Player Rankings: Power Forwards (1-15)
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1. Kevin Garnett - Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Garnett is a fantasy owner’s dream. He has posted seven straight seasons of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks with great percentages. He’s only missed a total of nine games in the last seven years and dominates every single category except for three pointers. There’s no one better in the league at grabbing tough rebounds in traffic and he’s skilled at finding open teammates when opposing teams collapse on him in the paint. He’ll shoot nearly 50 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line, which is remarkable for a big man. Add to the fact that he is eligible at both forward positions, and you have the recipe for a stud. There are reasons to think this year could be better than last for KG. With new additions Mike James and Randy Foye raining shots from outside, things should open up inside for Garnett.
Bottom Line: Garnett shouldn't fall any further than the number three overall pick in your draft. Though there were some grumblings that he had lost a step last year, don't believe it.
2. Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks
Dirk did not have the greatest series in the finals but do not let that diminish your appreciation of the man. He is still the best pure fantasy power forward in the land. Last year Dirk scored a career-high 26.6 points with 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 blocks and 1.4 threes a game. He’s also great for the percentages shooting 48 percent from the floor and 90.1 percent from the free throw line. Those are incredible numbers. For a 7-footer, Dirk has great ball handling skills and touch from the outside. He can create his own shot scoring off the dribble and finish the three-point play inside. And, of course, there is always the deadly long range jumper. He is close to un-guardable. He’s solid defensively, getting close to one steal and one block a game in each of the last six years. When you consider he’ll also rank in the top ten in both points and rebounds, you know why he should not be available when the second round of your draft starts.
Bottom Line: You can’t go wrong with drafting Dirk in the first round. He’s been a dominant force in the league for six straight years and rarely misses games due to injury.
3. Elton Brand - Los Angeles Clippers
Elton Brand has been as regular as the sunrise every fantasy season. You could just pencil him in for another 20/10 season with good percentages and close to two blocks per game. Last year he broke with this consistency—in a good way. He posted a tremendous season for the L.A. Clippers. In his breakout season, Brand averaged 24.7 points, 10.0 boards, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.5 blocks while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and 77.5 percent from the line. What boosted Elton from his already excellent play to near MVP level? A new winning attitude in Clipperland and the addition of a savvy point guard like Sam Cassell explain some of it. Whatever it was Brand got the most out of himself and given that he is entering his peak years at age 27, there is no reason to forecast much backsliding this year. On defense, Brand will continue to use his long arms to create steals and block scads of shots. There is no reason to question his offense. Chris Kaman's improvement means opposing defenses won’t be able to double Brand as much. And with Cassell and Shaun Livingston feeding Brand in the post, he will be in line to score well again. It really doesn’t get much better than Brand as year in and year out he produces for the Clippers.
Bottom Line: Brand has moved into first round territory with his statistical dominance. He is a lock for scoring, rebounds, blocks, and great percentages. He is a great grab toward the end of the first round.
4. Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan may not get many points from the bling set but fans of the game know he remains one of the greatest players in professional basketball. He is the Big Fundamental after all, establishing post position with ease and grace and skilled at passing out of the inevitable double-team. Despite his excellence, last year was a down one for Duncan. He averaged career lows in points, field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocked shots. Of course, when the averages include 18.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 blocks on 48.4 percent shooting from the floor and 62.9 percent from the line you realize that, free throw shooting aside, most players would be ecstatic to call these career highs. Further, Duncan played most of the season on a bad ankle. His numbers improved dramatically in the playoffs, averaging 25.8 points on 57.3 percent from the field and 71.8 percent from the line. A healthy Duncan will come back to his career averages this season and reassert himself as the premier power forward of his generation.
Bottom Line: Duncan may drop to the late first round due to questions about his free throw shooting and his overall performance last season. If he does, scoop him up and enjoy another spectacular season from the big man.
5. Chris Bosh - Toronto Raptors
Bosh took the step last season and has entered the fantasy elite. He improved in every category except blocks and steals, averaging 22.5 points, 9.2 boards, 2.6 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 0.7 steals on 50.5 percent from the field and 81.6 percent from the line. It is his shooting that really distinguishes Bosh for fantasy players. He is a 50/80 guy who shoots with high volume. This is crucial. Among power forward-eligible players who played serious minutes, only Bosh, Shawn Marion, Kevin Garnett and David West shot both 50 percent plus from the field and 80 percent plus from the line—though Dirk came close. Bosh shot and made more free throws than any of these players. He averaged 6.8 made free throws per game; Garnett, with the second most, averaged 5.2. Marion and West weren't even close. The more attempts a player makes, the more his high percentages help your team. Bosh gets to the line with a dazzling array of moves and is an excellent mid-range shooter. With Charlie Villanueva out and pass-first point guard T.J. Ford in, Bosh's attempts from the field and line will only increase. It is reasonable to expect Bosh to be among the league leaders in scoring this season. He will also grab about ten boards and block over a shot a game. As valuable as Bosh is at power forward, his value is increased even more in leagues where he has center-eligibility. Catch this kid while he's on the rise.
