NBA Fantasy Basketball 2011-12: Top 10 Players at Each Position

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 14, 2011

NBA Fantasy Basketball 2011-12: Top 10 Players at Each Position

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    With the start of the NBA season just around the corner and the offseason moves starting to pour in, it's time to start drafting your fantasy basketball squads. 

    There aren't many more fun ways to monitor the league as a whole than to draft a team full of your favorite players and watch as their stats on the court help elevate your team to the top of the standings so you can rub it in your friends' faces. 

    But you won't get to gloat without doing your research. That's where I come in. 

    These are my rankings for the top 10 players at all five positions in basketball. You may see some players come up more than once, though, and that's because I used ESPN's positional eligibilities for each player. When that occurs, just be warned that the descriptions will be virtually identical each time with slight alterations made to counteract the change in position.  

    Read on for the rankings. 

Point Guard No. 10: Ty Lawson

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    I'm going to start these rankings off with one my favorite sleepers in all of the NBA. 

    Ty Lawson has blinding quickness, but he also possesses an incredible knack for shooting efficiently. With an intriguing Denver Nuggets lineup around him, Lawson should be able to pick and choose his shots well enough to make over half of his field-goal attempts on the year.

    Try to name a single other point guard who can do that for you. 

    Hint: You can't. 

    Lawson won't score in abundance for you, but he will average around 15 points per game and get better throughout the season as he learns from veteran point guard and new Nuggets acquisition Andre Miller. 

Point Guard No. 9: Steve Nash

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    Don't look at Steve Nash's age and think it means he's going to be a fantasy dud during the 2011-2012 season. Even though he's 37 years old now, Nash is an elite contributor in a number of categories. 

    I'd bet that the Suns rest him a little bit more than normal so Nash's legs can carry him through the condensed schedule, but he'll still shoot nearly 50 percent from the field and over 90 percent from the line. 

    Even if the options around him are less than inspiring, Nash is enough of a wizard with the ball that 10 assists per game seems like a valid ceiling. I'd expect remarkably similar numbers to what he produced last year. 

Point Guard No. 8: John Wall

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    John Wall is just oozing with potential and could easily shoot up the point guard rankings as the season progresses, but his field-goal percentage is a bit of a fantasy killer right now.

    The Wizards franchise point guard had the 24th best shooting percentage among all floor generals last season and will need to drastically improve his shot selection to make up for it (more slashing, less pulling up). 

    Wall has improved his jump shot over the offseason though, and we could see him put up 20 points and 10 assists per game more often than not. With elite rebounding numbers for a guard and a knack for thievery, you could do much worse than this sophomore dougie-ing phenom. 

    The more I think about it, the more tempted I am to move Wall up in these rankings. I just can't bring myself to do so quite yet because there's no guarantee his teammates improve and the talent at point guard is ridiculous this season. 

Point Guard No. 7: Rajon Rondo

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    If you draft Rajon Rondo, you know exactly what you're going to get. 

    He's going to shoot a high percentage from the field because he knows not to take jump shots and to rely on his trickery in the lane to make layups. 

    He's going to shoot poorly from the free-throw line because of the mental hurdles he has to overcome and the overwhelming size of his hands. 

    He's going to record a ridiculous amount of assists, even as the talent around him on this Boston Celtics team slowly starts to deteriorate and succumb to the effects of age. 

    He's also going to give you great numbers in the rebounding category for a guard and elite numbers in steals for any position. 

    There's no risk with this pick; there's just not much upside, either. 

Point Guard No. 6: Stephen Curry

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    The fact that a talent like Stephen Curry comes in at just No. 6 in my point guard rankings speaks volumes as to how stacked this position is for fantasy purposes. 

    Curry simply does everything well: he shoots a higher percentage from the field, is arguably the best free-throw shooter (percentage-wise) in the history of the NBA, drills a few threes per game, rebounds the ball, dishes out assists, records a few steals and scores nearly 20 points per game. 

    My only gripe with Curry is that there simply aren't enough points to go around in Golden State and Monta Ellis needs to have the ball in his hands quite often if the offense is going to run like the finely-tuned machine that it should be. 

    Curry was the 10th best player in ESPN's player rater last season and a similar result should be expected this year, even if the former Davidson Wildcat doesn't have to deal with the ankle issue that plagued him throughout all of last year. 

Point Guard No. 5: Monta Ellis

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    Even though he plays shooting guard primarily, Monta Ellis is still eligible at the point guard spot in most fantasy leagues, so he needs to be placed in these rankings. 

