Fantasy Basketball 2013: Ranking the 10 Best Players at Each Position
Fantasy basketball doesn't generate the same excitement that football or baseball does, but it gives hoop lovers a fun way to enjoy the NBA season. In the coming weeks, fantasy drafts will be taking place (including a 20-team Bleacher Report battle royal) across the country as owners prepare themselves for the new year.
As with any fantasy sport, preparation is key. However, winning your league comes down to this time-honored equation:
- 20 percent excellent drafting
- 30 percent staying on top of injuries and the waiver wire
- 50 percent pure, unadulterated luck
At one point, every person has finished a draft with visions of domination in their head....and ended up in last place by season's end. If it hasn't happened to you yet, trust that it will. Fantasy drafts are where preseason hubris happens.
In keeping with the theme of preparation being paramount, I went to the trouble of organizing a top 10 list at every position. Instead of making you flip through 50 slides, the rankings are grouped into sets of five.
Now, these are my personal rankings based off how I foresee the season going. If you want to take these predictions as gospel and draft away, feel free to send me your hate mail.
Point Guard (1-5)
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1. Chris Paul (LAC)
Few players offer the all-around greatness of Chris Paul. He's a proven scorer with range that extends beyond the arc (career 35 percent three-point shooter). His quick hands make him one of the league's chief thieves (league-leading 2.4 steals per game last year).
Furthermore, his solid supporting cast makes him the favorite to take home another assist title. There's very little downside to taking CP3. He's as fun to draft as he is to watch. What's even scarier is the thought that new head coach Doc Rivers might be able to bring even more out of his prized point man.
As long as his body continues to hold up, Paul is as safe a pick as you'll find in this draft. He contributes on both ends of the court and is money from the free-throw line (88 percent from the stripe last season).
It would be tough to see him fall out of the top three.
2. Stephen Curry (GSW)
The NBA's reigning three-point king is a great consolation prize for owners who miss out on CP3. After leading the league with 272 treys last season, Curry established himself as a rising star.
Despite his scoring output (22.9 points per game last year), Curry still finds a way to get others involved. He averaged nearly seven dimes a night and even contributed on the defensive end with 1.6 steals per contest.
The only potential concern is Curry's troublesome ankles. While they didn't bother him last season, they have been a problem in the past. If he remains healthy, he's a good pick for a team looking to solidify its three-point categories. He doesn't offer the same all-around potential as CP3, but he's the next best thing.
3. Derrick Rose (CHI)
There's obviously some caution with taking a guy who hasn't played a meaningful game in a little over a year as he recovered from a torn ACL. Still, Derrick Rose has had nearly 18 months to recuperate and, when he's healthy, he's an MVP-caliber talent.
In fact, for keeper leagues, this may be the last chance to buy low on D-Rose. Some will be scared away by Rose's possible rust and may opt for a safer pick like Tony Parker or Damian Lillard. Don't let yourself be that person.
According to ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell, Rose claims he is "way more explosive now." With so much anticipation for his return and a giant chip on his shoulder, it is possible that Rose tops his MVP season from two years ago.
He may start off a little rough, but the skids are greased for a big year. Don't say you weren't warned.
4. Kyrie Irving (CLE)
If he could manage to avoid the injury bug, Kyrie Irving may be the best point guard in basketball. He's a monster scorer who has the shooting touch to light it up from three (just under 40 percent from behind the arc the last two seasons).
The problem is, he can't stay healthy. In his first two seasons in the NBA, the former Duke Blue Devil has yet to eclipse the 60-game mark. The ticky-tack injuries have been his undoing since his lone season at Duke.
Irving is the quintessential high-risk, high-reward fantasy pick. If you roll the dice on his health, you're banking on a potential 20-point scorer with a chance at solid assist numbers thanks to his improved supporting cast. The presence of newcomers like Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Anthony Bennett will only make Irving better.
The downside is, you're using a early pick on a guy who has never played a full season. As great as Irving may be this season, don't put all your eggs in his basket. Be sure to draft a quality backup in the event that Irving's body continues to betray him.
5. Deron Williams (BKN)
Truth be told, I've always thought Deron Williams was a bit overrated. There's no denying he's a great point guard, but I've just never bought into the hype. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if guys like John Wall or Damian Lillard surpass D-Will this season.
That being said, there is still a lot to like with the Nets guard. He's the leader of an offense that will field four other All-Stars. From his supporting cast alone, this should be Williams' best year in the assist category. He also hasn't averaged less than 18 points per game in a full season since his second year in the league.
