Centers of Attention: Valanciunas Still Relevant in Reduced Role
Centers of Attention: Valanciunas Still Relevant in Reduced Role

This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.

It's hard to believe that we're already over a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season. If you haven't already taken stock of your roster and tried to improve any areas of weakness, the time to act is now.

Knowing the schedule is also important if you play in a head-to-head league. For our latest dive into the state of the center position, let's highlight some players with a favorable outlook for the next two weeks.

Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook and Paul George might grab all the headlines for the Thunder, but Adams is almost as important to their success. He continues to get a ton of playing time, which has helped him average a double-double (14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game) for the first time in his career. He's also averaging 1.5 steals and one block per game, making him one of only three center-eligible players on Yahoo to average at least 1.5 steals and one block per contest. The other two are Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol.

The biggest downside with Adams is his 53.7 percent shooting from the charity stripe, but he is shooting 59.7 percent from the field. He's going to be extremely busy with the Thunder playing four games each in Weeks 9 and 10, so he should remain an anchor within fantasy lineups.

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: Thompson only averaged 20 minutes a game for the Cavaliers last year, but their roster overhaul, combined with the injury to Kevin Love (toe) has left him to average 30 minutes a game in the early going. Not known much for his offensive skills, Thompson is monster of the glass. He's one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, which has helped him boost his scoring to 11.8 points per game.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows with Thompson, though, since he doesn't provide much in the way of assists or defensive stats. His 61.5 percent shooting from the charity stripe also leaves a lot to be desired, which has helped lead to his ranking of 99th overall on Yahoo, despite him averaging a double-double. The Cavaliers play eight games across Weeks 9 and 10, which should leave Thompson with plenty of value. However, with Love targeting a return in mid-January, it might be time to consider selling high on Thompson.

Markieff Morris, Washington Wizards: After having Marcin Gortat man the middle for the Wizards the last five seasons, they decided to move in a different direction by trading him to the Clippers and bringing in Dwight Howard (lower body). Gortat hasn't exactly played well for his new team, but Howard's tenure in Washington so far has been marred by injury. With him expected to be out for at least the next two months, they are extremely thin at center.

Based on their lack of depth, the Wizards now have to play small up front. Morris is a big part of those lineups, which has enabled him to average 29 minutes across the last eight games. The added playing time has provided a boost to Morris' value with him averaging 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and two three-pointers during that stretch. He's jumped up to the 100th-ranked player on Yahoo and has a favorable schedule ahead of him with four games in each of the next two weeks.

Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: Heading into this season, Valanciunas had started 434 of 440 games in which he played in during his career. However, the Raptors underwent some significant changes during the offseason, including dumping Dwane Casey for Nick Nurse. Nurse has decided to play matchups this season, and that strategy has favored Serge Ibaka, leaving Valanciunas to start only nine of 26 games.

Even with his reduction in playing time, Valanciunas has been able to remain fantasy-relevant by averaging 7.3 rebounds per game and posting a career-high 25.2 percent usage rate. He's also shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free throw line, but his inconsistent role and lack of defensive numbers make him a night to night liability. Even so, he has a favorable schedule coming up with seven games across Weeks 9 and 10. Among the teams he will be facing during that stretch are the Blazers, Nuggets, Pacers and Sixers, each of which have traditional size up front.

Richaun Holmes, Phoenix Suns: The Suns acquired their center of the future with the top pick in the draft, but it hasn't had much of an impact on the bottom line. Individually, Ayton has performed about as well as expected, averaging 16 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Another move the Suns made during the offseason was acquiring Holmes from the Sixers. They created a bit of a logjam at center but helped alleviate that by shipping Alex Len to Atlanta and eventually buying out Tyson Chandler in November. Since that move, Holmes has taken over as the primary backup at the position. He hasn't let the opportunity go to waste, averaging 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks across his last nine games. He's still available in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues and presents himself as a relatively appealing deeper-league option should you need help at center, with the Suns playing eight games across Weeks 9 and 10.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. He currently focuses on the NBA. Before RotoWire, Mike wrote for KFFL.com.
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