Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Centers
Certain fantasy basketball experts tell those who seek advice to grab as many players as possible who have center eligibility on draft day. While stopping short of that statement, we certainly concede that major – read: smart and deliberate – attention must be shown when choosing your players for this position.
We’ll bypass the obvious mainstays occupying the draft wish list of fantasy owners in the center position (Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, et al.) and instead concentrate on those new-to-fantasy players who are becoming – or should become – relevant movers and shakers in the world of fantasy basketball.
We are proceeding as if the 2011-12 NBA season will commence as usual…or at commence with enough games to enable a viable fantasy basketball season.
As always, when we talk fantasy here at HOOPSWORLD, we assume a nine-category league (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field-goal percentage, and free-throw percentage). Please note some of the players listed here have Center eligibility as well as eligibility in other positions in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
JAVALE MCGEE – WASHINGTON WIZARDS
McGee showed real growth last year and ended the season on a high note. In the last 23 games, he averaged 13.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and an unbelievable 2.9 blocks. Compare that to his first 56 games: 8.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 2.3 blocks.
The 23-year-old center logged 21 double-doubles and one historic triple-double; solid production for a starting center who averaged 27.8 minutes per game.
Fantasy owners will have to sacrifice free-throw shooting (.583) for the blocks.
It took considerable time and patience, but it appears coach Flip Saunders and McGee reached an understanding on court; one that allows McGee to utilize his enviable athleticism while playing disciplined ball. He’s gaining the coaching staff’s trust – hopefully, growing in maturity as well – and with the third-year performance jump last season, we suspect increased playing time this year.
DEANDRE JORDAN – LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Jordan, a restricted free agent, finds himself in a great position heading into the free agency period. The Clippers extended a $1,091,000 million qualifying offer to him. With the dearth of available athletic big men, they know offer sheets will come. And you’ve got to think the Clips will do everything possible to keep Jordan in the backcourt with Blake Griffin.
With injury limiting center Chris Kaman to just 32 games last year, Jordan stepped up, starting in 66 games. He averaged 25.6 minutes per game logging 7.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 1.8 bpg. While the scoring isn’t particularly impressive, Jordan will give you boards and blocks and a strong field goal percentage (.686). His Per 36 Minutes numbers: 10.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg.
Jordan’s chance for increased playing time is tied to Kaman’s future with the team. Trade rumors involving Kaman, entering a contract year, were rampant last June. He has a better offensive game than Jordan, but his ability to stay healthy is an issue. He missed 107 games over the past three seasons.
For fantasy owners, just know that Jordan’s free-throw shooting is about as bad as it gets (.452).
MARCIN GORTAT – PHOENIX SUNS
Remember when Orlando matched Dallas’ $34M/five-year offer sheet for Gortat in 2009? You could almost hear his disappointed groan all the way from Poland upon hearing the news, which meant, in effect, more time spent as Dwight Howard’s backup.
By the time Gortat was traded to Phoenix in December, 2010, he had averaged 13.3 minutes of playing time in 175 games with the Magic logging 3.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg. His career Per 36 Minutes numbers in those categories hit near-double-double figures; a fact that was not lost on the Suns.
In 55 games – including 12 starts – in Phoenix, he averaged nearly 30 minutes on the floor and posted 13.0 ppg/9.3 rpg. He virtually supplanted Robin Lopez (to be fair, Lopez was injured part of the year) and looks to start the new season as the starting center.
Not only are his scoring and rebounds solid, he can shoot (.563 field-goal percentage), block (1.3) and takes care of the ball (1.2 turnovers). Gortat had 23 double-doubles in Phoenix. He logged career-high free-throw shooting, but that’s not saying too much (.731).
What’s pretty amazing is that he was league-ranked fourth in FG%, eighth in EFG%, fifth in defensive rebound percentage and tenth in total rebound percentage.
Gortat, 27, worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer focusing on the offensive side of his game.
DEMARCUS COUSINS – SACRAMENTO KINGS
Cousins put up remarkable numbers in his rookie season (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg in 28.5 minutes). With the expected departure of unrestricted free agent Samuel Dalembert, Cousins should slide nicely into the starting position. Fantasy owners will undoubtedly note his Per 36 Minutes of 17.8 points/10.9 rebounds, plus his ability to contribute in other areas save for turnovers and free-throw shooting percentage.
Owners must also be aware that power forward J.J. Hickson, acquired via trade over the summer, will try to grab as many rebounds as possible.
ROY HIBBERT – INDIANA PACERS
Hibbert has given fantasy owners solid numbers over the past two years; last season, he posted 12.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg in 27.7 minutes. He’s shown inconsistency and palatable lack of confidence, but with little competition at the position and a fresh start with new coach (Frank Vogel), the 7’2” player is primed to climb high into fantasy charts.
GREG ODEN – PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Here we go again….if Oden stays healthy and if he’s ready to play when the season begins, he should be a strong asset to any fantasy team. Last season started off so promising for the young center; in 21 games, he averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. His Player Efficiency Rating was 23.1. Then another knee injury, followed by microfracture surgery, sidelined him for the rest of the season. His exact return date isn’t clear (last report was January). Then again, neither is the season kickoff date.
The Blazers extended an $8.8M qualifying offer making Oden a restricted free agent.
This list certainly isn’t all-encompassing. Who’s on your list of new-to-fantasy-relevance centers (including those with center eligibility)? Tell us in the comments section below.