    Ellis is usually viewed as a scorer first and foremost. While that is most assuredly true, it's still selling him quite short because he can provide in a wide variety of categories. But as for that scoring, getting an efficient 24 points per game out of your point guard spot is never a bad thing. 

    The heavily-tattooed Golden State Warrior, much like his much-less-tattooed backcourt mate Stephen Curry, can contribute across the board. He won't shoot as well from the free-throw line or downtown as Curry, but he will challenge for the league lead in steals. 

    Curry and Ellis are essentially interchangeable in fantasy. You can't go wrong with either but I'm giving Ellis the ever-so-slight nod here because of his prowess in the stealing department, one of the harder categories to excel. 

Point Guard No. 4: Russell Westbrook

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    I toyed with the idea of ranking all three of the next point guards No. 2, but eventually decided to establish a hierarchy for the three players for your benefit, even though the difference between them all in terms of value is so small it's almost negligible. 

    In a lot of ways, these next three players form a tier of their own within the point guard rankings. 

    Russell Westbrook is No. 4 because of his lack of three-point shooting ability. That's really about it. 

    He needs to be drafted in the first round of every fantasy draft (unless you're playing in some league with only six teams). Westbrook shoots nearly 85 percent from the charity stripe and gets a lot of attempts, so he can virtually carry a squad in that category. He scores at an elite level and still manages to average over eight assists per game.

    Like I said, the only weakness for this member of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the three-point shooting. If you draft him, just target a guy like Dorell Wright later in the draft and enjoy the production you get from Westbrook all year long.   

Point Guard No. 3: Derrick Rose

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    Thanks to Derrick Rose's cult following and status as the league's reigning MVP, I may get a lot of grief for ranking him at No. 3 among the point guards. 

    But Rose's ranking isn't so much me shining a negative light on his game as it is me highlighting the greatness of Deron Williams' fantasy contributions. 

    Rose is your No. 1 option for points at this position and he's an elite contributor in almost every other category with the slight exception of two. 

    During the 2009-2010 season, Rose shot a blistering 48.9 percent from the field, an elite number among all the point guards in the NBA. But as his scoring and usage dramatically rose during his MVP campaign, his field-goal percentage dropped to a still-useful 44.5 percent. I'd expect that number to climb back up as he looks to generate even more baskets for his teammates this season, but it's still going to fall short of elite status. 

    Then there's his ability on the defensive end. Rose is a terrific real-life defensive player and he'll record a block every other game or so, but he isn't an elite thief of the ball. 

    There, I'm done. It was hard to even find that many negative things to say about the Chicago Bulls' floor general. 

Point Guard No. 2: Deron Williams

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    Now that he's no longer playing for the ultra-strict Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams is going to be truly let loose on the league. I'd be shocked if he doesn't post career highs in multiple categories. 

    With his size advantage against opposing defenses, Williams is going to be able to shoot at a high percentage from the field this season while drawing fouls and knocking down the vast majority of his foul shots. 

    While he won't be able to contribute quite like Derrick Rose in the points department, D-Will should still easily break the 20-point barrier again and could push 25 points per game. If he does that, he'll completely justify my ranking him at No. 2. 

    It's almost a certainty that Williams will average double-digit assists and that's what boosts him above the league MVP. 

Point Guard No. 1: Chris Paul

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    There's really no question who the No. 1 point guard in fantasy leagues should be. If you don't consider Chris Paul the best at his position, sorry, but your basketball knowledge is probably not good enough for you to win your league. 

    Paul doesn't score quite as much as the three players who came just before him in these rankings, but he may average nearly 20 points per game this season now that he doesn't have David West to rack up the points for the New Orleans Hornets.

    Even if West's absence from the lineup decreases CP3's assist numbers, he's still going to average at least nine per game. 

    Even though he's by no means a prolific long-range shooter, Paul does have one advantage that clearly pushes him to the top of the point guard rankings: his ability to steal the ball. Paul's steal numbers are absolutely invaluable in any fantasy format. 

Shooting Guard No. 10: Wesley Matthews

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    I'm still kind of depressed by Brandon Roy's premature retirement, but it does leave the door wide open for Wesley Matthews to break out in a big way. 

    You may have expected to see Tyreke Evans, Joe Johnson, Stephen Jackson, James Harden or even Ray Allen in this spot, but Matthews will exceed all of their best efforts during the 2011-2012 NBA season. 

    During his 69 starts last season while Roy was sidelined, Matthews averaged 16.9 points, 1.4 steals and 2.1 three-pointers per game while knocking down 45 percent of his shots from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line. I'm choosing to highlight those numbers because those are clearly the categories in which Matthews excels. 

