Commentary

Player Profiles: Centers

Updated: October 13, 2007, 1:30 AM ET
By Guy Lake | Special to ESPN.com


    Age: 24 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 245 School: Cypress Creek (HS) Years in League: 5 Role: Starting C

    After appearing in all 82 games last season, Amare answered every question about his surgically repaired left knee. Unfortunately, his right knee needed to be scoped this September, though the team insists it's not serious. Look for Amare to be the first option in most of the Suns' half-court sets. Pity the poor pivots who have to contend with him and be ready to draft him toward the end of the first round. His numbers after the All-Star break last season represent the minimum we expect from Amare: 21.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 55.4 percent from the field, 77.2 percent from the line with 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals. The steals probably are not sustainable, but other than this and the lack of assists, these numbers look much like those of the man he was almost traded for this past offseason: Kevin Garnett.

    Bottom Line: He should be the first center off the board this fall, no questions asked. He will play a bigger role in the Suns offense this season and will cash in many dimes from Steve Nash, Boris Diaw and the newly-acquired Grant Hill for easy dunks. You want him. Now go get him.


    Age: 27 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 260 School: None Years in League: 4 Role: Starting PF/C

    Yes, he has a beard that beatniks would envy and clearly is evading the NBA's fashion police, but last season Gasol became an elite center. In the end, fantasy owners don't care about the paella stuck in his beard, we care about the numbers stuck in our totals. They were great numbers last season: 20.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.1 blocks on 53.9 percent shooting from the field and 74.8 percent from the line, with all 59 starts made at center. All this despite coming back from a broken foot suffered in international competition. What makes Gasol special is his ability to contribute in both assists and blocks. No other center can match Gasol in this statistical tandem. He is peaking physically and could be poised to deliver his best season yet.

    Bottom Line: Don't let the shaggy appearance put you off. Gasol is first-round material with his excellent all-around numbers. With the talent added around him and his health restored, Gasol is looking at a career year.


    Age: 26 Ht: 7'6" Wt: 310 School: None Years in League: 5 Role: Starting C

    When healthy, Yao is the most dominant center in the league. He has improved his scoring every year in the league, topping out at 25 per game last season. Throw in nearly 10 rebounds, two blocks and an insane 86.2 percent from the line with a center-best 7.4 made free throws per game and you have a fantasy beast. This season, Jeff Van Gundy has been replaced by Rick Adelman. What does this mean for Yao? Good things. Adelman is a master of making the offense easier for his teams and Yao should see an increase in his numbers across the board, especially in assists as Adelman is sure to take advantage of his passing skills. The only thing holding Yao back is his penchant for foot injuries.

    Bottom Line: Yao is the ultimate risk/reward guy in fantasy basketball. If he stays healthy and plays 75-plus games, he will be a top-5 player overall and the best center in the land. The problem is, you cannot count on this when drafting him; therefore, he should be the third center off the board in your draft.


    Age: 21 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 265 School: Southwest Christian (HS) Years in League: 3 Role: Starting C

    Howard is a lethal combination of speed and power. At 265 pounds, he can power his way past almost any center in the East and when faced up, he can blow past anyone he can't muscle down. Look for Howard to push toward 20 points and 13 or more boards per game. He has improved his defense and should top two blocks per game. The downsides to Howard's game are his free-throw shooting -- he shot a stomach-turning 58.6 percent last season -- and his turnovers. His 3.9 turnovers per game were third-worst in the NBA last season. The big picture looks good for Dwight. As the league becomes more up-tempo, the agile bigs like Howard stand to benefit the most.

    Bottom Line: Howard is a great third-round selection as your starting center. Avoid reaching earlier than this if your league counts turnovers. With him on your team, you will need add good free-throw shooters but you can rest assured that you will be in the hunt for rebounds and competitive in blocked shots.


    Age: 33 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 235 School: Massachusetts Years in League: 11 Role: Starting C

    Camby is the perennial "Do I or don't I" pick of your fantasy draft. We vote "do". A serious look at the numbers will show he is an elite center, injuries or not. Last season, he played in 70 games yet finished seventh in the NBA in total rebounds (816) and first in total blocks (231). The blocks were 24 better than second-place Josh Smith; that, my friends, is making a difference in a hard-to-fill category, despite missing 12 games. He is what Ben Wallace used to be, but with offense. Camby was one of 11 players to finish with at least one block per game (3.3) and one-plus steals (1.2) per game, and one of just three centers to do so.

