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Changing of the Guard...err Center

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We all know the superstar names - Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, even Pau Gasol...the men who have ruled the center position for years and years. But there is a new group who is taking control of the leaderboard and they are young, athletic and talented.

Below are seven players, age 25 or younger, who have already made themselves into top-10 type centers. And the list doesn't include Andray Blatche or Roy Hibbert or rookies DeMarcus Cousins and Cole Aldrich who could develop into that type of player.

Dwight Howard - (ADP 16) is still just 25 yards old, despite being in his seventh season at the professional level. He has developed every part of his game, except three-point shooting and foul shooting. While the three-point shot isn't a problem, his free throw percentage is what keeps him from being the No.1 fantasy center. Unfortunately, he takes so many attempts (800+ over the past three seasons) that it brings down the rest of your fantasy roster. At this point in his career, it appears that he just isn't going to improve in this one area.

Kevin Love - He wasn't a full-time starter in his first two seasons, which seems silly now. In 28 starts this season he's averaging 21.1 ppg and a league-leading 15.7 rpg. That's about a 50% increase over 2009-10. And unlike Howard, Love (ADP 41) is proficient from both the foul line (career mark 81.7%) and beyond the arc (35.2%). The T-Wolves still can't win games, but fantasy owners don't care as long as Love gets his numbers.

Al Horford - Horford (ADP 24) is an undersized center but it hasn't seemed to stop him from being a winner. The Hawks were 30-52 the season before he arrived and are 154-121 since with three playoff appearances. He's never posted less than 9.3 rpg and has improved his scoring from 10.1 in his rookie season to 16.6 ppg in 2010-11. He also had corresponding rises in his field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

Joakim Noah - Noah (ADP 45) played with Horford at the University of Florida and it's no wonder they won two titles. It's taken Noah a little longer to develop, but he's a full-ledged star center in his fourth season, averaging 14.0 ppg and 11.7 rpg. The Bulls have a lot of talent around Noah which will limit his scoring chances, but he'll always be an excellent rebounder and should still average double-digit points.

Marc Gasol - Brother Pau gets all the attention, and rightfully so helping lead the Los Angeles Lakers to multiple championships, but Marc (ADP 36) has plenty of fantasy value. Last season he averaged 14.6 ppg and 9.3 rpg. He's down a bit from those numbers, but he's still quite valuable.

Andrea Bargnani - Bargnani (ADP 31) was the No.1 draft choice in 2006 who was struggling to develop his game while Chris Bosh was controlling the lane. Now that Bosh jumped to Miami, Bargnani is the star of the Toronto Raptors squad and improving every day. He's pushed his scoring up to 21.4 ppg and he's an excellent three-point shooter, he just needs to pull down a few more boards to become a truly dominant fantasy force.

Brook Lopez - The New Jersey Nets may have been horrible last season, but Lopez (ADP 15) wasn't the reason why. His game jumped a level from his rookie season, averaging 18.8 ppg and 8.6 rpg in 2009-10. There is no reason this trend won't continue in 2010-11.

Youthful Centers
Player Team Age PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3PT% FT%
Dwight Howard ORL 25 21.7 12.5 1.0 1.1 2.3 57.1 0.0 55.3
Andrea Bargnani TOR 25 21.4 5.8 1.7 0.6 0.7 47.2 36.0 82.3
Kevin Love MIN 22 21.1 15.7 2.3 0.5 0.4 45.6 43.2 87.4
Brook Lopez NJ 22 19.1 6.3 1.2 0.5 1.5 44.7 0.0 83.1
Al Horford ATL 24 16.6 9.7 3.2 0.8 0.9 57.1 0.0 83.1
Joakim Noah CHI 25 14.0 11.7 2.7 1.2 1.6 54.4 0.0 72.5
Marc Gasol MEM 25 11.4 7.6 2.7 1.1 1.4 53.8 0.0 77.6


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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