Player Rankings: Centers
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1. Yao Ming - Houston Rockets
With his superior size and talent, one would expect Yao Ming to be the most dominant center in the league. And from February through early April, when a broken left foot ended his season, he was. Many have questioned Yao's competitiveness and desire, but it was injuries more than effort that held Yao back last season. His numbers improved in most categories for the fourth straight season. Yao averaged 18.3 points, 8.4 boards and 2.0 blocks on 55.2 percent from the floor and 78.2 percent from the line in 2004-05. Last season he averaged 22.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks on 51.9 percent from the floor and a stellar 85.3 percent from the line. Aside from an improved assertiveness on offense the other explanation for Yao's continued improvement is the number of minutes spent on the floor. In 2004-05 he averaged just over 30 minutes a game.
His penchant for the weak foul kept him off the floor. Last season, Yao lowered his fouls (from 3.8 to 3.4 per game) and improved to 34.2 minutes per game. As he matures and his superstar status is solidified, the fouls will be far more in Yao's favor than against. It is his free throw shooting that really separates Yao from the competition. He was best shooting center from the charity stripe last year, and his 5.9 made free throws per game were also the best at his position. The only question mark on Yao is his broken left foot. He's had ankle and toe surgery on his left foot, and this is the second time he has broken it. The latest reports have the foot healing ahead to schedule. This is good news, but fantasy owners have to be aware that with this history of injuries they could potentially be drafting Bill Walton instead of the best center in the game.
Bottom Line: He is getting better and better and so long as he can avoid the injury bug, he will stand head and shoulders above the other centers in the league on the stat sheet as well as on the floor.
2. Amare Stoudemire - Phoenix Suns
He's back. After a season lost to microfracture surgery on his left knee, Amare looks ready to reclaim the mantle as one of the most dominant big men in the NBA. He played pain-free in the Suns' summer league squad and showed some new wrinkles to his game as well. Amare is best known for his vicious dunks, after all, Stoudemire scored 26.0 points per game on a ridiculous 56 percent from the floor in his last full season in 2004-05. This summer he has shown more range and greater comfort with his jumper. Even more troubling to opposing defenders, Stoudemire is working on driving to his left. While he was near impossible to stop even when defenders knew he was driving right, imagine how much more dangerous he could be if he can go to his off-hand reliably. Granted summer league competition isn't the same as facing NBA players and Amare didn't show his trademark explosiveness around the rim, but his willingness to develop new aspects of his game bodes well for the coming season. So long as the knee holds up and he regains his former lift, Amare should be in for some monster numbers. After all, in addition to Steve Nash's pinpoint passes, Amare will also benefit from the great court vision of his frontcourt mate, Boris Diaw.
Bottom Line: When healthy Stoudemire is a sure-fire first rounder and could easily be the top center in the game. Given that his health has been upbeat this off-season, Amare is worthy of a first round pick again. However, you may be able to get him a little later if your league mates are wary of his left knee.
Update: Ouch, Amare has already pulled himself from two practices early in training camp. Not the news we wanted to hear from a potential first rounder coming off of knee surgery. He’s clearly not right yet, and until he proves otherwise, he’ll remain a huge injury risk for 2006-07.
3. Brad Miller - Sacramento Kings
Brad Miller will continue to bring great joy to his fantasy owners. Last year, despite predictions that Miller's numbers would suffer with the additions of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Bonzi Wells and Ron Artest, Big Brad just kept rolling. Miller averaged 15 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, which is just under a block and steal a game on 49.5 percent shooting from the field and 82.8 percent from the line. Only his rebounds and defensive stats slipped from the previous season. And he added a three-point shot his repertoire, connecting 34 times from downtown. If his numbers were to remain the same, Miller would still be one of the best centers in game. It's his free throw shooting and position-best assists that distinguish him among his peers in the pivot. When you get guard-like contributions from a center in these categories, it allows you greater flexibility when assembling the rest of your roster. And it's not as if Miller's other numbers hurt you in any way.
Bottom Line: With great percentages and a guaranteed four assists from the center spot, Brad Miller is one of the best values in the game. Since he won’t hurt you anywhere and is very solid everywhere, Brad Miller makes for a tremendous fantasy pick. Quality starting centers are always at a premium, so be sure to grab Miller early on in fantasy drafts.
4. Shaquille O’Neal - Miami Heat
At 34 years of age, Shaquille O’Neal is starting to slow down. The Heat are officially Dwyane Wade's team now and Shaq played in only 59 games last season—just two more than Yao Ming. Even with the injury problems and inevitable decline that comes with age, when Shaq is on the court, he’s going to put up numbers. Scoring 20 points with 9.2 boards, 1.9 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.8 blocks on 60 percent shooting from the field, Shaq is most everything you want out of a fantasy center. He’s polished down low and can either overpower a defender or use a nice little post move to get to the hoop. On the defensive end, he is on the decline (his 1.8 blocks last season were the second lowest of his career), but you can still expect him to get you almost two blocks per game. He’ll kill you from the line as he is unlikely to see the north side of 50 percent again in his career. The only way you can be assured of not finishing last in FT percentage is if you can surround him with guys who get to the line a ton and shoot a great percentage like Corey Maggette or Allen Iverson. Because of this weakness, Shaq is a lot more valuable in head-to-head leagues than rotisserie. You can lose one category a week and still be dominant in head-to-head; this is much more difficult in roto leagues.