My issues with Williams this season are two-fold. First, there's the concern of how the addition of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will affect Williams' touches. As comfortable as the ex-Celtics may be in taking a reduced role, they are still two high-priced mouths to feed.
Secondly, Williams tends to have a weird, on-again, off-again relationship with his outside shot. Last year, he shot just under 38 percent from three. The year before, he converted 33.6 percent. In 2009-10 (his last full season in Utah), he hit 37 percent from behind the arc. The year before that? He shot 31 percent.
There's also the slight issue of an ankle injury that might force him to miss the start of the season.
Look, Williams is going to be productive, and you aren't going to kick yourself for taking him. There just may be guys with a higher ceiling going later in the draft that might be better options.
Point Guard (6-10)
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6. John Wall (WAS)
It took a couple years, but John Wall finally made the leap last season. After missing the first few months of the season with a knee injury, the former No. 1 overall pick posted the best numbers of his career.
He averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists per game, while also shooting a career-high 44 percent from the field. He even showed a slight improvement in his outside shot. With a new contract extension and the addition of rookie Otto Porter Jr., Wall could be even better in 2013-14.
The obstacles that keep Wall from being higher are obvious. For starters, he is going to hurt you in the three-point categories. Wall is a career 24 percent shooter from behind the arc. Even though his jumper got better last season, it is still a work in progress.
Secondly, as with any slashing guard who makes his money attacking the basket, turnovers will always be an issue. Wall has averaged at least three turnovers per game every year in his brief career. For all his explosiveness, he tends to be a little careless with the basketball as well.
Still, Wall is only 23 years old and is going to continue to get better. As long as you protect your fantasy team by adding a three-point shooter down the road (Ryan Anderson and Chandler Parsons, to name a few), the Wall pick shouldn't kill you.
He's a rising star with the upside to be better than where he'll be drafted this season.
7. Tony Parker (SAS)
ESPN has Tony Parker at No. 12 in its fantasy point guard rankings. That's blasphemy. While he doesn't have the flash of the guys ahead of him like Jrue Holiday and Brandon Jennings, he's a safer pick because of his remarkable consistency.
Parker is coming off a season where he averaged 20.3 points and 7.6 assists per game. He shot 52 percent from the field, including 35 percent from three. He also converted 84.5 percent of his free throws. Even at 31 years old, he still plays at a high level.
Also, unlike Holiday and Jennings, he doesn't have to worry about fighting for shots in an offense with so many scorers. Parker's main competition for touches is Tim Duncan. The team will gladly let Parker shoulder most of the scoring load if it means keeping The Big Fundamental fresh down the stretch.
As for Holiday and Jennings, they have to share the ball with guys like Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. They may be more explosive players on flashier rosters, but there's the potential that they flop with their new teams.
Parker may be a boring pick, but it is one that you won't have to worry about all season.
8. Damian Lillard (POR)
Damian Lillard made quite the first impression last year. He averaged 19.0 points and 6.5 assists on his way to nabbing Rookie of the Year honors. He also shot nearly 43 percent from the field as well as 36.8 percent from behind the arc.
As great as Lillard's rookie season was, there's a downside to becoming an established star so soon. Lillard won't be able to sneak up on teams this season. Opponents have a year's worth of tape and will be better prepared for him. While unlikely, there's always the potential for a sophomore slump.
How Lillard does in his second season will be dependent on how he adjusts to this newfound attention. Lucky for him, he has two great players in Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge to take some of the pressure off their star point guard.
A guy with Lillard's talents is sure to be fine going forward, but fantasy owners should be a bit wary about paying for last year's numbers. Lillard was great as a rookie, but he's not a rookie anymore.
9. Ricky Rubio (MIN)
There are few players I enjoy watching more than Ricky Rubio. His court vision and the craftiness of his passes are such an uncanny trait in today's game.
The problem with drafting Rubio is that leagues don't award points for highlights on SportsCenter. The 22-year-old Spaniard will help you in the assist category, but not with much else. As welcomed as his unselfishness is, it hurts him from a scoring standpoint. Rubio's 10.7 points per game last year were a career high.
Making matters worse, he isn't much of an outside shooter. Smart teams will let a career 31.7 percent three-point shooter fire away rather than watch him drive and kick. Rubio has also struggled to stay healthy. He's played in 98 games in two seasons.
