2010 Fantasy Basketball Preview: Ranking The Top 20 Fantasy Basketball Players
With basketball season set to tip off just around the corner, fantasy leagues are forming and owners are gearing up for another run at the basketball crown.
There are new faces in new places everywhere in the NBA, so the spectrum has shift and draft boards may not look as some owners would expect.
LeBron is no longer the number one overall pick now that he's a member of the Heat, so who takes the title? Check out this year's top 20 talents and take it strong to the hole so you can make every selection a slam dunk.
20. David Lee, PF/C Golden State Warriors
Those that believe that Lee's success in the NBA is simply a product of the Knicks up-tempo system just haven't seen enough of this kid play. Despite being slightly undersized at 6'9", the Florida alum averaged 11.7 rebounds per contest for the second straight season in '09-'10.
Fantasy owners always talk about how nice it would be to have a 20/10 guy as a part of the squad, and it's amazing to see how the big man is continually overlooked year after year by owners.
Now taking his talents to Golden State, new coach Keith Smart won't be playing exactly the same style of ball as Mike D'Antoni (really, who does?), but you can bet that Lee will be heavily involved in the plans. Having had to relinquish prized youngster Anthony Randolph to acquire him, owners should bet that he'll get plenty of touches around the rim.
There should also be plenty of rebounds to grab, as well, as Golden State guards Monta Ellis & Stephen Curry aren't exactly the most accurate of shooters.
19. Brook Lopez, C New Jersey Nets
Whether or not Carmelo Anthony lands with the Nets, Lopez has established himself as one of the top-flight options at the center position. Perhaps his most impressive attribute, the better of the Lopez twins has played in all 82 games in both of his first two NBA seasons.
Shooting 50% from the field and a shade above 80% from the charity stripe, Lopez is a rare big man who doesn't make owners sacrifice one category for the other. In addition, he manages to block nearly two shots per contest and is always a threat for 20+ points.
One of the lengthiest players in the league, Lopez could really benefit from Anthony's presence as the defense would not be able to key in on him down low, but even without him Lopez remains a legitimate second-round pick with upside.
18. Jason Kidd, PG Dallas Mavericks
In the fantasy basketball world, Kidd is the equivalent of a high school prom date: a sure thing.The veteran has averaged at least eight assists in every season besides his rookie campaign (7.7), a streak dating back to the '95-'96 season.
Despite a less than desirable FG percentage, Kidd's ability to stroke it from beyond the arc coupled with his ability to rebound the ball more than make up for his sometimes poor shot selection. Similar to Chris Paul, Kidd's quick hands lead to big time steal numbers which greatly increase his fantasy value.
However, the one thing that holds J-Kidd's value back this season is the new found depth on the Dallas team, as he could even cede to playing some shooting guard for stretches this season as the Mavs look to youngster Rodrigue Beaubois to run the point.
17. Stephen Curry, SG Golden State Warriors
Curry burst onto the scene playing for Don Nelson's fantasy-friendly Warriors last season and the rookie broke out in a big way. Quickly climbing the fantasy ranks as his playing time soared, Curry's late season ascension through the ranks had many surprised owners competing deeper into the season than they otherwise would have.
Now with a new coach at the helm, the Warriors are certain to run a more stable rotation that won't leave Curry to play nearly all 48 in every affair, but he should still see plenty of time on the court. Proving that he's more than just an outside threat, Curry made opposing defenses look silly last season when he out-hustled everyone on the court and did compiled some gaudy numbers.
Like most that have the ball in their hands often, turnovers will continue to be a problem for the youngster this season, but his ability to contribute in so many categories (pts, rebs, assists, steals, 3's, free throw percentage) has his outlook very high headed into the season, but owners should beware not to overdraft him based off what they saw under Nellie during Curry's inaugural campaign as the Warriors are a much more balanced and improved team heading into this year.
16. Josh Smith, PF Atlanta Hawks
The definition of a roto-monster in fantasy basketball circles, Smith is a player who contributes in just about every category. His already incredible value would soar even higher if he could ever learn to shoot free throws (61.9% last season), but that doesn't appear likely any time soon.
J-Smoov refined his game before last year and his game blossomed as a result. Staying away from long-distance jump shots, Smith's field goal percentage was the highest its ever been in his career (50.5%). In addition, it seems that the freak athlete was revitalized on the defensive side of the ball as he averaged career highs in both steals (1.6) and rebounds (8.7).
