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If someone tries to tell you the center position in the NBA is weak right now, that's a clear sign that they haven't been watching a thing this season. We're not quite in a golden age of big men, but the position seems more stocked than it has in years, and the rapid development of some young guys has been the biggest reason for that.
If you break positions down to a more granular level, center is probably the third deepest position in the league right now, at least for Fantasy purposes. Though wing players remain key to success in the modern NBA, both the small forward and shooting guard positions have fewer viable Fantasy options than center, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Guys like Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol have re-emerged in larger roles, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have continued down their path of destruction, and Al Horford and Tyson Chandler have gotten healthy. These were all things we could have seen coming, but I don't think anyone saw so many young guys coming out of nowhere to fill out the Fantasy ranks.
Rudy Gobert has spent the last few weeks playing like a borderline top-five Fantasy center, and he doesn't seem likely to give up his role after being a non-entity as a rookie. Hassan Whiteside has gone from the Lebanese Basketball League to a consistent role with the Heat, where he has become a double-double machine and elite shot blocker overnight. And we weren't even sure if Jusuf Nurkic would play at all this season, but the 20-year-old made Timofey Mozgov expendable -- and netted the Nuggets a pair of first-round picks in the process -- and is now starting at center.
You can go 20-25 names deep at the center position before you really find names you wouldn't want to be starting. Just look at my top-20 list for the upcoming week. If you have any two of these players in your lineup, for this week, you can't complain about your situation.
Center rankings for Week 13 (Jan. 19-25), H2H scoring
1. Anthony Davis
2. Pau Gasol
3. DeMarcus Cousins
4. Al Horford
5. Chris Bosh
6. Andre Drummond
7. Nikola Vucevic
8. Gorgui Dieng
9. Marc Gasol
10. Tyson Chandler
11. Jared Sullinger
12. Dwight Howard
13. Derrick Favors
14. DeAndre Jordan
15. Hassan Whiteside
16. Marcin Gortat
17. Mason Plumlee
18. Rudy Gobert
19. Brook Lopez
20. Jusuf Nurkic
Gobert is just 18th for Week 13 in Head-to-Head Fantasy scoring leagues because the Jazz play just three times, but his future looks a lot brighter than that. Even with Enes Kanter back in the fold, Gobert is averaging 30.7 minutes per game over the last three, while adding 9.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.0 blocks and 1.7 steals per game in that span -- those numbers are ridiculous. He's starting to sling the ball around, a good sign that he is figuring out his fit in the offense, and that's scary. Gobert will probably never be a big-time scorer in the NBA, but his ability to fill up the box score looks nearly unparalleled right now.
If you started the season without much depth at the center position, you probably don't have any excuse at this point.
Eric Gordon, Pelicans (37 percent started)
I'm not totally convinced Gordon is going to maintain his Fantasy value for long, but he should be in line for a very good showing in Week 13. Not only do the Pelicans have the best schedule in the league for the week -- four bottom-10 defenses -- but Gordon may be one of the team's go-to scorers this week. Entering play Sunday, Gordon was averaging 15.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his previous five games, and has been spending time as a de facto point guard with Jrue Holiday out with an ankle injury. With Holiday's availability in doubt, Gordon makes for a nice weekly fill in. I would start Gordon over ... Jose Calderon, Ben McLemore, J.J. Redick
Wesley Matthews, Trail Blazers (69 percent started)
Consistency is an issue for Matthews at times, as his consecutive single-digit scoring efforts last Wednesday and Friday showed. And these days, if he's not scoring and hitting 3-pointers, there isn't a whole lot he contributes from a Fantasy perspective; he had just six rebounds, two assists and two steals in those two games. The good news is Matthews should be in line for a good showing in Week 13, against a slew of subpar defenses. Each of the Blazers' first three opponents ranks among the bottom-10 in points allowed for the season, so expect him to contribute plenty of points and 3-pointers to your ledger this week. I would start Matthews over ... J.J. Redick, Nick Young, Jodie Meeks
Patrick Beverley, Rockets (49 percent started)
Beverley is one of the captains of the "Better in Real Life than Fantasy" All-Stars, but that doesn't mean he is entirely without use. His shot volume is up lately, and that has led to a nice little increase in his overall production; Beverley is averaging 12.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game over the last five. He opens the week with a pair of tough matchups, however the Warriors have had their issues with point guards, and he had 11-2-4-3 against them already this weekend. If Beverley can get through that game with decent numbers, he should go off against the Suns and Lakers to close out the week. I would start Beverley over ... Reggie Jackson, Trey Burke, Ben McLemore
Trey Burke, Jazz (66 percent started)
Burke has managed to maintain a respectable level of production recently, largely thanks to an improved jump shot and a huge volume. He still isn't particularly efficient and his assist totals are pretty bad for a point guard, but he's scoring 17.6 points per game over the last five, which is mostly enough to wipe away those flaws. However with just three games on the schedule, I'm not sure Burke will be able to make up for his shortcomings in Week 13. He is averaging 27.0 Fantasy points per game over the last five, his best stretch of the season, which isn't a high bar for someone with four games on the schedule to overcome..
