I love fantasy basketball and if there's one rule I have when it comes to drafting, it's to make sure that I have one player from my beloved New York Knicks either in my starting lineup or on the bench. Yes, the goal is to build the best team possible, but it's hard for one to not feel a bit sentimental when it comes to their favorite team. It's a team that we love for a reason and if having one of the players on a faux-squad can help us win some extra cash, it gives us a whole new reason to show support. Just a couple of years ago, I got to utter the words, "I love Chauncey Billups! He won me a fantasy title!"
That isn't to say that one should arbitrarily pick players from their favorite team. Such decisions require analysis, planning and discipline. Even if you're a die-hard Golden State Warriors fan, it's not at all a good idea to draft someone like Jeremy Tyler onto your team just so you'll have one member of that team on your roster. It's a waste of space and will only hurt you in the standings.
The fact of the matter is that each NBA team has a fantasy stud and if they're available when your turn in the draft comes, you shouldn't hesitate to draft them, be they on your favorite team or most-hated one.
Smith is a solid fantasy option for a couple of reasons. Not only is he one of the most explosive players in the game, but he's eligible to play both forward positions. He can score points well, but can also provide exceptional defense.
The former first-round pick averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game last year, so it's hard to go wrong with him in fantasy. He shot 46 percent from the field, so it's clear that he's choosing his shots intelligently. The only real red flag against Smith is his free-throw percentage, which last season stood at an unimpressive 63 percent. If you play in a competitive head-to-head league like I do, where missed free throws count against you, then this could be a cause for concern.
Still, as a whole, Smith is a great player to have on a fantasy team. His talents are prominent on both ends of the floor. Therefore, as long as he stays healthy, he'll do a good job of racking up some points.
Though his teammate Rajon Rondo is probably primed for an MVP-caliber season, Pierce is still the best Celtic to have on a fantasy team. Why? Well, if you walked into a Boston library and looked up the word "clutch" in the dictionary, there would probably be a picture of him.
Yes, the former Kansas Jayhawk is going to be 35 before the season begins, but he is still one of the most reliable scorers in the game. Last season, he averaged 19.4 points per game while shooting 36 percent from long range. That's no small task for someone his age.
Given how he'll have a great point guard in Rondo getting him the ball, anticipate Pierce to be a solid contributor in all offensive categories this fantasy season. Be it in field goal percentage, 3-pointers made or points scored, there really isn't anything bad to say about him.
As far as point guards go, Deron Williams is a fantasy beast. Yes, he only shot just more than 40 percent from the field last year, but that was because he had no reliable offensive players to help him out. This year, with Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace contributing, his shooting percentage should rise.
Besides that, Williams does a fine job of balancing his scoring with his passing game. Last year, he averaged 21 points to go with 8.7 assists. That's not bad by any means.
Seeing as how the Nets are in a great position to contend this season, there's no reason to believe that Williams' numbers will continue to improve, both in scoring and passing. He'll even throw in the occasional steal. Either way, regardless of if the Nets choke or not, he's a fine player to have on a fantasy team.
There's no other way to say this. The Charlotte Bobcats are a horrible team and anybody on their roster would be a waste of a draft pick. Still, if you're a die-hard 'Cats fan and must have one on your team, Ben Gordon isn't the worst player in the world.
Though he underachieved in Detroit, Gordon is still one of the NBA's better 3-point shooters. He shot an astounding 43 percent from downtown last year to the tune of 12.5 points per game. That said, if Charlotte is your team and you want to show your love, grabbing Gordon as a utility player would be a solid move.
With Derrick Rose recovering from a knee injury, Deng is now the most reliable player on the Bulls. Fortunately, for fantasy owners, he can hold his own in most of the important categories. The former Duke Blue Devil will probably handle a majority of the scoring duties in Rose's absence and while he averaged 15.3 points per game last year, that number could easily go up.