Bottom Line: Many fantasy players will have a strict “no Shaq” policy because of his poor free-throw shooting. It’s a strategy that may work but sometimes people forget that with Shaq you’ll be low in FT percentage but near the top of the league in FG percentage. It’s a double-edged sword so if you’re comfortable with taking the hit in free throws, grab Shaq and enjoy his dominant production in points, boards and blocks. And don't forget your league's scoring format; what's good for roto may not be good for head-to-head.
5. Ben Wallace - Chicago Bulls
This off-season Wallace left the Detroit Pistons to join the division rival Chicago Bulls. While his uniform will have changed, his game will not. You’ll never draft Wallace for his offense; after all, he scored just 7.3 points a game last season. What you will draft Wallace for is his dominance in rebounds, steals and blocks. It is important to note that blocks and steals are supplied by fewer players than other categories. Last year, just ten players averaged both one block and one steal or better per game. Wallace was one of only two centers to do so—Marcus Camby was the other—putting up 2.2 blocks and 1.8 steals a game. The blocks were down from previous seasons (his career average is 2.3), but the steals matched a career high. He’s still a monster on the glass, ranking fifth in the league in boards with 11.8 a game, though last season marked the fourth consecutive year in which his rebounding numbers have declined. Still, you can count on Big Ben to average double digit boards next year. Like Shaq, he’ll hurt you with a sub-50 percent free throw percentage, but since he doesn’t attempt nearly as many free throws (3.6 a game to Shaq's 8.0), it won’t sting as much. While Chicago may regret signing Wallace to an expensive four-year deal a few years down the road as he ages and continues to decline, you can feel very good about selecting him this year for your team.
Bottom Line: Boards, blocks, and steals. Anything else you get out of Wallace is just gravy.
6. Marcus Camby - Denver Nuggets
Always an injury risk, Marcus Camby is perennially one of the great draft day paradoxes in fantasy basketball. On one hand, he is Ben Wallace with offense; on the other, he's an injury waiting to happen. Yes, he played in just 56 games last year. But, man oh man, what he did in those 56 games. The numbers speak for themselves: 12.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 3.3 blocks and a respectable 46.5 percent from the field and a tolerable 71.2 percent from the line. Despite missing 26 games (ten more than the previous season), Marcus still blocked the most shots of any center in the league and grabbed the fifth-most rebounds among true centers. In rotisserie leagues, it’s the final tally that counts - not the averages - so keep that in mind when looking at Camby. Despite the legitimate injury concerns, Camby has too much potential to ignore in the fantasy world. Whenever he’s on the court, he’s a double-double machine who is solid in the percentages and can contribute heavily in rebounds, blocks, and steals. He also turns the ball over very little (just 1.6 per game) compared to other top centers. It shouldn’t be a problem for Camby to post similar numbers if he can play in 50 or more games. If he does that, you will have one the best centers in the game.
Bottom Line: What makes him so provocative for the fantasy owner is that Marcus typically slips in drafts because of injury concerns. Don’t go too early for him as he’s unlikely to play a full season, but be ready to pounce as he is unlikely to last as long as he did last year. Head-to-head players can drop Camby down a few spots in their rankings because a few missed weeks at the wrong time can really hurt you in that format.
7. Zydrunas Ilgauskas - Cleveland Cavaliers
There are probably some newer fantasy players out there who can't remember when Big Z was one of fantasy’s most injury-prone players. There is good reason for this. Ilgauskas has missed only ten games in the last four seasons. In addition to being reliable, Ilgauskas has turned himself into one of the better centers in the league. Last season, he averaged 15.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 1.7 blocks a game. He shoots extremely well from the floor (50.6 percent) and just kills it at the line with 83.4 percent shooting -- good for second best (behind Yao) at the center position. While Ilgauskas' numbers dipped slightly from 2004-05 to last year, his numbers shouldn't change much this season, which makes him a great option for you at center.
Bottom Line: Draft with confidence. Big Z is still one of the best in the business at center. He’s like a mini-Yao Ming that can be had a round or two later in the draft.
8. Mehmet Okur - Utah Jazz
Mehmet Okur was a classic sleeper last season. He was available in the middle rounds of most drafts yet proved to be one of the most valuable pivot men in fantasy. His numbers made those who passed him by kick themselves for it. We always knew Memhet could score well from outside, but many questioned his willingness to bang inside for rebounds. Okur confirmed our faith in the former and answered our questions about the latter. He averaged 18 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and nearly one made three per game. It is this final stat that makes Okur special. Only a handful of center-eligible players (Raef LaFrentz, Rasheed Wallace and to a lesser extent, Brad Miller) can help your team in three-pointers, and Okur is the best rebounder of them all. Even when Carlos Boozer returned to the Jazz, Okur kept hitting the glass. So don’t expect a decline this year. Okur also shot a solid 46 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line. His one weakness is in the defensive stats. Okur doesn't get you the blocks you'd like from a center (0.9 per game), so if you select him, you'll need to bolster your blocks with other players.
