Ethan Norof

Risers and Fallers

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Risers & Fallers: Centers

Saturday, June 3, 2017


Welcome to the fifth and final installment of Risers & Fallers, a positional preview piece that we’ve adventured through together over the course of the last five weeks.

 

In each installment, I’ve identified a few players expected to rise and fall in 2017-18 fantasy basketball drafts. It should be a nice little look-ahead to get us in the mood for the other NBA campaign: The Offseason

 

Previous installments:

 

Point Guard

 

Shooting Guard

 

Small Forward

 

Power Forward

 

RISERS

 

Myles Turner, C Indiana Pacers (Yahoo 2016-17 ADP: Pick 47.0, Round 5.1)

 

Turner was billed as a breakout candidate heading into his sophomore campaign, but it’s arguable that the extent of his appeal was undersold. As an efficient big man—including an impressive 80.9% conversion rate from the charity stripe—who racks up blocked shots in the process, Turner has a steady floor, a raised ceiling and a ton of potential that has yet to be explored. And regardless of how soon the 21-year-old should find himself as the Pacers’ present and future star, his role is set to continue expanding. 

 

As we look forward to what next season could have in store, it wouldn’t be all that aggressive to project Turner bringing home a double-double nightly. Although he’ll have to improve his consistency on a game-to-game basis and continue to adjust to becoming a focal point of the opposition’s scouting report, Turner’s game has room for continued growth and the third-year leap could be a very real thing for a player who has already exceeded (initial) expectations.

 

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Joel Embiid, C Philadelphia 76ers (Yahoo 2016-17 ADP: Pick 99.9, Round 10.0)

 

You knew this list piece wouldn’t complete without a reference to The Godfather of The Process.

 

Despite his rookie season lasting only 31 games, Embiid’s presence on the court was the unquestioned highlight of Philadelphia’s year. After so many, for so long, had wondered when tangible results would yield from Sam Hinkie’s master plan, Embiid’s arrival was finally proof that there was a beginning to this end. We still don’t have anything close to a finished product, but the process is bearing promising potential, and that’s something to be proud of while the final picture remains in development. Before sustaining a knee injury that ultimately ended his season, Embiid had been a force on the hardwood with averages of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers on 46.6% shooting, including an impressive 36.7% from distance and 78.3% from the free throw line.

 

There are real concerns about his health and legitimate risk at the price point it will take to invest, but stakes are high at the Embiid Royale and the casino is going to be busy. 

 

Willie Cauley-Stein, C Sacramento Kings (Yahoo 2016-17 ADP: Pick 144.0, Round 14.6)

 

After it looked like we were set to go through another season in which the Kings failed to define a direction, the blockbuster DeMarcus Cousins trade—the one we’d all been waiting for and that we’d been falsely manufacturing—happened in a matter of hours, and with that, the next era began. That meant more opportunity for Cauley-Stein, who had really disappointed prior despite some preseason appeal.

 

As WCS got increasingly comfortable in a new and expanded role after the All-Star Break, the big man responded by averaging 12.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks on 50.4% from the field in his final 25 contests. Cauley-Stein performed even better as Sacramento’s starting center, averaging 13.0 points, 9.8 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks on 53.6% shooting (13 games).

 

After establishing himself both internally (within the front office) and externally (around the league), Trill sure looks like a player I’m stashing in the queue upon entering the room on draft day.

 

Stars on the Rise: Rudy Gobert, C Utah Jazz; Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

 

Others in the Running: Jusuf Nurkic, C Portland Trail Blazers; Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers; Richaun Holmes, C Philadelphia 76ers

 

FALLERS

 

Marcin Gortat, C Washington Wizards (Yahoo 2016-17 ADP: Pick 68.4, Round 7.0)

 

Maybe the Monstars stole his mojo, but Gortat was simply a different player after the All-Star Break came and went. Over the final 27 matchups, Gortat—someone regularly drafted ahead of names like Bradley Beal and Avery Bradley—averaged a very replaceable 8.4 points, 8.2 boards and nothing else on 53.2% shooting. His minutes were marginalized, his box score contributions were not the same and there were more questions than answers about what his future in Washington looked like.

 

If Gortat’s best fantasy asset is that he doesn’t turn the ball over a ton, I’m probably not going to wind up with him on my team.

 

Joakim Noah, C New York Knicks (Yahoo 2016-17 ADP: Pick 125.9, Round 12.5)

 

Noah’s contract looked like a sunk cost and day one, and the only thing that now looks better about the deal Phil Jackson gave to the veteran center is that there is one less year remaining because we’re beyond the initial 12 months.

 

It’s this simple: Willy Hernangomez should be playing over Noah and Joakim would be best served in a reserve role where his minutes can be monitored and he has a better chance of staying healthy.

 

Jahlil Okafor, C Philadelphia 76ers (Yahoo 2016-17 ADP: Pick 95.4, Round 9.6)

 

What goes up must come down…or something like that.

 

With the rise of Joel Embiid and Richaun Holmes looking like he’s capable of being a starting-caliber NBA center, Okafor’s future is very much up in the air. Although it would be surprising if Okafor isn’t finally dealt this summer, he’s going to have to earn back trust in the fantasy community before he can again become a desirable commodity.

 

Others in the Running: Al Horford, C Boston Celtics; Timofey Mozgov, C Los Angeles Lakers



Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.
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