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, letís hand out some midseason fantasy awards for the center position.
Most Valuable Player
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans: Weíll 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 havenít 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 25.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.6 blocks and 2.3 three-pointers per game. His percentages are great, as well. Heís shooting 48.1% from the field and 75.2% from the charity stripe. The only negative is that he is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game, but youíll happily sign up for that based on his other numbers.
Cousinsí usage rate is 32.8%, which is fourth-highest in the league. Heís had a usage rate of at least 30% in each of the previous four seasons, so donít expect that number to decrease even with Anthony Davis in the fold. There is nothing on the horizon for the second half that would indicate Cousins canít finish this season as the most valuable center in fantasy basketball.
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, heís all the way up to a shocking 62.4%. Itís not like he had one hot streak either as he has shot at least 60% on his free throws in each month so far.
He has also seen a big jump in assists, averaging 3.8 per game this season. His previous career-high came last season, when he averaged just 1.1 per contest.
Heís always been a walking double-double, but he is now averaging a career-high 15.0 rebounds to go along with 14.4 points per game. Heís playing more late in games because heís not a liability at the free-throw line anymore, so he should continue to be an extremely valuable player as long as he doesnít regress back to his old ways.
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 10.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
One of the main 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 leagueís 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 thatís the case, 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.
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 went bad 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 by averaging 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 hasnít 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 could be primed for a big second half.