    Moreover, he produced that much as just a second-year player in the Association. 

    The more I think about it, the more I realize just how conservative this ranking could end up being. 

Shooting Guard No. 9: Manu Ginobili

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    Manu Ginobili may only be getting older and Greg Popovich may be letting him see less and less action on the court, but he's still going to produce for your fantasy team. After all, the former Sixth Man of the Year is used to making the most of his minutes. 

    With the exception of field-goal percentage (usually around 43 percent), the veteran shooting guard is a valuable contributor in ever category, even if he isn't elite in any. 

    He'll knock down a couple of three-pointers per contest, steal the ball a few times and still score and dish out the rock at a high level. 

    Now in his 10th season in the NBA, Ginobili still isn't the sexiest fantasy option, but you could definitely do much worse than sticking him in your shooting guard spot. 

Shooting Guard No. 8: Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce keeps putting up similar numbers year after year, even as he gets older. Expect this season to be no different. 

    At some point, the veteran member of the Boston Celtics is going to slow down and succumb to injury and ineffectiveness, but it's not going to be this year, even with the rigors of the new NBA schedule. 

    Pierce averaged 18.9 points, 1.4 three-pointers, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per game last season while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 86 percent from the foul line. Even if all of those numbers decline ever so slightly, this would be his ranking. 

    If Rajon Rondo gets traded, everything changes. But for now, Pierce is the last member of these shooting guard rankings before we go up to another tier. 

Shooting Guard No. 7: Kevin Martin

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    I have to admit that I'm really not as big a fan of Kevin Martin as some people in the fantasy community are. That may be due to my affinity for letting other people draft scorers too early and picking up players that contribute in less glamorous ways. 

    Martin is always a huge injury risk and even though he scores a lot, he does so at the expense of your team's field-goal percentage thanks to his inefficiency from the field and tendency to ignore the misses and continue throwing up shots.

    But Martin will indeed light up the scoreboard. 

    The best player on the Houston Rockets, Martin will also make his fair share of three-pointers and rarely misses from the charity stripe. 

    When he's healthy, Martin is a great player to have on your squad. Just make sure you draft a premier big man to counteract the detriment he brings to the field-goal percentage. 

Shooting Guard No. 6: Andre Iguodala

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    Stat stuffers are always valuable in fantasy basketball and Andre Iguodala is one of the players whose picture you'd see next to the definition of "stat stuffer" in the official imaginary basketball dictionary. 

    Iggy became more of a distributor than a scorer last year and I'd expect that trend to continue. He's still going to score nearly 15 points per contest and the six-plus assists you'll get each game from the swingman are invaluable. 

    As the Philadelphia 76ers' young players continue to improve, so too will Iguodala's numbers as defenses won't be able to focus quite as much on slowing him. 

    Iguodala won't win you any one category, but he'll contribute in each and every one. 

Shooting Guard No. 5: Eric Gordon

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    At just 22 years of age, Eric Gordon is by no means done improving. 

    That's a scary thought to wrap your head around when you remember that the young stud-in-the-making for the Los Angeles Clippers was playing at an All-Star level before he had to miss time with an injury to his right hand. 

    Now that Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler have joined the Clippers, I wouldn't expect to see him regain his 24 points per game form, but his assist numbers could rise to nearly five per game. 

    With great contributions from downtown and on the defensive end of the court, Gordon is an exciting guy to have on your squad as a starting shooting guard. 

Shooting Guard No. 4: Kobe Bryant

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    I have no idea what to make of Kobe Bryant this season. 

    On one hand, I worry about the compressed schedule being too much for the aging, injury-plagued shooting guard. He could wear down and miss significant portions of the shortened season. Plus, I'm not sure that the Lakers will be that great this season now that Pau Gasol is playing with hurt feelings, Lamar Odom is gone, Andrew Bynum is...well...the same old injury-prone Andrew Bynum and there isn't an elite point guard to be found on the roster.  

    But on the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if Bryant was on a mission this season. After the embarrassing exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant could be poised to put up his best statistical season in a long time. 

    There's a chance that Bryant slips out of the top eight shooting guards this season. There's also a chance that he's the second best at his position.

    To play it safe, I'm sticking him at No. 4. Take what you will from that ranking. 

Shooting Guard No. 3: Stephen Curry

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    While Stephen Curry was only No. 6 in the point guard rankings, he's No. 3 as a shooting guard. 

