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2021-2022 Fantasy Basketball Rankings: Centers

karl-anthony towns NBA DFS lineup picks fanduel draftkings daily fantasy basketball

Boom! Just like that, we are only three weeks away from the NBA Regular season. That can only mean one thing: Fantasy Hoops is back! With tip-off fast approaching, you will need to begin preparing for your fantasy draft, and what better way to do that than with draft rankings!

In case you missed it, the NBA Team here at RotoBaller released our 21-22 rankings in late September and while it's mostly what you'd expect, there are a few surprises that stuck out. Rather than simply posting a list of rankings without context, I'll be doing a three-part series to provide some extra insight and analysis to our consensus rankings.

For the first and second installments, we went over the fantasy basketball guard rankings and fantasy basketball forward rankings. And then there was one. Now let's wrap up this series by taking a closer look at the center position.

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Fantasy Basketball Center Rankings

Note: These rankings are based on our staff's H2H 9-cat rankings.

Tier Rank Player Team Positions
1 1 Nikola Jokic DEN C
1 4 Karl-Anthony Towns MIN C
1 8 Joel Embiid PHI C
2 12 Anthony Davis LAL PF,C
2 15 Bam Adebayo MIA PF,C
2 16 Nikola Vucevic CHI C
2 19 Domantas Sabonis IND PF,C
3 26 Rudy Gobert UTH C
3 30 Deandre Ayton PHO C
4 34 Julius Randle NYK PF,C
4 36 Myles Turner IND C
4 38 Clint Capela ATL C
4 40 Richaun Holmes SAC C,PF
4 42 Kristaps Porzingis DAL PF,C
4 43 John Collins ATL PF,C
5 53 Jusuf Nurkic POR C
5 55 Robert Williams III BOS C
5 58 Jonas Valanciunas NOR C
6 67 Jarrett Allen CLE C
6 68 Draymond Green GSW PF,C
6 70 Isaiah Stewart DET PF,C
6 72 Chris Boucher TOR PF,C
7 83 Mitchell Robinson NYK C
7 86 Brook Lopez MIL C
7 94 Jakob Poeltl SAS C
8 102 Wendell Carter Jr. ORL C
8 103 Kelly Olynyk DET PF,C
8 105 Nerlens Noel NYK C
8 107 Mason Plumlee CHA PF,C
8 111 Mo Bamba ORL C
8 113 Larry Nance Jr. POR PF,C
8 114 Khem Birch TOR PF,C
9 119 Evan Mobley CLE PF,C
9 121 Ivica Zubac LAC C
9 122 Montrezl Harrell WAS PF,C
9 129 Al Horford BOS PF,C
9 130 Nicolas Claxton BKN PF,C
9 134 Andre Drummond PHI C
9 135 Bobby Portis Jr. MIL PF,C
10 142 Steven Adams MEM C
10 143 Derrick Favors OKC PF,C
10 148 Isaiah Roby OKC PF,C
11 160 James Wiseman GSW C
11 164 Enes Kanter BOS C
11 169 Moses Brown DAL C
11 177 Davis Bertans WAS PF,C
12 185 Daniel Theis HOU PF,C
12 189 Serge Ibaka LAC PF,C
13 200 Kevin Love CLE PF,C
13 207 Blake Griffin DET PF,C
13 208 Thomas Bryant WAS C
13 212 Hassan Whiteside UTH C
13 214 Naz Reid MIN C
13 217 Goga Bitadze IND C
13 221 Paul Millsap DEN PF,C
13 223 LaMarcus Aldridge SAS PF,C
13 225 Dario Saric PHO PF,C,SF
13 226 Dewayne Dedmon N/A C
13 228 Dwight Howard PHI PF,C
13 230 Cody Zeller CHA PF,C
13 233 Dwight Powell DAL PF,C
13 234 DeAndre Jordan BKN C
13 239 Marc Gasol LAL C
13 244 Tristan Thompson BOS PF,C
13 251 Jaxson Hayes NOP C
13 254 Zach Collins POR PF, C
13 255 Aron Baynes TOR PF,C
13 257 Cheick Diallo FA PF,C
13 258 Kevon Looney GSW PF,C
13 259 DeMarcus Cousins HOU PF,C

 

KAT vs. Embiid

Was an MVP-caliber season from Joel Embiid good enough to make him the best big man after Nikola Jokic for fantasy this season? After looking at our consensus ranks, it appears not. Karl-Anthony Towns slots in as the second center and the number six overall player while Embiid falls two spots to number eight. Believe it or not, I'm convinced KAT is too low at six.