In the end, he's one of those picks that looks better on paper than what he actually produces. He's still young enough to make serious strides, but it's a stretch to think he'll make enough of a leap in other areas to be worth a high pick.
Still, he's going to be exciting to watch.
10. Ty Lawson (DEN)
If last year's playoffs are any indication, Ty Lawson is going to be huge this season. The former North Carolina Tarheel averaged 21.3 points and 8.0 assists during Denver's postseason run.
The 5'11" Lawson makes up for his lack of height with breathtaking speed. Few opponents are quick enough to keep Lawson from attacking the basket. With Andre Iguodala now in Golden State, Lawson may be tasked with carrying a bigger chunk of the offense.
With the Nuggets now officially his team, this could be another big year for the 25-year-old. As long as a back injury that has slowed him all preseason doesn't affect him during the regular season, Lawson has a chance to mirror his outstanding postseason numbers.
Shooting Guard (1-5)
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1. James Harden (HOU)
James Harden proved last season that he was more than just a quality sixth man. In finishing fifth in the NBA in scoring, Harden showed that he's capable of being a franchise cornerstone in his Rockets debut.
This season, he could be even better. With the addition of Dwight Howard, there is less pressure on Harden to carry the team. He may not match last season's 25.9-points-per-game effort, but he'll make up for it in other ways.
Harden whipped himself into better shape this offseason so that he can be a stopper on the other end. Fantasy players drafting Harden will gladly trade a few points in exchange for some defensive help, right?
At only 24 years old, we may not have seen Harden's best basketball yet. He comes into this season with heightened expectations and a better understanding of what he needs to do. This is the year he becomes a great all-around player.
2. Dwyane Wade (MIA)
He may not be the "Flash" of old, but Dwyane Wade is still an elite shooting guard. At 31 years old, D-Wade's excellence is contingent on his body holding up after a decade of wear and tear.
When healthy, though, he can contribute in almost every category except for three-point shooting. He's averaged at least 20 points per game every year since his second season in 2004-05. He adds in a decent amount of rebounds and assists, as well as a little help on the defensive end.
The concerns with Wade are understandable. He's a 29 percent three-point shooter with a broken body. Still, the position isn't as loaded as it used to be, and you'll be hard-pressed to find too many options that offer this much help across the board.
Another 20-point season may be a stretch, but 16 to 18 points is well within Flash's reach.
3. Klay Thompson (GSW)
Klay Thompson may be the less-heralded member of the Golden State backcourt, but that doesn't mean he should be overlooked by you on draft day. He and Stephen Curry form the league's most lethal outside-shooting guard tandem.
The Washington State product shot 40 percent from behind the arc last year, en route to averaging 16.6 points per game. Those are the positives on Klay Thompson.
Here are the negatives: For a guy who stands 6'7", he isn't much of a factor on the glass. You can find point guards that contributed more than Klay's 3.7 rebounds per game. The same goes for his assist total. While shooting guards aren't known for their selflessness, Thompson's 2.2-assists-per-game average is a bit astonishing.
By comparison, Kobe Bryant (a man routinely panned for being a ball hog) averaged six assists per game last season.
The upside to Thompson is that he's 23 years old and his best days are ahead of him. He made strides in his second season and there's no reason to believe he won't do the same this year. The reality is, he's a better actual basketball player than fantasy basketball player. For all his talent, he has to prove to be less one-dimensional.
4. Kobe Bryant (LAL)
There are obvious reasons to worry about Kobe Bryant this season. He's 35 years old with 1,459 games under his belt, and he's attempting to come back from a serious Achilles injury. While he may be ahead of schedule in his recovery, there is no exact timetable for his return.
The odds of a man returning to elite form at that age with that much tread on his wheels are pretty long. That being said, if anyone could bounce back from a torn Achilles, wouldn't it be Kobe Bean Bryant? After watching Adrian Peterson threaten the single-season rushing record months after ACL surgery, can we ever really doubt another athlete determined to persevere?
Bryant may not be ready for opening day, but he's going to push himself to be in the best possible shape he can be in when he does return.
Once that day comes, here's a few things you should know: First, this is a contract year for Bryant.
While it may be a stretch to think he'll leave the Lakers, what better motivation to put on a show than impending free agency? Another motivating factor is the fact that not many are giving the Lakers a chance this year.
You think the Black Mamba isn't champing at the bit for the chance to prove doubters wrong again?