Bottom Line: Bosh is still young at just 22 years of age and will continue to improve his game. Owners in keeper leagues will want to lock Bosh up long-term as he is much younger than the other power forwards operating at this elite level.
6. Pau Gasol - Memphis Grizzlies
Yes, he has a beard that beatniks envy and clearly is evading the NBA's fashion police, but last year Pau Gasol established himself as an elite power forward. And in the end fantasy owners don't care about the Paella stuck in his beard, we care about the numbers stuck in our totals. They were great numbers last year: 20.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.9 blocks on 50.3 percent shooting from the field and 68.9 percent from the line. Those of us who suffered through the limited minutes when Gasol played under Hubie Brown expected the points, rebounds and blocks with more minutes under Mike Fratello. But what makes Pau Gasol special is his assists. Pau showed that he more than merely adept at passing out of double-teams; he was masterful. Among power forwards, no one else provided the same combination of blocks and assists. Gasol is still young, and he is clearly driven. He is likely to build on his already superlative numbers this year.
Bottom Line: Don't let the shaggy appearance put you off; grab Gasol early and enjoy well-rounded numbers reminiscent of Chris Webber in his prime.
Update: Hold that thought. Gasol’s foot surgery puts a serious damper on his value, as it’s anticipated Gasol will miss the entire 2006 portion of the 2006-2007 season. Even when he does return, Pau will be more concerned with getting his game back than taking it to the next level. Gasol drops out of the top 100, but he’s still worth a draft-and-stash, especially in a keeper league.
7. Jermaine O’Neal - Indiana Pacers
This ranking is no slight to Jermaine. He remains an elite power , but injury concerns during the past two years force us to drop him a few spots. He has engaged in what he has described as his most rigorous off-season fitness regimen ever in hopes to beating the injury bug this season. Jermaine is still in his prime at age 28, so if he can return to health, he could be a steal for owners in leagues where folks are injury-shy. Jermaine provides a lethal combination of scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Last year in 51 games, O'Neal averaged 20.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 blocks on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 70.9 percent from the line. Jermaine has a tendency to settle for the jump shot, which drags his shooting down, but not enough to negatively affect his value. Further, his shooting percentage has gone up the past two seasons. With a career average of near 70 percent from the line, he's acceptable for a power forward. With former secondary scorers Peja and Artest gone, O'Neal could see a spike in his scoring this year, akin to the numbers he put up two seasons ago.
Bottom Line: Jermaine is working hard to stay healthy this season and if he accomplishes this, he will be a great value. His dominance in points, boards and blocks makes him a great pick in the third round should he slip that far in leagues where his recent injuries have spooked owners.
8. Dwight Howard - Orlando Magic
No one on this list has more athletic upside than this kid. And in a bit of bad news for other post players in the league, Howard added more muscle to his already impressive build during the off-season. In his first two years in the league, Howard has averaged a double-double. Last year he averaged 15.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on 53.1 percent shooting from the field and 59.5 percent from the line. In addition to being consistent, Howard improved his value by staying healthy. Howard has yet to miss a game in his career and last year, despite finishing second in rebounds per game (to Garnett), he was first in total rebounds by 66. It's the totals -not the averages- that count in fantasy. As good as Howard projects to be (and 20 points, 14 rebounds with two blocks a game isn't a stretch), he still needs to improve his free throw shooting and cut down on the turnovers. If he can get over 70 percent from the line, he will move near the top of this list. The sky is the limit for this kid, and if Darko Milicic proves he can hit his jumper and draw defenses out, it will only create more room for Howard. The kid could be a beast this season.
Bottom Line: Keeper league owners should be all over Dwight Howard. He turns just 21 on December 8 and has years of growth ahead of him. There is a strong possibility that the Magic will start Howard at center and Milicic at power forward. If this comes to pass, Howard's value jumps even further.
