This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.
The long grind of the NBA regular season is nearing its end, especially in terms of fantasy basketball. The winners of some fantasy leagues may have already been decided and if you came away a champion, congratulations! Now it's time to reflect on the season that was and hand out some hardware to the big men of fantasy basketball.
Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat: This isn't exactly an award you want to win, but Whiteside earned it. He was considered among the top centers heading into this season after having the best year of his career in 2016-17, averaging 17 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
This season has been one to forget for Whiteside due in large part to injuries and reduced playing time. He's only played 47 games this year and has been out for almost all of the fantasy playoffs in most leagues. Even when he was healthy, he averaged only 26 minutes per game after averaging 33 minutes per contest last season. The addition of Kelly Olynyk turned out to hurt Whiteside's value, as he was often on the floor late in games while Whiteside sat on the bench.
Whiteside took a step back almost across the board, averaging 14.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest. He averaged 3.7 blocks per game just two seasons ago, so he has really experienced a sharp decline in that department.
With a preseason Yahoo ranking of 19, Whiteside's poor season currently has him sitting at number 67 overall. Not being on the floor when it mattered the most for fantasy owners during the playoffs likely made the hit seem even bigger than his slide in the rankings.
Rookie of the Year
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks: The rookie class for centers wasn't particularly deep, leaving Collins to stand out from the bunch even though his numbers don't jump off the page. He was in foul trouble during many games and stuck behind a few veterans at the start of the season, which has limited him to averaging just 23 minutes per game overall. He was productive when he was on the floor, though, averaging 10.4 points, 7.1 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He was also an asset in percentages, shooting 58.5% from the field and 74.9% from the charity stripe.
The Hawks did eventually buy out a couple of their veterans in order to move Collins into a more prominent role, resulting in him averaging 25 minutes per game in February and 28 minutes per game in March.
This was really a one horse race as Collins is currently ranked 136 in Yahoo, with the next-closest center-eligible rookie being Jarrett Allen at 209. He's one of the focal points of the Hawks rebuilding process and could be in store for even greater things next year.
Most Improved Player
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: Drummond was a valuable fantasy asset last year, averaging 13.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. It marked the fourth-straight season that he averaged at least 13.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
His counting stats were never in doubt, but he came through with another great year, averaging 14.8 points, 15.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per contest. To make his line even sweeter, he also averaged a career-high 3.1 assists.
The reason why Drummond wins the Most Improved Player award for centers, though, is that he made significant improvements from the free throw line. After shooting a horrid 38.6% from the charity stripe last year, he is all the way up to 61.3% this season. No longer a liability in that department, Drummond improved his Yahoo ranking from 87 last year to 29 this season.
Most Valuable Player
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: Fellow Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) was on his way to winning this award before he was lost for the season due to injury. Davis has helped carry the Pelicans with Cousins sidelined and still has them in position to make the playoffs.
Davis' overall numbers are stellar, averaging 28.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 53.9% from the field and 83.4% from the charity stripe. He's even averaging a career-high 2.3 assists per contest.
Davis stands out in many ways, but especially on the defensive end. He is averaging 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game, marking the second time he has reached at least those thresholds in a single season during his career. He is one of three players in the league to average at least two blocks per game this season, one of which was Kristaps Porzingis (knee), who has been limited to just 48 games. Davis is also one of only four players to average at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game this season.
Davis is not only the best center in fantasy, but he also deserves to be in the discussion for overall Fantasy MVP as he ranks fourth among all players in Yahoo. There is no doubt that when Davis is healthy, he can help carry a fantasy team to a title.