Kobe also has a chance to climb past a few legends on the all-time scoring list. He's less than 1,000 points behind Michael Jordan for third place and a little over 5,000 away from Karl Malone. In a proven offensive system, he could really close the gap between him and the Mailman.
Look, there's a ton of risk in rolling the dice on Bryant this season, but, if he's healthy, he helps you in a ton of areas. Only Dwyane Wade has better all-around potential at shooting guard. The Achilles injury will cause him to slip, which means he could be one of the year's biggest steals.
5. Bradley Beal (WAS)
Things get pretty murky after the top four. At this point, you're pretty much taking a chance that someone breaks out. That's where Bradley Beal comes in.
Beal was coming on strong during the latter part of his rookie season before an injury cut it short. He still finished with 13.9 points per game and shot 41 percent from the field, including nearly 39 percent from behind the arc.
Now healthy, Beal has had a strong preseason. He's scored 20-plus points in his last two exhibition games. With John Wall finally healthy as well, the Wizards have an impressive guard tandem. Beal will punish teams on the outside while Wall routinely attacks the basket.
Beal is a quality shooter and his scoring will continue to improve as his body holds up. He doesn't offer much on the defensive end or in the assist category, but his upside is worthy of a mid-round pick.
Shooting Guard (6-10)
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6. J.R. Smith (NYK)
This may be a bit high for a guy with questionable shot selection that will start the season on suspension. Still, you can't argue with J.R. Smith's offensive potential. As the clear-cut No. 2 scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony in New York, Smith averaged 18.1 points per game and won Sixth Man of the Year honors.
Once he comes back from his five-game hiatus, Smith should pick up right where he left off. He doesn't offer much on the defensive end and a bad shooting night will hurt you from time-to-time, but the good will certainly outweigh the bad.
7. Monta Ellis (DAL)
Basically, Monta Ellis is J.R. Smith with better defense. He's always put up gaudy offensive numbers, but he's coming off a season where he averaged 2.1 steals per game. Now, he's in Dallas and has Dirk Nowitzki to take some of the pressure off him.
With Jose Calderon as the team's starting point guard, it will tough to see Ellis matching the six assists per game he averaged with Milwaukee last season. He's also a subpar outside shooter (just under 32 percent from behind the arc).
However, he's a cheap scoring option on a team where he'll be relied upon to carry some of the load. You could do worse.
8. Joe Johnson (BKN)
Joe Johnson is on the downside of his career and is currently the starting shooting guard on a loaded Nets team. He's coming off a season where he produced his lowest scoring output since 2003-04.
Those are all of the reasons to be leery of Joe Johnson this season. That doesn't even include the fact that he doesn't really help you in any category but scoring. So, why is he listed eighth on this list? Because, at this point, every shooting guard you'll find is a crapshoot.
Johnson may not be what he once was, but he's the best of a thin bunch. Plus, after his "off" year last season, you'll get him a lot lower than you have in years past.
9. Eric Gordon (NO)
Again, you're rolling the dice here. Eric Gordon's injury history is as long as Anthony Davis' arms. A bum knee has led him to play in just 51 games in the past two seasons. In five years, he's played in more than 70 games once.
Still, I'm foolishly choosing to believe in Eric Gordon this season. He's a year removed from knee surgery and has new addition Tyreke Evans breathing down his neck. The Pelicans are no longer dependent on Gordon's health, and he can't use that crutch to hold them hostage.
In his preseason debut, he racked up 21 points in 21 minutes. Sure, we've been waiting for Gordon to put it all together for a long time, but what if this is the year? With so many good things happening as of late in the Big Easy, why not be jadedly optimistic about one of the league's oft-injured talents?
10. Victor Oladipo (ORL)
I'll admit this is a bit high for a rookie, but I like what Oladipo brings to the table. He's a tenacious defender who really improved as a shooter last year at Indiana. Another reason to like the former Hoosier? Versatility.
The Magic have said he'll play some point guard, playing alongside Arron Afflalo. He'll spell Afflalo at shooting guard and can even play the 3 in a small lineup. He could potentially fill three spots for your fantasy team in his first season.
As with any exciting rookie, there is always the danger of not living up to the hype. Still, on an Orlando team heading in the right direction, I see Oladipo emerging as a solid all-around talent.
Small Forward (1-5)
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1. LeBron James (MIA)
If I really have to explain this one, fantasy basketball probably isn't for you.
