NBA preview: Centers
DeAndre Jordan has a chance to average a double-double by the end of 2011-12
DeJuan Blair finished second to Dwight Howard last season in steals by a center
Anderson Varejao could average more than 10 rebounds a game this season
Dwight Howard might be Superman, but he couldn't fly out of Orlando. Wherever he calls home, he is going to be sitting atop the center rankings in fantasy.
He has dominated the position for the past five seasons and is coming off arguably his best fantasy season. At age 26, he still can have another five seasons at the top of a center position that is getting an influx of intriguing young talent.
Steady veterans Amar'e Stoudemire and Pau Gasol are still the next-best options after Howard at center, but the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson and Al Horford are all in their mid-20s and pushing each other on the cusp of the top. Then you have the early-20s centers like Brook Lopez, Serge Ibaka, DeMarcus Cousins and JaVale McGee who are adding rare depth to the notoriously shallowest of fantasy positions.
Most of the best center-eligible players are actually power forwards. Center tends to be a position where you don't want to be left dealing with scraps. It forces you to actually draft the position earlier than the actual production suggests, but doing so can be dangerous. You really have to be right with your pick and skirt injury. Decent replacement options are not as readily available.
Watching the age of your center is a good idea. The younger ones can emerge and help unseat some of the old guard, and there seems to be more good young up-and-coming centers now than ever.
Is Howard still just 26 years old?
Breakout: JaVale McGee, Wizards
The 23-year old started 74 games last year, but he still averaged under 30 minutes per game -- perhaps because he lacks polish. He is getting it now and can emerge as one of fantasy's top centers, despite being drafted in latter rounds. The minutes and numbers should continue to improve, making him both a breakout candidate and a latter-round sleeper.
Honorable mention: Andrea Bargnani, Raptors
Bust: Tim Duncan, Spurs
If he is eligible at center in your league, he is certain to be a player that does not perform up to his draft position. His name still carries weight, but his production fell precipitously already last year. Even if his numbers come back some, you will be fighting with injury risk at his advanced age of 35 years old. Centers at that age -- again, if he qualifies there -- notoriously decline.
Dishonorable mention: Emeka Okafor, Hornets
Sleeper: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers
If the Heat is the center of the NBA universe and the Lakers are still the big star in Los Angeles, the Clippers will at least be something like a comet streaking across the landscape. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are legit stars, and the departure of Chris Kaman will hand starting center duties to the four-year player Jordan, who can continue to progress from his coming-out party last year. He should prove to be a steady fantasy starting center that might even play like a top 10-to-15 one by the end of the season. Only a handful of players average a double-double, but Jordan has a shot at doing it.
Honorable mention: Serge Ibaka, Thunder
If you play in a Rotisserie format and need to use the center position to help in a specific category in the latter rounds:
1. Assists: Marcus Camby, Blazers -- Chuck Hayes was going to be an option here, but a heart condition voided his Kings contract. Camby is old, but he is behind just Gasol and Brad Miller in the three-year averages at the position in this category.
2. Steals: DeJuan Blair, Spurs -- The 22-year old was No. 2 to Howard in the category last year and should be worthy of far more minutes for the aging Spurs.
3. Rebounds: Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers -- He is one of a handful of players who could average double-digit boards through a full season. He is healthy and should start for the Cavs.
4. Blocks: JaVale McGee, Wizards -- He is a highlight reel of dunks and blocks and should only get better at the age of 23. He should be a fantasy starter.
5. Turnovers (fewest): Channing Frye, Suns -- You don't draft him for rebounding, but he can shoot and handle the ball like a wing, despite slotting as a big man because he is 6-feet-11.
6. Points: Andrea Bargnani, Raptors -- He is one of those 7-footers that plays more like a wing. If he becomes the better producer in rebounds and blocks the Raptors want him to be, he could rise to the elite at the position.
7. Three-point FGs: Channing Frye, Suns -- Matt Bonner doesn't get the minutes to be worthy of starting in fantasy, so you have to go with Frye in this category if you don't get Bargnani. There just aren't any three-point shooters in the post.
Here are the entire center rankings. These are based on a 10-team league with two starting centers, 10 starting players total and four reserves.
Eric Mack writes fantasy sports for SI.com. You can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.