Move Over LeBron James, There's A New Number One In Fantasy Basketball!
By now, you've undoubtedly heard about "The Decision" that has rocked the NBA landscape for years to come. Just as impacting to the league are all of the big free agents switching jerseys, and even those that didn't.
The 2010-2011 season has seen more players switching teams than at any other time in the league's history. So what does this mean for our fantasy basketball teams?
Last year, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were drafted one, three, and nine on average in nine-category fantasy leagues. Where do you take them now?
Here, to make sense of the topsy-turvy world created by this free agent bonanza, is my list for the Top 15 Fantasy Basketball players in the 2010-2011 NBA season. (Nine-category league format)
1. Kevin Durant - SG/SF
It seems like every year this kid improves his game by leaps and bounds. Truly, I think he and Chris Paul are like 1a and 1b, but I believe Paul cannot get any better than he already is.
Kevin Durant, on the other hand, while outlandish, can really average 35 ppg if his level of improvement from year-to-year remains consistent.
Couple that with his free throw shooting impact and his membership in the super-exclusive 1-1-1 club (at least 1 three, 1 block, and 1 steal per game), and you got yourself the cornerstone of your fantasy basketball team with which to build around.
2. Chris Paul - PG
Aside from Kevin Durant's higher ceiling, another reason you don't pick Chris Paul first is due to the injury concerns he carries with him.
He suffered a pretty serious knee injury at the end of last season and, aside from a few games at the very end, I haven't seen proof that he is truly back.
Having said all of that, (for those that are looking for a reason to draft my number three guy, those are all the reasons why you would), I think Paul is young, too good, and will bounce back to be the Chris Paul we all expect him to be.
Being among the league leaders in assists and steals, as well as being one of the better rebounding point guards makes CP3 my pick for the number two fantasy contributor in basketball.
3. Danny Granger - SG/SF
This kid reminds me of Kevin Durant so much. They are both young, tall, lanky, below-the-radar stars that know how to flat-out score.
They also both came into the league in the same year, with Durant showing a lot more growth potential.
Still, Danny hasn't put in a full NBA season for the past two years (which could be a good or a bad thing), and I believe with a full healthy season can trump the 24 ppg (down from 26 his second year) he posted last year while battling injury.
The amount of three pointers this guy chucks up is invaluable, and is also a member of the super-exclusive 1-1-1 club. If I get Granger, I'm not so mad that I missed out on Durant.
4. Dirk Nowitzki - PF
Dirk has always been drafted just outside of the top five in every league I've ever been in.
Whenever I got the seventh or eighth pick, I could always count on landing big Dirk and not being upset in the least. With this year's free agency that will change.
The dude is one of the most consistent fantasy players in the game, and that has to count for something.
You know what to expect, rebounds, scoring, and three-pointers from the PF spot, and a healthy sprinkling of everything else.
5. Deron Williams - PG
With Carlos Boozer's exit, Deron Williams will be called upon to score more than he's ever been asked to.
Paul Milsap will ensure that Deron gets his double-digit assist totals on a nightly basis via Jerry Sloan's pick-and-roll-heavy schemes, and Boozer won't be missed at all.
Williams was phenomenal in the playoffs against the Nuggets and the Lakers, and I believe he will carry that momentum into the new season.
6. Kobe Bryant - SG
Lets face it, if the Lakers aren't as talented as they are, I'd bump the best player in basketball today up a couple of notches.
That being said, he's aging and he doesn't have to be the best player in the world every night.
I love his consistency, you know what you are going to get out of Kobe with this pick.
7. LeBron James - SF
Ah! The most hated man in basketball at the moment. No way LeBron even approaches the 30 ppg he put up last year in a team full of superstar scorers.
My guess is that he averages a reasonable 23 ppg but increases his efficiency. Depending on how the Heat use LeBron, he could average nine assists a game, or he could fall down to five assists.
With Wade there, no way these two average the seven+ assists a game they are used to. One of these two suffer in this category.
I think LeBron suffers slightly less and his rebounding won't take too much of a hit, if any.
