We’re so close to ending our top 20 lists you can taste it. Oh, yes you can. It tastes like whatever you had for lunch. See? It’s time for the top 20 centers for 2010 fantasy basketball. You know the type, tall, awkward, can’t miss from eight fee away can’t hit from 13 feet away. This is where your blocks are coming from. This is where your FG% rises. This is where your FT% falls and your heart sings. So, let’s play on. Here are the top 20 centers for 2010 fantasy basketball.
5. Al Jefferson – The naysayers worry about Jefferson’s adjustment period in Utah’s offense. But these are naysayers we’re talking about – it’s their job to worry about stuff like that. But Al needs a photo opportunity and a shot at redemption after a muted all-star career as a Celtic and T’Wolf and Utah is exactly where he’ll get it. His knee is healthy, he’s happy to be on a playoff contender and Kevin Love isn’t nipping at his heals. Assuming last season’s 76 games worth of health wasn’t a fluke, expect Jefferson’s best season yet.
Season Projections: .515/.724/0 3pt/22 pts/10 rbd/2.5 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov
6. Andrea Bargnani – Last year was supposed to be Bargnani’s grand coming out party, but he just never … came out. Perhaps it was the lack of streamers, or maybe he prefers brownies to cake. It doesn’t really matter now. The 25-year-old played 3.5 more minutes in ’09 than he did in ’08 and added two points and a rebound to his per game totals because of it. He also had the lowest USG% of his four seasons in ’09 (22.3 as compared to a 22.6 career mark over his first three years). This is important to note, perhaps most important to note. Bargnani improved his stats despite being involved in fewer plays while on the floor. With Chris Bosh gone south, Bargnani’s position as the team’s primary offensive option goes north. For better or worse (it’s always worse when someone says that) Andrea will be the Raptors’ best player, bar none-i. I’ll get the streamers.
Season Projections: .449/.789/2 3pt/20.5 pts/7 rbd/1.5 ast/0.5 stl/1.5 blk/2.5 tov
7. Joakim Noah – There’s still a lot of untapped potential with Noah. The Bulls started to tap it last season when he averaged 11/11 in 30 minutes in his third year, but there was something wrong with the seal or something because his output was foamy and more flat than I was expecting. With the coupling of a new Boozer and Noah, perhaps we’ll get better results. Expect better defensive stats, more minutes and a more hoppy flavor from him overall.
Season Projections: .512/.735/0 3pt/12 pts/11 rbd/2.5 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov
8. Marc Gasol – If I had a nickel for every time last year I said something like, “Ugh, if I had just known baby Gasol was going to improve, I’d have him on my team instead of stupid Mehmet Okur,” I’d have about $1.15. Almost a year later and I still irrationally blame Mehmet Okur for my not having chosen Marc Gasol in the closing rounds of any of my drafts. It’s really the lowest moment of my year. That and that brisk morning in March when a strong wind blew off my tear-away pants.
Season Projections: .555/.690/0 3pt/16.5 pts/10 rbd/2.5 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov
9. Andrew Bynum – When I say “Bynum,” you say “Could miss another 20 games while recovering from another surgery!” Ready? “Bynum!” “Could miss another 20 games while recovering from another surgery!” Woot! You know it’s bad when the best news about the guy in the offseason is that he is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and hopes to be 100 percent by the season’s start. Is that really good news? Was anyone expecting him to die on the operating table?
Season Projections: .565/.737/0 3pt/16 pts/9 rbd/1.5 ast/0.5 stl/1.5 blk/2 tov
10. Nene Hilario – Between 2004 and 2007, it seemed like Nene amassed only about 40 games and couldn’t possibly stay in this league. In the last two seasons however, he’s put together a sturdy balance of efficiency (a league-leading 124 ORtg) and grit (2.4 blk+stl per game in ’09). The problem with Senior Hilario is that he’s Denver’s fifth option on offense. He’s like Ben Wallace if Ben Wallace was ever an option on any team’s offense. If the Nuggets blow apart this season, Nene’s career-low USG% (16.5) could increase, but that’s not an “if” you want to strap to your fantasy team before the season starts.
Season Projections: .564/.698/0 3pt/14 pts/8 rbd/2 ast/1 stl/1 blk/1.5 tov
11. Chris Kaman – I’ve never trusted Kaman’s game. He’s a below-average defender (109 DRtg in each of the last two seasons) and a WAY below average offensive talent (99 ORtg in ’09) often playing first fiddle on a hapless Clippers team. So, yes, this is me saying that Kaman’s 19/9 season last year never told the whole story. The whole story this season will be that Kaman will take his rightful spot as third, maybe fourth fiddle. The days of Chris Kaman being a force unto himself on the Clips is done – no man is an island, even if this dude does has an islandic cluster named after him.
Season Projections: .494/.722/0 3pt/14 pts/9 rbd/1.5 ast/0.5 stl/1.5 blk/2.5 tov
12. Greg Oden – You’re standing at the Roulette table and you’re resigned to only betting on black or red. Forget the numbers. Forget the green double-zero. Red. Black. You throw your chips on black. It comes up red. You throw your chips on black again, thinking this time it’ll hit. Red again. Now, in your head you know that each roll gives you about a 50-50 shot at winning. But deeper in your head, you also know that the chances of three rolls all going red is significantly less than 50-50. So what do you do? You put your chips on black … Red. And so now it’s 2010. Do you feel like putting your chips on Greg Oden’s health or yet another season where we see him play fewer than 62 games? I’m betting black one last time and walking away from the table forever if it doesn’t hit.
