We’ve got a bit of a Good News / Bad News situation. The Bad News is that the NBA regular season is finished, and with it, your fantasy team – rendering all your strategery as useless as a neck full of Mardi Gras beads in March. The Good News is that it’s never too early to plan for next season. Is that news really all that good? Your girlfriend doesn’t think so. Then again, be thankful you have one, nerd. See? Every yin has its yang. We’ve already gone over point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. Today, let’s go out with a blowout: the league’s best centers. You know the deal, we’re using the season totals from ESPN’s Player Rater to determine each guy’s final rank. We’re listing averages, but we took totals into account because Games Played weighs heavily on his value – natch. Anyway, here’s the top 20 centers for 2010 fantasy basketball and how they compared to where I originally ranked them. Also, check out Jules’ Twitter feed. No, you!
1. Andrew Bynum – Anyone telling you they knew what to expect from a fully healthy Andrew Bynum is either lying or is Shaquille O’Neal. And probably, if you find yourself talking to Shaq, he’s been lying about stuff, too. But not about Bynum. He said back in January that Bynum was better than Dwight Howard and everyone poo-pooed it (including me). But I can’t help but admit that ever since then, I’ve imagined that Bynum spent last summer alone in a gym somewhere lifting weights, grunting, tattooing himself with Old Testament passages and reading law books. Why law books? I’m not sure, but that’s what De Niro did in Cape Fear before leaving jail and seducing a 16-year-old Juliette Lewis. Bynum was a beast this year. It was nice to see an oft-injured player get over it and assume his potential. A surprisingly scant number of players actually do that. All that being said, I’m ranking Dwight first next season, too. Preseason Rank #7, 2011 Projections: .550/.700/0 3pt/13.5 pts/8.5 rbd/2 ast/0.5 stl/2.5 blk/2.5 tov. Final Numbers: .558/.692/0 3ptm/18.7 pts/11.8 rbd/1.4 ast/0.5 stl/1.9 blk/2.5 tov, 60 games
2. Marc Gasol – You really couldn’t ask much more from the guy than what he gave you this season. I suppose you could have asked for last season’s scoring numbers. Maybe an iPad 3. That would have been nice of him. I don’t see his numbers dipping next season. Call me crazy, but I also don’t see a iPad 3 in your future. It was a huge uptick from anything he’s ever done before. Just think back three seasons ago, when Marc was laughable in comparison to his brother. The comparison ain’t all that laughable, now. Preseason Rank #12, 2010 Projections: .514/.721/0 3pt/12.5 pts/7.5 rbd/3 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov. Final Numbers: .482/.748/ 0 3ptm/ 14.6 pts/ 8.9 rbd/ 3.1 ast/ 1 stl/ 1.9 blk/ 1.9 tov, 65 games.
3. Al Jefferson – This was arguably the best season of his career (head-to-head with his first season with Minnesota) and although he’s not old enough to make this performance surprising, there are just some players that get injured and it takes longer than it should to shake the idea that they are injury risks. He missed substantial games in four of his first five seasons, but he’s been horse-healthy ever since. This was the first time since 2008, I wasn’t scared to draft him in the second or third round. It paid off. Preseason Rank #3, 2011 Projections: .495/.710/0 3pt/19.5 pts/10 rbd/2 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov. Final Numbers: .492/.774/0 3ptm/ 19.2 pts/ 9.6 rbd/ 2.2 ast/ 0.8 stl/ 1.7 blk/ 1 tov, 61 games.