    Curry simply does everything well: he shoots a higher percentage from the field, is arguably the best free-throw shooter (percentage-wise) in the history of the NBA, drills a few threes per game, rebounds the ball, dishes out assists, records a few steals and scores nearly 20 points per game. 

    My only gripe with Curry is that there simply aren't enough points to go around in Golden State and Monta Ellis needs to have the ball in his hands quite often if the offense is going to run like the finely-tuned machine that it should be. 

    Curry was the 10th best player in ESPN's player rater last season and a similar result should be expected this year, even if the former Davidson Wildcat doesn't have to deal with the ankle issue that plagued him throughout all of last year. 

Shooting Guard No. 2: Monta Ellis

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    Monta Ellis is usually viewed as a scorer first and foremost. While that is most assuredly true, it's still selling him quite short because he can provide in a wide variety of categories. But as for that scoring, getting an efficient 24 points per game out of your point guard spot is never a bad thing. 

    The heavily-tattooed Golden State Warrior, much like his much-less-tattooed backcourt mate Stephen Curry, can contribute across the board. He won't shoot as well from the free-throw line or downtown as Curry, but he will challenge for the league lead in steals. 

    Curry and Ellis are essentially interchangeable in fantasy. You can't go wrong with either but I'm giving Ellis the ever-so-slight nod here because of his prowess in the stealing department, one of the harder categories to excel. 

Shooting Guard No. 1: Dwyane Wade

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    Just like with Chris Paul at point guard, there really isn't any doubt that Dwyane Wade is the top option at shooting guard. 

    As he proved last season, all of his stats can remain at an elite level even with Chris Bosh and LeBron James also roaming South Beach. Now that he's had a full year playing with those two superstars, expect for his numbers to go back up to pre-LeBron/Bosh levels. 

    Wade is going to shoot over 50 percent from the field, avoid hurting your team from the free-throw line, knock down a three-pointer a game, rebound the ball like a forward, average nearly five assists per game, score over 25 per game and help your team significantly in both defensive categories. 

    There's nothing to dislike here and a hell of a lot to love. 

Small Forward No. 10: Wesley Matthews

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    I'm still kind of depressed by Brandon Roy's premature retirement, but it does leave the door wide open for Wesley Matthews to break out in a big way. 

    You may have expected to see Dorell Wright, Joe Johnson, Stephen Jackson, Luol Deng or even Danilo Gallinari in this spot, but Matthews will exceed all of their best efforts during the 2011-2012 NBA season. 

    During his 69 starts last season while Roy was sidelined, Matthews averaged 16.9 points, 1.4 steals and 2.1 three-pointers per game while knocking down 45 percent of his shots from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line. I'm choosing to highlight those numbers because those are clearly the categories in which Matthews excels. 

    Moreover, he produced that much as just a second-year player in the Association. 

    The more I think about it, the more I realize just how conservative this ranking could end up being. 

Small Forward No. 9: Danny Granger

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    Danny Granger was higher in my rankings until David West decided to sign with the Indiana Pacers. Now that there's another elite scorer on the squad, Granger's contributions are going to become less frequent and his value as a fantasy player is going to drop. 

    That said, he might become even better as a player in real life. 

    Granger is a bit injury prone and that could come back to bite him in this season full of back-to-back games. 

    When he's on the court, Granger is valuable thanks to his tendency to drop shots from long range. 

Small Forward No. 8: Gerald Wallace

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    If you're willing to risk the desires of the pesky injury imp and you want a combo forward who can contribute in each and every category, then Gerald Wallace is definitely the guy for you. 

    Crash was a force with the Portland Trail Blazers despite the fact that he had more players contributing around him than he did on the Charlotte Bobcats. That shouldn't change this season. 

    By Wallace's standards, he had a subpar year during the 2010-2011 campaign and he still managed to average 15.7 points, 0.9 threes, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. 

    If that's what you get from Wallace this season, it's still a great value. But that said, you'll probably get even more out of him. 

Small Forward No. 7: Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce keeps putting up similar numbers year after year, even as he gets older. Expect this season to be no different. 

    At some point, the veteran member of the Boston Celtics is going to slow down and succumb to injury and ineffectiveness, but it's not going to be this year, even with the rigors of the new NBA schedule. 

    Pierce averaged 18.9 points, 1.4 three-pointers, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per game last season while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 86 percent from the foul line. Even if all of those numbers decline ever so slightly, this would be his ranking. 

    If Rajon Rondo gets traded, everything changes. But for now, Pierce is the last member of these small forward rankings before we go up to another tier. 

