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2011 Fantasy Basketball: Best NBA Centers

These tiers are based on the GMTR 2011-12 Player Tier spreadsheet, which is in turn based on rankings for 9-category H2H leagues. A player’s overall rank is included in parenthesis after their name for reference.

Tier 1: The Tower of Power

Dwight Howard (13)

There are plenty of guys that qualify at center in most fantasy leagues (Pau Gasol, Amare Stoudemire, Zach Randolph) but in terms of true centers, Dwight Howard is both your greatest friend and worst enemy. As we discussed in the comments of one post, we have Howard ranked lower than most people due to his horrific free throw shooting (with a projected effective free throw percentage of 24% he’s by far the worst in the league) and there is just no getting around the fact that you’ll be punting the FT% category if you draft Howard. That being said, if you could care less about FT%, Howard comes out at number 4 overall just looking at the other 8 categories thanks to his insane 23 points, 14 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. So go ahead and take him high in the first if you don’t mind punting a category.


Tier 2: Beauty and the Beast

Al Horford (20)
Al Jefferson (22)

Al Horford’s stats don’t pop like some of the other big men on this list (15 and 9 with a block a game is what you’ll get), but he’s one of the most efficient centers in the league in both percentage categories if you’re into that kind of thing.

Al Jefferson had a comeback year with the Jazz in 2010-11, averaging nearly 19 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks in 36 minutes a game. So it’s no surprise that some readers questioned our ranking of him when he finished last season 11th on our player rater. There are two reasons for this ranking. Not that I’m a fan of Mehmet Okur, but he’s healthy again this season and will likely steal a couple minutes a game from Jefferson (along with rookie Enes Kanter). And second, with the exception of last season, Al Jefferson’s injury history is not pretty and that dings him a little in our projections.

Tier 3: Solid

Nene Hilario (46)
Andrea Bargnani (49)
Brook Lopez (50)
Marc Gasol (51)
Javale McGee (52)
Joakim Noah (59)

With the exception of McGee, all of these guys have a track record of performing right around this level. Now that Nene Hilario resigned with the Nuggets, he should put up numbers right in line with what he’s done in the past. In fact, his splits after Carmelo left town are basically the same as before, so don’t expect a post-Melo bump for Nene this season.

Andrea Bargnani and Brook Lopez are the centers to grab if you’re going small ball with your team. I believe that among centers, they were number 1 and 2 in the league in terms of grabbing the lowest percentage of available rebounds while on the court 2010-11 (Bargnani was at 8.6% and Lopez 10%). That being said, Bargnani can hit the three and scored 21 points a game last season, while Lopez scored 20 points and had 1.5 blocks a game with great percentages.

Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah are the traditional centers if you’re not into extreme team building. Noah has averaged a double-double each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately, he’s also averaged 56 games played over that time, so it’s a good idea to have a plan B if you draft him.

Javale McGee is the upside pick here. He broke out last season, averaging a career best 10.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 28 minutes per game. The 23 year old has some maturity issues, but provided he can stay on track we project him to be even better this season and potentially be the league leader in blocks.

Tier 4: Risk and Reward

Andrew Bogut (63)
Andrew Bynum (68)
Tyson Chandler (76)
Greg Monroe (78)
Anderson Varejao (84)
Marcin Gortat (88)

If the last tier included (mostly) predicable players, this is the tier is where the risk starts to creep in. And no player is a better definition of risk/reward than Andrew Bynum. Last season Bynum averaged 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2 blocks in only 28 minutes a game, which on a per-game basis makes him a tier 3 player. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that his games played over the last 4 years looks like this: 35, 50, 65, and 54. Ouch. This could be the year for a healthy Bynum, which is something that’s been said since he’s entered the league.

Tyson Chandler is an instant upgrade for the Knicks at center, but the fantasy question is how much are the Knicks and D’Antoni an upgrade for the defensive minded Chandler? The Knicks offensive options will look something like this 1) Melo, 2) Amare, 3) Melo, 4) Melo, 5) Melo, 6) Toney Douglas/Baron Davis, 7) Landry Fields/Iman Shumpert, 9) Melo, and 10) Tyson Chandler. Still, all Chandler will have to do is catch and dunk the occasional lob, grab boards, and stay healthy (no guarantee for someone who has missed 76 games over the past three years) to put up numbers on par with what he did last season for Dallas.

