During the past week we’ve looked at the projected top 10 fantasy point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. Now it’s time to complete the puzzle by examining the projected top 10 fantasy centers for the 2010-11 season. Solid centers are the rarest of breeds for fantasy basketball, but that doesn’t make it any easier to rank them. Share your reactions below, and remember that this is based on a nine-category perspective.
1. Brook Lopez: He’s the mini-Pau Gasol, which should tell you how solid the 22-year-old is. Lopez gives you everything you want from your No. 1 fantasy center, without all the drama of poor free-throw shooting and turnovers. The Nets have a few more three-point shooters on board this season, which means more room for Lopez to work around the basket. He also more than doubled his assists last season, and with a better roster there’s little reason to think he won’t continue to bulk up that column of the stat sheet.
2. Dwight Howard: If you want to put Howard a spot higher than this, who can blame you? He is, after all, the most dominant rebounder and shot-blocker in the NBA. That said, he’s also fatal for his fantasy team’s free-throw percentage, and doesn’t help matters with his frequent turnovers. Also, Howard’s points and rebounds have been falling, from 20.7/14.2, to 20.6/13.8, to 18.3/13.2 in the past three seasons, thanks to his increasing fouls per game and consequential decline in minutes during that stretch. The bottom line with Howard remains the same: if you’re willing to take your chances and build your fantasy team around his strengths and weaknesses, feel free to take him in the first round. If you’re looking for an all-around player who leaves you with more options in subsequent rounds and probably has a higher ceiling, let Howard be someone else’s burden.
3. Al Horford: All of his numbers have steadily improved in his three seasons in the NBA, and Horford is on the verge of scoring and rebounding into double-double territory. Add to this coach Larry Drew’s plans to deploy Horford at his natural PF position more often this season (in a faster offense) and there’s a lot to like about the big man’s upside.
4. Al Jefferson: Jefferson suffered in Minnesota last season, where he saw limited minutes and had to contend with the rebounding prowess of Kevin Love. There will be no such nonsense this season, as he’ll be unquestioned starting center for the Jazz. Besides playing alongside Deron Williams, his only serious competition for minutes at the center position, Mehmet Okur, is expected to miss the first few months of the season with an Achilles injury. This will mean a return to the land of double-doubles and plenty of minutes for Jefferson. The downsides are his health and his free-throw shooting.
5. Nene: Though he took a step back in nearly every category last season, Nene remained a strong fantasy center, mostly thanks to his 1.4 steals and 1 block per game. With Kenyon Martin set to miss significant time as he recovers from knee surgery and Chris Andersen likely to miss the start of the season, there will be plenty of opportunities for Nene to bounce back in ’10-11. His health is always a concern, but it was encouraging to see him play all 82 games last year.
6. Andrea Bargnani: He’s the default go-to guy for a depleted Raptors squad, and that should translate into good things for the blossoming big man. Though he doesn’t rebound particularly well, Bargnani is a big man who can hit 1.5 threes and block 1.5 shots per game, which is hard to overlook.
7. Marcus Camby: A stud when getting enough minutes, he’s facing a timeshare at the center spot in Portland this season, thanks to the imminent return of Greg Oden, a delicate player who makes Camby look like an iron man. If Oden goes down with another significant injury, Camby’s value will surge. All Camby needs is around 30 minutes a night to notch 10+ rebounds, 1+ steals and 2+ blocks.
8. Marc Gasol: The other Gasol made his mark on the NBA last season, which was derailed due to a neck injury. If he takes a tiny step forward this season, averages of 16 points and 10 boards along with 1 steal and 2 blocks per game aren’t too much to expect.
9. Joakim Noah: He’s got some serious competition for rebounds in Carlos Boozer, but Noah should remain a very helpful fantasy center. After a summer of rest, his plantar fasciitis issues that popped the bubble of a huge season last year should be behind him. If he can continue shooting around 75 percent from the free-throw line, Noah’s fantasy value should remain mostly intact.
10. Chris Kaman: As many expected, Kaman had a solid ’09-10 campaign, averaging a career-high 18.5 points while grabbing 9.3 rebounds and blocking 1.2 shots. Blake Griffin’s official NBA debut could make things more difficult for Kaman, but even if his averages settle to around 15/8 and around 1.5 blocks per game, along with his solid shooting percentages, he’ll be valuable. Some centers left out of the top 10 might very well outperform Kaman by season’s end, but many of them have health risks that are too great to ignore.
On the cusp: Andrew Bogut, Yao Ming, Robin Lopez, Elton Brand, Andrew Bynum
Throughout the season, be sure to leave your questions, comments, concerns, trade offers, roster problems and more in the comments below.