    Bottom Line: Camby is worth the risk, especially for rotisserie league owners. It's the totals that count in this format and Camby can lead you to the top in blocks, even if he misses 10 games. Little known fact: Camby can dish too. His 3.2 assists per game were second among true centers to Brad Miller (3.6) last season.


    Age: 25 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 252 School: Connecticut Years in League: 3 Role: Starting C/PF

    Okafor proved a great value last season, averaging 14.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 0.9 steals in 67 games. After an injury-plagued second season, it was nice to see Okafor come out relatively healthy. He is a beast for blocked shots and rebounds and the steals are solid for a big man, but his free-throw shooting is plain beastly at 59.3 percent. Still, Okafor upgraded offensively last season. After two years of shooting less than 45 percent (horrible for any big man), he became far more efficient with the rock, connecting on 53.2 percent of his shots. The addition of Jason Richardson should not affect Okafor's scoring much. He remains the third option and will score in the mid-teens.

    Bottom Line: Okafor is an excellent choice in the early-middle rounds when you need rebounds and blocks. His woes at the free-throw line are all too typical for big men, and his owners should be careful to draft some quality shooters at the line to keep Okafor from dragging this stat down.


    Age: 28 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 249 School: None Years in League: 5 Role: Starting C

    Okur regressed a bit last season. After averaging 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in 2005-06, he slackened his output to 17.6 points and 7.2 boards. Carlos Boozer's dominant play inside obviously had a lot to do with this and as a result Okur took and made more 3-pointers. His 1.6 made 3's per game were tops among center-eligible players. We don't see much changing for the Jazz this season. Boozer will continue to bang inside and Okur will drift to the 3-point line and shoot away as Deron Williams drives and dishes. Okur is different from other top centers. He is a defensive liability -- he averaged just 0.5 blocks and 0.5 steals last season -- yet is a good scorer who hits 3-pointers. Build around his strengths and weaknesses and you should be quite happy with Okur.

    Bottom Line: Okur is a good choice at center once the top guys at the position have been taken. Importantly, he has been healthier than most of the top centers and provides solid scoring and rebounding. If you select him, you will have to look for blocks elsewhere.


    Age: 26 Ht: 7' 1" Wt: 235 School: Dominguez (HS) Years in League: 7 Role: Starting C

    Chandler was quite a find last season for owners in the know. As a high-schooler, Chris Paul watched Chandler play at the McDonald's All-American game and came away wanting to throw lobs to the big man. Last season, it happened and Chandler reached a career high in scoring with 9.5 points per game. With Morris Peterson now in the fold and other key players returning to health, don't expect Chandler to add much scoring this season, despite his stellar field-goal percentage (62.4). What Chandler will continue to do is develop into a defensive force. He will be a double-digit rebounder and should block two-plus shots per game this season. Don't fret much over his poor showing at the line, just 52.7 percent. He shoots so little there -- just 2.8 attempts per game -- he won't hurt you much.

    Bottom Line: Chandler is a younger version of Ben Wallace, and his career is on the rise. He will inhale rebounds and swat shots like flies at a barbecue. His scoring is weak and free-throw shooting abysmal, but these categories can be covered easily by other players.


    Age: 22 Ht: 6' 11" Wt: 245 School: Texas Years in League: 1 Role: Starting C/PF

    Don't call him a sleeper. Aldridge is big and mobile, he blocks shots and he has a sweet jump hook. He also runs the floor well and has good hands. With Greg Oden out and Zach Randolph traded, Aldridge will be the offensive focus of the Trail Blazers' front line. Look for a big improvement in all his numbers. To get a sense of what Aldridge is capable, look at his numbers from March, when he played starter's minutes. He averaged 30 minutes, 14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals on 52 percent from the field and 73 percent from the line. We expect him to build on this and move into regular double-double territory with good blocks and an excellent percentage from the field.

    Bottom Line: He has the size and skills to perform very well in the NBA, and keeper-league owners should be all over him. But Aldridge is being overhyped right now, and you should be careful not to reach too early if there are more proven vets available. Remember, he had foot issues this past spring and summer, and they could return.


    Age: 26 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 250 School: Seton Hall Years in League: 5 Role: Starting C

    Dalembert achieved something last season that had eluded him his entire career. After years of up and down play, the Haitian Sensation (who actually learned to play his ball in Montreal, Quebec) finally gained consistency. The Allen Iverson trade made a big difference. His shot attempts increased (5.7 to 8.6) and scoring went up (8.5 to 11.3) after AI stopped playing for Philly. Dalembert remained a force rebounding and blocking shots throughout the season and shot well from the field and the line. All in all, he was a model, if not quite elite, center. This season, he should improve as he will enjoy a full season with more offensive opportunities and teammates, like Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala, who are willing to share the ball. Keep an eye on him through October as he suffered a stress fracture in his foot playing for Canada during the FIBA Americas tournament.