Channing Frye, Magic (21 percent started)
Tobias Harris remains without a timetable to return to action, and Frye should be on Fantasy radars as long as Harris is out. Frye couldn't find his shot in the first two games Harris missed; he scored just eight points on 3 of 20 shooting combined but still managed to find other ways to contribute, adding eight assists and 13 rebounds in that span. He has found his shot since, and enters play Sunday averaging 10.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals and 2.8 3-pointers per game in four games with Harris out. With Harris' availability very much in question, expect more of the same from Frye even against a fairly tough three-game slate. I would start Frye over ... Ersan Ilyasova, Tobias Harris, James Johnson
Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets (46 percent started)
I've said it before, I'll say it again; I wish Motiejunas had center eligibility. He stayed at power forward in the starting lineup when Dwight Howard was out, and that is going to have a lasting impact on his Fantasy value long term. Having said that, he's still a solid starting option at the forward position right now, given how well he is playing. He is averaging 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game over the last five, and has matchups with two of the worst defenses in the league to close out Week 13. I would start Motiejunas over ... Trevor Ariza, Thaddeus Young, Wilson Chandler
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets (32 percent started)
The looming return of Al Jefferson could change things, but I like the way Kidd-Gilchrist is playing right now. Owners in category-based leagues aren't happy with him shooting 37.5 percent from the field with no 3-pointers, but he still has value thanks to his huge rebounding numbers. He is averaging 11.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game over the last 10, giving him a solid Fantasy scoring base on which to build with passing and defense. The Hornets have one of the best schedules in the league on the way, and you have to like the way Kidd-Gilchrist has played recently. I would start Kidd-Gilchrist over ... James Johnson, Solomon Hill, Luol Deng
Joe Johnson, Nets (80 percent started)
Joe Johnson is the Fantasy version of a security blanket. He's just a safe option to run to during rough times, because you know you can rely on him. He's no longer a star, but most of the time, he gets the job done. However, with just three games on the schedule, he doesn't have many opportunities to contribute in Week 13, and he just hasn't been very good lately. Johnson seems to be missing Deron Williams' passing, as he is shooting just 32.8 percent from the field over the last five games, en route to 11.6 points per game. With 24 teams playing four times, you're bound to have a better option.
Mason Plumlee, Nets (66 percent started)
Plumlee has just three games on the schedule in Week 1, so you might want to stay away in standard scoring formats, where you would probably need three double-doubles to justify it. However, he's still worth starting in category-based leagues, where his contributions in the percentage and defensive categories can make up for any deficiencies in volume. Even with Brook Lopez healthy, he's been getting right around 30 minutes on most nights, so don't fret about his role. I would start Plumlee over ... Brook Lopez, Zaza Pachulia, Jonas Valanciunas
Rudy Gobert, Jazz (48 percent started)
I already said plenty about Gobert, but l think ranking him 18th might be underselling him for Week 13. It should be noted that that ranking was just for head-to-head scoring formats, where his relatively low scoring and rebounding volume holds him back a bit with just three games on the schedule. The Jazz are one of just six teams who play just three times this week, but I don't think you can even think about sitting Gobert in a category-based league, even with Enes Kanter back from injury. There are a lot of things going against Gobert right now, but the best players find ways to produce even in the face of that. Gobert's not quite at that point, but he isn't far off either. I would start Gobert over ... Enes Kanter, Joakim Noah, Tristan Thompson
Jusuf Nurkic, Nuggets (40 percent started)
Nurkic's development has been a very pleasant surprise for the Nuggets, but he might be in over his head just a bit of late. Nurkic is averaging just 20.0 minutes per game since joining the starting lineup, largely because he cannot stop fouling. He is averaging 6.8 personal fouls per-36 minutes as a starter, mostly in line with what he was doing before that. His per-minute production remains solid, but he just isn't staying on the floor enough to make it count. The Nuggets play four times in Week 13, but Nurkic has played fewer than 20 minutes in each of the last two games, so you probably have more reliable options at this point.
