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2021-22 NBA Fantasy Basketball Draft Busts: Centers

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who find themselves in a bad situation. The wrong pick can completely tank your season.

Today, let's talk about some potential busts at the center position. For whatever reason -- be it talent, lack of opportunity, or some combination of those two things -- these are players who I'm actively avoiding in my fantasy leagues this season.

Let's look at some centers who have bust potential this year in fantasy basketball leagues.

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Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers

You're going to murder me for this, but here we are bravely taking the gamble of writing about Embiid as an overvalued player. Uh, oh. It's actually impressive how Embiid, even topping at 64 games played in any single season of his career (2019) he's still been able to put up three top-24 fantasy seasons while never (except as a rookie) finishing outside of the top-8 among players at the C position. That's fantastic, but this season--at least at this moment in time--doesn't look any good for Philly nor Embiid by extension. I don't think a lot of explanations are needed here. Ben Simmons is going to get traded sooner or later, and Ben Simmons has been a massive Embiid-upside booster. As simple as that. Obviously, putting up a daily 28-10-3-1-1 line like Embiid did last season has something to do with his talent, but it's not that Simmons wasn't collaborating a ton in getting Embiid to post those numbers. What if Philly trades Ben-and-pieces for a lower-level point and a couple of big-usage shooters? What if only a non-lead-guard with limited playmaking (say, C.J. McCollum) is the piece Ben gets flipped for? Too many question marks around this thing for me to trust Embiid putting together another top-20 season... and that is if he can stay out there healthy for more than 50 games at all.

Myles Turner - Indiana Pacers

Banking on a might-get-traded Turner seems a tall task for those managing in fantasy basketball leagues. Turner's actual production on the court with the Pacers has been shaky at best as he finished the 2020 season ranked 85th overall, then dropped to nearly the 120th position this past year. He missed time, sure, but even on a per-game basis--and averaging a more than healthy 31 MPG--he could only finish as the 17th-best C in FPPG and the 82nd-best player without position restrictions. Players with similar ADPs such as Valanciunas, Capela, Boucher, and Wood all project to better years in 2022 and are already coming off top-15-to-20 seasons from players at the position in 2021. Turner's usage rate was absolutely murdered last year to a measly 16.4 USG% and he most definitely did not make up for it by shooting a ridiculous 47.7% from the floor on 9.2 FGA per game. Turner's 4.4 3PA per game kind of help him a bit as he's a true floor stretcher, but it's not that he's a walking bucket. Only the 3.4 BPG he somehow was able to post last year helped his fantasy value, but I'm afraid that alone (not even considering the inevitable regression) isn't going to cut it for me to draft him with a top-40 pick.

Deandre Ayton - Phoenix Suns

This is what I call the "Finals Bias". Don't get me wrong; I love Ayton and I think what this man just did in the last postseason was absolutely fantastic for a third-year man playing his first playoff-basketball in the NBA. But Ayton happens to be the third-banana in Phoenix's squad at least until Chris Paul is done and the Book-Ayton pairing becomes the true leading partnership. Ayton logged a rather low 18.2 USG% over his 69 regular-season games in 2021: only Ayton, Gobert, Myles Turner, and Capela logged below-20 USG% while playing 30+ MPG. Gobert and Capela, though, ranked 12th and 21st in FPPG compared to Ayton's 39th finish in that category among all fantasy players. There is a realistic chance Ayton keeps improving for the next five seasons, sure, but he's a no-go shooter from beyond the paint and is part of a team with plenty of backcourt options that killed his assists' upside with Ayton finishing at just 1.4 APG. Capela and Gobert, again, had lower assists per game, but they had at least three more RPG than Ayton, making up for that difference, while both averaged 2+ BPG and Ayton just averaged 1.2 of them.

Jusuf Nurkic - Portland Trailblazers

Jusuf Nurkic has become a perennial 13-9 baseline-averager since leaving the Rocky Mountains, which is a very-good-not-great line for a biggie playing 25+ MPG in the past five years. If Nurk can keep developing an outside stroke a la Brook Lopez (Nurkic has shot 1.3 and 0.8 3PA per game in the past two years compared to just 0.1 in the seasons before), he might become a little bit more valuable; until then, his current ADP is still rather expensive to my eyes. Snatching a top-100 performer for Nurkic's current ADP, if you really love him, isn't that bad. But Nurk is definitely not a league-winning player either. Everything he gives you with his fantastic shooting (one of only six centers with at least 60/40/60 splits in 2021) he takes away due to his low playing time and health issues. Nurk has only played 8 and 37 games in the past two years (he's only played more than 65 games twice in his career since 2015) and his minutes cratered to just 24 MPG in 2021. That might not change next season as Portland just acquired Larry Nance Jr. and Cody Zeller (to fill Enes Kanter's hole) while the Blazers already cut down his usage to just 9 FGA per game compared to 2018 and 2019's 11.5+ FGA per-game average.

 

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