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Wednesday October 17, 2007 6:56 am

2007-08 Preseason Center Rankings

Posted by Scott Sargent Categories: H2H, Roto, Site Features, Talent,

Yao MingIf draft position can attest to position scarcity, people look no further.  In most fantasy leagues, owners are required to start two centers, providing for quite a quandary given the decrease in the use of the big man over time.  When you do finally lock up a solid center, chances are that you’ll get plenty of blocks and rebounds, but how many centers are top scoring options on their team?  Can you find one that will not decimate your free throw shooting?  Do any of them hit threes? 

Centers are the necessary evil of fantasy basketball, and if you want to survive, you’re going to have to ensure that you have at least two solid options.  A quick glance at this list and you won’t find model citizens of health, so even two is a bit thin.  Most of this list will be gone by the time round three is finished, so while those other positions are looking very nice, plan ahead or you could be regretting your decision come round 10.  Does it hurt to use draft picks on guys that will most likely give no more than four categories?  Sure does, but not as much as starting guys that give considerably less than that that were drafted later on.  Here’s a breakdown of the big men you’re going to want to target on draft day.

1. Yao Ming, Rockets

It’s not every day that a guy injured as often as Yao Ming has been would still make the tops of his position.  Many pundits consider his injuries flukes, but the main reason for Ming’s trump on the position is his ability to actually help your free throw percentage.  Ming’s career average at the charity stripe sits at 82 percent, and it has actually improved year-over-year since the 2004 season.  Granted, he hasn’t played more than 57 games since then, but when you can get 20 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks a game with said percentage, you have no choice but to jump all over it at the end of the first round.  I’ve seen him go as early as fifth overall, so if you’re targeting Ming, pull the trigger while you can.

2. Amare Stoudemire, Suns

What Ming gives you with finesse, Stoudemire brings with domination.  Many were walking on egg shells with Amare last season as he came back from microfracture surgery, and he responded to the doubters by registering averages of 20 points, 10 boards and at least one steal and block per game.  His field goal percentage is near 60 percent due to the number of fast breaks that Steve Nash instigates and his free throw shooting is actually a very respectable 73% for his career.  The ranking of Ming and Stoudemire are a coin flip with many, so do not be disappointed if you have to settle for the other.  Amare may as well be 1-A at this point.

3. Pau Gasol, Grizzlies

While Ming and Stoudemire shared a lot of the votes for the top spot, Gasol has been deemed the consensus third option at the center spot.  Gasol was forced to miss considerable time last season, but rewarded those that drafted him regardless by racking up 20 points, 10 boards and at least two blocked shots a night.  Unlike the top two, Gasol’s free throw percentage can weigh down the averages a bit, but he’s the number one option on offense in Memphis and is locked in over 50 percent from the field.  Gasol will look to get back to 80 games this season, as he did back in 2005-06 and should be drafted accordingly before the middle of the second round.
4. Chris Bosh, Raptors

Like Ming, the Raptors big man is frequently near 80 percent from the free throw line.  But unlike the rest of those above, Bosh isn’t as dominating in terms of rebounds and blocked shots – averaging double-digit boards for the first time in his career last season, while maintaining his career average of 1.3 blocks a night.  Bosh is also coming off of his career high in scoring with 22.6 points per contest.  What’s not to like is the emergence of fellow frontcourt mate Andrea Bargnani coupled with the nagging injuries that have plagued Bosh since late last season.  His foot and knee have worried some, causing the big man to fall to the mid-to-late second round.  We think he’ll have a solid season regardless and is a great value if he falls that low.

5. Tim Duncan, Spurs

Rare is it that a player can be so consistently good and barely make the top five at his own position.  Such is the case with the veteran Tim Duncan, who has delivered every night of his 10-year career.  If you land Duncan this year, you’ll without a doubt be the proud owner of at least 20 points and 12 rebounds a night to go with at least three dimes and two blocks.  What causes Duncan to fall this far is the damage that he’ll do un to your free throw shooting.  The Big Fundamental actually improved his conversion rate year-over-year to 63.7 percent – which can be killer in rotisserie formats.  If you have faith in your ability to address the inherent weakness later in the draft, snag Duncan in the second round and do not look back.

