Best and worst of Fantasy Basketball centers at NBA midseason

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New Orleans Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins has a good chance tot finish the season as the most valuable center in Fantasy Basketball. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
New Orleans Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins has a good chance tot finish the season as the most valuable center in Fantasy Basketball. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

By Mike Barner. RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports

While the All-Star break is the unofficial halfway point of the NBA regular season, most teams have already played around half their game already. With so many games firmly in the rearview mirror, let’s hand out some midseason fantasy awards for the center position.

Most Valuable Player

DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans

We’ll start with the major hardware. With the rest of the NBA going small, the Pelicans went in the opposite direction, pairing up Cousins with Anthony Davis last season. While they haven’t taken the league by storm, they are firmly in the hunt to make the playoffs this year in the Western Conference.

Cousins has played out of his mind this season, averaging 25.5 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.6 blocks and 2.2 made three-pointers per game. His percentages are great, as well. He’s shooting 47.4% from the field and 74.9% from the charity stripe. The only negative is that he is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game, but you’ll happily sign up for that based on his other numbers.

Entering Tuesday, Cousins’ usage rate sits at 32.6%, good for fourth-highest in the league behind James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid. He’s had a usage rate of at least 30% in each of the previous four seasons, so don’t expect that number to decrease even if Anthony Davis stays (mostly) healthy the rest of the way. Other than the lingering possibility of a trade, there is nothing on the horizon for the second half that would indicate Cousins can’t finish this season as the most valuable center in fantasy basketball.

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Most Improved Player

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Drummond wins this award because of drastic improvement in one category: free-throw shooting. Drummond had shot less than 40% from the charity stripe in four of his five seasons in the NBA entering this year, doing significant damage to his fantasy value. This season, he’s all the way up to a shocking 63.0% figure. It’s not like he had one, prolonged hot streak either, as Drummond has shot at least 60% from the line in each month thus far.

Drummond has also seen a big jump in assists, handing out3.8 per game this season. His previous career-high came last season, when he averaged just 1.1 per contest.

He’s always been a walking double-double, but he is now averaging a career-high 14.9 rebounds — including 4.9 offensive rebounds per game — to go along with 14.3 points. Most notably, Drummond is able to stay on the floor late in games because he’s not a glaring liability at the free-throw line anymore, so he should continue to be an extremely valuable player — that is, as long as he doesn’t regress back to his old ways, which, at this point, seems rather unlikely.

Rookie of the Year

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

This is a thin class, but Collins has done a nice job playing both center and power forward for the Hawks. His overall numbers are solid, but not spectacular at 10.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

One of the parimary limitations to his value is that he is only averaging 22 minutes per game, often finding himself in foul trouble early and with a relatively short leash for the league’s worst team. The good news is that the Hawks are going nowhere fast, so they could look to deal some of their veterans in the frontcourt before the trade deadline. If that’s the case — particularly if Atlanta parts ways with Ersan Ilyasova — Collins could be in line for increased playing time and fantasy value down the stretch. If you need help at center, now is the time to check the waiver wire for Collins in your league.

Biggest Disappointment

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Gobert was taken early in drafts this year after a spectacular 2016-17 campaign that saw him average career-highs in points (14.0), rebounds (12.8) and blocks (2.6) per game. After Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics in the summer, there was talk about making Gobert the centerpiece in Utah.

However, things turned sour for Gobert early on this season, as he played only 12 games before going down with a knee injury. He returned for six games before getting injured yet again, limiting him to just 18 total games played so far.

Even when he was on the floor, Gobert took a step backward with averages of just 11.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He still blocked 2.3 shots per contest and shot 59.8% from the field, but it hasn’t been enough to warrant what you would have had to pay to get him on draft day.

The good news is Gobert is expected to return at some point in January and will be one of the focal points of the team once he returns. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be among the league’s top second-half bounceback candidates.