RotoExperts Draft Kit: Top 25 Centers

If only free throws were this easy for Dwight...

From the RotoExperts 2011-12 NBA Draft Kit

These rankings were written on Dec. 17 and published Dec. 20. I’ve done several drafts in the last few days and have noticed that you are going to have to reach for Greg Monroe, JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan if you want them. Joakim Noah is falling and offering great value.  

For years, the center position has been the most important one in Fantasy Basketball. These days, with so many power fowards manning the middle often enough to earn eligibility at the position, it isn’t as crucial to burn early picks on true centers. Pau GasolAmar’e StoudemireKevin Love and David Lee are just a few examples of players who are power forwards most of the time but pick up center eligibility in most leagues.

For the purposes of these rankings, we have including only the players who are expected to play the majority of their minutes at the true center position this year. As always, it is important to examine your own league’s positional eligibility rules prior to drafting. The following rankings are based on a nine-category, head-to-head league format (PTS, REB, AST, STL, BLK, 3FG, FG%, FT%, TO). We break down players into tiers as well to help you organize them within your overall cheat sheets. These rankings take into account not just stat projections, but injury risk, competition for minutes and other intangibles.

ROTOEXPERTS.COM CENTER RANKINGS

TIER 1

1. Dwight Howard, ORL

Projected Stats: 22.7 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.0 3FG, 1.3 SPG, 2.5 BPG, 3.5 TO, 59.1 FG%, 59.8 FT%

To the casual player, Howard is the No. 1 center in the league by a mile. In Fantasy, it certainly depends on the format. He’s more of a second or third-round value in rotisserie leagues. In a head-to-head or points-based format, he challenges Chris Paul for the No. 3 overall selection. Howard’s dominance in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage sets your team up perfectly in H2H leagues, as you can punt free throws and surround him with complementary pieces in the other categories. Howard also averaged 1.4 steals last year, an underrated part of his game and an amazing number for a center.

TIER 2

2. Al Horford, ATL

Projected Stats: 15.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.5 TO, 55.0 FG%, 78.9 FT%

Horford is a perfect example of a skilled big man who isn’t great in any one category. He can score a little and has a nice shooting touch from the line. He grabs close to 10 boards, blocks some shots, passes well for a center, and doesn’t turn it over. An underappreciated Fantasy player who is definitely someone you can be happy with in the second round.

3. Al Jefferson, UTA

Projected Stats: 18.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.4 TO, 49.3 FG%, 76.6 FT%

Ideally, you are looking for a No. 1 center who can score, rebound and block shots. Jefferson is the best combination of those three things outside of Howard, and is thus a sturdy draft selection in all leagues. His percentages are simply tolerable instead of a plus, keeping his value to the second tier.

TIER 3

4. Joakim Noah, CHI

Projected Stats: 11.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.0 3FG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.8 TO, 52.0 FG%, 72.7 FT%

It’s true that Noah has had trouble staying healthy, but if he falls in your draft because of injury concerns, even better for you. Noah should be fine going into this year, and as a dirty-work center who can complement a couple of big scorers you took in the first few rounds, he’s perfect. Noah also doesn’t hurt you in any categories other than threes and perhaps free throw percentage, but he’s not at the line enough to kill you, and a center who shoots over 70 percent is doing better than a lot of their peers.

5. Nene Hilario, DEN

Projected Stats: 15.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.0 3FG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.8 TO, 60.0 FG%, 70.5 FT%

Nene is a really, really good Fantasy player, but as a No. 1 center on your team he will hurt you on the glass. If you have drafted solid rebounding guards and forwards around him, you’ll be thrilled with his field goal percentage and one-plus steals, not to mention at least a block a game and what should be a higher scoring average this year in Denver.

6. Brook Lopez, NJN

Projected Stats: 20.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 2.2 TO, 50.2 FG%, 79.5 FT%

Lopez has been the butt of jokes in NBA circles over the last year as he saw his rebounding average fall to 6.0 in over 35 minutes per game, barely an acceptable number for a small forward, never mind a center most Fantasy owners were taking in the second round a year ago. If Lopez is ever going to be motivated to improve, it’s this year. The Nets are still talking to free agent Kris Humphries, a professional rebounder who was one of the big reasons Lopez struggled on the boards last year. If Humphries chooses not to sign in New Jersey, Lopez simply has to get better in that category.