6. Al Jefferson, Timberwolves

It was not a matter of “if” Al Jefferson would break out in the NBA, it was just a matter of “when.”  And the answer to that question is obviously the 2006-07 season where Jefferson posted numbers that more than doubled his previous career highs.  With averages of 16 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a season with his 23rd birthday still to come, Jefferson finds himself among the top center options in this season’s draft.  Buyer must beware that Jefferson’s max in terms of games played game during his rookie season, where he was a part of 71 contests.  Since then, he’s logged in totals of 59 and 69 respectively, so he hasn’t been the healthiest of options.  He’ll be given the chance to shine in his new home of Minnesota, and if he stays off of the trainers table, this likely third or fourth round selection will pay dividends for yet another year.

7. Dwight Howard, Magic

The double-double machine that is Dwight Howard will look to be among the league leaders in rebounds for yet another season.  With 12 boards and two blocks a game, Howard will likely carry your fantasy team in two categories by himself.  What he’ll also do is take a sledge hammer to your free throw shooting (career average of 61 percent) and inflate your turnover totals to the tune of 3.9 a night.  Thinking is that Howard will take better care of the ball with another year under his belt as he is only 21-years old.  Darko Milicic has also moved on, so the post will be all his.  However, leagues that count both of the vulnerable categories will have no choice but to devalue Howard quite a bit.  A star without a doubt, but a liability in fantasy hoops. 

8. Marcus Camby, Nuggets

You know how I mentioned the health concerns in the opening paragraphs?  Well here we are.  Fewer players can provide you with the hustle statistic averages of Camby.  The Nuggets big man is coming off of a season that saw him average 11 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and a steal per night while posting modest percentages.  The downfall of Camby is that he has topped 70 games played only once in his 11 seasons in the league – and that came back in 2003-04.  While last season was an improvement over the two years previous, you’re taking a huge gamble in leagues that require night-to-night production.  He’s a points-based league stud, but only for those with strong stomachs.  Plan accordingly.

9. Carlos Boozer, Jazz

Speaking of “games played,” this Utah Jazz big man logged in 74 games last season – his most since 2003-04 when he wore a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey and was making considerably less money than he is now.  But if last year’s playoffs were any indication of what Boozer can do, 20 points and 12 rebounds could be yours with a player that will likely only cost a late second, early third-round pick.  Boozer’s downfall is his lack of blocks per game, which is a vital statistic for centers in the fantasy game.  With a career average of 0.5 blocks per contest, you’ll have to address this need elsewhere.  Also keep in mind that the sixth-year player could miss a game here and there due to his ailing son – a la Derek Fisher towards the end of last season. 

10. Jermaine O’Neal, Pacers

If only fantasy results were based on potential alone.  Aside from Danny Granger, Jermaine O’Neal is the Indiana Pacers.  His 19.4 points per game average of last season was the lowest total since the 2001-02 season as JON has consistently been near 20 a night over the last six seasons.  The Pacers big man is near a lock for at least nine rebounds and two blocks a night, but following with the trend, these stats only count when O’Neal can suit up.  After playing 78 games in 2003-04, O’Neal has logged totals of 44, 51, and 69 respectively.  Recent trade rumors have also circulated around the big man, but it looks like he’ll be in Indiana for at least the time being.  If you draft O’Neal, just make sure you have a back-up plan in place in case he goes down or gets moved.

Best of the Rest
11. Emeka Okafor, Bobcats
12. Mehmet Okur, Jazz
13. Tyson Chandler, Hornets
14. Samuel Dalembert, 76ers
15. Andris Biedrins, Warriors
16. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cavaliers
17. Andrea Bargnani, Raptors
18. Andrew Bogut, Bucks
19. Ben Wallace, Bulls
20. Chris Kaman, Clippers

Other Positional Rankings:
Point Guard Rankings
Shooting Guard Rankings
Small Forward Rankings
Power Forward Rankings



Something to think about: Dwight Howard is shooting 20-25 FT in the preseason after a 13-16 day today.

If he keeps this up in the season, he’s a first rounder no doubt.


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