4. Greg Monroe – Monroe is unfortunate to play for the Pistons. No one likes these Pistons. Pistons fans don’t like these Pistons. And if you own Monroe (Monrowner?), you’ve got to be pretty happy at how cheap this guy is going to come in a lot of leagues not paying attention. He’s not a sexy pick, especially with these low blocking numbers. He should be drafted in the fourth round, you’ll be able to get him in the fifth, which wouldn’t be the case if he was wearing a Bulls or Heat jersey. Preseason Rank #17 (ranked as a PF), 2011 Projections: .555/.701/0 3pt/13 pts/9 rbd/2.5 ast/1.5 stl/0.5 blk/2 tov. Final Numbers: .521/ .739/ 0 3ptm/ 15.4 pts/ 9.7 rbd/ 2.3 ast/ 1.3 stl/ 0.7 blk/ 2.4 tov, 66 games
5. Marcin Gortat – Marcin’s the guy you drafted hoping that you’d never think about him after draft day. He sat in your C slot, no one tried to trade for him, you never put him on your bench and you forgot to Facebook message him on his birthday. You literally could have cared less about this guy despite him being a huge asset to your fantasy team. I’m pretty sure I meant most of that as a compliment. Preseason Rank #13, 2011 Projections: .545/.700/0 3pt/16 pts/11 rbd/1 ast/0.5 stl/1.5 blk/1.5 tov. Final Numbers: .555/.649/0 3ptm/15.4 pts/10 rbd/0.9 ast/0.7 stl/1.5 blk/1.4 tov, 66 games
6. Tyson Chandler – After having career-best PER and FG%, a second-straight career-best ORtg, improvements to most stats from the previous year and the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Apparently not playing for the Hornets or Bobcats achieves the same effect as an entire offseason of hard work and dedication. Preseason Rank #16, 2011 Projections: .610/.715/0 3pt/9.5 pts/9.5 rbd/0.5 ast/0.5 stl/1 blk/1.5 tov. Final Numbers: .679/.689/0 3ptm/11.3 pts/9.9 rbd/0.9 ast/0.9 stl/1.4 blk/1.6 tov, 62 games
7. DeMarcus Cousins – If you look at Cousins’ season averages, there are only a few small tweaks needed to make him a top 5 center (shooting at least .470 on the season and doling out at least two assists per game). If you look at Cousins’ average performance on the court, however, you know it’s going to take a heckuva lot more than a few tweaks. Preseason Rank #19 (ranked as a PF), 2011 Projections: .430/.670/0 3pt/17.5 pts/10.5 rbd/3 ast/1 stl/1 blk/3.5 tov. Final Numbers: .448/ .702/ 0 3ptm/ 18.1 pts/ 11 rbd/ 1.6 ast/ 1.5 st/ 1.2 blk/ 2.7 tov, 64 games
8. Roy Hibbert – Another year, another miniscule overall improvement to the Giraffe’s game (except his passing). I look forward to 2017 when he finally inches his way to the full potential we expected from him two seasons ago. Preseason Rank #15, 2011 Projections: .465/.770/0 3pt/12 pts/8 rbd/3.5 ast/0.5 stl/2 blk/2.5 tov. Final Numbers: .497/.711/0 3ptm/ 12.8 pts/ 8.8 rbd/ 1.7 ast/ 0.5 stl/ 2 blk/ 2 tov, 65 games
9. Joakim Noah – It bothers me that you could have drafted Noah in the fifth or sixth round and gotten this production or grabbed Varejao off of waivers and gotten the exact same production (until Andy got hurt, anyway). What? All floppy-haired centers playing for Central division teams are alike to me? Yes. And it kills me. Preseason Rank #6, 2011 Projections: .519/.711/0 3pt/13 pts/12.5 rbd/2.5 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/2.5 tov, Final Numbers: .508/.748/ 0 3ptm/ 10.2 pts/ 9.8 rbd/ 2.5 ast/ 0.6 stl/ 1.4 blk/ 1.4 tov, 64 games
10. Dwight Howard – He’s the best center in the league. Yes, even when he makes a career-low 49 percent of his free throws. Yes, even when he’s disgruntled and distracted. No, not when he misses a dozen games. You can’t bank on that happening every year. Preseason Rank #1, 2011 Projections: .575/.593/0 3pt/20.5 pts/14 rbd/1.5 ast/1.5 stl/2.5 blk/3.5 tov. Final Numbers: .573/.491/0 3ptm/ 20.6 pts/ 14.5 rbd/ 1.9 ast/ 1.5 stl/ 2.1 blk/ 3.2 tov, 54 games.
