The centers wrap up our five part series on fantasy tiers. Yesterday we looked at power forwards, a much deeper position. In fact, we “borrowed” a few PF with C eligibility to make this list more respectable. Point guards, shooting guards and small forwards were ranked previously.
Default position settings (those used in a majority of leagues) are PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, C, Util, Util, with three Bench spots. That second center spot can be a revolving door all season, even in 12-team leagues; with 16, 20 and even 30 teams in some leagues, you end up settling for any contribution at all.
It’s an interesting coincidence that in fantasy baseball, leagues that mandate two catchers are very challenging. For many of us — especially if you don’t play any other fantasy sports — that means a year-round search for free agents with a C beside their name who might be an upgrade.
Precisely where you take any of this trio is a tough call. At least two are first-rounders but it all depends on your league settings and priorities.
- Andrew Bynum PHI: The big trade takes Bynum from being slightly overshadowed in the bright lights of L.A. to the focal point in Philly. It could be better for his fantasy value than his actual career. Even slight improvement on his 2011-12 averages of 18.7 PTS and 11.8 REB will make him a fantasy superstar.
- Al Jefferson UTA: If you aren’t sure that Bynum’s poised for his best season ever, Big Al is the logical choice. In two of my leagues, we count A/T instead of turnovers, and Jefferson even contributes there, compared to many other centers.
- Dwight Howard LAL: We don’t know when he’ll be 100%, but he’ll make a very good team great. In fantasy, his inability to hit free throws (a brutal 49.1 % last year) and his high TO numbers prevent him from being a much higher pick. But he’s so good in FG%, REB, BLK and PTS that you can justify the weaker categories.
You don’t have to reach for one of the big three, with terrific options at the next level.
- DeMarcus Cousins SAC: What a talent. The coaching change was a good thing for his development but maturity still isn’t his strong suit. Had a 35% FG% one game with 12 offensive rebounds. That suggests he needs to dunk more. Reports on his conditioning and attitude are positive.
- Marc Gasol MEM: It sure doesn’t seem like five years ago that I grabbed the younger Gasol in all my leagues, anticipating that his European pro experience made him more ready for the NBA than one-and-done NCAA big men. Never dreamed Marc would be this good. Adds AST and a decent FT% to the typical C profile.
- Al Horford ATL: We have him listed at C on the Depth Chart but he’s a 4 whenever he plays with Zaza Pachulia. A very good player to own. Total stats from 2011-12 are meaningless; he played only 11 games. Looked good enough in the last two playoff games to consider him 100% healthy.
- Marcin Gortat PHO: If you think his success the last two years was due to Steve Nash, downgrade him. I believe Gortat will continue to be a fantasy stud, right around 15 PTS and 10 REB per game.
- Greg Monroe DET: The best player to own on a team that isn’t great in fantasy or reality, Monroe is only 22 and all arrows are pointing up for his third season.
There isn’t a huge dropoff from the previous tier and you could use any of these guys as a #1 center if you’re strong at other positions.
- Chris Bosh MIA: All the scuttlebutt has Bosh gaining weight and lining up at the 5 as the Heat play small-ball. Missed nine games a year ago and isn’t the greatest rebounder or shot blocker on this list but 18 & 8 with good percentages is fine with me.
- Kevin Garnett BOS: One of these years, Father Time will take KG to the hole. So far, he’s just stared down the inevitable and swatted it away. At 36, beginning his 18th season, there isn’t much keeper value left.
- Roy Hibbert IND: Has shown gradual improvement in each of his four seasons and turns 26 this year. Doesn’t score as much as those listed above but doesn’t hurt in any category.
- Tyson Chandler NYK: Has really improved the last couple of years, especially at the offensive end. His FG% is off the charts and free-throw shooting has become tolerable.
- Joakim Noah CHI: Another big whose ability to make free throws is a hidden advantage, his A/T is quite remarkable for a C and while his scoring and rebounding were down a bit last year, he’s consistent.
Comebacks are the theme of this tier. None of these players is as high in my “confidence factor” as the ones listed above.
- Brook Lopez BRO: If he stays healthy, might provide Tier 2 value lower in the draft. Was actually an iron man, playing all 82 games in his first three years until that foot injury.
- Anderson Varejao CLE: Not all fans appreciate the Brazilian’s game. Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will be very, very glad he’s back. Don’t count on him for PTS, but the REB are great.