Greg Monroe looks to improve upon his successful rookie season this year, especially as Ben Wallace slowly fades away. Our projections have him averaging nearly 9 boards a game this year.

The Anderson Varejao bandwagon is gassed up and ready to roll here at GMTR. We’ve got Sideshow Bob ranked a lot higher than I’ve seen him go in drafts. Yes, his upside isn’t as good as some of the other guys in this tier, but he was averaging 10 boards and 1.2 blocks a game last season before he went down with an ankle injury. He’ll make a very nice second center if he falls to the back end of a draft.

Tier 5: The Proverbial Line in the Sand

Roy Hibbert (101)
DeJuan Blair (109)
DeAndre Jordan (112)
DeMarcus Cousins (113)
Emeka Okafor (116)

The last place I’d feel comfortable grabbing a center to start for my team on a regular basis. Roy Hibbert was somewhat of a disappointment last season if you expected him to bump his third year in the league. Instead he flat lined, which at 12.7 points, 7.5 boards and 1.8 blocks a game is still decent second center material. In case you’re curious, our projections have him flat lining again, so I would not reach for him in drafts.

If we’ve got DeJuan Blair what seems like crazy high on our list, it’s partially because he averaged 7 boards in 22 minutes a game as a 21-year old and partially because Tim Duncan is going to need extra rest to get through this season. Consistency ain’t his thing, but if you can deal with his wild game-to-game swings, Blair is an official GMTR approved sleeper.

DeAndre Jordan is a defense first guy who has averaged more rebounds than points each of the three seasons he’s been in the league. But like Tyson Chandler, as long as he can catch and dunk lobs from Paul and suck up boards it’ll play if you need big man stats.

Tier 6: Not an Ideal Situation

Marcus Camby (126)
Chris Kaman (131)
Samuel Dalembert (141)
Andris Biedrins (145)
Darko Milicic (148)

Four players who have a very small chance to be better than where they slot here (but they probably won’t) and Samuel Dalembert, who has yet to sign with a team. Dalembert would bump up a tier if he signed with a team in desperate need of a center like the Rockets were he could potentially be a 9 point, 9 rebound, 2 block a game player. But for now he sits on the sidelines. Chris Kaman and Andris Biedrins are in time splitting situations on their respective teams, so the minutes just might not be there for them. And Darko is Darko.

Tier 7: The Unknown

Chuck Hayes (153)

Hayes contract with the Kings was voided after he failed a physical due to a “heart abnormality” that will require further testing. It’s unknown at this point what effect this will have on Hayes season or even if he might miss the season in a situation similar to Jeff Green. For now, you’ll want to table him in fantasy leagues.

Tier 8: Digging Deeeeeeeep

Chris Wilcox (173)
Spencer Hawes (198)
Kendrick Perkins (200)
Brendan Haywood (206)

We’re scrapping the bottom of the barrel now. There is the possibility that Brendan Haywood has some sleeper potential as the Mavs starter again. Take a chance on him in deep leagues if you need rebounds and blocks, but beware that he shot 36% from the line last season, so there is also the chance that he kills your teams FT% without providing much help in other categories – although him fairness he is a career 60% free throw shooter.

Spencer Hawes regressed last season with the Sixers, although he can be a decent rebounder and shot blocker when the minutes are there. He’s definitely more of a plug and player center. Chris Wilcox would be in line for some serious minutes with the Celtics if Jermaine O’Neal were to go down, so there’s that.

And then there is Kendrick Perkins. You might be wondering why we have him ranked so low given that he’s so skinny he could star in a slim fast commercial with Tommy Lasorda. We do actually have him sort of returning to form now that he’s a year and a half removed from blowing out his knee in the 2010 playoffs. But the intangibles (i.e., toughness) that Perkins’ brings the court has always overshadowed his stat line. I like Perkins, just not on my fantasy team.

Some other centers just out of the top 30 (and good luck if you need to go this deep) include Jordan Hill (219), Nikola Vucevic (221), Nazr Mohammed (226), Chris Andersen (227) and Kwame Brown (232).

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