    Bottom Line: Dalembert should average close to a double-double this season with about two blocks per game and good percentages. It's nice owning a center with his potential that won't hurt you anywhere. If not for his foot, Sammy would be one spot higher on our list.


    Age: 21 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 245 School: None Years in League: 3 Role: Starting C

    Last season, Don Nelson took advantage of Biedrins' greatest strengths -- his athleticism, speed and soft hands -- and allowed him to blossom. Biedrins was expert at converting pick-and-rolls with Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, and you should expect to see more of the same this season. The question is what can he add to his game? If the FIBA European Championships are any indication, not a lot. He was great around the basket, but his free-throw shooting was subpar (55 percent) and his attempts to take his game a little further outside were not successful. Still, Biedrins has the skills to put up another season of very strong numbers with the Warriors. Just be ready for Nellie to sit him when he is being tossed around like Raggedy Andris by the bigger centers in the league.

    Bottom Line: Biedrins may be a bit overvalued this season, but if taken in the seventh round or later in mid-sized leagues, he is a good selection. If he can add either 10 pounds to his frame or a 10-foot jumper to his game, he will be a very difficult matchup.


    Age: 25 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 265 School: Central Michigan Years in League: 3 Role: Starting C

    After a disappointing third season that saw his numbers drop across categories, Kaman is motivated to put it behind him. How motivated? He cut his hair. Oh, and he signed on to play summer ball in Vegas with the rookies and scrubs. A look at last season's numbers shows there were positives along with the disappointments. Despite playing nearly four fewer minutes per contest than the previous season, Kaman improved his blocks from 1.4 to 1.6 per game. This season, with Elton Brand sidelined for the first three months minimum, the Clippers are going to lean on Kaman in the middle. If Kaman can trust himself, knock off the excess dribbling, and take it strong to the rim -- he can finish well with either hand -- his numbers will rise.

    Bottom Line: Kaman is poised to bounce back for the Clippers and his owners. Look for regular double-doubles in points and rebounds, complemented by a healthy dose of blocks. Kaman has the ability to be a top center; maybe with the days of the skullet behind him, he will take the next step.


    Age: 22 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 245 School: Utah Years in League: 2 Role: Starting C

    Bogut went public this offseason with his distaste for bling culture in America. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the post this season. Our guess? It could get a little rough in there. That controversy aside, the big Aussie could take a big step forward this season. He made solid improvements in all major categories last season, except free-throw percentage (57.7). This season, with a healthier, deeper team surrounding him, Bogut could break out. The ceiling isn't that high for Bogut, but achieving 15 points, 10 rebounds and four-plus assists with 55 percent shooting from the field seems achievable. Bogut needs to improve his defensive numbers to move higher on this list, and greater attention to fundamental skills like free-throw shooting would help as well.

    Bottom Line: Bogut will get better. It is just a matter of how much better. One would like to think he could become the next version of Brad Miller. He has the size and the passing ability, but he simply does not shoot well enough to merit this consideration.

  1. Ben Wallace, Chicago Bulls

  2. Age: 32 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 240 School: Virginia Union Years in League: 11 Role: Starting C

    Consider Wallace the Lion in Winter. He is still the king, but we are all waiting for a successor to be named. Wallace has long dominated the defensive categories at the center position. However, he also been in a state of steady decline for five-plus years. His rebounds and blocks have declined each season during that span. They will do so again this year. We do not expect Wallace to equal his 35 minutes per game from last season. The young lions -- Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah -- are ready to take some of those minutes and Scott Skiles will rest Wallace more for the playoffs than he did last season. Nonetheless, Wallace, along with Marcus Camby, will be one of the few centers to get you more than a steal and block per game, so he still has value. But you can't draft him and assume you will dominate rebounds and blocks like you could in years past.

    Bottom Line: Boards, blocks and steals; there will be fewer than last season but enough to have solid value. Anything else you get out of Wallace is just gravy.

  3. Brad Miller, Sacramento Kings

  4. Age: 31 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 261 School: Purdue Years in League: 9 Role: Starting C

    Miller was so bad last season when compared to his All-Star production of previous seasons that he has to be considered a sleeper this season. He showed up last fall out of shape and unmotivated. Word is he was dealing with some family issues. It showed. He rededicated himself to conditioning this offseason. If new coach Reggie Theus can extract a more focused effort and take advantage of Miller's passing, Miller is still young enough at 31 to put up another strong fantasy season. The biggest issue for him is durability. He has averaged just 56.9 games per season in his 10-year career. Take him a bit later in your drafts and you could get a nice value.