- Andrew Bogut GSW: The big Aussie has had no luck staying healthy but is a double-double machine with a high BLK total when he can play. The Warriors have taken a big chance, and if he falls far enough in your draft, the reward may be worth the risk.
- Chris Kaman DAL: More a reunion than a comeback, as Kaman plays on the German national team with Dirk. Less interesting in keeper leagues but I like him a lot this year.
- *Jonas Valanciunas TOR: Chris Sheridan has warned that the Lithuanian phenom will be foul-prone. I’m hoping his versatile game translates to fantasy numbers and that he averages about 25:00 as a rookie. Highly recommended in keeper leagues.
- Nikola Pekovic MIN: One of my fantasy highlights last season was “discovering” Pek (and adding him as a free agent in several leagues) before he took over from Darko Milicic. Some painful bone spurs prevented a fine season from being even better. The ankles are cleaned up and he’s fitter.
- JaVale McGee DEN: Sorry if this ranking made you laugh out loud and spray liquid on your keyboard. JVMG is the undisputed starter on a team that plans to run opponents out of the gym. I’m predicting career highs in several stats.
You definitely should have a #1 C by now and time is running out to get a useful #2.
- Glen Davis ORL: Not the greatest FG% for a “center” but he averaged 16.4 PTs and 8.8 REB in April (post-Dwight) and played well in five playoff games against a superior team.
- J.J. Hickson POR: Overreacting to small sample sizes is never wise, but the trade to Portland looks like a perfect fit. In 19 games, J.J. averaged 15.1 PTS and 8.3 REB, after a disastrous stint in Sacramento.
- Patrick Patterson HOU: Was on my PF list originally, with Donatas Motiejunas as one of my sleeper C, but the rookie isn’t C-eligible (in the Yahoo game) and Patterson is, so the switch was made. Third-year man from Kentucky has a good chance at a starting job.
- Samuel Dalembert MIL: From the Canadian national team to his previous NBA stops, he frustrates coaches. Gets another new start with his fourth team in as many years; capable of 10 & 10 with 2 BLK every night.
- Spencer Hawes PHI: He’s listed at PF on our Depth Chart but qualifies only at C, for now. If he does play alongside Bynum enough, could put up career numbers.
- DeAndre Jordan LAC: Turnovers and a lousy FT% make him a compromise pick. Great FG%, strong REB and BLK, just not enough scoring to be more fantasy-relevant.
- Nikola Vucevic ORL: The Magic may give this sophomore a starting job and he showed enough as a rookie — double-doubles against the Celtics in March and April — to suggest he’ll produce.
The biggest difference between PF and C is depth. It’s noticeable in Tier 4, becomes obvious in Tier 5 and the rest of the way, we’re settling for big men with big fantasy flaws.
- Tiago Splitter SAS: Of the many talented — and interchangeable — Spurs big men, has the best combination of size and skill. It’s annoying to have him in your lineup for a juicy matchup then have Pop bush all the other buttons.
- Boris Diaw SAS: Plays like a point center, passing and distributing. If he didn’t have so much competition for minutes and a coach who improvises rotations, I’d target him.
- Channing Frye PHO: Whether he starts or comes off the bench, a rare source of threes at the C position.
- Emeka Okafor WAS: Not the greatest FT%, to say the least, and last year was injury-plagued. Gets a fresh start and could be overlooked in many draft rooms.
- Omer Asik HOU: He did play 39 minutes for the Bulls in a hard-fought playoff game, with 10 PTS, 9 REB and 2 BLK. The Rockets hope he develops offensively, but I won’t draft him until he improves at the line.
- *Meyers Leonard POR: Early reports are encouraging. The 7’1″ Illinois product has a chance at regular bench minutes. Won’t be a difference-maker in fantasy as a rookie but has future upside.
- *Andre Drummond DET: Might take a while — he only recently turned 19 — but a nice add in keeper leagues if you can afford to wait.
- Zaza Pachulia ATL: Much depends on how the Hawks prefer to play. Zaza could start at the 5 beside Al Horford and Josh Smith. If they go small, he backs up Horford. With 28:00 per game like last year, he could improve on 8 & 8.
- Byron Mullens CHA: This is a pretty high ranking, considering my dislike of the Bobcats and his FG%. Mullens had his share of double-doubles and doesn’t hurt fantasy owners.
