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2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 Centers

We round out this year’s fantasy basketball positional rankings with a look at the top 10 centers. Here, you’re looking for help in four main categories: points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. If you can expect upwards of 16-18 points, 10 rebounds and two swats a game from your primary center, your roster will have a strong foundational piece whom you can build around.

The big bugaboo for centers, unsurprisingly, is free throw percentage. A number of the guys in the top 10 aren’t just liabilities at the charity stripe, they’re downright plagues on your fantasy squad, especially for owners in roto leagues. Style of league will play a large part in determining how you rank these guys, as head-to-head owners can simply decide to punt FT% and gamble on someone like DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard or Andre Drummond far earlier than roto owners can.

Similar to power forwards, the No. 1 option on the centers board is clear-cut, but the rankings quickly grow hazy from there. These rankings are compiled with head-to-head leagues in mind, so roto owners should adjust their strategy accordingly (aka, plummet certain players who struggle with freebies).

  1. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Despite being submerged in one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional situations in 2014-15, DeMarcus Cousins rose above the morass and exploded with career-high marks in points (24.1), rebounds (12.7), assists (3.6), blocks (1.7) and free throw percentage (78.2 percent) while tying his personal best in steals (1.5). He was one of only two players at any position to average at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, and even with Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein now in the fold, Boogie should still be good for a rejection or two per night.

Cousins missed 10 games early in the season due to a bout of viral meningitis, but even though he played in just 59 contests last season, he finished as the 15th-best player at any position in eight-category leagues. Seeing as he’s never missed more than 11 games in a single season prior to last year, he’s a near-lock to return top 10 value this year, making him a steal in the late first round.

  1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

After Rudy Gobert’s post-All-Star break eruption, it’s tempting to place him second among centers heading into the season. However, Marc Gasol slightly edges the Stifle Tower out after smashing his previous career high in points (17.4) to go with 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals per game last season.

Zach Randolph isn’t getting any younger and Brandan Wright is Memphis’ only reliable big man outside of the starting lineup, so Big Spain should once again be in for a huge role this coming year. Given his underrated contributions in the assist category — he’s averaged at least three helpers per game in each of the past four seasons — and a growing role on offense, Gasol might not match the top 12 value he provided a season ago, but he should be a lock for the top 20.

  1. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

After the Jazz traded Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder and moved Gobert into the starting lineup, he responded by averaging 11.1 points on 57.6 percent shooting, 13.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.0 steals in 34.4 minutes per game. If he’s able to replicate that type of production this season —  if not improve upon it — he’s the type of player who can almost single-handedly win you the rebounds and blocks categories on a weekly basis.

Considering Gobert had an entire offseason to prepare for starting every game this year, there’s not much reason to fear a regression from him. Gasol edges him out slightly based on his contributions in the assists and free throw percentage categories — the Stifle Tower dished 1.8 helpers and knocked down 63.3 percent of his 4.8 freebies per game — but he’s still a near-lock to go in the late second or early third round, particularly for those in keeper and dynasty leagues.

  1. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

If you’re in a roto league, you should bump these next two guys below the sixth- and seventh-ranked players here, as they’ll absolutely decimate your free throw percentage beyond repair. Owners in head-to-head leagues who decide to punt FT%, however, would be wise to scoop up Drummond in the third round, as he’s poised to return top 10 value in the other eight categories.

With Greg Monroe now in Milwaukee, the Pistons are poised to emulate the four-out style of Stan Van Gundy’s late-2000s Orlando Magic team that made Dwight Howard into a fantasy monster. Drummond, who averaged 13.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 30.5 minutes per game last season, possesses that same type of monster upside, provided you look past his dismal 39.7 percent career free throw percentage.

  1. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

Jordan is a virtual carbon copy of Drummond when it comes to fantasy: someone who’s going to give you a huge advantage in rebounds and blocks while decimating your team’s free throw percentage. Like with Drummond, owners in head-to-head leagues can afford gambling on Jordan far earlier  — as early as the late second round in 10-team leagues or larger — whereas roto owners will have to wait far later.