Small Forward No. 6: Andre Iguodala

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    Stat stuffers are always valuable in fantasy basketball and Andre Iguodala is one of the players whose picture you'd see next to the definition of "stat stuffer" in the official imaginary basketball dictionary. 

    Iggy became more of a distributor than a scorer last year and I'd expect that trend to continue. He's still going to score nearly 15 points per contest and the six-plus assists you'll get each game from the swingman are invaluable. 

    As the Philadelphia 76ers' young players continue to improve, so too will Iguodala's numbers as defenses won't be able to focus quite as much on slowing him. 

    Iguodala won't win you any one category, but he'll contribute in each and every one. 

Small Forward No. 5: Rudy Gay

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    Rudy Gay is one of those players who actually benefited from the lockout because it gave him a chance to fully rehab his shoulder and get in tip-top shape for the start of his next campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

    The young small forward was absolutely sensational before the shoulder injury ended his season too soon. He was averaging nearly 20 points per game while shooting efficiently from any and all spots on the court. Additionally, Gay stole the ball proficiently and rebounded quite well for his size. 

    Despite the fact that the Grizzlies performed admirably in his absence thanks to the heroics of Zach Randolph and the rest of the squad, Gay should pick up right where he left off. 

Small Forward No. 4: Carmelo Anthony

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    And now we've reached the truly elite portion of the small forward rankings. Yes, this is a pretty loaded position. 

    Carmelo Anthony's value this season is going to be quite similar to his value while he still played with the Denver Nuggets.

    He has to share the ball with Amar'e Stoudemire so his scoring numbers are probably going to go down a little bit, as are his rebounding stats. But to make up for it, Anthony will record even more assists than he ever has. 

    Meanwhile, he shot more three-pointers than ever during his brief stint in New York, mostly thanks to the offensive system employed by Mike D'Antoni. 

    Melo may not get you the stats you're used to him getting, but he'll make up for it in new ways. 

Small Forward No. 3: Josh Smith

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    Josh Smith came into training camp 25 pounds lighter than he was last season and in the best shape of his life. For a player sometimes lacking the killer attitude and motivation, this is a great start to a new season. 

    J-Smoove is one of the most underrated players in all of fantasy because of the lack of glamour in his scoring numbers and his tendency to take ill-advised jump shots. But make no mistake about it, Smith has first-round potential in fantasy drafts. 

    Not many small forwards can add nearly one-and-a-half steals per game to your cause while blocking even more shots on a nightly basis. In addition to that, Smith averages over eight rebounds per game and shoots a high percentage from the field. 

    With more motivation than ever to endear himself to Atlanta Hawks fans whose patience is wearing thin, Smith is going to put up monstrous numbers this season. 

    Pick him earlier than his average draft position in your draft, endure the inevitable mocking in the comments section and then reap the benefits as the year progresses. 

Small Forward No. 2: LeBron James

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    LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. But that doesn't make him the best player in fantasy basketball. 

    Despite missing out on that elite title, LeBron is still the second best player for fantasy purposes. He just has the misfortune of playing at the same position as Kevin Durant. Plus, if you drafted him first overall I really wouldn't hold it against you. 

    Some people thought that James' stats would plummet once he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat, but that was not the case. Now, much like Wade, his stats should go up now that he's accustomed to balling with the new players in Eric Spoelstra's system. 

    Like it or not, James is a threat to throw up a triple-double on any given night. He could average 30 points per game and still dish out seven or more dimes on a daily basis. Plus, he's going to shoot over 50 percent from the field, make some threes, average as many rebounds as assists, steal the ball and block some shots. 

    James is truly a perfect fantasy player.

    Durant is just more perfect. 

Small Forward No. 1: Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant averaged 27.7 points per game last season and it was a down year. I'd be shocked if he doesn't average at least 30 points per game this season and lead the league in scoring for the third consecutive year. 

    That scoring boost and his free-throw shooting are what elevates Durant ever so slightly above LeBron James in the rankings. Durant shoots nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe but he attempts so many shots per game that he can single-handedly win that category for you, regardless of your league's format. 

    He's a comparable rebounder to James, makes more three-pointers and blocks more shots. He steals the ball slightly less but does have a significantly lower assist total. 

    Truthfully, Durant and LeBron are just about even in terms of fantasy value, but the free-throw shooting and blocks nudge Durant just ahead in my book. 

Power Forward No. 10: Zach Randolph

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    If there is a position where you can't go wrong, it's power forward. 

    Zach Randolph is a fantasy stud. 

    The one thing keeping him from being truly elite at his position is the lack of blocked shots. Z-Bo has never averaged more than 0.5 blocks per game in his career and you absolutely need to get blocks from this position if you're going to succeed. 