We’re wading into the deep end now, with a choice between mediocrity and uncertainty. For me it will depend on category needs late in the draft.
- Kendrick Perkins OKC: On the floor, an intimidating presence. Not so much in fantasy, where he’s a cheap source of rebounds.
- Andray Blatche BRO: What an opportunity. The fantasy risk is, he could mess it up. Discarded by the Wizards for a questionable work ethic, he gets another chance with an exciting team.
- Kevin Seraphin WAS: As a last resort after several injuries, averaged 14.1 PTS and 7.2 REB in 21 games as a starter. The problem is playing time with Okafor’s arrival and Nene’s presence.
- Jordan Hill LAL: As the backup to Dwight Howard, may be needed more until the big man is 100% fit.
- Ekpe Udoh MIL: Starts the year behind Dalembert but if he gets more minutes than expected, could surprise.
- *Tyler Zeller CLE: Another rookie with potential if he gets the opportunity. Playing against Varejao in practice might be educational. Bump him up on keeper lists.
- Lavoy Allen PHI: Came out of nowhere last season to play a significant role. The Sixers have made some key additions, so he remains more of a depth guy.
- Robin Lopez NOH: Used sparingly in Phoenix behind Marcin Gortat, Brook’s brother will be given a chance to play starter’s minutes for the first time.
- Jason Smith NOH: In 19 games after the all-star break, averaged 11.7 PTS, 6.1 REB and nearly one block. Not spectacular, but quite similar to what I expect from Lopez. They might cancel each other out.
- Darrell Arthur MEM: If he’s fully recovered from Achilles surgery, could pick up where he left off in 2010-11 — backing up Zach Randolph with energy and efficiency.
- Marreese Speights MEM: Gives the Grizzlies excellent depth if Arthur needs time or Z-Bo gets hurt.
- Marcus Camby NYK: At 38, he might not play a lot. If you own Tyson Chandler in a deep league, Camby is a good handcuff pick.
As your second center in a 20-team league, there aren’t many sleepers.
- Jeremy Tyler GSW: If Andrew Bogut gets hurt — which I hope doesn’t happen — this sophomore might be the Warriors’ best option. Averaged 8.9 PTS and 5.9 REB in April.
- Josh Harrelson MIA: Will replace Joel Anthony as the backup C in Version 1.1 of our Depth Chart on Friday. Harrellson might not win the job, he’s just better in fantasy.
- Nick Collison OKC: Yesterday I whined about Serge Ibaka deserving more minutes. It’s not that I dislike Collison; he would be just as useful in 16 minutes as he is in 20.
- Timofey Mozgov DEN: Once again, as on other lists, I group similar teammates a bit lower instead of guessing on one. If JaVale McGee gets hurt, both move up in value.
- Kosta Koufos DEN: Left him off the depth chart in favor of Anthony Randolph, who can keep up with the Nuggets pace. Does the same things as Mozgov and there’s no room for both in the rotation.
- Enes Kanter UTA: An injury or trade would move him up the Jazz depth chart quickly. For now, he’ll impress whenever Jefferson takes a breather.
- Greg Stiemsma MIN: Not expecting a lot of minutes as he’s backing up Pekovic. If and when he does get an opportunity, showed enough with the Celtics to think he’ll succeed.
- Brendan Haywood CHA: New team, same old game. Not much scoring, OK on the boards and awful at the line.
- Brandan Wright DAL: Doesn’t have C eligibility, yet. I think that’s where he’ll play on the second unit (with Elton Brand at PF) and will consider him in very deep leagues.
- Ian Mahinmi IND: Backing up Roy Hibbert means fewer minutes than he got last year. Not a fantasy asset.
- Chuck Hayes SAC: Until last season, was a sneaky second C, because he got so many assists. After a health scare concerning his heart, he hasn’t been the same player.
- Ronny Turiaf LAC: Will back up Jordan and make only a minor fantasy contribution.
Even going 60 deep, these lists are incomplete. Feel free to substitute any of your own hunches for any of mine.
Tomorrow, Bruce Wrigley will entertain and inform you. On Friday, I’ll be back with some useful fantasy resources, then on Saturday, don’t miss the second installment of Jeff Nichols’ series on strategy. Follow us on Twitter @SheridanFantasy all season.