Bottom Line: Okur is a great choice at center once the top guys at the position have been taken. In fact, he has been healthier than most of the top centers and averages similar numbers in scoring and rebounding. Yes, the blocks are a little light but what he doesn't block he makes up for in threes.
9. Chris Kaman - Los Angeles Clippers
Young, gifted and blond. That pretty well describes Chris Kaman as he enters his fourth professional season. While he might be best known for his long flowing locks, his owners from last year know how valuable this guy can be to a fantasy team. Despite playing in a front-court alongside Elton Brand, who put up career-best numbers, Kaman was a force in the paint. He has more athleticism and agility than many realize, and he gives a good effort on both ends of the floor. His numbers have improved every year, and he is a good bet to average a double-double this season. Last year, he gave his owners 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game on 52.3 percent shooting from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line. Those are stats you can feel very good about.
Bottom Line: Kaman is more than just solid as a fantasy center. He is a skilled athlete capable of big numbers. He will have peaks and valleys throughout the season, but in the end, his totals will compare favorably with players selected ahead of him your drafts.
10. Nenad Krstic - New Jersey Nets
For the second season in a row, Nenad Krstic turned in a strong second half and solid playoff numbers. Two years ago, in his rookie campaign, Krstic's post-All-Star numbers were 53.4 percent shooting from the field, 75 percent from the line, 13.6 points, and 6.3 boards. And last year they got even better: 53.2 percent from the field, 78.3 percent from the line, 14.8 points, and 7.7 rebounds. If Krstic can put together a full season of those kinds of numbers, his owners will have themselves a very nice center for whom they didn't need to overreach. With good scoring, solid rebounding and excellent percentages, Krstic's only obvious weakness is his shot-blocking. For the second year, he tallied just 0.8 per game. While he will never be a big time shot blocker, he should get more than a block a game a few times during his career with his long arms.
Bottom Line: Krstic should continue to improve as his teammates trust him more and more. We'd like to see more rebounds and blocks from the big man and it is reasonable to expect that he will improve in these areas to support his double-digit scoring and fine shooting percentages.
11. Andrew Bogut - Milwaukee Bucks
Bogut showed promise in his rookie campaign, but his numbers were not what one would expect from a number one pick. He averaged 9.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.8 blocks on 53.3 percent shooting from the field and 62.9 percent at the line in 82 games. This display of mediocrity could work in your favor as the big Aussie is likely to slide a bit in drafts. Bogut averaged 28.6 minutes per game last year. This year he will be in the low to mid-30s. With more minutes comes more production. Look for the Bucks to run more plays for Bogut, in particular, exploiting a potentially devastating inside-outside game with Michael Redd. Now that Jamaal Magloire has been traded, Bogut has the center spot to himself. He will be playing alongside another skilled bigman in Charlie Villanueva, whose passing is sorely underappreciated. It is not unreasonable to think that Bogut could average a double-double this season.
Bottom Line: Bogut will improve on all of his numbers from his rookie campaign. With Redd bombing from outside, things should open up on the interior for Bogut. As he gets more used to the speed of the game and learns where his teammates like the ball, Bogut's superior passing skills should translate to good assist numbers.
12. Tyson Chandler - New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Chandler gave us another tantalizing yet ultimately unsatisfying season last year. He came out of gate very slow, but then in February, Tyson seemed to remember that he possessed telescoping long arms and began grabbing every rebound in site. However, Chandler's offensive game remained stuck in first gear all season, and his numbers suggest that he could be turning into a one category player like Jeff Foster. Chandler averaged 5.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks on 56.5 percent shooting from the field and a career-low 50.3 percent from the line. Part of the problem was that Chandler's offensive struggles forced early substitutions. He averaged just 26.8 minutes per game, depressing all of his numbers. If they are to improve, he will need more PT. There is good reason to think could happen now that he is with the Hornets. With Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and David West leading the way, the team doesn't need Chandler's offense, just an active body going after rebounds and blocking shots. Letting him focus on what he does best should improve his confidence and his all-around numbers.
Bottom Line: Chandler should improve his rebounding and shot-blocking from last year with increased minutes. While he is unlikely to become an offensive force, he could see a rise in scoring as teams focus their defenses on the Hornets' more prolific scorers and leave Chandler to roam around the rim for easy dunks.
Update: Early reports have Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler connecting on a number of alley-oops in scrimmages. Paul is ecstatic about playing with Chandler, whose speed, length and hops make him an ideal partner for fastbreak finishes and backdoor plays in coach Byron Scott's Princeton style offense. Look for an uptick in Chandler's scoring this year if he and his point guard can maintain their connection.