    Now that he's remedied any fears you may have about consistency and motivation, Randolph should live up to his high expectations. Averaging anything less than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game would be a shock for the big man. 

Power Forward No. 9: LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Recently, LaMarcus Aldridge "went to a routine exam by his cardiologist on Friday and it was determined that he should undergo a procedure to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition which causes the ventricles of the heart to contract prematurely."

    He should recover just fine and be ready for the season to start, but a lack of conditioning could come back to bite him during a brutal schedule. For that reason alone, I have no choice but to downgrade him a little bit. 

    Aldridge scores at a rate comparable to Zach Randolph and doesn't rebound quite as well. But he does steal the ball more often and block shots at a significantly higher clip.

    That boosts him up to No. 9 for me. 

Power Forward No. 8: Al Horford

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    If you were drafting a team filled with boring players (both in real life and in fantasy basketball), Al Horford could very well be your first pick. That's just what happens when you only score around 15 points per game. 

    Horford does help you out tremendously in the percentage categories. He shot 55.7 percent from the field and 79.8 percent from the free-throw line last season, although the free throws don't come too often for the former Florida Gator. 

    The Atlanta Hawks big man also dishes out a surprising number of assists and helps with both defensive categories. 

    To top it all off, Horford could very well average 10 rebounds per game after pulling down 9.3 boards per contest last season. 

Power Forward No. 7: Blake Griffin

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    Here's the fun one!

    If you value Blake Griffin properly, you will not draft him this year. I'm sorry, but someone will fall into the SportsCenter-highlight trap and draft the reigning Rookie of the Year way too soon. He's fun to have on your team, but you have to make a serious reach to get him. 

    Griffin shoots efficiently, scores at a high rate, rebounds ridiculously well for a young player and dishes out assists. 

    But that said, he hurts your free-throw percentage and he doesn't provide you with nearly enough blocks to justify his average draft position. 

    Just remember, slam dunks and alley-oops are not fantasy categories. 

Power Forward No. 6: Al Jefferson

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    Al Jefferson is one of my favorite fantasy power forwards because you can get him for a bargain almost without fail. It's almost as though most people forget he even exists. 

    Once Deron Williams left the Utah Jazz, Jefferson became the go-to scorer and he was a fantasy revelation. Guess what though, D-Will is still with the New Jersey Nets and Jefferson is still that go-to scorer. 

    He's going to average 20 points per game. He's going to average 10 rebounds per game. He's going to block just under two shots per game. He's going to make nearly (if not more than) half the shots he takes from the field. 

    He's going to be a guy you want to draft. 

Power Forward No. 5: Josh Smith

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    Josh Smith came into training camp 25 pounds lighter than he was last season and in the best shape of his life. For a player sometimes lacking the killer attitude and motivation, this is a great start to a new season. 

    J-Smoove is one of the most underrated players in all of fantasy because of the lack of glamour in his scoring numbers and his tendency to take ill-advised jump shots. But make no mistake about it, Smith has first-round potential in fantasy drafts. 

    Not many small forwards can add nearly one-and-a-half steals per game to your cause while blocking even more shots on a nightly basis. In addition to that, Smith averages over eight rebounds per game and shoots a high percentage from the field. 

    With more motivation than ever to endear himself to Atlanta Hawks fans whose patience is wearing thin, Smith is going to put up monstrous numbers this season. 

    Pick him earlier than his average draft position in your draft, endure the inevitable mocking in the comments section and then reap the benefits as the year progresses. 

Power Forward No. 4: Dirk Nowitzki

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    Dirk Nowitzki is one of the safest choices you can make in a fantasy draft because he always produces around the same numbers as his career averages and he never gets hurt. 

    Utilizing the flamingo fadeaway often last season, Dirk averaged less points, rebounds, steals and blocks than he has over the course of the last eight seasons, but his numbers were still undeniably impressive. 

    Dirk is one of the rare power forwards who can knock down a three-pointer per game for your team and he is still an elite scorer who shoots high percentages both from the field and at the line despite high usage rates in both situations. 

    The only two things preventing him from ascending into the top three are his advancing age that limits his upside and his lack of contributions in the defensive categories.  

Power Forward No. 3: Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Just like we saw with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire's stats are going to change but he's going to keep about the same overall value. 

    He'll score just about 25 points per game once more in 2011-2012, but he'll do so with a higher field-goal percentage thanks to a decreased level of defensive attention. Then again, he'll get to touch the ball less often because of Melo's presence and his assists will decline as a result. 

