This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.
With the NBA All-Star game rapidly approaching, Week 17 is the last full week of games before the break. Week 18 will be an abbreviated slate, but there are still some teams with contrasting schedules that will have a significant impact on the fantasy landscape. Let's dive in and discuss the impact the schedule will have on five centers across the next two weeks.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: Gobert is having arguably the best season of his career. He's not only a double-double machine with averages of 15 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, but he's also averaging a career-high 2.2 assists per contest. Add in his excellent shot-blocking abilities and 65 percent shooting from the field and Gobert is ranked 15th overall on Yahoo.
While Gobert is usually a set-it-and-forget option in fantasy, his upcoming schedule is certainly not a favorable one. The Jazz play just twice in Week 17, making them the only team to play fewer than three games during a stretch in which nine teams play four games apiece. The Jazz then follow that up with only one game in Week 18, although that's not as severe considering the majority of teams will play only twice. Even though he's probably worth starting still for both weeks, be sure to temper expectations regarding his output with so few games ahead of him.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings: Cauley-Stein hasn't really lived up to being the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but some of that can be attributed to his lack of playing time. He's never averaged at least 30 minutes a game for a season. The Kings are playing him 28 minutes a night this year, which has left him to average 13.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He's been an asset with his 53.6 percent shooting from the field, but his career-low 56 percent shooting from a charity stripe has been a drag on his value. He's currently ranked outside the top-100 on Yahoo at 108th, overall.
The good news for Cauley-Stein is that the Kings will play four times in Week 17. Two of those games will come against the Rockets and Suns, both of which are not good at slowing down opposing big men. As meaty as Cauley-Stein's production could be that week, you'll need to turn the page quickly with the Kings playing just once in Week 18. Since Cauley-Stein doesn't exactly excel in any one particular category, it might be a wise move to bench him for that week.
Kenneth Faried, Houston Rockets: The Rockets were is desperation mode after Clint Capela (thumb) went down, which left them with Nene Hilario as their starting center. How lucky are they that the Nets then decided to buy out Kenneth Faried? The Manimal has returned to his peak-Denver form since joining the Rockets, averaging 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks across five games.
The key for Faried is that there is no one behind him right now to push for playing time, which has enabled him to average 31 minutes per game since joining the team. The Rockets have a very average schedule with three games in Week 17 and two games in Week 18, but that's good enough to warrant keeping Faried locked into fantasy starting lineups.
Dewayne Dedmon, Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks would probably love to deal Dedmon before the NBA trade deadline passes. They are still in the very early stages of a rebuilding process, which doesn't exactly make the 29-year-old Dedmon a player that they need to hold onto. He'll also be an unrestricted free agent after the season, so the time is now to cash in to get a future asset for him.
Luckily for them, Dedmon is rolling right now with averages of 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.2 blocks and 1.8 three-pointers across his last five games. He is set up to receive plenty more opportunities to provide value in Week 17 with four games on the schedule, but all of that depends on whether he's still with the team. It might be hard to pass up on starting him with such a favorable schedule that week, but it could also be a crushing blow if he's dealt considering three of their four games that week are either on or after the deadline. If you have other options, it might be best to avoid Dedmon.
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks: The Knicks continue to be one of the most frustrating teams in fantasy. Coach David Fizdale is constantly changing up his rotations and often times provides very little insight on who will be starting leading up to games. The most recent change has been the move away from veteran Enes Kanter. Kanter is averaging a double-double for the season, but with Kanter set to be a free agent, they've decided to give some of their other players a chance to shine.
Luke Kornet was originally slated for a significant role before he went down with an ankle injury. The Knicks have moved Noah Vonleh into the starting center role and let Robinson man the middle for their second unit. If you need all-around numbers, Robinson is not your guy. However, if you need blocks, Robinson is averaging three rejections across his last six games and is still available in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues. The Knicks play three times in Week 17 and then have a significant advantage as the only team that plays three times in Week 18.
The addition of DeAndre Jordan is, of course, a major complicating factor, but there's reason to believe – contrary to their own comments – that the Knicks could move on from the veteran before the deadline. He could be a hindrance in the short-term, but given that the Knicks do not want to win basketball games, it doesn't make a ton of sense to hang on to Jordan, let alone play him extended minutes.