This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.
We've hit the midpoint in February, which means the NBA All-Star break is mere hours away. With all the glitz and glam surrounding the weekend, the league's best players will be recognized for their excellent starts to the season. Let's also recognize some of the big men who stand out as fantasy All-Stars up to this point.
However, we won't just run through the five best centers. In fantasy, sometimes the most important players are the ones who came out of nowhere to far exceed expectations. While discussing their stellar starts, let's also highlight what their schedules look like coming down the stretch.
So, without further ado, here are the 2018-19 Centers of Attention Fantasy All-Stars.
Nikola Jokic, Denver NuggetsJokic certainly didn't enter this season with low expectations since he was a first-round pick in most leagues. Currently ranked 10th overall on Yahoo, he's done everything to live up to those lofty expectations. The reason why he makes this list is the huge advantage that he provides based on his all-around numbers.
Not only is he averaging 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, but he also is averaging career-highs in assists (7.7) and steals (1.4). He's a major asset with his percentages, as well, shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 84.9 percent from the charity stripe.
Things are set up nicely for Jokic to have a monster finish to the season. The Nuggets are in the hunt for the top seed in the Western Conference. Heading into the break, they're just two games behind the Warriors. Having home court advantage throughout will likely be a goal for them since they are a stellar 25-4 at home. Don't expect Jokic to get many rest days as long as that goal is still within reach. The Nuggets have also played 57 games leading up to the break, which is tied for the second-fewest in the league. That helps set up Jokic with four games each in Weeks 23 through 25.
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando MagicVucevic has had some big fantasy seasons in the past, but nothing like this. He's been the rock for a Magic team that plays Thursday night and currently sits only one game back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. His 27.8 percent usage rate is the highest mark of his career, which has helped him average 20.6 points and 1.1 three-pointers a game. He's also been a monster on the glass with 12.1 rebounds a night.
Another key stat that shouldn't be overlooked is his 3.8 assists per game. The Magic have a hole at point guard with D.J. Augustin as their starter, so Vucevic has provided a nice boost in assists for fantasy owners. Add in his 52.1 percent shooting from the field and 78.1 percent mark from the charity stripe and Vucevic is ranked 12th on Yahoo, far exceeding his draft day expectations.
The only bad news if you roster Vucevic is that the Magic have played 59 games at the break, which is tied for the most in the league. If you're championship is played in Week 23, the Magic only play twice that week, which puts a damper on Vucevic's upside. With that being said, Vucevic could be one of the main reasons you've reached the championship, so it's hard to get too negative here.
Rudy Gobert, Utah JazzGobert did not make the NBA All-Star team, but he's an easy selection for this squad. Injuries limited him to just 56 games last year and his numbers were down slightly even when he was on the floor. He's come storming back with improved health this season, averaging 15.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Not known for his passing abilities, he's even chipped in a career-high 2.2 assists a night. Even though his 65.7 percent shooting from the charity stripe is a drag, his sparkling 65.4 percent field goal percentage has helped propel him to be ranked 15th on Yahoo.
Don't expect Gobert to get much if any, time off after the break. The Jazz are currently the sixth seed in the West, just two games behind the Blazers for the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round. They are also just two games ahead of the ninth-placed Kings, so they have to keep the pedal on the metal to avoid falling out of playoff picture all together.
The Jazz have also played the second-fewest games at 57, setting up Gobert with added opportunities to provide value. He'll play four games each in Weeks 22 and 23, setting him up nicely to be a difference maker in the fantasy playoffs.
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail BlazersAfter Nurkic was acquired from the Nuggets during the 2016-17 season, he went on an excellent run in which he averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.9 blocks across 20 games with the Blazers. That had him rising up many draft boards last year, but he took a step backwards in several categories.
He's put that disappointing 2017-18 campaign firmly in his rearview mirror by storming out to averages of 15 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, one steal and 1.5 blocks through 56 games. He's also shooting 74.9 percent from the charity stripe, which is far and away the best mark of his career. Those combinations of juicy stats have led him to exceed expectations with his current ranking of 39th in Yahoo leagues. To put that into perspective, he's ranked higher than players like Blake Griffin (41), Steven Adams (57) and Draymond Green (50).
Nurkic will be plenty busy down the stretch with the Blazers also tied for the second-fewest games played so far at 57. He stands out as having four games in Week 24, which could help lead you to victory if that's your championship week.
Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles ClippersHarrell appeared in a career-high 76 games for the Clippers last season, but he only averaged 17 minutes. Despite his limited playing time, he showed upside with averages of 11 points and four rebounds a game. He's still coming off of the bench this season, but he's received the lion's share of the minutes at center with an average of 26 per night. That's propelled him to post 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Combine those with his 62.2 percent shooting from the field and a player who was undrafted in many leagues is ranked 60th on Yahoo.
The Clippers brought in Ivica Zubac at the trade deadline, but they also parted ways with Marcin Gortat and Boban Marjanovic. Harrell has thrived off of the bench, so don't worry if Zubac continues to start. The one negative is that the Clippers are also tied for the most games played leading up to the break at 59. However, the good news is that the only time they play less than three games in a week down the stretch are Week 21 and Week 26, which is the final week of the season where no team plays more than twice. He also has four games each in Weeks 22 and 24, which could come at just the right time in fantasy.