    Bottom Line: With great percentages and the promise of four assists from the center spot, Miller could once again be one of the better values in the game. Just don't reach for him.


    Age: 32 Ht: 7'3" Wt: 260 School: None Years in League: 8 Role: Starting C

    After several more-than-solid seasons at center, Big Z's star dimmed last season with LeBron James completely taking over the Cavaliers offense. Ilgauskas lost time on the court (down two minutes per game from 2005-06) as the Cavs gave more time to the younger, faster, and floppier Anderson Varejao. If Varejao is ever re-signed by the Cavs, Ilgauskas can look forward to another sub-30 minute-per-game season. And given the importance the league has placed on speed, Big Z will likely see his scoring opportunities decline or remain at the five-year low he hit last season. Indeed, the 2.5 free-throw attempts per game from last season were a career low and serve as an indicator of how much Z was out of the offensive flow.

    Bottom Line: Keep an eye on the free-agent signings in Cleveland. If Varejao moves on, Z will get more minutes, and you can move him up the list. His percentages are still there; he just needs more attempts for you to be able take advantage of them.


    Age: 20 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 275 School: None Years in League: 2 Role: Starting C

    We are pretty sure Kobe will leave him undrafted in his league, but make sure you don't do the same. For all the stories about Kobe's disappointment in the Lakers' unwillingness to trade Bynum this summer, let's not forget that Bynum is very talented and was just 19 last season. This combination of bad press and serious talent is a boon for owners in search of good draft day values. Let the naysayers join Kobe in dismissing the youngster while you swoop in late. And who knows, Kobe may still get his wish and Bynum could be moved. If Bynum comes in motivated by all the trade talk, he could deliver on the promise the Lakers' front office sees in him.

    Bottom Line: Keep an eye Mitch Kupchak this October. A trade could open more minutes for Bynum. He blocked 1.6 shots in just 22 minutes per game last season. With more PT he should become a regular double-double threat and an imposing figure on defense. Keeper leagues should be all over Bynum.


    Age: 24 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 285 School: Thornwood (HS) Years in League: 6 Role: Starting C

    Curry led the Knicks in scoring last season with 19.5 points per game and was a beast in the low post. His size allows him to establish position and hold it easily while using his quickness and soft touch around the rim to help him convert a high percentage (57.3) from the field. The big question facing Curry is the addition of Zach Randolph, another proficient low-post scorer. While Z-Bo's presence should mean fewer double-teams, it could also mean fewer shots. There are other reasons to knock Curry down your cheat sheets: He is never going to be a great rebounder -- last season he averaged a career-high 7.0 boards in over 35 minutes per game. He also had more turnovers than any center not named Dwight Howard (3.6). The revelation he has a torn labrum is very troubling. This is the same injury that sent Lamar Odom to the surgeon's table in May.

    Bottom Line: Curry is solid for points and field-goal percentage. Be aware that the addition of Randolph and the injured shoulder will diminish his value. Move him up your cheat sheets if you play in non-turnover leagues.


    Age: 25 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 275 School: None Years in League: 3 Role: Starting C/PF

    Krstic could prove to be a steal in drafts this fall, but a few things need to happen for that to be the case. First, he needs to be healthy after suffering a torn ACL last December. Reports from training camp say that Krstic has added much needed muscle. This should help him in the post where it took little more than Zaza Pachulia passing gas to knock him out of position. Reports also say his minutes will be seriously limited to start the season. This could hurt him in the long term. The additions of Sean Williams and Jamaal Magloire could eat into his minutes if he takes too long getting back. To his advantage, Krstic is far more skilled offensively than either Magloire or Williams. Before his ACL injury, Krstic was averaging career highs in scoring (16.4), rebounding (6.8), field-goal percentage (52.6), blocks (0.9) and assists (1.8).