11. Tim Duncan – I predicted he’d continue a slow steady decline this season (call it the inverted Hibbert), and he didn’t regress quite as much as I predicted he would. That’s nice for his owners, less nice for fantasy bloggers who are tired of Tim Duncan making a monkey out of them. Preseason Rank #15, 2011 Projections: .485/.720/0 3pt/13 pts/8 rbd/2.5 ast/0.5 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov. Final Numbers: .492/.695/0 3ptm/15.4 pts/ 9 rbd/ 2.3 ast/ 0.7 stl/ 1.5 blk/ 1.7 tov, 58 games
12. Samuel Dalembert – I was surprised to see Sammy D ranked this high, though not as surprised as I was to see most of the remaining names coming up on this list. I won’t be surprised if he’s an afterthought next year. Still, he was a nice source of blocks who wasn’t killing you in any category and showed up to games. This is the equivalent of a 40-something single woman settling for a date that doesn’t end in being puked on before the night’s over. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers: .506/.796/0 3ptm/7.5 pts/7 rbd/0.5 ast/0.6 stl/1.7 blk/1.3 tov, 65 games
13. DeAndre Jordan – Speaking of being puked on : DeAndre Jordan. 93 percent of his field goals were dunks (not an accurate stat). He always shows flashes of being a huge fantasy asset. His blocks are great, his field goal percentage is phenominal, but he just doesn’t offer anything else. And that’s the problem with flashes: once the light goes out, you’re blind and incapacitated. Preseason Rank #19, 2011 Projections: .585/.465/0 3pt/8.5 pts/10 rbd/0.5 ast/0.5 stl/2.5 blk/2 tov. Final Numbers: .632/ .525/ 0 3ptm/ 7.4 pts/ 8.3 rbd/ 0.3 ast/ 0.5 stl/ 2 blk/ 1.3 tov, 66 games
14. JaVale McGee – Look, I can’t quite dunk anymore. I get winded easily. I’m unfamiliar with the intricacies of most professional defensive systems. And I’d probably get in trouble with the press. But I’m damn sure if you let me shoot 100 free throws during in-game situations, I’d make more than 38 percent of them. Preseason Rank #9, 2011 Projections: .519/.605/0 3pt/12 pts/8 rbd/1 ast/1 stl/3 blk/2 tov. Final Numbers: .612/.373/0 3ptm/11.3 pts/7.8 rbd/0.5 ast/0.6 stl/2.2 blk/1.4 tov, 79 games
15. Drew Gooden – The season averages don’t tell the whole story. If you picked up Gooden in late January when Bogut went down, you benefited from two months of 17/7/3 production with 2.4 3ptm+stl+blk. He saved a lot of seasons in those two months. Mine included. Still, I only just now consider the damage he did while on the Bulls to be repaid. Preseason: Unranked. Final Numbers: .437/.846/0.3 3ptm/ 13.7 pts/ 6.5 rbd/ 2.6 ast/ 0.8 stl/ 0.6 blk/ 1.9 tov, 56 games.
16. Nikola Pekovic – And while we’re on the subject of final averages not telling the entire story: Pekovic’s final numbers, though surprising, weren’t nearly as surprising as his post-January numbers. It’s a shame the Wolves wasted a month figuring out that Darko Milicic was a poor decision back in 2003. Once they finally got it, Pekovic was free to average 15/9/1 and become a huge free agent grab. Not quite as big as, say, Marcin Gortat the season before, I’d wager that if Pekovic had played at least 15 more games and made it into the starting lineup in early January instead of late January, he’d have made the top 10. Preseason: Unranked. Final Numbers: .564/.743/0 3ptm/13.9 pts/7.4 rbd/0.7 ast/0.6 stl/0.7 blk/1.9 tov, 47 games.
17. Chris Kaman – I’m still unclear what was stuck in N’Awlins’ craw (mmm … fresh New Orleans craw!) regarding Kaman or why he only started half the games to start the season. It was odd at the time and off in retrospect. When things normalized, so did Cave man’s stats (15/8/2, 1.5 bpg). Chris be crispy. Preseason: Unranked. Final Numbers: .446/.785/0 3ptm/13.1 pts/7.7 rbd/2.1 ast/0.5 stl/1.6 blk/2.7 tov, 47 games
18. Zaza Pachulia – I’m just not sure I want to be a part of a basketball season in which Drew Gooden and Zaza Pachulia were among your best fantasy options; especially when neither played a full season. Preseason: Unranked. Final Numbers: .499/ .741/ 0 3ptm/ 7.8 pts/ 7.9 rbd/ 1.4 ast/ 0.9 stl/ 0.5 blk/ 1.4 tov, 58 games
19. Tiago Splitter – I anticipated a leap in production from Splitter and that’s what I got. Why did I get that and you didn’t? That’s weird. Are you using that thing correctly? At any rate, I think Splitter’s production was indicative of what he’s capable of. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s capable of a ton more in this league, or at least not in Popp’s system. Also, I just noticed that Splitter’s full name is Tiago Splitter Biems (which I’m pronouncing as “beems”). Let us not overlook how cool a name like “Splitter Beems” is. I’m pretty sure that was what they were considering calling Mr. T’s character in “Rocky 3.” Preseason: Unranked. Final Numbers: .618/.691/0 3ptm/9.3 pts/5.2 rbd/1.1 ast/0.4 stl/0.8 blk/1.5 tov, 59 games