13. Zaza Pachulia - Atlanta Hawks
After receiving less than 20 minutes in each of his first two seasons, Zaza Pachulia took over as the starting center for the Hawks last year. This fashionable sleeper pick did not disappoint those who took a chance on him late in drafts. The Hawks are thin at center once again this year, and he will be guaranteed playing time. In 31.4 minutes per game, Pachulia averaged 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.5 blocks and 1.1 steals on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 73.5 percent from the line. True, his blocks are a weakness, but Zaza's 89 steals were the second most by a center last season, so he isn't a bust defensively. He is also a hardnosed rebounder unlike some European centers. Look for Zaza too produce similar numbers this season.
Bottom Line: Zaza will go earlier this year than he did last year but is still a good value because of his points, boards, and steals.
14. Samuel Dalembert - Philadelphia 76ers
Samuel Dalembert would be ranked higher if he didn't disappear from the stat sheet for long stretches as he has over the past two seasons. Last year many of us expected a breakout season from the Haitian Sensation. It didn't happen. Injuries got in the way and even when Dalembert returned to health, he was unable to earn the full confidence of coach Mo Cheeks. He lost the starting center job to Steven Hunter at the end of February. He has all the ability in the world, as can be seen in his 160 blocked shots, but has yet to put together a complete season. With Iverson and Webber the first and second options on offense and Andre Iguodala primed to take more shots, it is hard to see how Dalembert will improve his scoring significantly. Even if he doesn't, his superior shot blocking skills and strong rebounding (8.2 per game) make him a fantasy asset.
Bottom Line: Don’t expect a breakout season like many did last year. After all, there is a chance he won't start the season as the Sixers' starter at center. Instead, target Dalembert as a decent second center who will help you excel in blocked shots and fortify your rebounding numbers.
15. Kwame Brown - Los Angeles Lakers
A look at Kwame's averages (7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds) from last season might make you question this ranking. But look more closely. When Kwame was named the Lakers' starting center in mid-March after a Chris Mihm injury, his production took off. From March 14 to the end of the season, Brown averaged 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks on 59.2 percent shooting from the field and 58.8 percent from the line. Brown returns as the starting center and should put up season numbers in line with those he posted in the last 18 games from last season. The question mark is playing time. With Chris Mihm coming back and Andrew Bynum in the wings, Brown will have to come out of the gate strongly in November to hold his minutes. Of course, Mihm could be traded and clear up any concerns about PT.
Bottom Line: Kwame makes for a nice option in two-center leagues. His numbers won't blow you away, but he will get his share of double-doubles through the season. The knocks against him are his poor shot-blocking and his free throw shooting, which has fallen from 68.3 percent in 2003-04 to 54.5 percent last year.
16. Primoz Brezec - Charlotte Bobcats
Primoz Brezec did not build on his breakout year in 2004-05. His scoring slipped only slightly (from 13.0 to 12.4), but his rebounding fell off considerably (7.4 to 5.6). Even more troubling for a fantasy center, Brezec blocked an anemic 32 shots in 79 games last year. Ouch. Brezec has the offensive skills and the size to be a better scorer and rebounder but lacks the aggression to make it happen. He settles for jumpers when he could be using his length inside. Still, he is a good enough shooter that he will have his share of 20 point nights. It will be interesting to see how the addition of a gunner like Adam Morrison affects Brezec. He could potentially stretch defenses, opening things up inside for Brezec. He just needs to take what is given to him inside.
Bottom Line: Solid but not spectacular, Brezec should be drafted in the mid-to-late rounds as a number two center in fantasy leagues.
17. Joel Przybilla - Portland Trail Blazers
Joel Przybilla was drafted last year by fantasy teams hoping to see a repeat of 2004-5's brilliant second half when he averaged 8.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks after the All-Star break. Last season did not deliver on that promise. He didn't get the minutes needed for a statistical breakthrough and despite re-upping with the Blazers and being named the starter, his minutes could once again suffer with the logjam of bigs on the team. Still, Przybilla should be good for 6.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, more than two blocks and above 50 percent shooting from the field. His free throw shooting is miserable (a career average of 49.2 percent) but he doesn't attempt enough free throws to really hurt you. If he can carve out 25-30 minutes for himself, his value could really take off.
Bottom Line: Consider him a less expensive, less-talented version of Samuel Dalembert: a solid number two center who really helps in blocked shots and rebounding and won't hurt you anywhere except for his low scoring.
18. Eddy Curry - New York Knicks
You look at Eddy Curry and think he should be a top five center in the NBA. He has the size and ability to score at will in the post. Just look at last year's 56.3 percent shooting from the field. However, too often his willpower seems lacking - witness last year's 6.0 rebounds per game. There is no way a guy this size should average less than eight rebounds a game. Yet, he will most likely fail to reach that number again this year. Isaiah says that getting the most out of Curry is a priority this season. At the very least, Curry should see an increase in playing time this year. Curry averaged 25.9 minutes last year, his lowest in three seasons. This year it should be closer to 30 per game, and Curry will score more with more PT. The downside is that this will mean even more turnovers and that's saying something. His rebounding and shot-blocking have always been poor, so don't look for significant improvement there.