2. Kevin Durant (OKC)
I've seen rankings that put Kevin Durant over LeBron James for the top spot. I don't agree, but you can't go wrong with either. Durant offers you more from a shooting-percentage perspective, while James has more defensive potential.
In the end, it's like choosing between Kate Upton and Brooklyn Decker.
3. Paul George (IND)
Paul George would be higher if it weren't for the fact he plays the same position as two future Hall of Famers. Coming off a breakout season that saw him win Most Improved Player honors, George is a nice consolation prize for those who can't grab the top two.
He's a capable scorer (17.4 points per game in the regular season, 19.2 PPG in the playoffs) and an above-average rebounder (roughly 7.0 rebounds a night last year). He'll even contribute a few assists for you on a nightly basis.
He doesn't have the defensive upside of James or Durant, but he can hold his own in that area. Plus, he's only going to get better as he builds on his career year.
4. Carmelo Anthony (NYK)
Next to Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony is the league's best pure scorer. He led the NBA with 28.7 points per game and shot 45.6 percent from the field. He also added 6.9 rebounds per contest.
The knock on 'Melo is the same as it ever was: great offensive player, pedestrian as a defender. Let's face facts though: You're not drafting Carmelo Anthony with the hopes he'll be the next Doug Christie. You can find guys later in the draft who can make up for 'Melo's shortcomings.
What you won't find are guys who can put on the nightly scoring performance that Anthony can. In the middle of the first round, make Anthony your selection and throw away any offensive concerns for your fantasy team.
5. Josh Smith (DET)
He scores. He rebounds. He defends. He gives you everything but solid outside shooting. After years of carrying a young Atlanta Hawks team, Josh Smith is now the anchor of an interesting Pistons squad.
Alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, Josh Smith gives Detroit an impressive frontcourt. The one drawback to having a duo of great rebounders under the basket is that it gives Smith more of a reason to be comfortable jacking up three-pointers (career 28 percent from behind the arc).
Smith's shot selection will make you cringe, but he'll make up for it elsewhere. His rebounding numbers may take a slight dip with Detroit's talented bigs, but Smith will still provide on the defensive side. At the small forward spot, there are few guys who can offer up steals and blocks like J-Smoove.
Small Forward (6-10)
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6. Nicolas Batum (POR)
Nicolas Batum is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. He doesn't score a ton (14.3 points per game last season), but his shooting percentages are respectable. He shot nearly 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from the three-point line.
He's a decent rebounder (5.6 boards per game) and offers up a little something on the defensive end. He's the perfect guy to take in the third or fourth round to build around your stars. If ever there was a fantasy basketball glue guy, it's Nicolas Batum.
He's a solid all-around player that helps tie your team together.
7. Rudy Gay (TOR)
Whether it is his hefty contract or the fact his teams do better after he's gone, Rudy Gay seems to get a bad rap. Truth be told, he's a fine offensive player that racks up a fair share of rebounds and steals.
He's also an efficient shooter, as evidenced by him shooting 41 percent from the field last season. His 32 percent shooting from behind the arc was a bummer, but he's better than that. On a Toronto team with limited expectations, Gay should be able to put up solid numbers.
He's averaged 18 points per game for his career and there's no reason to think that won't continue. His huge salary is none of your concern. All you have to worry about is having a spot open for him in the early rounds.
8. Luol Deng (CHI)
Luol Deng has the potential to be better than this ranking by season's end. For starters, I tend to gravitate toward players in contract years, and I can definitely see Deng playing with a huge chip on his shoulder on a Bulls team that will be very good.
The former Duke Blue Devil may be a better actual basketball player than fantasy player, but he's still a solid pick. He's good for around 16 points per game. He rebounds at a decent rate and is a solid defender.
In a year where he's playing for his last big payday, this could be the best season of Deng's career.
9. Thaddeus Young (PHI)
I like Thaddeus Young a lot this year, mainly because there is nobody else who can produce in Philadelphia. With Jrue Holiday gone, the team is a collection of role players and rookies.
That means Young is going to take an even larger portion of the shots and will be the go-to guy on a team that isn't too concerned with winning. How can you not love a guy whose team will essentially say "Here you go, shoot as much as you like. You're all we've got."?
Young averaged 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last year. It's a fair bet that those numbers will increase this season. He may not win a ton of games for the Sixers, but Thaddeus Young can certainly lead you to victory this season.
