Fantasy Basketball Rankings: Top 5 Players at Every Position Entering 2013-14
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
One of the biggest keys to building a championship-winning fantasy basketball roster is versatility.
If you load up on one-dimensional players early in your draft, you're booking a one-way ticket to your fantasy league's consolation bracket.
In those early rounds, you should be targeting guys who will help you in as many categories as possible. It's what makes a guy like Paul George a more valuable fantasy commodity than Carmelo Anthony, or why Nicolas Batum should be a top-20 pick in any format.
Once you've established your fantasy team's franchise players, you can build out and draft category-specific specialists from there.
With that advice in mind, behold the top five fantasy players at every position for the 2013-14 season.
5. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets; ADP: 13.5
Surrounded by four All-Stars in his starting lineup, Deron Williams appears primed for a massive fantasy season.
After the 2013 All-Star break, Williams averaged 22.1 points, 8.0 assists, 2.8 threes and 1.1 steals per game on 48.1 percent shooting. With Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko now in Brooklyn, Williams could easily lead the league with 10-plus dimes per game this year.
4. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls; ADP: 8.7
If his preseason performance is any indication, Derrick Rose is back with a vengeance. On Oct. 18, he lit up the Indiana Pacers to the tune of 32 points, nine assists, four rebounds and four made three-pointers in only 31 minutes.
All the offseason rumblings about Rose's improved jump shot appear to be true, and the former MVP himself claims that he's more explosive than ever, per Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago. He's easily worth an early second-round pick in 10-team drafts, injury risk be damned.
3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers; ADP: 7.7
If Kyrie Irving can make it through the 2013-14 season healthy, he's going to be one of the best players in all of fantasy. Despite playing only 59 games last year, he finished 35th on ESPN's Player Rater.
You can safely pencil Irving in for at least 20 points, six assists, three rebounds and 1.5 made three-pointers per game. With all the weapons the Cleveland Cavaliers added over the offseason, Irving could average more than eight dimes per game, which would make him a top-five fantasy value available outside of the top five draft picks.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; ADP: 5.2
Like with Irving, the biggest question with Stephen Curry's fantasy value comes down to health. If his oft-injured ankles hold up throughout the season, he's got a chance to finish the year as fantasy's most valuable point guard.
He set an all-time NBA record by drilling 272 three-pointers last year and could be even more prolific from downtown this season, as noted by ESPN's Tom Haberstroh (subscription required). His elite contributions from long range and from the free-throw line make him worth a top-five pick in both head-to-head and roto formats.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers; ADP: 4.8
Chris Paul gets the nod as the top 2013-14 fantasy point guard for two main reasons: Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers' additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.
Having two legitimate three-point shooters in Redick and Dudley could help Paul cross the 10-assist-per-game threshold this year. And with Rivers at the helm, the days of the Clippers' lack of creative play-calling has come to an end, which should help push CP3 to the top of the elite-point guard pile.
5. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks; ADP: 37.7
Having Monta Ellis as fantasy's fifth-best shooting guard speaks mostly to the dearth of elite options at the 2. If there's one position you can afford to wait on this year, it's SG.
Ellis could be revitalized in Dallas starting next to Jose Calderon and Dirk Nowitzki, but he's still a somewhat risky fantasy option. His poor shot selection can single-handedly make field-goal percentage a lost cause for your fantasy team, but he redeems himself with steals (2.1 per game last year), assists (6.0 per game) and threes (1.1 per game).
4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors; ADP: 35.8
The less-heralded half of Golden State's Splash Brothers, you know what you're getting with Klay Thompson: a whole bunch of points and three-pointers with not much else.
Thompson averaged 17.2 points and 2.5 made threes per game last year, but he hardly made a difference in terms of rebounds (3.7), assists (2.4), steals (1.1) and blocks per game (0.5). With the Warriors' backcourt more crowded after the addition of Andre Iguodala, Thompson isn't likely to make a major statistical leap this year.
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers; ADP: 30.2
If you're not willing to potentially punt the first month of your fantasy season, stay far, far away from Kobe Bryant this year. There's still no public timetable for his return as he continues rehabbing from surgery on his Achilles tendon.
But if he's even 80 percent of his former self upon his return, he could be one of the biggest draft-day steals in recent memory. Stat-sheet stuffers like Bryant, who averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 threes and 1.4 steals per game last year, simply aren't available past the second round in typical drafts.