(A higher strength-of-schedule ranking is a good thing, based on points allowed)
Hawks: Four games, 15th in strength of schedule
Celtics: Four games, 16th in strength of schedule
Nets: Three games, 17th in strength of schedule
Hornets: Four games, 4th in strength of schedule
Bulls: Four games, 19th in strength of schedule
Cavaliers: Four games, 23rd in strength of schedule
Mavericks: Four games, 6th in strength of schedule
Nuggets: Four games, 20th in strength of schedule
Pistons: Four games, 24th in strength of schedule
Warriors: Four games, 2nd in strength of schedule
Rockets: Four games, 7th in strength of schedule
Pacers: Four games, 27th in strength of schedule
Clippers: Three games, 12th in strength of schedule
Lakers: Four games, 9th in strength of schedule
Grizzlies: Three games, 10th in strength of schedule
Heat: Four games, 26th in strength of schedule
Bucks: Four games, 13th in strength of schedule
Timberwolves: Four games, 21st in strength of schedule
Pelicans: Four games, 1st in strength of schedule
Knicks: Four games, 8th in strength of schedule
Thunder: Four games, 29th in strength of schedule
Magic: Three games, 25th in strength of schedule
76ers: Four games, 18th in strength of schedule
Suns: Four games, 14th in strength of schedule
Trail Blazers: Four games, 3rd in strength of schedule
Kings: Three games, 30th in strength of schedule
Spurs: Four games, 5th in strength of schedule
Raptors: Four games, 22nd in strength of schedule
Jazz: Three games, 28th in strength of schedule
Wizards: Four games, 11th in strength of schedule
Add these players
Alex Len, C, Suns (51 percent owned), worth $5 FAAB bid
The Suns' acquisition of Brandan Wright made their frontcourt rotation a bit more crowded, but it hasn't really impacted Len yet. In three games since the team traded for Wright, Len is averaging 11.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game. Len has been a bit lost in the shuffle of young big men this season, but he has looked like a fantastic fit for the Suns' fast-paced offense, as long as he can stay healthy. Jusuf Nurkic has been the big addition, but I might prefer Len right now.
Khris Middleton, F, Bucks (54 percent owned), worth $5 FAAB bid
What has made Jason Kidd such a good NBA coach has been his flexibility. He refuses to settle on one style, and instead fits what he does to the roster at hand. On last year's Nets, he turned a plodding, star-centric team into one that had four ball-handlers and played Paul Pierce at power forward. He'll never settle on one rotation for too long if it doesn't work, and that makes him a Fantasy owners worst enemy. The Bucks have a lot of NBA-caliber players -- more than you would expect from a team that finished last in the league a year ago -- and Kidd has made it a point not to lean too heavily on any given role player. Limiting Jared Dudley or Middleton's exposure can help keep them effective, but it also makes it very tough to rely on them for Fantasy purposes. A few weeks ago, Dudley was seeing an extended run of playing time, and was a Fantasy relevant option off the wire as a result. Now, it's Middleton's turn, as he is averaging 13.2 points per game over the last five. If he can earn 30 minutes a night consistently, I'm a really big fan of Middleton's game, but I wouldn't count on it. If you need short-term help, snag him, but don't drop someone you've been stashing for a while, because Middleton's time in your lineup may not last long.
Dion Waiters, G, Thunder (53 percent owned), worth $2 FAAB
Waiters has given the Thunder exactly what we have come to expect since his trade from the Cavaliers a few weeks back. He's scoring at a high volume and not doing much else. Surprisingly, he has played 29.3 minutes per game in four contests, a big improvement from his Cleveland days -- and likely more an indictment of Jeremy Lamb and Anthony Morrow than anything else. Waiters can score and shoot, we know that, though I wouldn't expect him to keep getting 13.8 shots per game on a team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and even Reggie Jackson around. Still, the Thunder are going to give him every chance to succeed, it seems, so he might be a cheap source of 3-pointers and scoring if you can get him.
James Johnson, F, Raptors (24 percent owned)
Dropping Johnson is going to be tough to do after he scored 17 points and did his usual stat-sheet stuffing in Friday's loss to the Hawks. However, that came on a night when no Raptors' starting played more than 32 minutes, so it might be hard for him to keep this up. When he gets minutes, there's no denying Johnson has the ability to give rare production in every category of the stat sheet, but his playing time is going to be inconsistent now that DeMar DeRozan is back, and it might make sense to cut him loose in 12-team or shallower leagues.
Gerald Henderson, G, Hornets (46 percent owned)
Henderson has made real improvements to his game this season, improving his shooting percentage to 45.1 and averaging a career-best 3.1 assists per game. However, he still can't shoot from 3-point range and hardly had much Fantasy appeal before Lance Stephenson's extended absence. Henderson averaged just 7.7 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in the first 23 games, and will probably return to something similar to that production once Stephenson is able to play his full amount of minutes. As bad as Stephenson has been getting him going is more important to the franchise's future than anything Henderson can do, so that should end up being the priority.