Pair that with the fact that he blocked over two shots per game and averaged 4.2 assists as a power forward, it's easy to see why Smith has become a favorite of his owners. Oh, and did I mention that he also averaged 15.7 points per contest? That number should rise this season so long as he gets an adequate amount of looks on offense.
15. Steve Nash, PG Phoenix Suns
People seem to quickly forget that Nash was the back-to-back MVP winner in the NBA for a reason, and although he is on the backside of his career, by no means does that make him an inferior talent.
The loss of Amare via free agency to the Knicks is sure to make his life a little harder, but Nash has endured much rougher days in the desert and he should persevere once again this season. After leading the league in assists per game (11.0) last year, Nash still has plenty of explosiveness and has proven that he's as dangerous as ever with a basketball in his hands.
Although he shoots a tremendous percentage from the line (90+), he simply doesn't get there enough to consider it a significant factor in determining his fantasy value. Always capable of making something out of nothing, Nash is a weapon unlike any other on the court and looks like the white version of Marc Jackson with his floating runners down the lane.
With some new weapons at his disposal (Childress, Turkoglu) and looking to prove that he's still worth the money he's getting paid, Nash should be a top option at the point position for those owners who don't want to spend a first round pick on an elite PG.
14. Dwight Howard, C Orlando Magic
Howard's predictability around the rim has really limited his growth on the offensive end, but perhaps an offseason of working with Hakeem Olajuwon will help him transform his robot-like drop stop to a more fluid motion.
After averaging just 18.3 points per game last year (his lowest total since '06-'07), the charismatic Adidas pitchman is going to have to start introducing some new moves if he hopes to free himself up for some easier shots. As limited as his offensive game may have been, his field goal percentage (61.2%) led the league last season.
Howard's value obviously goes far beyond his ability to put the ball in the hoop, and after leading the league in both rebounds (13.2) and blocks (2.8) by a wide margin, Howard's beastliness on the defensive end cannot be emphasized enough. A true "stopper", Howard's massive size paired with his incredible athletic ability allow him to challenge anyone who tries to penetrate the middle.
Much like a legendary center that came into the game before him, free throw percentage will be an issue that plagues Howard throughout his career, but owners are going to have to have to swallow that pill should they want the self-proclaimed Superman as their number one center.
13. Rajon Rondo, PG Boston Celtics
There's not many people outside of Boston that still think this team belongs to the Big 3, as it's clearly become Rondo's squad.
A very interesting fantasy selection, Rondo doesn't provide the usual free throw percentage nor three pointers that a typical point guard usually does. Instead, Rondo brings a unique skill set to the table that makes him invariably more valuable than the majority of his counterparts.
Rather than dazzling his opponents with crossover dribbles and off-balance jumpers, Rondo's ability to attack the rim with incredible athleticism and tremendous court vision make him a rare breed indeed. Always a candidate to break out a triple-double at a moment's notice, Rondo seems to be everywhere on the court just a step faster than his competition.
This season should prove extra special to Rondo and the rest of the Celtics, as this could perhaps be their last chance to gear up for yet another run at the title. No. 9 should have the creative freedom to do whatever he wants when he's on the court next season, and with Nate Robinson still serving as his primary backup, he should be on the floor quite a bit.
12. Gerald Wallace, SF Charlotte Bobcats
Wallace is not only the most underrated fantasy basketball player, but he's also the most under appreciated NBA player on earth.
Playing for the often forgot about Charlotte Bobcats franchise, Wallace is a guy who really does it all on both ends of the floor. Averaging a double-double for the first time in his career last season, Wallace was just a couple points shy of averaging 20 and 10 as a small forward which is no small feat.
Also proving healthy for the first time in his career, Wallace finally began to garner the national attention that he's deserved for quite some time. Really, the only thing that no. 3 doesn't do for the Bobcats is rack up the assists, but that's a statistic quite rare for those that play his position.
Clearly the team's best player, Wallace should see all the playing time that his body can handle this season and will have to continue playing at an incredible level should his Bobcats hope to even compete for a playoff spot in the revamped Eastern Conference.
11. Danny Granger, SF Indiana Pacers
Granger has been a favorite of mine since his breakout campaign in '07-'08, but unfortunately for he and his owners, that's about the last time that the New Mexico State product was fully healthy, as well.
After missing 15 games in '08-'09 and another 20 last year, Granger simply has to prove that he's capable of keeping himself on the court for the greater majority of the season if he hopes to get back inside the top ten. An unquestioned first-round fantasy pick last season, Granger will most likely be overlooked by a lot of owners who are not looking to gamble at the high stakes table.