8. Dwyane Wade - PG/SG
It IS pretty awesome that the Heat landed these two guys in the same team, as I doubt very many fantasy basketball rosters will be able to get LeBron and Wade together.
Again, I see a big dip in points for Wade to about 22 ppg, but I always believed that Wade's true value was in the fact that he averaged one block a game from the point guard position! His defensive numbers are awesome.
I believe his three-pointers will take a hit, simply because he won't need to shoot those as much with his two other superstars to take the pressure off scoring.
9. Pau Gasol - PF/C
Forget all of the "sexy" numbers this man puts up. Do you know how hard it is to find a big man that shoots damn near 80 percent from the free throw line? In nearly every other big man you draft, you will be sacrificing this critical category.
Pau is also one of the best passing bigs in the game now, which will lead to a solid contribution in assists.
Couple that with the solid big man numbers of 18-11 and you got yourself a stud center.
10. Paul Millsap - PF/C
Every year there is a basketball player that puts a dent into the top 10 fantasy players list, my bet is that it will be Paul Millsap.
With Boozer in Chicago, Millsap is the unquestioned starter in Utah.
In 2008, in a month and a half as a starter while Boozer nursed an injury, Paul averaged 19 pts, 12 boards, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals a game!
I know it was only a month and a half, but Paul has always shown flashes of brilliance like that only to be stifled by the higher paid Boozer.
Mark my words!
11. Gilbert Arenas - PG/SG
Say what you want about his off-the-court antics, but this man used to be a top 10 fantasy player and still has all of the skills to do so.
Last year, before his very stupid mistake, he was averaging 23 pts and seven assists with two threes a game, and this was after coming off two injury-riddled seasons.
With no one else in Washington, John Wall still learning on the job, and him being a year removed from his injuries, I believe his numbers will go up.
12. Tyreke Evans - PG/SG
I won the fantasy lottery last year (and the league championship) when I drafted this guy, even though my usual strategy is to stay away from rookies.
This guy reminds me of a young Dwyane Wade (complete with the inability to shoot a three).
I believe he will only improve his numbers in his second year on the job, especially as the go-to guy in Sacramento.
13. Dwight Howard - C
Ok, ok, I relented. I really was going to push Dwight out of the top 15.
He's just SUCH a liability in the free throw department.
Unless you have Durant to even him out, you will simply get murdered every week in this category.
But still, his "sexy" numbers ARE sexy; 18-14? AND his scoring is down? I believe he'll get back up to the 20 ppg he averaged two years ago.
Also, blocks are so hard to come by in fantasy; you can win it most weeks with just Dwight Howard alone.
14. Gerald Wallace - SF/PF
I remember a few years back Gerald Wallace was one of the few players in a long while to average over 2 steals and 2 blocks a game. Since then, I've always drafted this man on my teams.
His ten boards a game last year came out of NOWHERE but this athletic man can play! Those defensive numbers he puts up are so hard to come by, and he provides them in bunches.
Defense wins championships, even in Fantasy Leagues.
15. Stephen Curry - PG/SG
I wasn't too high on this guy last year, only because as I mentioned before, I don't usually draft rookies.
Curry started off slow, but really turned it up after the All-Star break.
He is a pure scorer, and David Lee's low-post presence can only help get him and Monta Ellis more open looks. He is also surprisingly good on the defensive end.
Draft him with confidence!
Honorable Mentions (In No Order)
Amar'e Stoudamire - I don't see Amar'e doing anything different than Lee did in New York, and Lee wasn't a top 15 player either.
Derrick Rose - Call me crazy, but I bet this kid raises his game to a whole new level now that he has a legit big man to take the pressure off of him.
Brook Lopez - There just isn't room for him in the top 15. He can only get better though, and he will.
Carmelo Anthony - I hate that he doesn't get you much of anything else, but you can't complain when you got one of the best scorers in the league.
Brandon Roy - Solid all-around contributor who will stuff the stats nicely for you, but will not win any one category for you by himself. He's a great fantasy "glue guy" in the Joe Johnson/Paul Pierce mold.