    Bottom Line: Krstic should earn more minutes as the season progresses and if he is able to build strength, he could become a more effective rebounder and defensive player. This will be especially true if he starts at power forward with Magloire at center

  5. Shaquille O'Neal, Miami Heat

  6. Age: 35 Ht: 7'1" Wt: 325 School: LSU Years in League: 15 Role: Starting C

    After 15 seasons, Shaq is no longer the dominant force he once was in the league and in fantasy. Last season, he played in just 40 games, and that followed a 59-game season. Shaq still puts up solid numbers when he is out there -- he averaged 17.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks with 59.1 percent shooting from the field and his typically abysmal 42.2 percent from the line. In rotisserie leagues, there is little reason to reach for Shaq. He is unlikely to play more than 60 games and his free-throw shooting is a notorious category killer. In head-to-head leagues, Shaq is far more valuable as teams can punt free throws and get a huge boost in field-goal percentage from the Diesel. Still, Shaq only helps when he is out there and that hasn't been nearly enough the past two seasons.

    Bottom Line: Many fantasy players will have a strict "no Shaq" policy because of his poor free-throw shooting. This makes sense in rotisserie, but don't forget your league format; what's good for roto may not be good for head-to-head.

  7. Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta Hawks

  8. Age: 23 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 280 School: None Years in League: 4 Role: Starting C

    Pachulia has been a solid No. 2 center the past two seasons. He provides good percentages, especially from the line (78.6 last season), resulting in double-digit scoring, and was the third-best thief among center-eligible players last season with 1.1 steals per game. There is a good chance, however, that Pachulia will slip a bit this season. This is not because of any physical defect; rather it is a matter of playing time. With the addition of third overall pick Al Horford, Pachulia could see his minutes pinched despite remaining the starting center. After all, he lost time last season (from 31 minutes to 28) with Shelden Williams' arrival, and Horford is a wee bit better than Williams.

    Bottom Line: Zaza will still be a good value because of his points, boards and steals, but expect a slight decrease in his overall numbers due to the competition in the Hawks' frontcourt.


    Age: 31 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 250 School: Pittsburgh Years in League: 7 Role: Starting C

    Mark Blount is far from your prototypical fantasy center, but this does not mean he is without value. He gets you points and good percentages from the line. He is a smooth operator on the offensive end, regularly hitting baseline jumpers and converting free throws. But somehow, despite standing 7-feet tall, he seems constitutionally incapable of rebounding. Last season, he averaged 12.3 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the line and 75.4 percent from the line, but grabbed just 6.2 boards a game, prompting Eddy Curry to send him a thank you card at the end of the season. He doesn't block many shots and is, in general, a liability on defense.

    Bottom Line: He'll average double-digit points with good percentages, but if you draft Blount, be sure you have your rebounding and blocks in order from other positions.

  9. Jamaal Magloire, New Jersey Nets

  10. Age: 29 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 265 School: Kentucky Years in League: 7 Role: Starting/Backup C

    Magloire fell off the fantasy map last season, averaging a scant 6.5 points and 6.1 rebounds as the backup center for the Blazers (though he did start 23 games). His free-throw shooting remained awful (53.4) and he has never been a good shot-blocker (1.1 per game for his career). So with all these accolades, why are we ranking him just outside the top 20? Two words: Jason Kidd. You saw what NBA vagabond Mikki Moore did with Kidd passing to him last season, right? Magloire is a better rebounder than Moore and, with Kidd dishing to him, should be able to top 10 points a game. It is unclear if he will line up as the starting center, with the better-shooting Nenad Krstic sliding to power forward, but this is the most likely scenario.

    Bottom Line: Magloire could be a decent No. 2 center playing alongside Jason Kidd. He should play a lot more minutes than he did last season even if he doesn't start. His scoring and rebounding will be solid, but know that he is turnover-prone and shoots miserably from the charity stripe.


    Age: 23 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 260 School: Clifton J. Ozen (HS) None Years in League: 4 Role: Starting C

    The forgotten man in the TD Banknorth Garden is the Celtics' starting center. With the All-Star additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, it is no surprise that the man in the middle is being overlooked. Still, the discerning fantasy owner will see some value here. Perkins should see a slight bump in scoring as his man is likely to double-team KG in the post, and we all know how good Garnett is at passing out of double-teams. His hard-nosed play does lead to a lot of fouls, but should endear him to Garnett. Also, he is a better passer than most people realize (1.3 assists in limited minutes). Given the Celtics lack of depth at center (Scot Pollard is the backup), we expect Perkins to play a career high in minutes. More minutes means more counting stats, and that means more value.

    Bottom Line: Perkins will help you in blocks and rebounds as a second center. He is far from gifted on offense, but he could increase his scoring a bit if he is ready to handle the hot passes coming his way out of double-teams.

