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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, 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 five centers who have bust potential this year.

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Mitchell Robinson - New York Knicks

I like Robinson a lot, but he's being drafted right around the tail end of the top-10 centers, and I just don't see him being a very safe pick in that range.

The problem? The Knicks spent all offseason just adding a seemingly unending amount of front court players. Like...here are the guys on this squad who could conceivably play the four or the five: Robinson, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, and Kevin Knox. Morris and Knox are fours who'll end up playing the three way more than they should just out of necessity.

Meanwhile, Robinson should be the starting five, but the Knicks plan to make Bobby Portis the starting five. So, Robinson's being drafted as a starter with a lot of potential, but at least for now he's a backup with a lot of potential. We've learned in the past that backup centers with potential can be rough fantasy options, which has me avoiding Robinson for now.

 

Jonas Valanciunas - Memphis Grizzlies

Valanciunas is as consistent as they come in fantasy basketball. Before he was traded to the Grizzlies, you knew he'd average something around 12 points and 8.5 rebounds per game every year, and you were fine with that because you were drafting him to do that.

But his brief Memphis spell at the end of last season has some thinking that the Lithuanian big is bound for even bigger things. In 19 games as a Grizzly, Valanciunas averaged 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, becoming a key part of what Memphis was doing.

Valanciunas also played a total of two games with rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., though. The biggest reason I'm skeptical of Valanciunas this year is that a healthy Jackson is probably the best player that the Grizzlies have, and he's going to be playing a lot of minutes and using a lot of possessions. With other young front court pieces in place too, Valanciunas won't have the same amount of opportunities this year that he had last year.

This offense as a whole should struggle more too with rookie point guard JA Morant taking over for Mike Conley. Morant is flashy and full of potential, but he's also going to turn the ball over, take too many shots, and struggle early on to get the ball to the right players in the right spots.

Valanciunas' highest usage rate in Toronto was 22.7 percent in the 2017-2018 season. In Memphis, that ballooned to 31.4 percent. That's not sustainable. Bet on regression.

 

Thomas Bryant - Washington Wizards

It feels like Bryant's sleeper status has basically gone overboard at this point. I'm not sure I see Bryant being a full-on bust this year, but he's definitely become overhyped to a point where I'm willing to miss out on him being a breakout because I'm not willing to touch him at his current ADP.

I don't have anything specifically against Thomas Bryant. The Wizards are a weak team who are projected to start Ish Smith, C.J. Miles, and Rui Hachimura. Bryant might very well be their second-best player.

But Bryant's also got one season of real NBA production under his belt. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but he also led the NBA in two-point field goal percentage. A lot of people are drafting Bryant as if he's definitely taking a major step forward, but he might get so much defensive pressure that he isn't able to make a leap like many are expecting.

Honestly, I can see Bryant doing the whole "12 points and 8.5 rebounds" thing that I mentioned Valanciunas doing in the past, but I can also see him looking like he did last year from a statistical perspective, and in that case I'm not sure I feel super great about taking him as early as he's going.

 

Derrick Favors - New Orleans Pelicans

Favors will start at the five with rookie Zion Williamson at the four, and backup minutes at center will be handled by a combination of Jahlil Okafor and rookie Jaxson Hayes, so I'm not really worried about Favors losing out on minutes.

But Favors does have a few negatives going his direction that make we wary of picking him at his ADP.

For one thing, the Pelicans will want the ball in Zion's hands a lot. I can easily see a scenario where the Pelicans use Favors more as a box-out guy and funnels rebounds over to Williamson to get the team out and running. New Orleans could be a fast break team this year with young guys like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball around, which would limit Favors.

There's also some versatility issues with Favors. He tried to shoot the three last year, but he connected on just 21.8 percent of his 78 attempts. He played 42 percent of his minutes at the four last season, but I see him being anchored to the five spot more than ever in 2019/2020. We'll have to see how adjusting to being a full-time center and not playing beside Rudy Gobert will work, but I envision it not being something that leads to improvement in Favors' numbers over where they've been in the past.

 

DeAndre Jordan/Jarrett Allen - Brooklyn Nets

I'm cheating a little here. But if we talk about NFL teams using a running back by committee approach, I think the Nets are heading towards a center by committee approach with Jordan and Allen, who are both guys who could start for a good number of teams but also are playing for Kenny Atkinson, whose head coaching career has shown that he's a guy who's a big fan of limiting minutes and keeping a deep rotation going.

From a season-long perspective, these guys will probably be fine. But for owners concerned with game-to-game consistency, this is a situation that would definitely worry me.

Allen should be the starter, so he might be the safer of these options. But the Nets didn't sign DeAndre Jordan to not play him, so we probably see both guys playing in the mid-20s.

One issue here is that there's just no way you can justify playing these two guys together. Allen's occasionally stepped outside, but not enough to change the fact that the spacing of a Jordan/Allen rotation would be a nightmare.

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