    Moreover, his rebound totals are going to go down by a significant margin now that Tyson Chandler will be joining forces with the Knicks. 

    Stat blocks shot at an elite level and is a contributor across the board. You can't go wrong with him in your 4-spot. 

Power Forward No. 2: Pau Gasol

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    I have to admit that I'm a little higher on Pau Gasol than most people are this season, despite the fact that he's upset about his involvement in the trade that didn't happen. 

    Gasol might not score as many points as Amar'e Stoudemire, although it'll be closer this year now that Lamar Odom is no longer with the team, and his block totals may be less impressive, but he makes up for it and then some with all the other categories. 

    The Los Angeles Lakers big man is a force to be reckoned with on the glass and should average over 10 rebounds per game yet again this season. Additionally, he has the benefit of feeding the ball to Kobe Bryant and his assist totals are a bit inflated as a result. 

    Gasol shoots well over 50 percent from the field and knocks down his free throws at an 80 percent clip while adding solid, albeit unspectacular, defensive numbers. 

    Stoudemire is really 2b to Gasol's 2a, but Gasol does belong higher up in the rankings. 

Power Forward No. 1: Kevin Love

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    As great as Dirk Nowitzki, Amar'e Stoudemire and Pau Gasol are in fantasy, they still can't hold a candle to Kevin Love's greatness. 

    Remember how I said on Zach Randolph's slide that you really needed to get blocks from the power forward slot? Well Kevin Love is so good that he defies that rule. 

    Love averaged a mind-boggling 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds per game last season. 15.2 rebounds per game. Read that again. Slowly. 

    The scary thing is, it wasn't a fluke. 

    As the Minnesota Timberwolves develop all of their young talent—and there is definitely an abundance of young talent—Love's assist totals are going to go up even if his scoring takes a slight dip. 

    Additionally, he averages over a three-pointer per game and shoots a blistering 85 percent from the free-throw line. 

    If you draft Love, thank your lucky stars you got him and then go find some blocks elsewhere. 

Center No. 10: David Lee

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    The last member of the Golden State Warriors' video game offense to appear in this slideshow, David Lee kick-starts the top 10 members of the NBA's weakest position. 

    And I will warn you in advance, this top 10 is going to be a little bit surprising as Andrew Bynum, Joakim Noah and Nene Hilario will not be making appearances. 

    Lee struggled at the beginning of last season thanks to an elbow injury, but he's healthy and raring to go this year. 

    He's an efficient shooter from the field, a premier free-throw shooter at the center position, steals the ball at a surprising rate and is a nightly double-double just waiting to happen.

    While he was disappointing last season, don't make the mistake of thinking he'll let you down again. 

Center No. 9: Chris Bosh

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    The last member of the Miami Heat's Big Three to show up here, Chris Bosh has added a good bit of muscle and is prepared to actually play center for the Heat if necessary. 

    He's a terrific free-throw shooter, borders on 50 percent shooting from the field and averages nearly 20 points per game. Just like we saw with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh's numbers will likely rise this season thanks to his familiarity with the offense he's playing in. 

    Bosh will never stand out in any one category—particularly true when it comes to steals and blocks—but he will help your team across the board. 

Center No. 8: DeMarcus Cousins

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    This is probably the second boldest pick in this article. Don't worry, you still haven't gotten to the boldest one. 

    I foresee big things from DeMarcus Cousins. Always known as a bit of a head case, the former Kentucky Wildcat should have learned not to take basketball for granted thanks to the lockout. This is his season to shine after he was overshadowed by the greatness of John Wall and Blake Griffin last year in his rookie class. 

    Cousins did not shoot well as a rookie—43 percent from the field and 69 percent from the line—but expect for both of those percentages to improve during his sophomore campaign. 

    The big man makes up for that with his scoring and rebounding. After he averaged 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last year, I think he's going to make the big jump to 20 points and 10 boards per contest this year. 

    Add to that nearly three assists per game from the center slot as well as over a steal and block per game and you've got yourself a fantasy stud in the making. 

    Cousins will most likely be drafted well outside the top-10 center-eligible players, but he's going to prove to be one of the bigger steals in all of fantasy basketball. 

Center No. 7: LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Recently, LaMarcus Aldridge "went to a routine exam by his cardiologist on Friday and it was determined that he should undergo a procedure to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition which causes the ventricles of the heart to contract prematurely."

    He should recover just fine and be ready for the season to start, but a lack of conditioning could come back to bite him during a brutal schedule. For that reason alone, I have no choice but to downgrade him a little bit. 