Bottom Line: Curry won’t get you prototypical big man statistics, but he does enough in points scored and the percentages to be a solid number two fantasy center. If Isiah can motivate Eddy, he could be a nice draft day value.
19. Darko Milicic - Orlando Magic
After years of being called the human victory cigar—because he only entered Pistons games after the outcome was inevitable—Milicic finally got a chance to tear the bust label from his jersey. After joining the Magic for over 30 games last spring, Darko put up 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 59.5 percent from the line in 20.9 minutes per game. It is unclear at this time if Darko will be starting at power forward (most likely) or center, but either way, he will be starting. Darko will need some time to develop offensively, but he can take the ball outside and let his height allow him to shoot over the top of most defenders. He also showed some decent passing skills last spring. Still, it is his blocks that will be his greatest fantasy asset. With 30 minutes a game, Darko could be near the top of the league in the category. With Dwight Howard inhaling everything near the rim, Darko's rebounding numbers probably won't wow you. Don't let the smell of cigars put you off, Darko will be a good value this year.
Bottom Line: Milicic will probably be available late except in more savvy leagues. Don’t let the premature bust label put you off. Darko will block shots, and his scoring could approach the low teens if he develops.
20. Nazr Mohammed - Detroit Pistons
Nazr Mohammed has some big shoes (and big hair) to fill now that he is the starting center in Detroit. He will bring more offense to the center position in Detroit but is a shadow of Ben Wallace defensively. Last year Mohammed split time in San Antonio with Rasho Nesterovic, averaging just 17.4 minutes per game, which clearly hurt his value. But he showed what he was capable of on March 17 when he went off for 30 points against the Suns. This year Mohammed should see more consistent minutes and his numbers could approach those of two years ago when he started the season with the Knicks. Mohammed shoots decent percentages, averaging 50.4 percent from the field and 78.5 from the line last year. Expect a regression in his free throw shooting as his career average is 66.1 percent. Mohammed had always been a disappointment in the shot-blocking department but if given close to 30 minutes per night, he should get about one per game.
Bottom Line: Mohammed will be had cheaply because of last year's poor numbers. He will have plenty of opportunities to score close to the rim as the opponents focus on Detroit's more prominent scoring threats. With consistent minutes, he will have his share of double-doubles this year.
21. Jamaal Magloire - Portland Trail Blazers
With his trade to the Trailblazers, Jamaal will play back-up to Joel Przybilla in Portland. His numbers will take a tumble as result. The one positive is that his high turnovers will drop. Jamaal will average about 8 points and 7 rebounds and shoot around 47 percent from the field. However, he has never been a strong shot-blocker (his career average is 1.1 per game), and his free throw shooting is in a steep three-year decline (75.1 percent in 2003-4, 60.2 percent in 2004-05, and 53.5 last year). His owners will need to address these areas with help from other players.
Bottom Line: Magloire has been overrated in fantasy circles for a few years, and this year he should be moved down your draft list. He will still be a solid source of rebounds, but his free throw shooting and lack of blocks will be irritating to his owners.
22. Kendrick Perkins - Boston Celtics
Perkins could be very nice addition for teams with two centers. His season numbers won't wow you (5.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks), but he only started 37 games at center last year due to a shoulder injury. As a starter, he averaged 7.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 53 percent field goal shooting and 65.9 percent from the line. Perkins is young and developing. He won't score much but eight rebounds and almost two blocks a game are nothing to sniff at. The question in Boston is how much playing time Kendrick will have to share with the newly acquired Theo Ratliff.
Bottom Line: Perkins should be completely recovered from shoulder surgery and if he can take the lion's share of minutes away from Ratliff, he will be a nice sleeper candidate available late in your drafts.
23. Raef LaFrentz - Portland Trail Blazers
Although largely inconsistent on a night-to-night basis, Raef LaFrentzhas maintained some fantasy value. It has diminished from years past, but Raef still possesses the rare ability to hit threes and block shots. Last season, LaFrentz averaged 7.8 points, 5.0 boards, 1.4 threes and 0.9 blocks. Since he can spread the floor and create match-up problems for opposing defenses, LaFrentz will see modest minutes in Portland backing up Joel Przybilla and Zach Randolph. His percentages fell last season and if they do not improve this year, Raef can be considered strictly second center material.
Bottom Line: He’s not a great rebounder, but it’s not often that you can get three pointers out of the center spot, so LaFrentz does add value.
24. Robert Swift - Seattle Supersonics
Robert Swift stepped into the starting role at center for the Sonics in January last year and turned some heads. What jumped out for fantasy players was his penchant for blocked shots (1.7 as a starter). He showed good footwork in the post and aggression on defense. He is the likely starter among the three 20-year-old centers on the Sonics because he has the most developed offensive game. That isn't saying much, however, he averaged just 6.4 points (7.8 as a starter). Still, his length, springiness and potential make him worth a look late in drafts. He has the ability to put up good numbers this season and is a nice sleeper candidate.
