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2010-11 Draft Prep: Center Tiers

Sergio Gonzalez
Fantasy Writer
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You are up in the draft. Hurry up. Time is ticking. Make a pick. Make a pick. Make a pick.

That's your pick? Really? Thanks for the donation, make sure you pay your league fee up front.

Just about every Fantasy owner has had it happen to them at some point. You get forced into making a rash decision and spend the rest of the season thinking about the players you could have had if you'd only had the chance to think about it a little longer. But in a timed draft, time is of the essence and you'd better do a lot of your thinking before your draft ever starts.

That's right, if you want to be good at this whole Fantasy thing and want to be more than just an annual contributor to your buddy's bank roll, you've got do do your homework.

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That's where we come in.

We are in the business of getting you as prepared as possible for your draft. Consider us like the nerd in your high school algebra class who you got to do your homework by promising an invite to the party on Friday night.

One of the most successful draft strategies we recommend and subscribe to ourselves is the use of tiers when drafting.

What it boils down to is grouping players at each position into clusters of similar players. At each position, there are different levels of players. The trick is to group a series of players who you feel could conceivably finish in the same relative production level by season's end.

By mapping these players out and having them in front of you while you draft, you can give yourself a better visual guide as far as what is really left at each position in order to make a better decision. For example, if your pick is up and you see that your list still has more than a few players available at a certain position that you'd be comfortable with and only a couple at another position then the decision is clear.

The idea is to come up with a "last-resort" player for each tier. This is the last player you'd be comfortable drafting at a certain level. The levels can be determined in different ways. One way to do it is by breaking down players into position slots. Decide who the very last player you'd be comfortable with as your No. 1 forward, your No. 2 forward, etc.

Cross off the players in each of your tiers as your draft goes on and make a move when you start running out of names. It's simple and it works.

We've taken the liberty of coming up with our own tiers for you at each position. While we always recommend coming up with your own based on your league's format and your own notions and research, rest assured that a lot of thought and research was put into our set of tiers. We've got a lot of time to think about Fantasy hoops, time that you may not have considering that pesky job or family thing you've got going on.

So print them out, take them with you to your draft and cross off players as picks are made. You'll make much smarter picks and will come away with a much more balanced team as a result.

You are welcome. We're still on for Friday night, though, right?

Players denoted with a (*) indicate players who may not be eligible at the given position in your league. Check your position eligibility rules accordingly. Players denoted with a (inj) tag indicate players who are expected to miss time going into the season.

Centers

Dwight Howard is a one-man tier in Fantasy and is clearly our No. 1 selection at the position. You may have to make adjustments in category leagues where his free-throw percentage is still a killer, but he can almost single-handedly win you several other categories.

David Lee outscored Howard last season in standard Head-to-Head formats, but we are a bit leery of the new system in Golden State being a lower volume offense than in the past under Don Nelson or even what Lee enjoyed under Mike D'Antoni in New York. Still, we consider him an elite top-five choice.

Zach Randolph belongs in the same class as Lee, Brook Lopez and Pau Gasol when it comes to numbers, but we consider him a "last-resort" player at the elite tier because of his off-the-court troubles and past inconsistencies. Last year, though, he seemed to find a good fit in Memphis.

Al Jefferson and Chris Kaman could conceivably put up similar numbers to the elite class, but have some question marks of their own.

Yao Ming is listed as a "quality reserve." He'll be healthy enough to play and start going into the season, but a 24-minute limit per game will be strictly enforced all season by the Rockets. That type of restriction should severely cap the former 20-and-10 big man's production. He could climb levels once the season gets under way, but he's far too risky to go into the season with as one of your starters.

Tiers

Super-elite: Dwight Howard

Elite: David Lee, Brook Lopez, Pau Gasol*, Zach Randolph

Next best thing: Al Jefferson, Chris Kaman

Reliable starters: Al Horford, Andrew Bogut, Kevin Love*, Andrea Bargnani, Marc Gasol, Andray Blatche*, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert

Low-end starters: Troy Murphy, Nene, Jason Thompson, Emeka Okafor, Marcus Camby, Andrew Bynum (inj), Mehmet Okur (inj)

Quality reserves: Yao Ming, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic, Anderson Varejao, Andris Biedrins, Jermaine O'Neal, Brendan Haywood, Timofey Mozgov, Greg Oden (inj), Samuel Dalembert (inj)

Reserves: DeJuan Blair, J.J. Hickson*, Drew Gooden*, Udonis Haslem, Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, Spencer Hawes, DeMarcus Cousins, Shaquille O'Neal, JaVale McGee, Tiago Splitter

Low-end reserves: Brad Miller, Nazr Mohammed, Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic, Hasheem Thabeet, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Basketball questions to DMFantasyHoops@cbs.com . Be sure to put Forward Tiers in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

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(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

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The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

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(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

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Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
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(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

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Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


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(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

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The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
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(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

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Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


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(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

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(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

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(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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