2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat; ADP: 15.6
As if gunning for a three-peat wasn't enough motivation for Dwyane Wade in 2013-14, Kevin Durant may have lit a fire under him during the offseason. In a recent interview with a TV station in Greece, Durant said it's time for Wade to "pass the torch" to younger stars like James Harden (h/t Eurohoops.net).
It might not be time quite yet, though, as Wade was one of only four players to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last year, per Basketball Reference. If he's able to stay healthy (a big if, admittedly), he's virtually a lock to provide second-round value in fantasy leagues this season.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets; ADP: 3.7
How will the Houston Rockets' addition of Dwight Howard affect James Harden's fantasy value? While Harden's usage rate will decline, his efficiency should only benefit with opponents unable to focus all of their defensive attention on him.
Harden finished fourth in ESPN's Player Rater last season on the strength of averaging 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 threes and 1.8 steals per game. His points and assists will likely decline this year, but boosts in his field-goal percentage, assists, steals and made threes could easily offset that.
5. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers; ADP: 19.2
Nicolas Batum might be the least sexy name among the top 20 fantasy options this season, but he's consistently proven to be one of fantasy's most versatile weapons.
Batum isn't going to overwhelm you in any one category, but he's one of the few players from whom you can expect at least two three-pointers, one steal and one block per game. Coupled with roughly 12-14 points, 5-7 rebounds and 4-6 assists per game, he's a veritable Swiss Army knife when it comes to fantasy production.
4. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks; ADP: 8.3
Based on his average draft position, Carmelo Anthony is going off most draft boards earlier than Paul George. That's a mistake you don't want to make this year.
Despite Anthony's MVP-caliber 2012-13 season, he finished only 19th in ESPN's Player Rater last year. He's an elite source of points and three-pointers, clearly, but his lackluster production in other categories (particularly assists) holds him back from being a top-10 fantasy option.
3. Paul George, Indiana Pacers; ADP: 9.5
Paul George's breakout 2012-13 season translated well in the fantasy realm, as he finished the season ranked 12th in ESPN's Player Rater. Unlike Carmelo Anthony, George's impact for fantasy teams isn't just limited to points and threes, as he averaged 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game last year.
The return of Danny Granger could slightly cut into George's playing time, but the Indiana Pacers didn't just hand him a five-year, $80 million extension for nothing. Assuming he plays 36 minutes per game, he's going to provide top-10 fantasy value this season and will be the third-best small forward available.
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat; ADP: 1.7
LeBron James may be the NBA's undisputed best player, but you can do one better in fantasy. James' free-throw shooting (75.3 percent) single-handedly prevented him from earning the No. 1 ranking in ESPN's Player Rater last season.
If King James can knock down 80 percent of his tries from the charity stripe in 2013-14, he'll make a solid case as the best player in fantasy. Otherwise, you should take him second knowing that he's good for at least 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and 1.5 steals most nights.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder; ADP: 1.4
After finishing first in ESPN's Player Rater last year, Kevin Durant enters the 2013-14 season as the prospective No. 1 fantasy option once more.
With Russell Westbrook sidelined for the first four to six weeks of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder will rely on Durant more than ever. Per @NBAGuru, if Durant keeps up his preseason pace and plays 39 minutes per game (as he has the past three seasons), his averages project to 32 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.
Coupled with a potential slight decrease in LeBron James' minutes, Durant should be the first player off all fantasy draft boards this season.
5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks; ADP: 19.3
Using an early draft pick on Dirk Nowitzki this season will require a leap of faith from fantasy owners. They'll be banking on a player who only averaged 31.3 minutes and 17.3 points per game last year, both of which were his lowest since his rookie season.
After a slow start to the season, the Big German seemed to get his groove back after the 2013 All-Star break, jumping from 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game to 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds. At his peak, he'll get you 20 points, seven rebounds, a made three and bolster your shooting percentages, but there's no guarantee you get his peak.
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; ADP: 25.5
Based on how dominant he's looked during the preseason, Anthony Davis should be rocketing up fantasy draft boards this fall. He was always going to be a solid source for rebounds and blocks—he averaged 8.2 boards and 1.8 swats in 28.8 minutes last season—but it's his offense that's drawing raves in the preseason.