10. Andre Iguodala (GSW)
Like Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala is more valuable to an actual basketball team than a fantasy team. He's a tenacious perimeter defender that doesn't put a huge emphasis on scoring.
He doesn't shoot a particularly high percentage from behind the arc but, now that he's in Golden State, he won't have to worry about that. The Warriors have two excellent outside shooters in Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
Iggy's main job will be attacking the basket and coming up with stops on the other end. He won't put up huge offensive numbers, but you can expect a big game or two. You can also expect a few steals, some highlight dunks and good bit of rebounds.
For where you'll end up taking him, you could live with that.
Power Forward (1-5)
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1. Kevin Love (MIN)
This was a no-brainer pick for the No. 1 power forward. Kevin Love is a great scorer that puts up ridiculous rebounding numbers. He can even help you in the three-point shooting department (career 35 percent shooter from behind the arc).
The problem with Love is his inability to stay healthy. He played in just 18 games last season thanks to a myriad of injuries. He still averaged 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds per game.
If you draft Love, you'll want to add a solid defender later on, as blocks and steals are the main stats the former UCLA Bruin won't give you.
Still, when healthy, there isn't another power forward who can do what he does.
2. Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)
The case can be made for Dirk Nowitzki being lower on this list. After all, he's 35 years old and playing on a Mavericks team that isn't what it once was. Still, I'm not ready to close the coffin on the former MVP.
He's still one of the game's premier shooting big men. When healthy, he's an elite scorer that also produces on the glass. As we learned with Tim Duncan last year, you never count out a great player, no matter how long in the tooth they get.
Nowitzki still averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a game despite playing in just 53 games. Now, he has Monta Ellis to share the load and keep him fresh. I wouldn't rule out a bounce-back year for the 11-time All-Star.
3. Serge Ibaka (OKC)
The glass-half-full part of Serge Ibaka's fantasy potential is that he's a great shot-blocker that is sure to get more offensive touches with Russell Westbrook out for four to six weeks. Last year, he swatted away a league-leading three blocks per game and averaged 13.7 points a night.
The glass-half-empty section is that Ibaka is still very raw offensively and can't be relied upon to provide consistent scoring numbers. If you're drafting Serge Ibaka, it is because you want to shore up your defensive categories.
At a position that doesn't offer too many well-rounded options, selecting a one-dimensional guy like Ibaka is justifiable. If that's the route you're going to take, though, make sure you grab a few cheap scorers to give yourself some balance.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge (POR)
LaMarcus Aldridge is remarkably solid. He's averaged at least 20 points per game the past three seasons and adds eight to nine rebounds a night for good measure. He also throws in the occasional blocked shot.
The former Texas Longhorn is one of the safer picks in this draft. He's managed to stay considerably healthy and won't kill you in any particular area. You can even make the case for grabbing him ahead of Ibaka and Nowitzki.
5. Blake Griffin (LAC)
Blake Griffin is always an exciting pick. As a fantasy owner, it gives you an added incentive that every highlight dunk he throws down directly benefits you. It also helps that he's an athletic freak that averages 20.4 points and 10.4 rebounds a game for his career.
The only thing that keeps Griffin from being higher on this list is his lack of defensive numbers. If he was able to put that insane vertical to good use on the defensive end, he would give Kevin Love a run for his money for the top spot.
As it stands, Griffin is, amazingly, still a work in progress. The hope is that new head coach Doc Rivers can turn Griffin into a passable defender as well as improve his woeful free-throw shooting (career 61 percent shooter from the stripe).
With some development in those areas, Griffin can be an even bigger star than he's already become.
Power Forward (6-10)
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6. David Lee (GSW)
The sixth spot was a battle of consistency vs. upside. In the end, David Lee's standing as a perennial double-double machine won out over the supreme potential of the man a spot below him.
Lee averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game last season. Like Blake Griffin, he doesn't offer much on defense. However, unlike Griffin, Lee hits his free throws at a higher rate (nearly 80 percent from the line last year).
It will be interesting to see if a healthy Andrew Bogut helps or hurts Lee's production, but his performance should still be stellar enough for him to anchor your frontcourt.
7. Anthony Davis (NOP)
The sky is the limit for last year's No. 1 overall pick. While Anthony Davis didn't have the amazing rookie season many anticipated, he came on strong down the stretch. He averaged 16.0 points and nearly 10.0 rebounds a game during the final two months of the season.