At first glance, we see one analyst has Embiid at six and another all the way down at 11. That's a pretty large spread for someone who finished with 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks and steals a season ago. So what's leading to this discrepancy? It's solely health. Embiid has never played a full complement of games once in his career. As a matter of fact, he's only played in 260-of-555 possible games throughout his first seven years if you include his first two seasons in which he missed every single game. While his health and durability have improved, it's still a concern. Even if you remove his first two seasons with the Sixers, he's only suited up for 66 percent of his regular-season games. That's a substantial risk to take on when making your first-round selection.

There's a snowball's chance in hell that Ben Simmons plays for the Sixers this season, so Embiid should again flirt with a 40 percent usage rating. While that's great in a points league, the elite usage could lead to a lower field goal percentage and more turnovers (cc Trae Young and Luka Doncic).

Despite all of the concerns, he does give you elite scoring, rebounding, and blocks all while shooting just under 50 percent from the field. He also shot 85 percent from the free-throw line last season, which is impressive for a seven-footer. Embiid is a surefire first-round pick but is closer to the second-round than the top-five.

Speaking of top-five, two analysts (including myself) have KAT as at number four overall. Yes, I believe Towns is a top-five pick this season. He has the upside to give you everything that Embiid does, but with more assists, fewer turnovers, and with better efficiency. Looking at the numbers, KAT has shot greater than 50 percent from the field in five of the last six seasons and knocked down at least 40 percent of his threes in three of the last four seasons. You have a significant advantage in 9-Cat if your center is providing that kind of value from beyond the arc.

With Anthony Edwards, D'Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley all healthy to begin the year, Towns could very well have the most efficient season of his career. There is a real possibility he puts up 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists on 50/40/85 splits, which would make him a no-brainer selection in the top five.

 

The Shot Blockers

Once we get past Towns, Embiid, and even Nikola Vucevic, there appears to be a large dropoff in elite centers with three-point shooting ability. The next tier of guys does two things well: grab rebounds and block shots. Rudy Gobert, Myles Turner, Robert Williams highlight this group of elite shot blockers, and each of them are fantastic picks if you decide to wait for a round or two to select a center.

Gobert is the obvious leader here, as the three-time reigning defensive player of the year has averaged no less than 2.0 blocks per game in every season since his rookie year. Combine that with his 64 percent career field goal percentage and his 13 rebounds per game and you have yourself a massive advantage in three categories. His lack of a three-point game and poor free-throw percentages bring his value back down to Earth, however.

Turner is one of the most underrated fantasy centers every single year. It seems like no one is talking about the fact that he averaged an insane 3.4 blocks per game last season. That's unreal. He even sprinkles in a three or two every night just for good measure. He has to be behind Gobert, however, as he scores fewer points, grabs fewer rebounds, and shoots worse from the field. Pairing him with a high-scoring, high-assist player like James Harden just makes so much sense in 9-Cat.

Williams comes in next with high upside but also a few question marks. The talent is clearly there, as he averaged nearly 2.0 blocks in only 18.9 minutes per game last season. That's an elite 3.4 blocks Per-36 minutes! While he should get more playing time this season with Tristan Thompson and Daniel Thies out of the picture, the Celtics did bring back Al Horford. Early on it appears that Big Al will open the season as the starting center, but Williams should see around 25 minutes a night, which is more than enough time for Time Lord to produce fantasy gold. You know your getting elite field goal percentage, elite shot-blocking, and a solid amount of rebounds. If you do select Williams as your center based on the upside, it would make a ton of sense to add someone like Jarrett Allen or Wendell Carter Jr. later in the draft to be safe.

Centers With The Most Downside

Who am I lower on than the consensus?

