Center is a position where some sneaky value can be added for cheap. Often times, fantasy owners are willing to overpay for big men based on past success. Entering this year, such players could be Brook Lopez or Al Jefferson. While such individuals can bolster your lineup, you could actually find a bargain center who could end up having about the same value. You could potentially even snag a couple bargain centers for the price you’d spend to nab one of Lopez or Jefferson.
The centers below are such names you should target. They each possess upside and could be the key ingredient to your frontcourt contributions.
*Only players with an average cost on Yahoo less than $10 were considered for this article.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (Average cost on Yahoo: $9.8)
The No. 1 overall pick should be a fantasy asset immediately. He is, though, amidst a fairly crowded frontcourt, so his minutes could at times fluctuate. However, with the Wolves lacking a roster to contend, it only makes sense for them to give Towns plenty of playing time so he can develop. He should supply sufficient production in points, rebounds and blocks, and his 81.3 free throw percentage in college is an extremely alluring sight. It seems that 12-14 PPG, 8-10 RPG, 2 BPG and superb percentages are a realistic expectation for the rook. Beware, though, that you may have to pay more than most of the names listed here due to Towns’s hype as the No. 1 pick.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls (Average cost on Yahoo: $4.6)
It was just two seasons ago that Noah was the All-NBA First Team center and an out-of-this-world fantasy weapon. An injury-riddled 2014-15 led to quite a disappointing campaign a year ago, but there’s optimism entering 2015-16. The report from training camp is that he’s healthy and “bouncier,” and so it sounds like he could return to a high level of play. There remain concerns regarding how many minutes he’ll log in Chicago’s deep frontcourt, but Noah should still be a versatile center who can chip in 6-8 PPG, 8-10 RPG and 3-5 APG while also adding a steal and block per outing. He’s a well-rounded center to land for an inexpensive price, but keep in mind that Sticks is now 30 and has had his fair share of injuries.
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers (Average cost on Yahoo: $4.2)
Okafor and Towns are both intriguing rookies, and Okafor actually has a better situation for fantasy value playing for the woeful 76ers. He should receive lots of playing time as well as heavy usage offensively. His preseason performance hasn’t been pretty thus far, but the minutes should still be handed to him. Once he gains confidence, a realistic projection for him is 13-15 PPG, 7-9 RPG and 1 BPG. He does have some limitations as his free throw percentage is sub-par (51.3 percent in college), and he likely won’t register as many blocks as Towns or other options listed here. But if you’re looking for a potential double-double threat with upside, Okafor is an ideal target, especially if you can land him for $5 or less.
Robin Lopez, New York Knicks (Average cost on Yahoo: $2.7)
Two years ago, Lopez averaged 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG and the following percentages: 55.1 FG%, 81.8 FT%). He did this while playing 31.8 MPG for Portland. His numbers and minutes then dipped last year while still playing with the Blazers, but he’s likely to be revived now playing for New York, where he’s the clear starting center. He should again log around 30 minutes per game, and if he does, he should establish himself as one of the better bargain centers in the league. RoLo not only has double-double potential, but he also generates a healthy amount of blocks and those percentages are just delightful. You’re not going to find many centers who shoot above 80-percent from the charity stripe while also contributing in points, boards and blocks.
Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers (Average cost on Yahoo: $1.6)
There’s much uncertainty regarding Leonard’s role, but there’s enough information to make him a compelling late-round flier. Portland lost LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez, so there are definitely minutes to be had in the frontcourt. It could end up being a timeshare between Leonard, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh and Ed Davis, but it’s been made apparent that Leonard is expected to start. No matter how many minutes he ends up receiving, it’s worth considering Leonard’s per-36 numbers from last year: 13.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 2.0 3PM (!) to go along with these dazzling percentages: 51.0 FG%, 93.8 FT%. It seems that Leonard could strike fantasy gold if given 30-plus MPG. It’s doubtful he could maintain such amazing percentages over a larger sample size, but he could still become a double-double threat who adds treys from the center spot while also maintaining a quality percentage. A unique asset like that is at least worth monitoring.
Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets (Average cost on Yahoo: $1.3)
Nurkic comes with concerns due to offseason surgery to repair a partially torn patella tendon. The original timetable for recovery was 3-4 months, and he’s reportedly been ahead of schedule. It still remains to be seen if he’ll be ready come the start of the regular season, but no matter what, it seems that his return is nearing and he makes for a stellar bargain bin option. Consider his per-36 numbers from last year: 13.9 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG and 2.2 BPG. The 21-year-old has clear potential if provided regular minutes. He should significantly boost your rebound and block tallies. However, beware of disappointing percentages (44.6 FG%, 63.6 FT%) and how quickly he’ll recover from the offseason surgery.
Joffrey Lauvergne, Denver Nuggets (Average cost on Yahoo: 1.4)
Lauvergne has been receiving quality minutes due to Nurkic’s absence in preseason, and he’s raised the eyebrows of coach Mike Malone, who has praised the young big man. The 24-year-old has showcased his ability to score and rebound, and he could end up carving a niche in Denver’s rotation. I still, however, think Nurkic, will eventually gobble up the majority of the minutes in the frontcourt along with Kenneth Faried. So be mindful that if Lauvergne does have early-season success while Nurkic remains sidelined, it could be short-lived. Still, Lauvergne should be extremely cheap so he’s not a bad target.
Frank Kaminsky, Charlotte Hornets (Average cost on Yahoo: $1.2)
It remains to be seen what type of role Frank the Tank has in Charlotte’s frontcourt, but he has noteworthy upside largely because of his ability to shoot the long-range ball from the center position. He could become a nice source of points and rebounds, while also adding respectable contributions in blocks and assists. He could mold into a stud fantasy weapon in a few years, but it could be as early as this year that he showcases value, especially in deep leagues. Keep him on your radar as a guy to take a flier on for cheap.
Roy Hibbert, Los Angeles Lakers (Average cost on Yahoo: $3.2)
Hibbert comes with frustrations, namely a disappointing field goal percentage and rebounding mark, particularly for a man who stands 7-2. That said, he has a great opportunity as a new member of the Lakers, where he’s the starting center and should receive ample playing time. At the very least, he should be a consistent source of blocks while also occasionally posting a double-double. He could be worth a roster spot if you can snag him for cheap, but don’t anticipate anything too spectacular.