That was with head coach Monty Williams monitoring his minutes. Now, the team appears ready to unleash him. He's scored at least 20 points in four out of the Pelicans' five preseason games this season. He's also been effective on the boards.
Another added bonus is that Davis is solid defensively. He averaged 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals a game last season. The crazy part is he's only 20 years old. He hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential. The opportunity is there for Davis to make the leap in his second season.
You hate to bank on a young player becoming a superstar so soon, but Davis has the chance to great for a long time.
8. Tim Duncan (SAS)
Even at 38 years old, Tim Duncan is still a viable fantasy option. He averaged 17.8 points and 9.9 rebounds in his 16th season while finishing third in the NBA with 2.6 blocks per game.
The Big Fundamental shows no signs of slowing. Even with so much mileage on his odometer, he's still playing at a high level. He doesn't offer the tremendous upside that some of these young pups do, but he's proven he's still capable of churning out solid numbers. It's not safe to count him out.
9. Greg Monroe (DET)
The Pistons' lack of recent success has allowed promising young big man Greg Monroe to fly under the radar. Here's what you missed while you were sleeping: a 23-year-old that has averaged at least 15 points and nine rebounds the last two seasons.
With fellow youngster Andre Drummond expected to take on more minutes, even less attention will be paid to the former Georgetown star inside. Throw in the addition of Josh Smith, and Monroe is looking at another season of being overlooked.
That doesn't mean you should follow suit. Monroe continues to get better and comes from a school with a great tradition for producing solid big men. He's going to be a star sooner rather than later.
10. Pau Gasol (LAL)
This will be an interesting year for Pau Gasol. First, he's a free agent next summer. Second, with the Lakers' championship hopes dwindling, Gasol is an interesting trade piece that still has enough left in the tank to flourish elsewhere.
Assuming he stays in Hollywood, he's in a good position to succeed this year. He could start the season as the team's No. 1 option if Kobe Bryant isn't ready to come back from a torn Achilles tendon. He'll be playing in a proven offensive system alongside a point guard known for making others better in Steve Nash.
It may be a stretch to predict a career year for Gasol at 33 years old, but he has a chance to significantly improve upon last year's disappointing numbers (13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a game).
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1. Marc Gasol (MEM)
If you're surprised to see Marc Gasol in the top spot, don't be. He's the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and puts up astonishingly good shooting percentages for a big man. Last year, he shot 52 percent from the field as well as nearly 75 percent from the line.
He isn't high enough in the offensive pecking order to put up crazy offensive numbers, but he'll give you between 12 and 14 points per game with around eight rebounds. Gasol is the only center that isn't going to hurt you in a particular area.
He's not a sexy pick, but he's one that will work out well for your fantasy team.
2. Joakim Noah (CHI)
Obviously, a lot rides on Joakim Noah staying healthy. His 66 appearances were the most he's produced since his second season. When he's on the court, however, he's a menace.
He plays with a high energy and tenacity, which makes him very effective as a rebounder and defender. The offensive production is going to be hit or miss. He averaged just 11.9 points per game last season. Still, he'll more than compensate with a healthy serving of blocks and rebounds.
You're rolling the dice on him avoiding the injury bug, but at least it will be a fun gamble.
3. Dwight Howard (HOU)
The man considered by some to be the league's best center should be the top fantasy option at his position, right? The problem is Dwight Howard's putrid free-throw shooting. It is tough to justify spending a high pick on someone who can submarine your total percentage from the charity stripe.
The upside to drafting Dwight Howard is he's an elite scorer in the paint. He's one of the only guys who can average 17.1 points per game with people calling it an "off year." Even coming off back surgery, he managed to lead the NBA with 12.4 rebounds per game.
D12 is going to be huge for you in a number of areas, especially now that he's a lot healthier and happier. If you offset his free-throw woes with some quality shooters, you should be fine.
4. Al Jefferson (CHA)
Al Jefferson is a steady fantasy option. For the last four seasons, he's been good for at least 17 points and nine rebounds. Now, he enters a situation in Charlotte where he's the team's best go-to option.
That could lead to a slight uptick in his scoring output. Also, while his actual defense has garnered some dirty looks, he still averaged a block and a steal a game last season with the Jazz. That's a nice added bonus for what he gives you offensively.
5. Al Horford (ATL)
I've always thought Al Horford would be better suited to play power forward, but the fact that's been solid at center is a testament to his immense talent. The 27-year-old had the best season of his career last year.