  11. Joel Przybilla, Portland Trail Blazers

  12. Age: 28 Ht: 7'1" Wt: 255 School: Minnesota Years in League: 7 Role: Starting C Przybilla may not have even made this list if not for Greg Oden's microfracture surgery. As it is, Joel should be the starting center for the Trail Blazers. As such, he is going to have fantasy value. Last season, he split time with Jamaal Magloire and was of little use to fantasy teams. This season, he will be called on to be the defensive stopper for Portland. He is an excellent shot-blocker when given the playing time. Przybilla will be part of a frontcourt rotation that includes LaMarcus Aldridge and Channing Frye, but they both do their best work at the 4. Still, when the Blazers want to go smaller, Przybilla will sit. We forecast six points, seven boards and two blocks in about 25 minutes per game.

    Bottom Line: Consider him a less-expensive, less-talented version of Samuel Dalembert. A solid No. 2 center who really helps in blocked shots and rebounding, though his lack of scoring will need to be addressed.


    Age: 21 Ht: 7'1" Wt: 270 School: Bakersfield (HS) Years in League: 3 Role: Starting/Backup C

    Where for the past few seasons the unchallenged best hair at the center position belonged to Chris Kaman, we could have a new contender with Swift's return and Kaman sheering his once-flowing locks. Swift should be of interest for more than his glowing sunset of a mane. He is a solid sleeper at center. Until he tore his ACL last preseason, he was a breakout candidate. We saw Swift first-hand this summer and he is significantly more muscular. The added strength should help a player who already has the ability to score inside and block shots. The risks with Swift are his knee's stability and his overall conditioning. It could take some time for him to get back into game shape. The upside is he is the NBA's best candidate to be this year's Andris Biedrins.

    Bottom Line: Swift will have the opportunity to open the season as the Sonics' starting center. He just needs to knock off the rust and show that he is physically ready to hold the job. If you are in need of blocks and boards late in your draft, Swift will be a good option.


    Age: 28 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 265 School: North Carolina Years in League: 6 Role: Backup/Starting C

    To say Haywood didn't have a good relationship with time-share partner Etan Thomas is a gross understatement, but now much more will be asked of the former Tar Heel with the news that Thomas required open-heart surgery for an irregularity found during a routine exam. Had he shared time with Thomas, you could have expected averages of about 7.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 51 percent shooting from the field and 60 percent from the line. With an expected uptick in minutes, the rebounds and blocks are where Haywood should experience the greatest increase from those orginal projections. Haywood is big, can block shots and clean the glass, but his offensive game is limited by his hands. He often has a hard time holding onto the ball and catching passes. That's OK on a team like the Wizards, who have plenty of scoring options.

    Bottom Line: Haywood will provide decent numbers for a backup fantasy center. Thomas' surgery, which could be career-threatening, instantly makes Haywood worth watching and more worthy of being a No. 2 on your team, particularly in deeper leagues.

  13. Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat

  14. Age: 37 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 260 School: Georgetown Years in League: 14 Role: Backup C

    Mourning provides surprising value for a backup center. Last season, he blocked 178 shots (2.3 per game), sixth in the NBA, despite playing at least nine fewer minutes per game than anyone else in the top 10. As Shaq's backup, Zo will see starts. The Big Diesel hasn't started more than 59 games in the past two seasons. This is when Zo's value takes off. In 43 starts last season, Zo averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and an amazing 3.1 blocks. Blocks are a rare commodity in fantasy basketball and there will be no better value in the category than Mourning in the later rounds of your draft.

    Bottom Line: Despite being a backup, Zo retains value as a blocked-shot specialist who can help in other categories as well, especially when he is called on to start for Shaq. Pick him up late in your draft if you need the blocks.

  15. Mikki Moore, Sacramento Kings

  16. Age: 32 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 225 School: Nebraska Years in League: 9 Role: Backup C/PF

    Moore had bounced around the league for years, but never got regular minutes until last season with the Nets. He was the big beneficiary when Nenad Krstic went down with a torn ACL. Mikki shot a stellar 60.9 percent from the field and helped a little with rebounding (5.1) and blocks (0.8) as well. Don't expect him to be as efficient on offense this season. After all, it's one thing to have Jason Kidd setting you up for easy lay-ins and another to be praying for offensive rebounds when Mike Bibby lets another one fly. Plus, with all the bigs competing for playing time, it is unlikely that Moore reaches the 26 minutes per game he did in '06-07.

    Bottom Line: We don't like Moore that much this season. He will need to rely on rebounding more in Sacramento and that isn't his strength. He is efficient around the basket, but without Kidd to set him up, he will struggle to score.


