Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers (NR)
31. Andray Blatche, PF/C, Brooklyn Nets (NR)
32. Timofey Mozgov, Denver Nuggets (36)
33. Byron Mullens, Los Angeles Clippers (29)
34. Tyler Zeller, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (40)
35. Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Lakers (20)
Now it’s your turn? Tell us in the comments below which centres you’re targeting this season and why.