On top of that, Deng can hold his own from beyond the arc and as we all know, he is a phenomenal defender. The Bulls' title hopes without Rose may be slim but one thing is for certain. Deng is going to keep them in the hunt and if he's on your fantasy team, he'll undoubtedly be a valuable contributor on offense as well as in the steals department.
Considering how he was expected to be a top contributor on offense last year, Irving was that and much more for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. He averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists, the passing numbers seemingly low for a point guard.
Yet, Irving was a fantasy animal in that he did a phenomenal job of choosing his shots wisely. He shot an incredible 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from long range. It's understandable that some may be scared of gambling on him, as he isn't necessarily a pass-first point man on top of the superstition about a sophomore slump.
Still, given his basketball IQ and overall approach to the game, passing on him as your starting point guard would just be cheating yourself out of one of the best young players in the game. If he stays healthy, he's going to mightily improve.
Nowitzki has been the unquestioned leader of the Mavericks for years and during that stretch, he has also been an absolute beast in terms of fantasy value. The man can score from anywhere on the court and his 7'0", 245 pound frame also makes him excellent under the basket.
That said, while he's getting up there in years at age 34, Dirty Dirk is still someone who could be worth a first or second round pick. He takes a good amount of high-percentage shots and knows how to put points on the board. If he's left alone in 3-point land, he can make that shot with ease.
Simply put, in fantasy basketball, there might not be a better all-around threat than Nowitzki.
While Ty Lawson may seem like the obvious choice here, he's only just becoming a star. Iguodala, on the other hand, has already established himself as one of the best in the league.
He'll be stepping into a new role in Denver, where he's expected to be a shooting guard after playing small forward in Philadelphia for most of his career, but he'll make the transition easily. The former Arizona Wildcat can score, dunk and play some exceptional defense. On his new team, expect him to be like Landry Fields but as a more reliable scorer.
Iguodala can also contribute from long range, though how much of that he'll do with Danilo Gallinari on his team is unclear. Regardless, in George Karl's system, he's bound to put up some phenomenal numbers and give the Nuggets the star they need now that Carmelo Anthony is gone.
Like the Charlotte Bobcats, the Detroit Pistons are also a mess and don't have many players who could be solid on a fantasy team. Yet, if I had to pick one of their players to be on my fantasy team, it would be Stuckey.
The former first-round pick just moves so naturally when driving to the basket and while his jump shot may not be where it needs to be for a guard, he still goes out and gives 110 percent night after night. That said, if you're looking to add a bench guard who can get a spot start here and there, Stuckey isn't a bad choice at all.
I look at Lee, and I see a more athletic Kris Humphries. Much like the Brooklyn Nets power forward, the former Florida Gator puts his body on the line and just goes after every single rebound. On top of that, he makes himself better than Humphries in that he can be a valuable contributor on offense as well. Last season, Lee averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 boards per game.
Points scored and rebounding are stats that can be gotten from any player, but Lee sets himself apart in that his field goal percentage is exceptional. He shot 50 percent from the floor last year and has shot 54 percent from his career. Even better, unlike most power forwards, he is a decent free throw shooter, having a career percentage of 78 from the charity stripe.
That said, if you want your team to have an athletic feel, look no further than Lee.
Until Jeremy Lin can prove that Linsanity lives, the Rockets are a team without much to smile about. Having amnestied Luis Scola in a failed effort to land Dwight Howard, the team doesn't have many reliable contributors left.
Simply put, Martin plays his position perfectly. As a shooting guard, that's really all he does. He shoots and shoots until the ball goes in, which explains why he shot an average 41 percent from the floor last season.
Still, despite his shortcomings, Martin still manages to put points on the board, having averaged 17.1 points per game last year. On top of that, he is half-decent from 3-point range. Having said that, if he's the best guard available when you're looking to take one, he's not that bad of a selection.
Ever since he was drafted out of New Mexico back in 2005, Granger has blossomed into one of the league's best scorers. Though his defense is suspect, he can always be counted on to put a good number of points on the board. In seven seasons, he has averaged 18.2 per game while shooting a respectable 44 percent from the field.