He averaged 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game while shooting 54 percent from the field. With Josh Smith gone and Paul Millsap in, the Atlanta Hawks are now Horford's team. It will be interesting to see how far he can carry them.
As for your fantasy team, drafting Horford is sure to pay some dividends as well. He gives you solid offensive numbers and is passable on defense. As the focal point of the offense, there's a chance that last season was a start of things to come.
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6. Roy Hibbert (IND)
Roy Hibbert really came along in last season's playoffs. After averaging 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in the regular season, he posted a nightly clip of 17.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in the postseason.
Was that just an aberration, or is the former Georgetown Hoya on to something?
Since I fancy myself as an optimist, I'm willing to believe that Hibbert's postseason was the tip of the iceberg. Unlike a lot of defensive big men, he is polished enough offensively to be a reliable scorer in the paint. He has a sneaky jump hook and is always around the ball enough to score on put-backs.
Defense is his bread and butter, though. Hibbert finished fourth in the NBA with 2.6 blocks per game. With his elite size, he makes opponents think twice about attacking the basket.
On draft day, you shouldn't think twice about picking Hibbert. He's solid across the board and, if he keeps his scoring up, he could pass Marc Gasol as fantasy's top center.
7. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC)
Full disclosure here: I'm all-in on "Boogie" Cousins this year. I know he's a bit of a headcase and his defense leaves much to be desired, but I like his potential. I think he'll be motivated by the team committing $62 million to him being their franchise guy.
Even with him struggling with immaturity over the years, he still averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. The year before that, he notched 18.1 points and 11.0 rebounds a night. Keep in mind that he's only 23 years old.
If he truly embraces being a franchise guy and shows a willingness to defend, Cousins could be great. Obviously, those are huge ifs. He's a bit of a gamble but, given the centers that are left, who isn't?
8. Brook Lopez (BKN)
Brook Lopez is coming off a monster season. He averaged 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He established himself as one of the game's best young centers.
My reasoning for putting him this low is my concern over his right foot. Lopez has surgery to repair a bent screw this summer. It is the third surgery he has had on that same foot in the last two years. While he's expected to be ready for the opener, there are far too many horror stories about big men whose feet failed them.
Granted, the two prior surgeries didn't seem to hinder Lopez last season, but it is hard to not be a little worried about a re-injury. If you're willing to believe the foot injuries are behind him, Lopez is a fine choice as your starting center.
With Kevin Garnett joining him in the frontcourt, life will be less congested in the paint. That will lead to more opportunities for Lopez to build onto his career year.
9. Chris Bosh (MIA)
There are a couple reasons why I'm down on Chris Bosh this season. First, he's the third option on a team with two superstars that dominate the ball. Bosh still managed to contribute 16.6 points per game, but it is worth noting that his scoring has dropped in each of the last three seasons.
Second, he's a center that plays like a small forward. According to basketball-reference.com, Bosh took 419 attempts from between 16 feet and just before the three-point line. Conversely, he took 335 shots near the rim.
Bosh is a decent shooter for a big man, but I worry that he falls in love with his jumper too much. As we saw with Antoine Walker and Larry Johnson, once big men start feeling comfortable outside of the paint, they tend not to come back inside.
Bosh still put up solid rebounding numbers and these concerns may just be nitpicking, but I liked Bosh better when he was a No. 1 option playing close to the rim. The Heat have enough shooters. They need an interior presence.
After you draft Bosh, you'll be saying the same thing.
10. Larry Sanders (MIL)
You can make the case for a number of guys in this spot. Detroit's Andre Drummond is a nice sleeper pick this year as the team gives him more minutes. The same for Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas. Despite the addition of Dwight Howard, Omer Asik is still a viable fantasy option.
In the end, I opted for The Larry Sanders Show. He's a good shot-blocker that takes high-percentage shots. Basically, he's Tyson Chandler, but a few years younger and without the extensive injury history.
Like Chandler, Sanders is still very raw offensively. He hasn't really developed a go-to move and has relied on shots around the rim. Still, he took a huge leap from scoring 3.6 points per game in 2010-11 to notching 9.8 points a game last year.
Offense isn't why you want Sanders on your team. What he brings to the table is defense and rebounding as well as a good shooting percentage. As he continues to develop, he'll become a more viable fantasy option.
For now, who wouldn't want a potential double-double machine that can block two to three shots a game?