Another very well-rounded contributor, Granger kicks in contributions in every category and is especially potent in three pointers, free throw percentage, and average points per game. With the Pacers being without another bona fide scorer on the roster, Granger will continue to be the epicenter of the offensive attack. Owners should expect some aches and pains along the way, but no. 33's productivity is too great to ignore for too long.
10. Pau Gasol, PF/C Los Angeles Lakers
He might look like Big Bird from Sesame Street, but Gasol has become one of the NBA's best big men since arriving in Los Angeles.
With the recent news that Andrew Bynum will be sidelined until at least late November due to knee surgery, Gasol is set to have an even greater role in the Lakers offense to begin the season. One of the best passing 7-footers of my lifetime, Gasol's ability to create for his teammates as well as he creates for himself is an element to his game that's reminiscent of Shaq's days in Hollywood.
Shedding his "soft" label, Gasol has become a force on the defensive end as well, unafraid of challenging shots and even occasionally swiping the ball from the opposition. His length provides a defensive challenge that most teams have no answer for, and his ability to score from anywhere within 20 feet of the basket make him nearly impossible to stop.
With a soft touch, quick feet, and an impressive jumper, Gasol is poised to have perhaps his best season in the purple & gold, which is a serious statement given how impressive he's been since he rode into town.
9. Deron Williams, PG Utah Jazz
Williams may very well be a top-seven fantasy talent, but playing for the Jazz will never allow him to reach his full fantasy potential.
After acquiring big Al Jefferson in the offseason to give Williams some much needed help after losing Carlos Boozer to the Bulls via free agency, Williams will be looked upon to score more now than ever as he's obviously the best option in that offense.
Averaging 10.5 assists per night last season, Williams is perhaps the only player in the NBA that can be consistently relied upon for 20/10 (assists) numbers on a nightly basis outside of Chris Paul. A big, physical point guard who is capable of out-bodying his opposition, Williams is going to be among the most popular names on draft day and throughout the season.
A legitimate NBA superstar, D-Will is the face of a new kind of point guard that the NBA will see more and more of as times moves forward.
8. Carmelo Anthony, SF Denver Nuggets
Although he could very well be playing for a different team by the end of the week, 'Melo is a no-brainer first round selection in any format entering this season.
After taking unwarranted criticism that his game wasn't well-rounded enough, Carmelo averaged 28.2 ppg, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists last season, which tells me that his game is indeed multi-faceted. Pair those numbers with the fact that he also averaged more than a steal per game, and it's easy to see why owners should not hesitate to make him their prize possession.
Yes, he still takes too many jump shots, but Anthony will never be a player who aggressively attacks the basket on every possession. Instead, owners should finally accept Anthony for the player he is, because frankly, he's one of the most talented on the planet.
And if he does indeed move to New Jersey before opening night, his star should shine even brighter than it would in Denver.
7. Dirk Nowitzki, PF Dallas Mavericks
Nowitzki is what I refer to as the non-sexy pick of the first round. Perennially the most overlooked and undervalued of the traditional first rounders, all Nowitzki does is produce at a level most could only dream of on a yearly basis.
After transforming the big man position and really setting the stage for a lot of talented Europeans to play in the NBA, Dirk goes about his business with such professionalism that it often leaves him as an afterthought rather than a front-page story. An icon of perfect health over the last few seasons, Nowitzki shoots the lights out from all over the floor and is electric at the foul line, a very rare combination for any big man.
Although both his scoring and rebounding numbers were slightly down last season, Nowitzki should cruise all season long with a revamped Dallas team and prove that he belongs in the conversation when discussing the premier talent in the NBA.
6. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
It's no secret that Stoudemire enjoyed his most prolific seasons under Coach D'Antoni, so it only makes sense that Amar'e signed with New York in the offseason as he attempts to re-gain his status as an elite player.
After averaging 23 pts & 9 rebounds last season, Amare's numbers stand to increase well above that in his first season with the Knicks. Playing in an up-tempo style offense is what allows Stoudemire to capitalize on his talents, and if new point guard and fellow co-captain Raymond Felton can get him the rock on offense, Stoudemire could very well emerge as a top-3 player by season's end.
He proved that his health is just fine after playing in all 82 contests last season, so with even less pressure surround him now that he's on a team that's expected to fail, Amar'e is playing with a chip on his shoulder as he looks to prove that he's worth his new max contract.