7. Andrew Bogut, MIL

Projected Stats: 13.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.8 TO, 51.9 FG%, 55.6 FT%

Bogut is another year removed from the gruesome elbow injury really limited him last season. While he was a shell of himself last year he seems to be fully recovered. Expect a bounce-back season from him offensively. Combined with his outstanding shot-blocking numbers, he’s a great No. 1 center in H2H formats, where his poor free throw shooting doesn’t hurt you as much.

8. Marcin Gortat, PHX

Projected Stats: 13.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.3 TO, 56.7 FG%, 74.0 FT%

Gortat loved his trade to Phoenix last year, as did his Fantasy owners. He averaged 13 points, 9.3 boards and 1.3 blocks while shooting 56.3 percent from the field in around 30 minutes a game as a Sun, numbers that place him among the top centers to target on draft day. Gortat shouldn’t hurt you too much from the free throw line, and he rarely turns it over.

TIER 4

9. Andrew Bynum, LAL

Projected Stats: 12.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.4 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 TO, 57.5 FG%, 70.5 FT%

When healthy Bynum is a high-end Fantasy center. Well, there’s the rub. He’s an annual injury risk whose knees might not hold up in such a grueling schedule. He’s also suspended for the first five games of the year for his hard foul on J.J. Barea in last season’s playoffs. Bynum is certainly a high-risk, high-reward pick this year, which places him in Tier 4 for now.

10. Marc Gasol, MEM

Projected Stats: 12.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.9 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.8 TO, 54.5 FG%, 73.8 FT%

If it wasn’t for Gasol’s alarmingly-low 7.0 rebounding average last year, we might have him in the third tier. This is no Brook Lopez, however; Gasol averaged over 11 boards a game in the playoffs. He’ll compete with Zach Randolph for caroms, but the law of averages says that Gasol will increase his rebounding totals, making him a No. 2 center to target around the fifth round in your draft.

11. Greg Monroe, DET

Projected Stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.0 3FG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 1.2 TO, 54.0 FG%, 63.3 FT%

If you want Monroe, you are going to have to reach for him as Fantasy owners are on to this sleeper who is no longer a sleeper. It’s possible Monroe could really bust out and flirt with a double-double this year, but it is also possible he becomes a little overrated in Fantasy. His free throw percentage is hurtful and he doesn’t block enough shots as a No. 1 center. Regardless, all signs point to his breakout season coming.

TIER 5

12. Andrea Bargnani, TOR

Projected Stats: 20.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 3FG, 0.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 2.2 TO, 45.6 FG%, 81.8 FT%

Bargnani could end up being one of the last 20-point-per-game players left in your draft room. As a center who is a terrible rebounder, he really isn’t worth taking as a No. 1 option unless you already have a Blake Griffin or Kevin Love. Last year everyone was excited about Bargnani’s ability to hit threes and block shots, yet he leaves us a little cold in those categories as well. Bargnani is a luxury if he falls in your lap late, but don’t target him.

13. JaVale McGee, WAS

Projected Stats: 11.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.4 TO, 54.6 FG%, 59.7 FT%

McGee is a popular sleeper and center target in drafts this year. He could lead the league in blocks, so expect him to get scooped up by Fantasy owners who know what they are doing. He’ll be one of the last great shot-blockers left on the board, so if you have to reach for him early based on the makeup of your team, do it.

14. Roy Hibbert, IND

Projected Stats: 13.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.4 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 2.2 TO, 47.6 FG%, 74.4 FT%

Hibbert should put together a far more consistent season than a year ago, when he lost his confidence under previous Pacers coach Jim O’Brien. He enters the year as the clear starting center, but Indiana’s addition of David West could drop Hibbert down to the No. 3 option on offense behind West and Danny Granger. Hibbert’s percentages could also use some improvement before we anoint him a No. 1 center, but you have to like his double-double potential and ability to block a couple of shots every game.

TIER 6

15. DeAndre Jordan, LAC

Projected Stats: 9.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.5 SPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.6 TO, 62.9 FG%, 44.7 FT%

We love Jordan now that he’s returned to the Clippers to receive perfect alley-oop lobs from new point guard Chris PaulChris Kaman was also shipped out of town, opening things up nicely for Jordan. While all of this is good, we’re not sure how it helps him shoot free throws above 50 percent or stay out of foul trouble with consistency.