That said, if you're going to draft Granger, don't expect him to be the one who carries your team. He is a scorer. Nothing more, nothing less. Still, given his ability to be unstoppable night after night, he'll still help your team run the table in points scored any given week.
Here, we have the best point guard who will be available come draft time. Paul simply does everything from passing to scoring to playing some phenomenal defense. Draft him, and you'll basically put up great numbers in every category except rebounding.
The former Wake Forest star took the Clippers by storm last year in averaging 19.8 points, 9.1 assists and an incredible 2.5 steals per game. Adding onto that, his shot selection was incredible as he shot 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from long range.
More importantly, this is a contract year for Paul. Therefore, he's surely going to be playing just a bit harder than usual so that he can sign a hefty new deal or extension next summer. In fantasy basketball, that means stats that could rocket your team up towards the top of the standings.
The new-look Lakers have a great number of players who can be fantasy studs but when push comes to shove, the Black Mamba is still the best player from the team to have on a fantasy roster. Bryant is still a master at creating his own shot so that he may score close to 30 points a night, with the fact that he nearly won a scoring title last year at age 33 amazing in itself.
Yet, many seem to forget that Bryant can do so much more than score. He can hold his own in rebounding and is a great pest as well. Keep in mind, he has been named to the All-Defensive First Team nine times.
Thus, while his shooting accuracy may not be what it once was, do not hesitate to draft Kobe Bryant if he's available. If he's healthy, he's a lock to put up great numbers week after week.
Memphis is a team that is going places fast, and Rudy Gay is going to be the one who carries them to glory. He is such a great athlete for someone 6'8" 230 pounds and he is slowly becoming one of the most reliable scorers in the NBA.
The former UConn Husky averaged 19 points per game last year to go with 6.4 rebounds, but his work on offense stood out in particular. At long last, Gay appeared to finally focus on his mid-range jumper and not so much on his 3-point shooting. As a result, though he shot 45 percent from the field (his career high is 47), his shots were a lot smoother and crisper.
In terms of top scoring and average rebounding in fantasy ball, Gay is a fine player to have under any circumstance.
James has three MVP trophies, a championship ring and is probably the only player in the league today who could average a triple-double for the season. He came fairly close last year in averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists. Even more impressive, he shot 53 percent from the field and averaged just less than two steals.
If he isn't the best fantasy player in the league, let alone on Miami, then I don't know who is.
Nothing against Brandon Jennings, but he's just a bit too impulsive when it comes to shot selection. Ellis, on the other hand, is a fine example of discipline in scoring. He only shot 43 percent from the field last year, but has shot an astounding 46 percent for his career. Last season, he averaged 20.4 points per game, his lowest output since 2009.
However, Ellis made up for that in also being a fine distributor. Though a shooting guard, he played more like a point man, to the tune of six dimes a game. That said, he's a great combo guard to have on any fantasy team.
Also, let's not forget that Ellis isn't exactly what one would call an elite 3-point shooter. He has only shot 32 percent from long range for his career, so it's clear that he prefers to drive to the basket and take high percentage shots.
In fantasy basketball, that can only help your team.
At 6'10", 235 pounds, double-double machine Kevin Love is built like someone that one would think does most of his work under the basket. While he does do well in the scoring and rebounding department, having averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds last season, the former UCLA Bruin can also be deadly from 3-point land. For his career, he has shot 37 percent from long range.
That said, if you were to draft Love to be on your fantasy team, there are a couple of guarantees. First, depending on your centers, your team would probably be among the best in rebounding. On top of that, your scoring and shooting percentages would be very respectable as well. Love is one of the league's most coachable players and though he has definitely found his stride, he is still just 23 years old and always looking to improve his game.
Seeing as how Minnesota is probably going to make a run at a playoff spot this season, definitely draft Love if he's available.
