The 2023-24 NBA season is right around the corner, and it’s time to start prepping for your fantasy basketball drafts! It’s never too early to get a jump on your competition. I’m closing out my positional tiers series with the centers.
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Note, not every player will have analysis when listed in the tiers below. Players with multi-position eligibility will only show up in the positional tier story they have the most minutes at.
Tier 1: The Elite Cs
1) Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
2) Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Jokić is the undisputed 1.01 in H2H formats. In points leagues, there may be some debate between Jokić, Luka and Embiid being the first pick off the board, but the Joker is never not in consideration. He rarely takes games off, and his mix of efficiency and stat-stuffing makes him arguably the best player in fantasy hoops.
Embiid is the reigning MVP and has finished in the top three in H2H and points formats in each of the past two seasons. He’ll continue to see one of the highest usage rates in the league, even if the Sixers cave to James Harden’s trade demands.
Tier 2: All-Star caliber Cs who should be drafted in the first three rounds
1) Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
2) Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
3) Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
4) Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
5) Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Whenever AD is healthy, he has top-five upside. He should be a first-round pick, but his durability issues tend to devalue him into the second round.
Sabonis is one of the league’s best rebounders and passing centers. His middling free-throw percentage and turnover rate bring his rankings down, but from a pure production standpoint, he’s an All-Star.
Don’t be surprised if Turner slips outside the third round, but that doesn’t mean it’s justified. Like Jackson Jr., Turner is a category specialist for blocks who also raised his scoring average by nearly six points and posted his highest rebound and shooting percentage of his career.
JJJ’s defensive acumen is special. He’ll single-handedly win you blocks every week, but be careful not to overdraft him because he doesn’t generate numbers like traditional centers.
Tier 3: Veterans you can trust
1) Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
2) Kristaps Porziņģis, Boston Celtics
3) Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers
Porziņģis was so dominant in Washington that the Boston Celtics decided to trade for him to improve their frontcourt offense. His production will likely take a step back playing with ball-dominant All-NBA players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but he’s still a multi-faceted big who can do everything in fantasy.
Tier 4: Rising bigs
1) Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz
2) Nic Claxton, Brooklyn Nets
3) Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets
Kessler battled Jalen Williams for the best rookie in fantasy last season, and the days of him going in the 100s are long gone. He’s similar to Nic Claxton in that they’ll get low-end double-doubles with at least two blocks. If he expands his offensive game a bit more, he can exceed his ADP.
The Rockets’ decision to replace Stephen Silas with Ime Udoka should boost Sengun’s status heading into the season. If he can hold up his end defensively, he’ll easily surpass his 85th finish last year.
Tier 5: High-floor vets
1) Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
2) Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
3) Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
4) Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors
Ayton is a sure bet for a double-double, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll buy into another season of being anything less than the second-option of the Suns’ offense. Unfortunately, he’s not getting more looks than Durant, Booker or Beal. Still, he has good peripherals for a big man and can get a block a night.
Lopez’s resurgence seems fluky, considering he had his best fantasy season in nine years. He’s great for blocks and threes, but don’t assume he’ll be 21st in per-game value like last season.
Gobert is tricky because it was evident that he and Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t work well together. On the other hand, he was still a top-60 player despite his decline across several categories (points, rebounds, blocks, FG%). I won’t reach, but he’ll undoubtedly do the job if he falls.
Tier 6: Block, rebound and high FG% players
1) Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks
2) Robert Williams III, Boston Celtics
3) Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
4) Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards
5) Wendell Carter Jr., Orlando Magic
Capela’s been a top-50 player in five of his last six seasons. Consistency is fine, but remember that Onyeka Okongwu is closing in fast.
Williams III carries considerable injury risk, but if he comes into the season healthy, he’ll start next to Porzingis and offers arguably the most upside in this tier of bigs.
Gafford is only 24 years-old and faces minimal competition for minutes in Washington this season. When he’s played at least 30 minutes in a game, he’s averaged 14.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.3 blocks. He could be a steal in the later rounds of drafts.
Tier 7: Late-round breakout potential
1) Mark Williams, Charlotte Hornets
2) Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks
3) Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons
4) Zach Collins, San Antonio Spurs
Duren and Williams are in similar scenarios that bode well for fantasy. They’re athletic rim protectors who play with All-Star caliber pass-first point guards. LaMelo Ball and Cade Cunningham will serve up plenty of lobs to support their high FG percentages. Now that they’re starting, there’s cheap double-double appeal for anyone who misses out on bigs earlier in the draft.
Collins is starting for the Spurs and offers some sneaky upside in assists at the center position. Wemby will eat into some of his production, but Collins did average 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists as a starter last year.
Tier 8: Boring but useful bigs
1) Jonas Valančiūnas, New Orleans Pelicans
2) Jusuf Nurkić, Portland Trail Blazers
3) Al Horford, Boston Celtics
4) Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers
5) Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors
6) Steven Adams, Memphis Grizzlies
[2023-24 Draft Tiers: PGs | SGs | SFs | PFs | Cs]
Valanciunas had his worst season in nine years (he finished 127th in per-game value), and it won’t get any better if the Pelicans are fully healthy. The good news is he’s a walking double-double, but I’d be concerned about being played off the court whenever opponents go small.
Looney sported one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the NBA last season, but for fantasy purposes, he’s merely a reliable source of rebounds and high FG percentage.
Tier 9: Late-round fliers
1) Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz
2) Christian Wood, Los Angeles Lakers
3) Naz Reid, Minnesota Timberwolves
4) Xavier Tillman, Memphis Grizzlies
5) James Wiseman, Detroit Pistons
6) Richaun Holmes, Dallas Mavericks
7) Isaiah Jackson, Indiana Pacers
8) Mason Plumlee, Los Angeles Clippers
Olynyk lost his starting gig to Walker Kessler last season, and John Collins’s arrival forces him even further into a bench role.
Wood is AD insurance, and that’s a good business to invest in.
Considering what they paid him to stay this offseason, it’d be great if the Timberwolves could find more minutes for Reid, but playing behind KAT and Gobert will be frustrating for fantasy purposes.