NBA preview: centers

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Last but not least, we take a look at the center position, which is filled with a plethora of young, explosive talents. But whom should you target on draft day? Let's take a look.

(If you're looking to learn you need to know about the fantasy season ahead, check out the 2008 NBA Fantasy Draft Kit.)

Stoudemire took his game to another level last season, and now he's head and shoulders above every other center-eligible player. He finished fifth in scoring, sixth in blocked shots, and 18th in rebounding, but his stellar shooting percentages were even more impressive. He shot 59 percent from the field (fifth overall) on over 15 attempts per game, and 80.5 percent from the line (third among centers) on nearly 9 attempts per game. He was even more dominant after the Shaq trade, because it allowed him to slide over to power forward. Terry Porter's offense won't be quite as high-scoring as Mike D'Antoni's was, but Amaré should still be a top 5 pick in every single league.

Supposedly Yao's left foot is healthy and fine, but good luck convincing anyone who's drafted him over the past three years. After missing just two games total in his first three seasons, he's missed 86 games since. And while you can't complain about 20-plus points, 10-plus boards, 2-plus assists, 2-plus blocks, 50 percent FG shooting and 85 percent fropm the line, you can complain when your top 20 pick misses 25-plus games. Bringing in Ron Artest to help anchor the Rockets' defense should help quite a bit, but his 37.2 minutes per game average from last season must come down if Houston wants to keep him fresh. Without a doubt, Yao is probably the biggest high-risk/ high-reward player out there.

Bosh is fresh off a gold-medal winning performance in the Olympics, and he's about to enter his prime. If he qualifies at center in your league it's a huge plus, because he's an excellent free throw shooter with three-point range, and has averaged 22-plus points three years in a row. However, he's also missed 12-plus games three years in a row, and he struggles to block even one-third as many shots as Marcus Camby.

Jefferson doesn't turn 24 until January, but he's already established himself as one of the finest low post players in the league. He and Dwight Howard were the only players to average 21-plus points and 11-plus rebounds per game last season, but Jefferson's 72 percent free-throw shooting is much easier to swallow. However, like Bosh, Jefferson has never blocked more than 1.5 shots per game.

Last year was the first time that Duncan failed to average 2-plus blocks per game, but he still finished fourth in rebounds, eighth in blocks, and third in assists among centers. He shot over 49 percent from the field for the 10th time in 11 years, and his 73 percent from the line was his highest mark in six years. His free throw shooting may decline a bit in '08-09, but he should continue to post rock solid numbers (especially while Manu Ginobili's out).

Camby has now blocked 3-plus shots four years in a row, grabbed 10-plus boards five years in a row, nabbed 1-plus steal three years in a row, and dished out 3-plus assists two years in a row. For a guy who doesn't score much, he certainly takes care of business in the other categories. However, I'm projecting his boards, blocks & assists to fall quite a bit now that he's out of Denver, so don't expect a repeat of last season's numbers. He's also bothered by a heel injury at the moment, which is another reason why he's ranked this low.

Gasol's numbers are likely to take a hit this year due to Andrew Bynum's return, but he'll still be a top-notch fantasy center due to his superb field goal shooting (58.9 percent FG after being traded to the Lakers), excellent assist numbers (3-plus dimes three years in a row), and solid blocks (1.8 career average). The big question is: can he shoot 80 percent from the line again (just 73.3 percent for his career)?

Bynum is another high-risk/high-reward player. If he stays healthy and gets enough minutes, he could easily be a top 20 player. He was extremely impressive before he got hurt, and he's still a few days away from turning 21, meaning the sky's the limit. It will be tough for him to shoot nearly 65 percent from the field again, but if he can improve his free throw shooting (just 69.5 percent last season), that would raise his value even further.

Howard has led the league in total rebounds three years in a row now. Unfortunately, he also led the league in free throw attempts last season and in turnovers the year before. His sub-60 percent free-throw shooting is a major downer, but if you're in a points-based league or one that doesn't use free-throw percentage, his value goes thru the roof.

Okur averaged just 30 minutes per game and shot below 40 percent from the field in November and December of '07, but he was a top tier center afterwards, averaging over 16 points and 1.8 threes per game on 47 percent shooting from the field. His 7.7 rebound average from last year looks very average, but he pulled down 10.3 boards per game in the second half and 11.8 boards per in the playoffs. And while he doesn't block a lot of shots, he's the only center on this list capable of averaging 2 threes per game while shooting 80 percent from the line.

Last season, Biedrins was just a few rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, a feat that only nine players accomplished. But if you throw out the 17 games in which he didn't start, Biedrins averaged a rock-solid 10.5 boards per game. He'll never average 20 points per game, but with Baron Davis gone and Monta Ellis out indefinitely, he'll play a bigger role on offense and score more points. His free-throw shooting is steadily improving, and he led the league in field-goal shooting last season. He swatted just 1.2 shots per game in '07-08, which was well below his career-high of 1.7 from the season prior, so expect his blocks to improve. He's even better in nine-category leagues, because he doesn't commit many turnovers.

After a rock solid rookie campaign, many are expecting big things from Horford in '08-09. While I don't think his scoring is going to go up that much, he should be a double-double lock and I'm projecting an increase in blocks. He shot 73.1 percent from the line last year, but his split stats show how much he improved as the season went on. After shooting a pathetic 55.6 percent from the line in his first month in the NBA, he proceeded to shoot 77.7 percent or better in four of the next five months, which is the type of consistency that signals an improvement going forward. At 22 years old, he's only going to get better, so don't let him fall too far!