Injuries may have limited him to nine games in last year's lockout-shortened season, but Gordon still made the most of his time on the court. In his first year with the New Orleans Hornets, he averaged 20.6 points per game and shot 45 percent from the field.
Simply put, though his short season probably dropped him a bit in the fantasy rankings, Gordon could still very well be a great sleeper pick in any draft. Though only 6'3", he plays like someone much bigger in that he never hesitates to drive to the basket and draw fouls. His Hornets have a new look this year, and he's expected to be the leader on offense.
With his intelligent approach to the game and tendency to score a lot of points, Gordon will provide a great amount of consistency on any fantasy team solely interested in him for offense.
Anthony wears many hats on the court: scorer, leader, clutch performer, etc. That said, now that he's in an offense that allows him to play his own game and not be part of a strict, almost NFL-like pick and roll system, he's due for a phenomenal season.
The former Syracuse star averaged 22.6 points per game last year, but turned on the afterburners during the final month of the season. In April, he averaged 29.8 points to go with 7.3 rebounds. He also shot an incredible 46 percent from long range.
That said, while he's certain to have his good days and his bad days, Anthony is still a solid fantasy player in that you generally know what you're going to get from him. His mid-range jumper is one of the best in the game and he can be a solid rebounder when he pushes himself. Given how much the Knicks have improved this off-season, one would be foolish not to take a chance on him.
Much like Chris Paul, Kevin Durant is a player who will be a fantasy stud in multiple categories. Not only did he average 28 points a game last year, but he also pulled down eight boards while shooting just under 50 percent from the floor. From long range, he shot an impressive 39 percent.
Yet, Durant is also a player who will definitely be gone by the fifth overall pick, if not sooner. That said, if your selection is below No. 5 and you badly want the former Texas Longhorn on your team, my advice is to try and swing a draft-room trade if the commissioner allows it. It may cost multiple picks, but Durant's overall production will more than make up for them.
The Magic have entered rebuilding mode and given how they'll probably be among the NBA's worst in 2012-2013, I would advise against drafting anyone on the roster. Still, every rough area has its diamond and in Orlando, it's Arron Afflalo.
This young man has done nothing but improve ever since being drafted in 2007 and last season, posted a career high 15.2 points per game while shooting and astounding 40 percent from long range. That said, if someone is going to carry the scoring load for the Magic, it's probably this former UCLA Bruin.
Afflalo also does a good job of picking his shots wisely, having shot 47 percent from the floor for his career. Thus, though his team will probably perform poorly, he'll still be a solid fantasy contributor.
The Sixers' greatest issue last year was that there was no star who could step up and take control in crunch time, as Doug Collins turned Andre Iguodala into a point forward and embraced a team-first approach that, as a whole, seemed to work. Yet, the Sixers collapsed down the stretch and only reached the second round of the playoffs thanks to Derrick Rose injuring his knee.
However, this season will be different as the team is lucky to have Andrew Bynum at center. The 2005 first-round pick is coming off a career season in which he did not miss one game due to injury, so his fantasy value is at an all-time high. With Iguodala now playing for Denver, Collins is going to rely on him to shoulder most of the load and form a solid 1-2 punch with one of his teammates, be it point guard Jrue Holiday or forward Evan Turner.
As always, his injury history is a red flag in fantasy scouting, but last year speaks for itself. Bynum appears to be committed to becoming a top center, so he's definitely worth the gamble.
The recently-amnestied Scola gives the Suns their most reliable power forward since Amar'e Stoudemire and now that the Argentinian sensation is playing in a fast-paced offense, fantasy enthusiasts should expect a career season out of him. Last season, Scola averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in Kevin McHale's slow, defense-oriented system.
Phoenix is a team that's used to scoring a lot of points in a short amount of time, so anticipate Scola's scoring and rebounding stats to increase. He is a forward who has a decent jump shot to go with some fine work under the basket, so he's definitely due for an incredible season.