The New Orleans Pelicans big man hasn't scored fewer than 16 points in any of the team's six preseason games, including four 20-plus-point games. Considering that he's a reasonably strong free-throw shooter for a big, he's now worth consideration as a late second-round pick in 10- and 12-team leagues.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers; ADP: 18.1
When it comes to safe fantasy investments, you could do far worse in early rounds than LaMarcus Aldridge. He's more or less a lock for 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block per game, and better yet, he's one of the rare big men who won't cripple your fantasy squad with his free-throw shooting (81 percent in 2012-13).
Aldridge claims to have expanded his shooting range, according to Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet Nothwest, and "expects to shoot more [threes] this season." After having knocked down a grand total of four threes over the past two years combined (on 25 attempts), an expanded three-point game could dramatically boost Aldridge's value.
2. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder; ADP: 14.9
If you're looking to lock up blocks in your league, Serge Ibaka should be your No. 1 target in the early portion of your draft. Ibaka has led the NBA in swatted shots for each of the past two seasons (3.7 per game in 2011-12; 3.0 per game in 2012-13) and will go for the three-peat this year.
With Russell Westbrook out for the first month of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder will also rely more heavily upon Ibaka and Kevin Durant for offensive production. He could be a first-round value that's available in the second round of 10-team drafts.
1. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves; ADP: 6.7
The 2012-13 season went down as a lost year for Kevin Love, as injuries limited him to appearing in only 18 games. Look for him to come back with a fury this year, returning to the double-double machine we all grew to love the two prior seasons.
Love averaged an astronomical 20.2 points, 15.2 rebounds and 1.2 made threes per game in 2010-11, followed by 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 1.9 made threes the next year. He won't help much in terms of steals or blocks, but he's just about the only big man who can grab 10-plus rebounds and be relied upon to knock down threes.
5. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls; ADP: 29.6
Fantasy owners with Joakim Noah on their rosters can't be thrilled to hear that he's been shut down for a week, per Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, to rehab a strained groin.
There's been no indication thus far that the groin issue could linger throughout the season, but it's often tough to fully recover from such ailments without copious amounts of rest. When Noah does get back to 100 percent, though, he'll likely be a top-five option in terms of rebounds (11.1 RPG last year) and blocks (2.1 BPG in 2012-13).
4. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets; ADP: 18.7
Dwight Howard will be one of the most polarizing players in most fantasy drafts this season. He's likely to be an elite option in terms of points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and blocks, but the presence of Omer Asik could slightly damper his statistical contributions.
The real concern with Howard, as always, comes back to his dismal free-throw percentage. It's much less of a problem in head-to-head leagues than in roto, but either way, be prepared to punt the free-throw percentage category if you're considering grabbing Dwight.
3. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks; ADP: 25.7
Like LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward, Al Horford is one of the safest early round investments of any fantasy big man. He averaged career highs in points (17.4), rebounds (10.2), steals (1.1) and minutes (37.2) per game last season, and with Josh Smith now in Detroit, he'll be the team's unquestioned leader on both ends of the court.
Horford reportedly spent the offseason working on extending his range and getting comfortable with corner threes, per Hawks Basketblog. Similar to Aldridge, Horford's fantasy value could skyrocket if he begins to add three-pointers to his repertoire.
2. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats; ADP: 22.6
The Charlotte Bobcats made major waves in free agency this summer by bringing in Al Jefferson on a three-year, $41 million deal. With Brendan Haywood out until 2014 due to foot surgery, Jefferson could easily be a 20-10 player who won't hurt you with poor free-throw shooting (ahem, Dwight Howard).
Despite spraining his ankle during a preseason game against the Miami Heat, Jefferson told the Charlotte Observer that he hopes to be ready by opening night. Even if he's sidelined for a game or two at the start of the year, he's worth grabbing with a late-second or early third-round pick in fantasy drafts.
1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies; ADP: 11.8
Of all the projected 2013-14 first-round fantasy picks, Marc Gasol appears to be the one scaring the most owners away, based on his average draft position. It's understandable not to want to burn a first-round pick on a guy who's unlikely to average more than 15 points and eight rebounds per game for you.
Keep in mind, though, that Gasol averaged 4.0 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in 2012-13, too. Throw in his above-average free-throw shooting for a big man (84.8 percent from the charity stripe last season) and you've got a well-rounded center who's capable of helping you in the toughest categories to fill.