    Age: 29 Ht: 6'11" Wt: 250 School: Texas State Years in League: 8 Role: Starting C

    Foster does one thing well: rebound the basketball. Last season, he pulled in 8.1 boards per game despite not being in the best health (Achilles tendinitis and back spasms). His offensive game is limited to putbacks and tip-ins, so last season's poor shooting percentage (47.1) can be attributed to his health issues. Still, when he averages just four shots per game (3.8 for his career), there's only so much a player can help or hurt you here. In the end, Foster is valuable for his boards and the occasional steal.

    Bottom Line: Foster is a one-trick pony, but he does that one trick well enough that he can be considered a decent option as a backup center in fantasy leagues.

  17. Primoz Brezec, Charlotte Bobcats

  18. Age: 28 Ht: 7'1" Wt: 255 School: None Years in League: 6 Role: Starting C

    Brezec had issues last season and they cost him the starting center job in Charlotte for at least part of the season. He was felled by exhaustion brought on by international play in the offseason. This year he did not play for the Serbian national team and should be well-rested. If he is healthy and confident, he will assume the starting center job and provide his owners with solid scoring and solid percentages for a big man. With starter's minutes, Brezec should average around 12 points and six-plus rebounds per game. The downsides to Brezec are his defense and subpar rebounding. He does not block shots or grab steals. He is a guy who shoots a nice mid-range jumper and provides good numbers from the line and the field.

    Bottom Line: Solid but not spectacular, Brezec should be drafted in the mid-to-late rounds as a No. 2 center in fantasy leagues.

  19. Adonal Foyle, Orlando Magic

  20. Age: 32 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 270 School: Colgate Years in League: 10 Role: Backup C

    Foyle is another one-category specialist (blocked shots), but one who deserves a look in deeper leagues. Last season, he became very familiar with Warriors season ticket holders at the end of the bench. This season, on the Magic, he will see a lot more run. He will serve as the defensive specialist along the front line, backing up Dwight Howard. However, blocks and a handful of boards is all you can expect from Foyle. Hands of stone are great for swatting balls, not so much for catching or shooting them.

    Bottom Line: The Magic will give Foyle more of a chance to play than the Warriors did last season and Foyle's blocks should get back to between 1.5 and 2.0 a game. Deep-league teams looking for blocks can use that.


    Age: 25 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 280 School: None Years in League: 6 Role: Backup/Starting C

    Diop's fantasy value is limited to blocked shots. Diop averaged only slightly fewer blocks per game (1.4) than points (2.3) last season. He didn't play enough minutes to be of much help on the glass either, pulling in just 5.4 boards in 18.6 minutes per contest. Diop's production did pick up a bit in the Mavs' first-round playoff debacle against the Warriors. He averaged 3.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game. If he can increase his minutes and hit these averages he will have marginal value for his blocks. With Dampier recovering from his shoulder surgery through November, Diop will have an opportunity to do just that.

    Bottom Line: Grab Diop if you are in a deep league and in a deep hole for blocked shots. He is unlikely to help meaningfully in any other categories, though he will get a chance the first month of the season while Dampier is out.

  21. Erick Dampier, Dallas Mavericks

  22. Age: 32 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 265 School: Mississippi State Years in League: 11 Role: Staring/Backup C

    Dampier will have the starting job when he returns from shoulder surgery in early December, but will once again share time with DeSagana Diop. His minutes should remain about the same (25 per game). In deeper leagues, Damp still has value as he will get you decent rebounds (7.1 last season) and a little better than a block per game. However, his rebounding and blocks have declined the past two seasons and barring an injury to Diop or a sudden burst of renewed effort (cough), this trend is likely to continue. Take Dampier late and strap yourself in for some mediocrity.

    Bottom Line: Dampier's value will depend largely on the matchup. When facing teams that prefer the half court, Dampier will see more minutes; when Dallas plays faster teams, Avery Johnson will lean on the younger, faster Diop. Dampier will not play in November due to his shoulder surgery.


    Age: 29 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 250 School: Kentucky Years in League: 9 Role: Starting C

    Mohammed is still the starting center in Detroit. Of the currently-signed players on the Pistons roster, he and Rasheed Wallace are the only two with center experience, and Sheed is clearly more of a power forward. Mohammed was not terribly impressive last season, but his totals were depressed by the arrival of Chris Webber, who supplanted him as the starting center. If Mohammed can average 20-plus minutes per game, he retains some limited fantasy value. As a starter last season, he averaged 7.6 points, 5.6 boards, 1.1 blocks, and 0.8 steals. Not great, but as a second center in deep leagues you could do worse. It was just three seasons ago when he averaged double figures in scoring for the Knicks.