16. Tyson Chandler, NYK

Projected Stats: 10.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 TO, 59.6 FG%, 72.6 FT%

Chandler’s a great pick-up for the Knicks, and he should grab a ton of rebounds and increase his shot-blocking totals. He might have trouble reaching double figures in scoring playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, but he should return fine value as a No. 2 center if he stays healthy.

17. Emeka Okafor, NOR

Projected Stats: 11.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.7 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.5 TO, 56.1 FG%, 58.2 FT%

At this point in his career, we know what Okafor is, and there’s something to be said for that when considering drafting someone. As one of the last shot-blocking big men worth anything on this list, he’ll be a solid No. 2 center for you once the rest of your team has rounded out. While the Hornets brought inChris Kaman and re-signed Carl Landry, Okafor should still get significant minutes this season. He’s naturally hurt a little by the swap of Paul out andJarrett Jack in at point guard.

18. Anderson Varejao, CLE

Projected Stats: 9.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.0 3FG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 53.3 FG%, 67.9 FT%

Varejao should be healthy this year and ready to contribute close to a double-double for the Cavs’ thin frontcourt. Don’t expect huge block totals, but if you need rebounds in the middle rounds, he’s your man.

TIER 7

19. Chris Kaman, NOR

Projected Stats: 12.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 2.1 TO, 48.1 FG%, 73.9 FT%

We’ve reached the tier where too many of these centers have question marks surrounding them. Kaman is a redundant center on a new team, and while he could play alongside Okafor, his numbers are hard to project. Seeing how Kaman and his expiring contract could be traded at any time, he’s someone better left stashed on your bench after you already have two solid centers.

20. Samuel Dalembert, TBA 

Projected Stats: 8.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.8 TO, 48.8 FG%, 72.7 FT%

Dalembert doesn’t have a team right now, but he is still draftable. In fact, getting out of the crowded frontcourt of Sacramento might be a blessing in disguise for Dalembert. He’s rumored to be a fit with Houston, where he’d likely start and provide solid numbers. We’d feel better about Dalembert if he’d just sign somewhere, but without the luxury of knowing what his role is yet, it’s best to draft him after the sturdier options are off the board.

TIER 8

21. Brendan Haywood, DAL

Projected Stats: 8.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 TO, 56.0 FG%, 58.4 FT%

Chandler to the Knicks means Haywood is the likely starter at center for Dallas. We’re a bit skeptical that Haywood will see 30-plus minutes of court time every game, but he should still be on your radar as a late-round pick. The Mavs will probably give Ian Mahinmi plenty of run, and they could play small withLamar Odom or even Brian Cardinal.

22. DeJuan Blair, SAS

Projected Stats: 8.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.0 3FG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 1.5 TO, 51.6 FG%, 64.4 FT%

Blair has come to camp in great shape, and he could play a big role for the Spurs this year. Tim Duncan is an obvious candidate to have his minutes cut and even take entire games off, especially in the second of back-to-backs. Tiago Splitter has yet to show he can handle things in the NBA, so Blair could be called upon to pick up the slack. He’ll probably start anyways, and have a bright outlook as a double-double threat if and when Duncan sits out.

23. Marcus Camby, POR

Projected Stats: 6.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.3 TO, 46.1 FG%, 62.6 FT%

The only thing Camby has going for him is that he’s the last center standing in Portland, if you don’t count Kurt Thomas. The Blazers are talking about playing an up-tempo, smaller lineup with LaMarcus Aldridge at center, not a great sign that Camby is a big part of their plans. Camby’s also a huge injury risk at his advancing age (38 in March). Don’t count on him.

24. Kendrick Perkins, OKC

Projected Stats: 6.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.8 TO, 51.9 FG%, 54.0 FT%

Perkins really slimmed down in the offseason and he appears over his knee injury. He should have a nice impact for the Thunder this year. They don’t need him to be anything but a post-defender and enforcer, however, limiting his Fantasy value to deeper leagues.

25. Jermaine O’Neal, BOS

Projected Stats: 8.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.0 3FG, 0.2 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.2 TO, 45.6 FG%, 70.0 FT%

O’Neal probably won’t be able to drag his brittle body up and down the court for 66 games, or even 56 games, but with the pickings slim at the end of this list he’s one of the few starters left who has a chance to do at least something of use in Fantasy (block shots). The Celtics are thin at center and need as much as they can get out of O’Neal.

On the bubble: Ekpe Udoh, GSWJordan Hill, HOUJason Thompson, SAC; Darko Milicic, MIN; Kwame Brown, GSW

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