Bottom Line: Swift displayed some of his upside last year and should see more minutes this season. If you are in need of blocks and boards late in your draft, Swift will be a good option.
25. Alonzo Mourning - Miami Heat
Mourning provided surprising value for a backup center in last year's championship season for the Heat. When Shaq was injured to start the season, Zo stepped in with a vengeance, blocking everything but the Sun. This year the minutes will be limited—expect Zo to log about 15 per game as he did the last three months of last year—but the blocks will still be there. He never blocked less than 1.9 shots per game in any month last season. And if Shaq is slowed by injury at some point this year—a good bet—Mourning will flourish as a temporary starter. In 20 games as a starter last year, he averaged 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and an astounding 3.8 blocks.
Bottom Line: Despite being a backup, Zo retains value as a blocked shot specialist who can help in other categories as well, especially when he is called on to start for Shaq. Pick him up late in your draft if you need the blocks or as a handcuff to Shaq.
26. Stromile Swift - Memphis Grizzlies
Every year Stromile Swift's name appears on sleeper lists, and this year won't be any different. He is back in Memphis after a lost season with the Rockets. It is unclear if he will be starting in the frontcourt at center alongside Pau Gasol or if he will be backing up Jake Tsakalidis and Gasol. Either way his game is unchanged. Swift will block shots and score well in the open court but struggle to find his role in half-court sets. If his minutes move from 20.4 per game back to the mid- or upper-20s, Swift could approach his career best numbers of 2001-02. But temper your expectations, Stromile has disappointed more fantasy owners than he has pleasantly surprised.
Bottom Line: Don't take Stromile until the later rounds in your draft no matter what the sleeper lists suggest. He is athletic as they come, but he has never developed solid skills and his stats this season will once again reflect this.
Update: Pau Gasol’s injury means a few additional minutes for the Stro Show, but don’t forget the advice given in the bottom line. It still stands. Swift has a definite ceiling, and that hasn’t changed.
27. Mark Blount - Minnesota Timberwolves
Mark Blount is an interesting center. He gets you points and good percentages from the line. He is quite smooth on the offensive end, hitting baseline jumpers and converting free throws. But somehow, despite standing seven feet tall, he seems constitutionally incapable of rebounding. He averaged 11.3 points on 50.6 percent shooting from the line and 74.7 percent from the line but grabbed just 4.8 boards a game. His blocks are modest at one per game. If you select Blount, know what you are getting: a soft-shooting big man who shies from banging inside.
Bottom Line: He'll average double-digit points and about a block a game with good percentages, but if you draft Blount, be sure you have your rebounding in order from other positions.
28. Chris Mihm - Los Angeles Lakers
Mihm's shoulder injury cost him the end of the season last year and the starting center job with the Lakers this season. Mihm can still help fantasy teams with his scoring, rebounds, and blocked shots. Last year as a starter, he averaged 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. He has a solid offensive game and is willing to hit the glass. In the end though, his minutes will be limited by Kwame Brown's effectiveness. If Kwame fails to seize the moment, Mihm has the skills to reclaim his minutes and his modest fantasy value.
Bottom Line: Mihm doesn’t have the upside to put up huge numbers, but you could do much worse than taking Mihm in the later rounds for help in boards and blocks.
29. Jake Tsakalidis - Memphis Grizzlies
In some cases, less is more. While Tsakalidis has had a mostly disappointing NBA career, last year he started turning things around. Jake is a huge man and with the league tending toward smaller more athletic centers, one would've though he would enjoy an advantage in the post. It wasn't until last year, however, when he dropped some weight and improved his agility, that he started taking advantage. Written off in most leagues, Jake shocked the opposition (and the fantasy world) when he erupted for 17 points and 15 rebounds on March 8. He followed this with a run of good games, and it seems possible that this improvement could carry over this season. Jake will shoot a very good percentage (60.6 percent last year) and if he gets the minutes, he could get his owners decent points and rebounds as well.
Bottom Line: If you are in a two center league, take Jake at the end of your draft as a solid sleeper candidate.
30. Lorenzen Wright - Atlanta Hawks
Lorenzen Wright may be a bit undersized at center but can still contribute. He has solid offensive skills, including a nice baseline jumper and hook shot. On defense, he can get muscled out of position by bigger centers but still manages to grab his share of rebounds. Backing up Zaza Pachulia, he will get about 20 minutes per night. Expect him to average about seven points, six boards and close to a block a game. His percentages will be modest at 46 percent from the field and 65 percent from the line.
Bottom Line: Now playing in his tenth season, Wright doesn't have any surprise seasons left in him. He is a backup fantasy center who should only be taken near the end of your draft.