    Bottom Line: Mohammed is a solid late-round draft selection in deeper two-center leagues. He will block about a shot per game and if he can play in the mid-20s for minutes, he will get some double-doubles as well.

  23. Spencer Hawes, Sacramento Kings

  24. Age: 19 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 240 School: Washington Years in League: R Role: Backup C

    Negatives: He's a rookie; he played just one season of college ball; he will be more than challenged defensively; he's vermicelli-skinny at 7-feet and 240 pounds; he has a sore left knee that has already undergone microfracture surgery. Positives: He was the No. 10 overall pick in a deep draft in June and that should get him some minutes if healthy; he is the second-most skilled center on the team (sorry Mikki); he's 7-feet tall and on a team that started Shareef Abdur-Rahim at center for 20 games, which counts for a lot; Brad Miller is playing in front of him; the same Brad Miller who has averaged 56.9 games per season in his career.

    Bottom Line: Hawes is not worth drafting so long as the news is bad about his knee. When the Kings give up on their playoff dreams -- say January -- a healthy Hawes should get the obligatory "let's-see-what-the-young-guys-can-do" minutes.

  25. Josh Boone, New Jersey Nets

  26. Age: 22 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 245 School: Connecticut Years in League: 1 Role: Backup C/PF

    With Nenad Krstic still not ready for full-time minutes, Boone has a chance to have some value in Jersey this season. Boone is very efficient around the basket and, much like Mikki Moore did last season, stands to benefit from Jason Kidd's deft passing. Depending on how many minutes Krstic can handle -- or if he even starts the season -- Boone could get minutes at both power forward and center.

    Bottom Line: Boone is helpful for his high percentages and rebounding. He is capable of solid scoring nights, but don't count on too many with all the other options in New Jersey.

  27. Chris Mihm, Los Angeles Lakers

  28. Age: 28 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 265 School: Texas Years in League: 7 Role: Backup C/PF

    Mihm's reconstructive ankle surgery cost him all of last season. After missing a full season, there are a lot of questions surrounding Mihm, but he is further along in his recovery than Kwame Brown at this point and is ready for training camp. With minutes, Mihm can help fantasy teams with his scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking. In his last season as a starter, he averaged 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. He has a solid offensive game and is willing to hit the glass. If Brown and Andrew Bynum fail to seize the moment, Mihm has the skills to reclaim his minutes and his modest fantasy value.

    Bottom Line: Mihm doesn't have the upside to put up huge numbers, but you could end up with a solid No. 2 center at the end of your draft or off the waiver wire. In deeper leagues, he is a sleeper as a No. 2 center.


    Age: 31 Ht: 7'0" Wt: 255 School: None Years in League: 9 Role: Starting C

    You're still reading this? That's one deep league you are in, brother. Well, welcome to Rasholand, that place where centers of little value live. Rasho actually can be of modest value in deep leagues. He is a starter for Toronto and has always blocked shots. Once again, he should average minutes in the low-20s. He will block better than a shot per game and occasionally go off; he blocked three or more shots in a game nine times last season. Did we mention he rarely turns the ball over? He had just 56 in 80 games last season. See? It's not all bad.

    Bottom Line: Nesterovic is waiver material at best, but if you are hurting for blocks, he could be serviceable.


    Age: 32 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 245 School: None Years in League: 2 Role: Backup C

    Oberto will split time at center with Francisco Elson and put up modest numbers during the season. He is capable of occasional big nights, such as back-to-back 14-point, 7-rebound nights against the Jazz in the Western Conference Finals, but these won't be common enough to satisfy fantasy owners. He doesn't block many shots, but is a capable passer.

    Bottom Line: Oberto isn't really worth owning in any format. However, in deep head-to-head leagues, teams who are injured up front may try to catch him on one of his good nights. Good luck with that.

  29. Etan Thomas, Washington Wizards

  30. Age: 29 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 260 School: Syracuse Years in League: 6 Role: Starting/Backup C

    Thomas underwent open-heart surgery on Oct. 11 to repair a leak of the aortic valve, so he's very likely to miss the entire 2007-08 season. We certainly wish the energetic Thomas a quick, and more importantly, complete recovery from this serious procedure. Thomas is very fortunate that the Wizards' routine check-up detected the irregularity in time for him to get the problem corrected.

    Bottom Line: It's possible his heart problem could be career threatening, and coach Eddie Jordan has already stated that he'll go with "two bigs and three smalls" often times this season. Andray Blatche and Darius Songaila are the Wizards who may see increased time because of this tough development.