Jarrett Allen - Cleveland Cavaliers
RB ranking: 60, Alex ranking: 78

While I did just mention Allen as a possible solution directly above, I'm not comfortable selecting him as a top-60 guy this season. He's a fine basketball player but the Cavaliers' spending a top-3 selection on Evan Mobley scares me a bit. As a matter of fact, here are Allen's and Mobley's numbers through three preseason games:

Allen - 26 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, three blocks, and three steals in 69 minutes
Mobley - 24 points, 24 rebounds, two assists, five blocks, and two steals in 82 minutes

I'm not arguing who will be the better fantasy option this season, but it's clear that Mobley can and will cut into Allen's workload. At this point, Mobley is beginning to look like the better value!

Jusuf Nurkic - Portland Trailblazers
RB ranking: 55, Alex ranking: 64

Much like Joel Embiid, Nurkic is uber-talented but just simply hasn't been available, playing in only 45 total games over the past two seasons. He doesn't give you anything from three and shot a terrible 61 percent from the charity stripe last season. Beyond that, he doesn't offer enough in the peripherals to make up for his shortcomings. The Blazers' did get rid of Enes Kanter and Zach Collins but brought it Cody Zeller and Larry Nance Jr. Nurkic is just a guy in 9-Cat leagues and doesn't provide anything spectacular to put you over the top. I'm actually considering moving him down a few more spots as I'm writing this...

Andre Drummond - Philadelphia 76ers
RB ranking: 136, Alex ranking: 157

The tagline for Drummond here will be the opposite of Nike: Just don't do it. After years of being a high selection in drafts, Drummond has seen his fantasy value completely bottom out in the last 12 months. He's now in Philly backing up the aforementioned Joel Embiid and for some reason, people feel comfortable drafting him inside the top 150. He should be a good rebounder on a per-minute basis but he barely shoots 60 percent from the line and doesn't do anything else good enough to make up for it. Just don't do it. At least not inside the top 150.

 

Who Are Some Sleepers?

Which players outside of the top-100 am I higher on than the consensus?

Khem Birch - Toronto Raptors

What a year it's been for Birch! He went from being waived by the Magic in April to signing a three-year, $20 million deal with the Raptors in a mere five-month span. His averages of 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.9 combined blocks and steals in just under 33 minutes over the final 13 games impressed the Raptors, who chose not to bring in another center in the offseason (depending on how you view the 6'8" Precious Achiuwa).

With Chris Boucher set to miss 3-4 weeks to begin the season, Birch should see the lion's share of playing time in the frontcourt and is always a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor. He's also proven that he can co-exist with Boucher in the lineup, as he posted 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in 28 minutes across 10 games with the latter last season. Birch will be a consistent source of rebounds and blocks while shooting a high field goal percentage.

I currently have him at number 110 overall and you should feel confident to draft him in the later rounds.

Isaiah Stewart - Detroit Pistons

Stewart was a monster down the stretch for a tanking Pistons team and likely won a lot of people some fantasy championships. Over the last two months of the season, he put up 10.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 26 minutes per game. He also managed to shoot just under 50 percent from the field during that span. On nights when Mason Plumlee sat, his numbers increased to 13 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, on 54 percent shooting in just under 30 minutes per game.

The Pistons love him so much they traded Plumlee to the Hornets and only brought in stretch-four Kelly Olynyk in free agency. Kelly-O averaged 5.3 three-point attempts last season, so it's likely he and Stewart will stay out of each other's way from a fantasy perspective.

Don't be surprised to see Stewart see 30 minutes per game and put up numbers similar to those when Plumlee was out of the lineup. He's a top-60 guy for this season.

Nerlens Noel - New York Knicks

Noel is an afterthought for many in points leagues but his blocks and efficient field goal percentage earn him some looks in category formats. Add in the fact that Mitchell Robinson may not be ready for opening night while recovering from a broken foot, Noel basically becomes a top 100 guy currently going for pennies on the dollar.

Check out this stat from Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster) of FantasyPros:

Noel offers elite block blocking ability with elite efficiency. There's not too much more to ask from your starting center. At this point, he's certainly worth drafting in the later rounds on the off chance that Robinson is not cleared to return by the start of the season.



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RANKINGS

QB
RB
WR
TE
K
DEF
RANKINGS
C
1B
2B
3B
SS
OF
SP
RP