31. Jeff Foster - Indiana Pacers
Jeff Foster does one thing well: rebound the basketball. Last year, despite coming back from a strained achilles tendon in his left foot, he averaged career-best 9.1 boards per game. His offensive game is limited to put backs and, unsurprisingly, his field goal shooting was an excellent 55.2 percent. But when you only average four shots a game, there's only so much help you provide a fantasy team in this category. Still, he’ll be valuable for his boards and the occasional steal.
Bottom Line: Foster is a one trick pony, but he does that one trick well enough that he can be considered a decent option as a backup center in fantasy leagues.
32. Brendan Haywood - Washington Wizards
Brendan Haywood has shown us what he has as a center in the NBA. That is he will average about 7.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks on 51 percent shooting from the field and 60 percent from the line. These are decent number for a backup fantasy center. Haywood is big. He can block shots and clean the glass, but his offensive game is limited by his hands. He often has a hard time holding onto the ball and catching passes. That's OK on a team like the Wizards who have plenty of scoring options
Bottom Line: Haywood probably shouldn't be drafted except in deeper leagues, but he is worth watching and could be worthy of a pickup if you find your team struggling for blocks or rebounds.
33. Erick Dampier - Dallas Mavericks
With inconsistent effort and numbers, Dampier lost his starting job last season to DeSagana Diop. Don't read too much into that however. His minutes played stayed about the same (23.5 per game) after his demotion. In deeper leagues, Damp still has value as he will get you decent rebounds (7.8 last year) and a little better than a block per game. His numbers have declined the past two seasons and barring an injury to Diop or a sudden burst of renewed effort, this trend is likely to continue.
Bottom Line: Strictly free agent material in medium-sized leagues at this point, Dampier will have some decent games with double-digit boards and a handful of blocks but also disappear for long stretches during the season.
34. Rasho Nesterovic - Toronto Raptors
Rasho surprised many in 2003-04 with an 8.7 point, 7.7 rebound, 2.0 block season but struggled badly in the two seasons since. Last year he split time with Nazr Mohammed, negatively affecting both players' fantasy value. Rasho actually improved his percentages from previous seasons but with just 18.9 minutes and 4.2 attempts per game, it really didn't matter to fantasy owners. This year he will start for the Raptors and should average minutes in the mid-20s. His blocks should once again get closer to two per game, and he should grab between six and seven boards a game. Great? No. But far better than last year.
Bottom Line: Nesterovic is end of the draft material at best but if you are hurting for blocks, he could be serviceable.
35. David Harrison - Indiana Pacers
David Harrison has the size to make an impact in the NBA. However, in his two seasons in the league, he hasn't gotten the minutes to make it happen (averaged just 15.4 minutes last year). Part of the problem is his penchant for the quick foul. Another issue is his conditioning. If Harrison wants to get more minutes, he will have to improve his wind. He’ll be the backup to Jeff Foster, but it is possible that he could play himself into a starter's role if he impresses.
Bottom Line: Harrison has a good amount of upside and should be monitored during the preseason and into the regular season. If he looks like he’ll be getting minutes, he should be taken as a flier in the later rounds of fantasy drafts or picked up off the waiver wire.
36. Steven Hunter - Philadelphia 76ers
Hunter got some attention at the start of last season when he stepped into the starting lineup for the injured Samuel Dalembert. He showed that he could use his great hops and quickness to block shots. His rebounding was poor and the scoring—as it is for a Philadelphia center—was spotty. He reclaimed the starting gig in late February and put up even better numbers. In March, he averaged 7.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on 68.5 percent shooting from the field and in April put up 10.1 points, 5.3 boards, 1.0 blocks on 67.8 percent shooting. His free throw shooting is abysmal: 51.5 percent for the season. If he can take the starting job from Dalembert, he could have some value.
Bottom Line: Hunter shoots a great percentage—it helps when most of your shots are dunks—and is a decent shot blocker. Keep an eye on Maurice Cheeks in the preseason and beyond to see which big man he favors in the middle and be ready to pick up Hunter if he wins out.
37. Tony Battie - Orlando Magic
A solid role player, Tony Battie played well starting all 82 games at center last year for the Magic. He averaged 7.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks with 50.7 percent shooting from the field and 66.4 percent from the line. This year, he will move back to the bench and back up Darko Milicic and Dwight Howard. His minutes will drop from 27 per game to the low 20s, and his production will decline accordingly.
Bottom Line: Battie will once again come off the bench in 2006-07. In deep leagues, he might have some value as a pickup later in the year if there are any injuries to Howard or Milicic.
38. DeSagana Diop - Dallas Mavericks
After struggling through injuries for most of his career in Cleveland, Diop finally broke through with Dallas last season. He took advantage of the inconsistent play of Erick Dampier and took the starting job in mid-January. Despite being a starter, his fantasy value is limited to blocked shots. Diop averaged only slightly fewer blocks (1.8) last year than points (2.3). He doesn't play enough minutes to be much help on the glass either, pulling in just 4.6 boards in 18.6 minutes per contest.