    Aldridge scores and rebounds quite well. But he does steal the ball more often and block shots at an even higher clip than one might expect.

    That boosts him up to No. 7 for me. 

Center No. 6: Serge Ibaka

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    And now we've come to the boldest prediction of them all. Serge Ibaka will be the sixth best fantasy center this season, better than even LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh, two established fantasy studs. 

    Ibaka, despite his status as a raw young player, shot 53 percent from the field last season and made three-quarters of his free-throws last year. There's no reason that he can't improve on both of those numbers this season. 

    He's only 22 years old and worked hard all offseason to develop his offensive game. Now that he's in possession of a deadly mid-range jumper, Ibaka is no longer limited on that end of the court and could see his scoring increase from 9.9 points per game to about 15. 

    Ibaka is also a double-double threat each and every night he laces up his humongous sneakers. 

    But I haven't even mentioned what he's best at yet. Ibaka is a shot-blocking machine with the potential to sway your fortunes in that category by himself. He led the league in total blocks last year and will only improve in that respect. 

Center No. 5: Al Horford

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    If you were drafting a team filled with boring players (both in real life and in fantasy basketball), Al Horford could very well be your first pick. That's just what happens when you only score around 15 points per game. 

    Horford does help you out tremendously in the percentage categories. He shot 55.7 percent from the field and 79.8 percent from the free throw line last season, although the free throws don't come too often for the former Florida Gator. 

    The Atlanta Hawks big man also dishes out a surprising number of assists and helps with both defensive categories. 

    To top it all off, Horford could very well average 10 rebounds per game after pulling down 9.3 boards per contest last season. 

Center No. 4: Al Jefferson

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    Al Jefferson is one of my favorite fantasy players because you can get him for a bargain almost without fail. It's almost as though most people forget he even exists. 

    Once Deron Williams left the Utah Jazz, Jefferson became the go-to scorer and he was a fantasy revelation. Guess what though, D-Will is still with the New Jersey Nets and Jefferson is still that go-to scorer. 

    He's going to average 20 points per game. He's going to average 10 rebounds per game. He's going to block just under two shots per game. He's going to make nearly (if not more than) half the shots he takes from the field. 

    He's going to be a guy you want to draft. 

Center No. 3: Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Just like we saw with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire's stats are going to change but he's going to keep about the same overall value. 

    He'll score just about 25 points per game once more in 2011-2012 but he'll do so with a higher field goal percentage thanks to a decreased level of defensive attention. Then again, he'll get to touch the ball less often because of Melo's presence and his assists will decline as a result. 

    Moreover, his rebound totals are going to go down by a significant margin now that Tyson Chandler will be joining forces with the Knicks. 

    Stat blocks shot at an elite level and is a contributor across the board. You can't go wrong with him in your 5-spot. 

Center No. 2: Pau Gasol

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    I have to admit that I'm a little higher on Pau Gasol than most people are this season, despite the fact that he's upset about his involvement in the trade that didn't happen. 

    Gasol might not score as many points as Amar'e Stoudemire, although it'll be closer this year now that Lamar Odom is no longer with the team, and his block totals may be less impressive, but he makes up for it and then some with all the other categories. 

    The Los Angeles Lakers big man is a force to be reckoned with on the glass and should average over 10 rebounds per game yet again this season. Additionally, he has the benefit of feeding the ball to Kobe Bryant and his assist totals are a bit inflated as a result. 

    Gasol shoots well over 50 percent from the field and knocks down his free throws at an 80-percent clip while adding solid, albeit unspectacular, defensive numbers. 

    Stoudemire is really 2b to Gasol's 2a, but Gasol does belong higher up in the rankings. 

Center No. 1: Dwight Howard

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    And here he is ladies and gentlemen, your elite fantasy center for the 2011-2012 NBA season. Surprise, surprise. It's Dwight Howard.

    If you can stomach his ability to tank your free-throw percentage, Howard is a guy you absolutely want on your fantasy squad. 

    He's a menace on the defensive end of the court, blocking nearly 2.5 shots per game and stealing the ball away from the opposition an additional 1.4 times per contest. 

    He's a monster on the glass, fully capable of pulling down 15 missed shots on any given night. 

    Plus, fantasy basketball is one of those places where D12's offensive limitations actually help him. Because he doesn't have confidence outside the paint, Howard relies on easy layups and slam dunks to score his points. As a result, his field-goal percentage comes in at nearly 60 percent and he still scores over 20 points per game. 

    Howard is your No. 1 center. It's not even close. 

    Adam Fromal is a syndicated writer and Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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