Season Projections: .560/.715/0 3pt/14 pts/9 rbd/1 ast/0.5 stl/2.5 blk/2 tov
13. Andrew Bogut – Bogutron is a top 10 center in this league. Fair warning: there’s a “but” moments away from rearing its head (pun!), be sure to prepare yourself. Are you ready? Here it comes. But Bogut is only a top 5 center when he’s healthy and he’s only been healthy in two of his five seasons in this league. And what’s worse, the injury that ended his season last year was so gruesomely complicated that it’s likely going to cause him to miss the first few weeks of the season. Then, once he returns, who knows? He’ll be rusty. No, he’ll still be Andrew. I mean, he’ll not have shot a basketball in seven months and be entering a season cold. Your best bet here is to pass on Bogut until your center situation is, well, situated. Then take a flier on him in early late rounds when his absence won’t cost you so dearly.
Season Projections: .509/.591/0 3pt/13.5 pts/11.5 rbd/2.5 ast/0.5 stl/2.5 blk/2.5 tov
14. Yao Ming – Yao, do I fear thee? Let me count the ways. 1. He discussed quitting the sport if his foot doesn’t heal, which is not a good mindset for your franchise player to be in before the season even starts. 2. Even if his foot does heal, he’s said on several occasions that he’ll not likely ever be the Ming of old. 3. The 34-year-old Brad Miller is, at this moment, probably in better condition than Yao. 4. Even if he’s healthy enough to play and start, the Rockets are likely going to sit him in back-to-back games and limit his minutes. 5. Even if everything turns out okay, he’s still a 30-year-old, 7-foot-6 man with a history of feet issues.
Season Projections: .531/.840/0 3pt/17.5 pts/8 rbd/2 ast/0 stl/2 blk/3 tov
15. Roy Hibbert – Hibbert’s been working with Bill Walton, listening to Mellencamp, Skyping with Tyler Hansbrough, doin’ the Dew, rippin’ and tearin’ … you know, everything an Indiana fella’s supposed to do during his transition from sophomore to junior. Although I’m aware this could lead to lifelong foot problems and a particular disdain for little pink houses, I’m willing to bet it goes the other way and we’re all about Dr. Hibbert come May.
Season Projections: .525/.759/0 3ptm/14.5 pts/7 rbd/2.5 ast/0.5 stl/2 blk/2 tov
16. Channing Frye – Anyone want to explain what the hell happened to Channing Frye between 2008 and 2009 that caused him to chuck up 70 combined treys in his first four seasons in the league and then 392 in ’09? Did he break his arm like the kid in “Rookie of the Year?” Was his contact prescription wrong all those years? Is his special lady friend particularly fond of the long ball (hehe)? Anyway, he’ll be asked to rebound more for Phoenix now that Amar’e is gone. Then again, when your team’s center averages only 5.3 boards a game, my guess is they tried the whole “pretty please” routine last year too. If the Knicks are going to call Gallinari a SG, why are guys like Bargnani and Frye still being used as anything other than small forwards? Phoenix could use another small forward allergic to rebounds, right?
Season Projections: .441/.799/2.5 3pt/13 pts/6.5 rbd/1.5 ast/1 stl/1 blk/2 tov
18. Emeka Okafor – I spent all last season feeling Big ‘Mek was as miscast on the Hornets as Cameron Diaz was in “Gangs of New York.” Okafor is a defensive player that went from a top 5 defensive team in Charlotte to a bottom 10 in NOLA. His mpg, DRtg and USG% all slipped to career-lows. He’s an afterthought on this team when, on a more suitable team, he could be a … a what? A forethought? A pre-thought? Whatever. He’s going to fall in with guys like Oden and Yao during most drafts. Here’s your pick if you’d rather play it safe.
Season Projections: .540/.601/0 3pt/12.5 pts/10 rbd/1 ast/1 stl/1.5 blk/1.5 tov
19. Tiago Splitter – Here’s what July Me (or JuLimee, if spelling isn’t your thing) wrote about Splitter: “The guy San Antonio has been trying to bring over here for three years is here and will jump right into his rookie year in the NBA either playing alongside Duncan at center or backing him up with DeJuan Blair filling the four. People felt Blair was a nice late pick last year, but feared his knees wouldn’t hold up to a full NBA season (he played all 82 games). Splitter comes with more promise and fewer concerns than DeJuan. Considering Splitter’s polished game (aside from an overly physical tendency that might land him in foul trouble) and Duncan’s minutes steadily declining in each of his last five seasons, this guy is primed for a surprising season that should come out of nowhere for a lot of fantasy owners.” But despite what Neil Young says, everybody knows this is NOT nowhere. So, really, Splitter should be coming out of No. 19. Oh, look! Right on queue!
Season Prediction: .515/.770/0 3pt/14 pts/7.5 rbd/2 ast/1 stl/1 blk/1.5 tov
20. Robin Lopez – It’s really anybody’s guess what Fro-pez is going to do this year. You can count the six or seven people that have even thought about his possible production on one hand (my parents were smokers … why? How many fingers do you have on your hand? Just five? You were cheated). But despite a nagging back injury which shouldn’t still be nagging him as long as he cleaned the damn gutters like he said he would, Ropez will be thrust into the starting five on a Steve Nash-led team. And when you want a young player to improve, there aren’t many players on an NBA floor more able to make a guy better than Nash. It’s not like Steve won’t have anything to work with either. Lopez had a 123 ORtg and a 118 PER last season, both huge improvements over his rookie season. Jrue story.
Season Projections: .570/.720/0 3pt/15 pts/8 rbd/0.5 ast/0.5 stl/2 blk/2 tov