Bottom Line: Draft Diop if you are in a deep league and in a deep hole for blocked shots. He is unlikely to help meaningfully in any other categories
39. Adonal Foyle - Golden State Warriors
Adonal is another one category specialist—blocked shots—who deserves a look only in the deepest of leagues. Last year, he lost time to Ike Diogu and Andris Biedrins. This year will continue that trend. While Adonal has not lost any of his shot-blocking ability, he hasn’t added any kind of offense to his game. Hands of stone are great for swatting balls, not so much for catching or shooting them. He averaged 4.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 50.7 percent shooting from the field and 61.2 percent from the line. His offensive deficiencies may catch up with Foyle this season and keep him off the floor more than in the past two seasons.
Bottom Line: The Warriors are unlikely to go younger this year and not give Adonal much time on the floor this season. So, unless you are desperate for blocks, neither should you.
40. Theo Ratliff - Boston Celtics
Theo moves from one time share in Portland to another in Boston. Where he fought for (and lost) minutes with Joel Przybilla last year, he contends with the younger Kendrick Perkins in Boston. It is a good bet that the Cs will go with Kendrick as the starter and use Theo as a shot-blocking, defensive backup. Theo could make a stronger case for more minutes if his rebounding was stronger. He pulled just over five per game in 23.7 minutes last year. His blocks fell also. Where Ratliff used to be a mortal lock for over two blocks a game, last year he swatted just 1.6. Teams in deeper leagues may need to pursue Ratliff, but others should leave him on the wire and see how his role develops in Boston.
Bottom Line: Ratliff, like many centers around him on this list, has value in one category: shot-blocking. He is draft-worthy only in deeper leagues.
41. Francisco Elson - San Antonio Spurs
Francisco Elson finally got some playing time last year. With Nene missing most of the season with a torn ACL, Elson was the backup to Marcus Camby—always a good spot to get some minutes. Elson didn't wow people but he showed he could run the floor and block a few shots. As a starting center, Elson averaged 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 63.3 from the line in 30 games. That's a big enough sample size to give us an indication of his potential. Leave him on the wire except in the deepest of leagues.
Bottom Line: Elson isn't really draft-worthy but he can do a few things to help teams in deep leagues. Keep an eye on him to see how he is used this season.
42. Andris Biedrins - Golden State Warriors
A project the past two seasons, this is the year the Warriors would like to see some return on their investment in Biedrins. He is a hard worker and an excellent athlete. He possesses great hands, catching and dunking crisp passes very quickly. He is also a decent shot blocker who is unafraid to mix it up down low for rebounds. The knocks on him are the lack of any offensive game outside of ten from the bucket and an appalling percentage from the line. He shot just 30.6 percent last year and drew cheers for every rare made free throw in Oakland. Given the Warriors limited options at center, he will see minutes.
Bottom Line: He is not worth drafting but in deep leagues he could add value at some point this year if he develops his offense. He is still very young and his potential is mostly untapped.
43. Hilton Armstrong - New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Hilton is an athletic, young center with excellent quickness and shot-blocking instincts. He has very long arms, quick feet and great timing, especially on the weak side of the basket. The opposition will not get a much of break on blocked shots when he comes in to spell Tyson Chandler. Surprisingly, Armstrong has decent range (16-18 feet) on his jumper. His low post moves and overall strength need development, but there is reason to believe he could have a nice offensive game in a few years.
Bottom Line: Hilton has a lot of upside. He's quick, long and has the raw tools to become a solid center in the NBA. It probably won't happen this year, but keep an eye on this kid. If Chandler struggles or has injury issues, Hilton has the ability to help fantasy teams this season.
44. Patrick O'Bryant - Golden State Warriors
O'Bryant is big now and is only going to get bigger. Standing seven feet tall, he has an albatross-like wingspan at 7'5" and standing reach of 9'4". Um, that's ridiculous. Needless to say, this kid is going to block some shots in the league. The pluses for O'Bryant are his freakish length, his deceptive athleticism, his drive—he was barely recruited out of high school—and the relative lack of competition at center on the Warriors. The minuses are his lack of a polished offensive game and the fact that he could find himself buried at the end of the bench with a project label stuck to his jersey.
Bottom Line: Watch O'Bryant throughout the year. He may not get a lot of time but if the Warriors fall out of the playoff hunt, he could see minutes at the end of the season. Keeper league players may want to stash him if he delivers on his great potential.
45. Etan Thomas - Washington Wizards
If a social consciousness and a tireless work ethic were rewarded with fantasy value, Etan Thomas would be near the top of this list—along with Adonal Foyle. However, that is not the case. Thomas' offensive game is too limited to be recommended for your fantasy team. However, the former Syracuse standout will always find minutes because of his great defensive abilities. He should average about 15 minutes a game backing up Brendan Haywood at the center spot.
Bottom Line:Thomas is a guy that should be kept under watch due to his ability to rebound and block shots. He’ll likely to be worthy of a pickup at some point during the season.
The views expressed by TalentedMrRoto.com represent only the views of the writers; they do not represent the views of the NBA or any NBA team.