This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.
The days of big men like Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon leading their teams to victory from inside the paint seem to be long gone. The center position has become so deemphasized that it has even been removed from All-Star Game voting.
If you want to win your fantasy basketball league, however, one way to separate yourself from the pack is to know the center position better than the rest of your league. Let them focus on their guards and wings -- you are going to win by going big.
Throughout the season, I'll be focusing solely on center-eligible players and which ones you want on your fantasy squad. Today we'll focus on which players you want to key in on for your draft.
The Big Man on CampusKarl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
Towns is the best fantasy option at the center position. He was excellent last season as he averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.7 steals and 1.2 three-pointers per game while shooting 54.2% from the field and 83.2 percent from the charity stripe.
He checks all the boxes that I'm looking for in an elite center: he averaged 20 and 10, blocked at least one shot per game and shot over 50% from the field. The fact that he can hit threes while also shooting extremely well from the charity stripe is what makes him the best at the position.
He's in a great situation with the Timberwolves as coach Tom Thibodeau gives his best players huge minutes. Towns averaged 37 minutes per game while playing all 82 contests last year, so it doesn't get much more reliable than that.
Not only is Towns the best fantasy center, but he can finish the season as a top-five overall fantasy player.
Not In My House!Rudy Gobert, Jazz
If you enjoy centers like I do, there is nothing more fun than watching them swat away shots when little guys drive the line.
The main job of the center defensively is to protect the paint. Gobert is the best at doing that as he recorded 214 blocks last season, 42 more than any other player. He enters this season having averaged at least 2.2 blocks per game in each of the last three seasons.
Not only is he a great rim protector, but he has also averaged a career-high 12.8 rebounds per game last season. This guy is a walking double-double who also made great strides with this free-throw shooting last year, making him one of the best fantasy options at the position.
Go Big or Go Home (Sleepers)Steven Adams, Thunder
The Thunder made great moves bringing in both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to team with Russell Westbrook. When you put them alongside defensive standouts in Andre Roberson and Adams, you get a really scary starting five.
The problem? They have no depth. Their main weapons off the bench are Raymond Felton, Patrick Patterson and Jerami Grant. Yikes.
Adams was very solid last season, averaging 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks over 30 minutes per game while shooting 57.1% from the field and 61.1% from the free-throw line. With so little depth and lack of size on the roster, Adams could be poised for a crazy season. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double for the first time in his career.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings
At first glance, Cauley-Stein's numbers last season aren't that exciting, as he averaged 8.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game while shooting 53.0% from the field and 66.9% from the free-throw line. However, he took on a much larger role once the Kings traded away DeMarcus Cousins and rose to the occasion. In 21 games as a starter, Cauley-Stein averaged 13.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks.
The key was he averaged 31.3 minutes per game as a starter, compared to just 14.1 per game coming off the bench. Even though he has to battle with Kosta Koufos for playing time, I expect him to play at least 22 to 25 minutes per game, even if he doesn't start. Considering he can be had in the later rounds in most drafts, I like the upside.
Boban Marjanovic, Pistons
If you pine for the glory days of the big man like I do, Marjanovic is a guy you can't help but love. He's 7'3" and is great around the rim. No, he didn't attempt a three-pointer last year. That's not his game.
Marjanovic had a very small role with the Pistons last season behind Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes, averaging only eight minutes per game. However, he made his time on the floor count as he still managed to average 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.3 blocks per game. That left his per 36 minutes averages at 21.0 points, 16.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Just insane.
Baynes is gone this season, leaving Marjanovic as the clear backup behind Drummond. Baynes averaged 16 minutes per game last season, so there is a chance Marjanovic absorbs most of that workload. Target him towards the end of your draft as he doesn't need to start to be a valuable fantasy asset. And if anything happens to Drummond, Marjanovic could become one of the draft's biggest steals.