Jordan has led the NBA in rebounds per game over each of the past two seasons, and he’s blocked at least two shots a night in three of the last four years. Better yet, he’s led the league in field goal percentage three years running, although he doesn’t shoot nearly enough (only 6.5 field goal attempts per game last season) to provide significant value in that category. He’s competing for touches with far more talented players than Drummond, but he’s an easy top 20 value if you can punt FT%.

  1. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

In roto leagues, Horford should be drafted ahead of Drummond and Jordan, as unlike those two, he won’t completely ruin your team’s free throw percentage. He’s also a far more prolific passer than either of them, having averaged at least three dimes per game in three of the past five seasons, although he’s only topped 10 boards a night just once in his eight-year career.

Horford’s per-game stats took a minor nosedive last season, as he averaged a career-low 30.5 minutes, but with DeMarre Carroll now in Toronto, the Hawks figure to blow out fewer opponents, opening greater opportunities for the big man. If his green light from three-point range isn’t just a preseason experiment — through two preseason games, he’s fired up six treys, knocking down three of them — the former Florida Gator should be a good bet to return top 25 value this season.

  1. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

Like Horford, Vucevic should move ahead of Drummond and Jordan in roto league rankings, as he’s become a surprisingly proficient free throw shooter after knocking down just 52.9 percent of his attempts at the stripe as a rookie. If points and rebounds are what you’re after from your center, Vooch is one of the rare players who’s a nightly 20-10 threat, having averaged 19.3 points and 10.9 boards last year.

The USC product won’t provide much help in the blocks category, however, as he’s yet to record more than one rejection per game in any of his four career seasons. Unless you can pair him with a shot-swatting maven at the 4 such as Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis or Serge Ibaka, his lack of blocks could give head-to-head owners pause, as drafting him will put you at a significant disadvantage in that category.

  1. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets

Howard’s fantasy value hit a nadir in 2014-15, as knee issues caused him to miss 41 regular-season contests and limited his playing time in many others. In the somewhat rare occasions in which he was healthy enough to take to the floor, the Rockets center averaged just 15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in a career-low 29.8 minutes per game.

Between the knee issues last season and his balky back from a few years ago, head-to-head fantasy owners who invest an early mid-round pick in Howard can’t be risk-averse, as there’s a non-zero chance he blows up in their faces. Those who are willing to gamble on Howard’s health and punt the FT% category, however, could be in line for a top 30 value who will likely be available in the fifth round.

  1. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat

Whiteside is the ultimate wild card at center this year, as there’s simply no way of knowing what to expect from the 26-year-old big man. After spending his first two NBA seasons in the shadows in Sacramento and falling out of the league entirely, the Marshall University product erupted with Miami last year, averaging an eye-popping 11.8 points on 62.8 percent shooting, 10.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

If Whiteside’s playing time increases this season and he maintains that production, his per-36-minute averages of 17.8 points, 15.2 rebounds and 3.6 blocks would be a boon to any fantasy roster. However, there’s always a chance of the big man returning to earth, and even if he doesn’t, he won’t help much in terms of assists (just 0.1 per game last season) or free throw percentage (50.0 percent on 3.3 attempts).

  1. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

Lopez’s 2014-15 campaign was a series of ups and downs, as he temporarily lost his starting job to Mason Plumlee before closing out the year strong. From Dec. 23 through March 6, the Stanford product started just six of the 34 games in which he appeared, averaging 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 25.7 minutes. Over his final 22 contests, all of which he started, he averaged 21.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 33.8 minutes a night.

With Plumlee now in Portland and Lopez the new owner of a three-year max deal, there’s reason to believe he’ll come closer to his end-of-year averages than his mid-year swoon this coming season. However, considering he’s yet to average more than 8.6 boards per game throughout his seven-year NBA career, fantasy owners would ideally pair him with a board-gobbling power forward to avoid a disadvantage in that category.

Honorable Mentions

Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats

Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Other positional rankings

Top 10 PGs

Top 10 SGs

Top 10 SFs

Top 10 PFs

Players’ positions are based on Basketball-Reference.com‘s play-by-play data, unless otherwise noted. All fantasy-value data from 2014-15 are via FantasyPros.com and are based on eight-category leagues.

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