Friday, December 30, 2005

FANTASY HOOPS BY POSITION: FRONT & "CENTER"

The true Center is fast-becoming an extinct species in today's Highlight-fueled, ESPNeedy NBA.

Now, that's not to say that there are no skilled big men in the league... actually, far from it. But what I AM saying is that the legit', unadulterated, Center; an immense and immovable object possessing an arsenal of low post moves and the ability to pin incoming shots to the glass is a true rarity. Rather, now we have guys such as 'Ronto Raptor Chris Bosh... rising Sun Amare Stoudemire... and Indiana Pacer Jermaine O'Neal who man the middle- these athletes are hybrid "Power Forward / Centers."

Sure, a few throwbacks take the court each night- guys such as Milwaukee's Steak Tartar-raw rook' Andrew Bogut (8.8/7.2/2.1, and averaging fewer than 1 block per game) the Clippers' defensive-minded 2nd year Chris Kaman (just starting to heat up, Kaman's line is 9+/8+, with less than 1 dime' but almost 2 swats per game), and the NJ Nets' unheralded but integral Nenad Krstic (a nice piece to a playoff puzzle, "Special K" is hanging 12.6/5.7/1.1, with 1+ swats per game). But as a rule, nimble 7-footers such as Shaq', 'Zo, and the retired Patrick Ewing will be spoken of in awe-hushed voices in the years to come.

Let's take a look at Fantasy's top TRUE CENTERS!

Heat Shaquille O'Neal: "Shaq-Daddy," "The Big Aristotle," "Officer O'Neal" ... whatever Shaq's being called this season, one thing IS certain; O'Neal's Hall of Fame career is winding down... and fast. Coming off of an early season leg injury, Shaq has been limited to 12 of his team's 30 games. In his stead, the equally venerable Alonzo Mourning filled-in and played out-of-his MIND Hoops. Love him or hate him, you've gotta' put your hands together and applaud 'Zo's grit and moxie. Anti-rejection drugs for his Kidneys, exhaustion, illness, age, and nay-sayers aside, 'Zo and SG Dwyane Wade kept the Heat... hot. Back on the court and burning to reclaim his place amongst the game's pantheon of elite players, Shaq-Daddy has been logging 30+ minutes of floor-time per night and has played rock-solid B-Ball. Over the span of his last fistful o' games (5), O'Neal has drained 119 points, pulled down 55 'boards, and blocked 7 shots. On addition, the Heat Center has been playing well with others (namely young master wade) and is averaging almost a Double/Double; 19.4/9.2. Look for O'Neal to suffer at least one more injury that will cost him significant time, but the big guy remains both motivated and dominant.

Nuggets Marcus Camby: Do I really wanna' list the Camby-man as a top-5 Center.... ahh, not really. The former U Mass' star, as fragile as a China Vase, just underwent surgery to repair a busted-up pinky. Anyone recall former Forty-Niner Safety Ronnie Lott telling the sideline Docs' to cut his damaged digit OFF... so he could return to the game in order to help his team win? Yeah, well, Camby decided to hold onto all of his fingers and due to such selfishness will miss as many as 4 weeks. Prior to his pinky-problem, Camby was well on his way to a career year. For the season, the Nugg' lug has a line of 16.3/12.9/1.4, and is averaging 3+ swats per game. With Camby out and PF Kenyon Martin gimpy (anyone notice how K-Mart's game plummeted once he left the cozy confines of Jersey's Continental Airlines Arena?), it would appear as if PG Andre Miller and SF Carmelo Anthony will be playing 2-man Hoops.

Cavaliers Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas: The Cavs' have rapidly become an NBA force due, in large part, to SG LeBron James' remarkable gifts. However, the post-pubescent phenom is only part of Cleveland's roundball revival. King James' court boasts an offensively talented... if aging, Center in Ilgauskas. The 30 year-old middle-man sports some creaky knees at this stage of his career... but he's currently logging 15+/7+, and swats almost 2 would-be baskets per game. In addition, because "Big Z" is an "in the paint" fixture (he can also drain the 10-12'er), the Cav' C currently boasts the 2nd best shooting percentage of his 10 season career. "Z" is shooting 51.9% from the floor, and a for him unheard of 87.8% from the "Charity Stripe."

Rockets Yao Ming: Yao is now the "big oww!" Ming has a toe issue... and for an athlete who makes a living on his feet, that's a problem. Ming could be out for as long as a month, maybe even longer. Prior to being nailed by a toe, the Rocket had a line of 20 (19.9 actually)/9 in his pocket. Never known for his toughness or staunch D, Ming was averaging career-best point, steal, 'board, and free-throw accuracy numbers. Look for a strong mid-season return.

Jazz Mehmet Okur: With AK-47 (Andre' Kirilenko) healthy, at least for now, Okur shifts over to the Center slot. And, at just a hair under 7', Okur could be considered a true Center. Due to a dearth of blocks, Okur hasn't considered an "elite" Center... but if recent games are any indication, that may be changing. It would seem as if Okur's increased his intensity level over the span of his last 4 games "The Big O" has dropped 77 points, hauled in 47 Rebounds, distributed 18 Assists, and batted away 9 shots. In addition, Okur is shooting better than 45% (now) from the floor and is unafraid to "dial in" from long distance. With 31 3-pointers made and a more than respectable 39.7% accuracy from beyond the arc, Okur's value at the Center spot only increases. It's not unreasonable to believe that the Utah Jazz's big man will approach "elite" status within the next 2 seasons at this rate.

Pistons Ben Wallace: TO BE CONTINUED-

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