On top of that, his point guard in Phoenix, Goran Dragic, played with him in Houston last season, so they already have a solid on-court relationship with which to work. That said, with his experience, he is a fine player to have on any fantasy team for both scoring and defense.
The Blazers are a team looking to bounce back this season, and Aldridge will help lead the charge. Nothing against rookie point man Damian Lillard, who tore it up in the NBA Summer League, but I can't pass judgment on him until he plays against a fully stocked NBA team.
Aldridge, however, has already established himself as one of the best young power forwards in the league. He averaged 21.7 points and eight rebounds last year while shooting an incredible 51 percent from the field.
In terms of fantasy value, this puts him near the top of the list of power forwards available. He's still young at 27 years old, so he has plenty of good years left. Thus, if you want a forward (who may very well be center-eligible to boot) who can score just as well as he can rebound, Aldridge could be your guy. So long as he's healthy, he'll be a phenomenal contributor.
Cousins' attitude may be questionable, but his skills on the court speak for themselves. He has great size at 6'11", 270 pounds and at just 22 years of age, he's on his way to becoming one of the best young centers in the league, and that means a great player to have on a fantasy team.
Simply put, Cousins should only be drafted if there's another good center on the roster. His talent is unquestionable, as he averaged 18.1 points and 11 boards last year, but his shot selection is just a bit off. For someone who should be doing most of his work under the rim, the former Kentucky Wildcat shot just 45 percent from the floor.
Still, on a young Sacramento squad, Cousins was the most consistent player in the front court. On top of that, underneath his immature personality, he seems to genuinely want to be a great player. Given how well he responded to coach Keith Smart after Paul Westphal was fired, he could be due for a career year this season.
Thus, he is well worth the roll of the dice.
After being a scoring point guard for much of his career, Parker changed his game up a bit last season. While keeping up with the solid scoring to the tune of 18.3 points per contest, he also averaged a career-best 7.7 assists.
Nothing against Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, but both are getting older and don't put up the same numbers they used to. Parker, on the other hand, is only 30 and just keeps getting better and better. He chooses his shots wisely and plays with a tenacity one wouldn't usually expect from a point guard.
He may not be the best point guard available but if one was to lose the Chris Paul draft sweepstakes, Parker is a consolation prize that would be pretty hard to turn down.
At 26 years old and entering his seventh NBA season, Lowry is in a prime position to carry the Raptors back into contention. He is a good all-around point guard much like Chris Paul, except he isn't as explosive a player. In Houston last season, he averaged a career-best 14.3 points to go with 6.6 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting a respectable 37 percent from long range.
The only real knock against Lowry is that he's still getting used to being a starter and thus trying to figure out what kind of point guard he wants to be: scoring or passing. As a result, he has shot just 42 percent from the field for his career.
Still, the man is young and knows how to play defense. Overall, despite his flaws, he is a fine fantasy option on a Raptors team in dire need of a leader.
The Jazz are currently defined by their size, and Al Jefferson leads the 1-2 punch alongside Paul Millsap. The 2004 first-round pick has done nothing but provide consistency since coming to Utah in 2010 and averaged 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks last season.
Long story short, the man is one of the league's elite centers and thus a blessing on any fantasy basketball team. He scores, rebounds, blocks and takes a great number of high percentage shots. Most important of all, he has done a great job of staying healthy since coming to Utah and should that trend continue in the new season, he'll provide many fantasy teams with a great number of points.
On a Wizards team that has been nothing but a ridiculous mess the past couple of years, John Wall has been the diamond in the rough. His career may be just two years old, but the former No. 1 pick has done a fine job of balancing his scoring with his passing and also playing incredible defense. On top of that, he has continued to work on improving his jump shot so that he can be all the more valuable.
Still, like the aforementioned Bobcats and Pistons, the Wizards were, up until this off-season, a team with few reliable players. The additions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza are nice, not to mention Nene, but Wall is still the most consistent producer out of the bunch. When it comes time to draft and I'm looking to add a Wizard onto the team, he's the one whose name would be considered first if he were available.