The Athletic

Center tiers: Bol Bol, Nick Richards among early season movers up the fantasy hoops ranks

The center position can be somewhat volatile in fantasy hoops, so I think it makes sense to do an early season check-in on the position. Below I am going to group my current Top 60 centers into seven different tiers. While some elite centers have definitely disappointed early on, and some late round centers have really outperformed their ADP, I’ve tried not to overreact too much to super small sample sizes.

Instead, the focus of this column will be on the players in tiers 4-6, as those are the centers who are more readily available in most leagues.

Please note that there are some center-eligible players who I’ve chosen to leave off of these tiers due to them playing more than two-thirds of their minutes at power forward, thus far, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Some examples of players not included below: Karl-Anthony Towns, John Collins, Evan Mobley, Draymond Green, Christian Wood and PJ Washington.

Tier 1

Nikola Jokic, DEN
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
Joel Embiid, PHI
Anthony Davis, L.A.L.
Pascal Siakam, TOR

Tier 2

Nikola Vucevic, CHI
Rudy Gobert, MIN
Bam Adebayo, MIA
Kristaps Porzingis, WAS
Jarrett Allen, CLE
Domantas Sabonis, SAC
Deandre Ayton, PHO
Jonas Valanciunas, NOR

Tier 3

Myles Turner, IND
Jusuf Nurkic, POR
Kelly Olynyk, UTA
Wendell Carter, ENT
Nic Claxton, BKN
Ivica Zubac, LAC
Jakob Poeltl, SAS
Brook Lopez, MIL
Clint Capela, ATL
Mitchell Robinson, NYK

Tier 4

Alperen Sengun, HOU
Jalen Smith, IND
Steven Adams, MEM
Al Horford, BOS
Bowl Bowl, ENT
Nick Richards, CHA
Walker Kessler, UTA
Zach Collins, SAS
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, OKC

Sengun has been out this week due to an illness and his value has been limited because he’s coming off the bench, but he should still be rostered in most leagues, and I expect him to move into Tier 3 eventually… Smith has had some solid games to start the season, but we’ll see if he can keep it up now that Myles Turner has returned to the court… Adams has made just 4-of-14 free throws thus far, but he’s still averaging a useful 10 boards and 2 blocks per game.

Horford is off to a very sluggish start for the Celtics, but I think it’s still too early to panic drop him, unless you’re in a shallow league… In deeper leagues, the red-hot Bol Bol is definitely worth adding now that he’s clearly surpassed Mo Bamba in Orlando’s rotation. Bol’s size and talent have always been undeniable, it’s been his poor health and work ethic that have held him back in the past… Richards fell back to Earth a bit on Wednesday, but he’s been extremely productive off the bench for Charlotte, and he’s obliterating Mason Plumlee from a plus/minus standpoint.

Kessler has yet to start a game and he’s had some major duds recently, but he’s still worth holding onto in deeper leagues since he should slowly improve as the season wears on… Despite playing less than 15 minutes per game, Collins has been very active at stuffing the stat sheet for the Spurs, and he’s also a solid hold in leagues where you’re required to start two centers… And flying under the radar a bit is Robinson-Earl, as he’s made 7-of-14 threes to start the season, while also netting 1.5 steals per game for the Thunder. Since both Aleksej Pokusevski and Darius Bazley appear to be in the doghouse early on, JRE is OKC’s most valuable big man.

Tier 5

Isaiah Stewart, DET
Isaiah Hartenstein, NYK
Isaiah Jackson, IND
Onyeka Okongwu, ATL
Andre Drummond, CHI
Mason Plumlee, CHA
Bruno Fernando, HOU

He should be in Tier 4 given that he’s averaging 28.2 minutes and 10.2 rebounds per game, but Stewart has shot a woeful 4-of-22 from 3-point range to start the season, meaning his preseason confidence from deep may have already worn off … For the other Isaiahs, both Hartenstein and Jackson are fully capable of stuffing the stat sheet when they get enough minutes, but it’s tough to say how big or small their roles will be on any given night.

Okongwu has made 76% of his field goals thus far, but the rest of his numbers are down compared to last season. He still has value in deeper leagues, but it will take a Capela injury for Okongwu to really be unleashed… He’s playing fewer minutes than ever before, but Drummond is currently averaging 21.7 boards per 36 minutes for the Bulls, which even Dennis Rodman never achieved during his NBA career.

Plumlee continues to start at center for Charlotte and he’s still a sneaky source of assists — 4.5 dimes per game — but his hold on the starting spot should be considered tenuous, as Richards appears to be more than ready for a larger role… Fernando is currently nursing a knee injury, but he made some waves the first week of the season and should be followed closely as Houston’s surprise opening night starting center.

Tier 6

Jalen Duren, DET
Larry Nance Jr., NOR
Robert Williams, BOS
James Wiseman, GSW
Kevon Looney, GSW
Maxi Kleber, DAL
Daniel Gafford, W.A.S.
Jock Landale, PHO
Goga Bitadze, IND
Mike Muscala, OKC

If Stewart continues to shoot below 20% on 3-pointers, the Pistons may start giving Duren more minutes, as the athletic rookie is proving to be a force in the paint… Speaking of athletes, Nance Jr. is putting up some Plumlee-like numbers despite coming off the bench for New Orleans… My addition of the injured Rob-Will in this tier simply means that I would rather use a roster spot on him over the players listed below him.

Unfortunately, Wiseman and Looney are limiting each other’s upside early on, but as Wiseman gains more experience his confidence and numbers will grow… Despite coming off the pine, Kleber has been playing more minutes than JaVale McGee, and he’s still an interesting center option thanks to one block and one 3-pointer per game… Gafford won’t be making many threes, but he would still be a strong addition if Porzingis misses any time.

You probably don’t remember this, but I mentioned Landale as a deep sleeper a year ago. Unfortunately, he never quite earned Gregg Popovich’s trust, but I was simply a year too early. Monty Williams seems to be loving what the Aussie brings to the table, and Landale would be worthy of an add if Ayton happens to get hurt… Bitadze had one huge game while Turner was sidelined, but he’s merely a blip on the radar when Turner is healthy. But he’s someone to remember when the Turner trade rumors start swirling around again… And now in his 10th NBA season, let’s give Muscala a shoutout for starting off his season by averaging career-highs of 9.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Tier 7

Usman Garuba, HOU
Richaun Holmes, SCA
JaVale McGee, DAL
Noah Vonleh, BOS
Naz Reid, MIN
Day’Ron Sharpe, BKN
Drew Eubanks, POR
Robin Lopez, CLE
Christian Koloko, TOR
Mo Bamba, ENT
Thomas Bryant, LAL

(Top photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *