2018-19 Fantasy Basketball Positional Tiers Series: Centers
Heading towards the start of NBA preseason, Alex Barutha breaks the players into tiers for Fantasy.
NBA training camps open in a matter of weeks. Here's how players are tiered now:
Tier 1: The Elite
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
These three players have almost no flaws in their game, at least from a Fantasy perspective, and each is worthy of a first-round selection in most formats.
Davis is the crown jewel of the three and could be worthy of his own tier. His overall scoring and defense makes him one of the best two-way players in the league, and he's once again among the favorites to win the MVP award. However, Davis has yet to perfect the three-ball and has been an injury risk in the past, which is what keeps both Jokic and Towns in the conversation.
Towns, who has yet to miss a game in his three seasons, has 87 20-point, 10-rebound games over the past two years. Jokic is less of a threat to put up those numbers, but he's one of the best passing big men the league has ever seen and dropped 10 triple-doubles last season. Both players hit 1.5 threes per game last year and, like Davis, shot better than 80 percent from the charity stripe.
Tier 2: The Near-Elite
Joel Embiid, 76ers
Rudy Gobert, Jazz
These are the players who are good enough to creep close Tier 1, but have a flaw or two that keeps them a step behind.
Talent-wise, Embiid is the closest to joining Tier 1. His injury history -- missing his first two seasons and playing 94 games over the past two years -- keeps him a notch below. Ultimately, how high Embiid should be drafted depends on each Fantasy owner's confidence in his health, but it's impossible to ignore his upside.
Over the past two campaigns, Gobert has established himself as a premier shot-blocker (2.5 BPG), rebounder (11.9 RPG), and efficient scorer (64.5 FG%) at the position. He's arguably the best traditional center in the league. Still, Gobert remains a sub-70 percent free-throw shooter and is averaging just 66 games played since becoming a full-time starter three seasons ago.
Tier 3: Fringe All-Stars
Clint Capela, Rockets
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
Andre Drummond, Pistons
Al Horford, Celtics
Myles Turner, Pacers
These players are focal points for their respective teams, but often have a big enough flaw to keep them from being perennial All-Stars. If you haven't grabbed a center by the time Tier 3 players start coming off the board, it's best to secure one before it's too late
Gasol and Horford are aging but have eight All-Star appearances between them and are still dynamic enough to post big games while owning a high statistical floor. What primarily holds them back is their sub-par rebounding numbers for the position.
Drummond and Capela are young enough to make strides this season but still remain trapped in the archetype of top-shelf rebounders and defenders who are highly efficient from the field, but highly inefficient at the free-throw line. Even so, both players are on the cusp of reaching Tier 2. Capela simply needs to play more minutes, while Drummond needs to become less of a one-dimensional scorer. At 22, Turner is the youngest, and least consistent, of the group, but his upside as a three-point shooter and shot-blocker keeps him in the conversation, even after a relatively disappointing 2017-18 campaign.
Overall, I hesitate to call the group "interchangeable", but picking one over the other is unlikely to swing your season.
Tier 4: Low-Ceiling Starters
Jarrett Allen, Nets
Nikola Vucevic, Magic
Dwight Howard, Wizards
Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors
DeAndre Jordan, Mavericks
Brook Lopez, Bucks
DeMarcus Cousins, Warriors
Tier 4 players should net you minutes in the mid-to-high 20s every night and/or have one very strong skill.
At first glance, Jordan feels out of place in this group. However, he seemed to be affected by both his age and the departure of Chris Paul last season. In his age-29 season, Jordan's field-goal percentage dropped from 71.4 to 64.5 percent, and he averaged fewer than a block per game for the first time since his second year in the league. He did manage to set a career-high in free throw percentage (58.0%), but it's still bad enough to do damage in categorical Fantasy formats.
Like Jordan, Howard is a notoriously poor free throw shooters, and he registered the third-lowest field-goal percentage of his career last season. However, he's still one of the best rebounders in the league, and his double-double potential makes him a significantly more valuable player in points leagues.
Vucevic made strides as a three-point shooter last year, but his role will probably shrink with the arrival of Mohamed Bamba. Valanciunas is highly productive in his time on the floor but saw just 22.4 minutes per game last year, and the Raptors added Greg Monroe to replace Jakob Poeltl. While he hits threes, Lopez doesn't rebound. Cousins is a wild card following his Achilles tear and joining the Warriors, and he'll be limited from a total games/minutes standpoint.
Allen, a 19-year-old rookie last season, provides a decent amount of upside. He saw just 20.0 minutes per night last season, but averaged 11.8 points, 10.8 boards and 3.3 blocks in the four games in which he played 30-plus minutes. He's not a lock for a true starter's role considering the Nets signed Ed Davis in the offseason, but Allen can already rebound and block shots at a high level.
Tier 5: The Rest
Dewayne Dedmon, Hawks
JaVale McGee, Lakers
Steven Adams, Thunder
Enes Kanter, Knicks
Jordan Bell, Warriors
Deandre Ayton, Suns
Adams is a third or fourth offensive option, is also a poor free-throw shooter, and isn't a particularly elite rebounder considering the presence of Russell Westbrook. His real-life value doesn't quite translate to Fantasy.
Dedmon has low upside as a veteran on a rebuilding team. McGee may start but hasn't seen at least 15 minutes per game since 2013-14, while Kanter provides no value as a passer, defender, or three-point shooter. Bell should see more run than last season but he'll have to compete with Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins for run.
Ayton, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, is the most intriguing player in Tier 5. The Pac-12 Player of the Year averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while often playing out of position during his lone year at Arizona. At the very least, he should be a high-level rebounder who finishes everything at the rim. Whether Ayton can provide three-point shooting and above-average shot-blocking will determine how high he climbs in the Fantasy ranks.
Mike Barner is among the most accurate Fantasy experts in the country.
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