Owners should show no hesitancy in selecting him at any point in the first round, but just keep in mind that you'll have to look for blocks elsewhere as that is not typically a part of Stoudemire's game.
5. Dwayne Wade, SG Miami Heat
Owners should expect a regression in the stat line from every member of Miami's new big three this season. Simply put, the three all-stars who are all used to getting 20+ shots a night will have to learn to share the wealth as they're playing with just one ball.
Despite LeBron's arrival, Miami will be Wade's team and city so long as he's a member of the Heat. Coming off one of his most well-rounded seasons since he came into the league, Wade pours it on in every category across the board.
Brushed off by some as simply a glorified source of points and assists, Wade averaged 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game last season, so he's definitely no one tricky pony. Improving upon his career numbers from beyond the three point line as well, Wade's contributions in every category make him a favorite among owners and a legitimate top-5 pick for years to come as long as he avoids injury that plagued him earlier in his star-studded career.
4. Kobe Bryant
Bryant takes such tremendous pride in being on the court every game for the Lakers and that's exactly the type of first-round fantasy picks that owners fall in love with.
Despite a badly arthritic finger that more closely resembles a senior citizen's than a 32 year-old's, Kobe remains the best player in the NBA and a consensus top selection on draft day. The fact that Bryant's draft rights were traded for Vlade Divac back in 1996 will forever remain one of the most lopsided trades in history and is downright laughable in hindsight.
In every season since '06-'07, Kobe has averaged at least 26 ppg, 5 rpg, and 5 apg, and I don't see that trend being broken during 2010-2011. On a mission to continually silence his ridiculous critics, Bryant will lead the charge toward another three-peat and will post some gaudy numbers on his way to doing so.
Anyone who bypasses him on draft day expecting some sort of regression needs to immediately re-assess the situation.
3. Chris Paul, PG New Orleans Hornets
Although he struggled with injury problems last season that limited him to just 45 games, Paul's reputation precedes him in fantasy circles as the elite source of production at a rather thin position.
After an offseason that saw some tumultuous times hit New Orleans, Paul will be back and better than ever this season as he looks to prove both his health and his worth as his free agency approaches. With Trevor Ariza now aboard and promising young shooting guard Marcus Thornton on the wing, Paul has some new weapons to play with that should facilitate his numbers reaching their usual incredible status.
CP3 will undoubtedly go earlier than third overall in some drafts, and may even go later in others, but at season's end, those who passed on Paul for Wade or even Kobe are sure to regret it, as his steal and assist numbers make him far too valuable in fantasy basketball to pass over.
2. LeBron James, SF Miami Heat
To think that LeBron's stats would regress to the point where he's anything less than the No. 2 overall pick in drafts is absolutely laughable. Still primed to play an enormous role on the offensive side of the ball, James is actually undervalued (if that's at all possible) in mock drafts right now, but shouldn't be when you hold your draft in the coming weeks.
While he certainly won't post the numbers that he did during his tenure in Cleveland where he was the entire offensive attack, James has plenty to prove to his growing list of haters, and you can bet that like any great athlete, he'll certainly be fueled by all of the negativity that currently clouds his name.
With plenty of playing time heading his way and and a great amount of motivation behind him, LeBron will look to prove that his on-court legacy won't be blemished by a very poor, disappointing "decision" that greatly ate into his public image and appeal.
Don't let personal bias determine the success of your fantasy draft, because when you start doing that, it's time to quit playing.
1. Kevin Durant, SF Oklahoma City Thunder
Even though his rise to stardom was much quicker than most anticipated, Durant's rare combination of proven production and upside is exactly the type of pairing that owners desperately search for when making the first overall selection.
After winning his first scoring title last season, Durant's game is much more well-rounded than most give him credit for. Averaging better than a steal and a block per contest last season, Durant also improved his free throw percentage, three pointers, and rebounds in '09-'10 as he escalates his game to the next level.
KD scored 25+ points in an incredible 73 of the 82 games last season, often with high-volume rebound numbers to pair it with. Owners that were blessed with Durant last season understood that the other team members didn't have to be the most prolific scorers because the former Texas standout did enough of that on his own.
Just about as automatic as they come from behind the free throw line, Durant's game is poised to continue to grow as he enters just his fourth full season. The kid may not even be done growing yet, as after all, he is still just a kid.
Rather than criticizing him for what he's not, those those fortunate enough to have the first overall selection in the draft should embrace him for what he is, because if you're not already in Durant's corner, he'll be sure to break not only your heart, but your fantasy prospects as well.