9. Antawn Jamison - Washington Wizards
Often overlooked and almost always taken later in drafts than he should be, Antawn Jamison may have changed the perception of him as a tweener last year. He started most games at power forward and thrived. His numbers were fantastic: 20.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 threes and 1.1 steals on 44.2 percent shooting from the field and 73.1 percent from the line. On a team that stresses offense like the Wizards do under coach Eddie Jordan, there is no reason to think Jamison's numbers will slack off much. If Arenas is the clear number one, Jamison has firmly established himself as the second option on offense. Whether he's spotting up for threes or using his ultra-quick hops to score inside, he is a handful for opposing power forwards. The downside to Jamison's game is his defense. He will never be a good source of blocks (just 0.2 per game last year) but should grab about a steal per game for his owners. Jamison's best fantasy asset is his range. When you can get almost two threes a game from your power forward without sacrificing rebounding, you give yourself a very good chance at winning that category.
Bottom Line: Jamison is a great option for his points, rebounds and threes. That he is also eligible at small forward makes him even more valuable. He’ll be the clear second option on the Wizards, and his speed and range will again perplex defenses this season. Consider him a solid 4th round fantasy pick in medium-sized leagues.
10. Carlos Boozer - Utah Jazz
If you are looking for a lunch pail power forward who won't cost too much to obtain on draft day, Carlos Boozer is your man. His value will be deflated going into this year's drafts and auctions because he has played just 84 games during the past two seasons. Last year, waiting for Boozer to come back from his strained hamstring was like waiting for Godot. The difference being that Boozer did in the end show up to play in the last 33 games. He put up the kind of numbers we can expect from him this year: 16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.2 blocks on 54.9 percent shooting from the field and 72.3 percent from the line. Except for his low blocks, Boozer provides prototypical power forward numbers: good scoring and boards to go with nice percentages. We wish he would make defense a priority as that would catapult his value, but that doesn't appear in the offing for Boozer.
Bottom Line: Boozer could slip in drafts because of his injury history. Don't be afraid to grab him after the elite power forwards are gone. A full season of Boozer's numbers will make any owner happy. Just be sure to shore up on blocked shots from other players if you select him.
Update: Boozer comes into camp in great shape and looking healthy. Now he just needs to keep it up during the regular season.
11. Boris Diaw - Phoenix Suns
Diaw will most likely be drafted ahead of several players ranked higher than him on this list. So, why this ranking? First, power forward is ridiculously deep this year. Second, with the return of a healthy Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas, it is unclear exactly how many minutes he will log and how he will mesh with Stoudemire in particular. I think he is going to be just fine, and his assist numbers could go even higher than last year. The vision of Diaw throwing lobs to Amare is a beautiful one. Diaw scored 13.3 points, grabbed 6.9 rebounds, dished out 6.2 assists, blocked 1.1 shots and snatched 0.7 steals on 52.6 percent shooting from the field and 73.1 percent from the line. Diaw should repeat or improve on all of these numbers. His scoring improved to 18.7 per game in the playoffs, and that could forecast what he does this year. His rebounding will remain a bit light as Amare, Shawn Marion and Kurt Thomas all rebound so well. Otherwise Diaw's positional and statistical flexibility will be of tremendous value to his owners.
Bottom Line: In most leagues, Diaw will enjoy the widest position eligibility of any player in the NBA. This alone makes him valuable. The fact that he contributes in every category except threes seals the deal. Diaw is a great option for any team with shoot-first point guards because of his high assist totals.
12. Chris Webber - Philadelphia 76ers
C-Webb threw us a curveball last season. He stayed healthy. The last time Webber logged as many as 75 games was 1999-2000, eight seasons ago. We all kept waiting for an injury that never happened. Webber gave us good numbers along the way, posting 20.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks on 43.4 percent shooting from the field and 75.6 percent from the line. In twelve-team leagues, Webber lasted until sixth and seventh rounds, a great value. Webber's assists were down from year, and that is likely to stay the same so long as he is "sharing" the ball with Allen Iverson. AI dominates the ball so much that Webber doesn't get the assists he did earlier in his career. He has averaged just 3.33 assists per game as a Sixer. Will we see another healthy season for C-Webb? It doesn't seem likely given his age and history, but if he does, he will once again provide excellent numbers.
Bottom Line: Webber once again represents a gamble for fantasy owners. He obviously still has the ability to be a top forty fantasy player and that's tempting, but his proclivity for injury will keep most owners from drafting him as such.
13. Rasheed Wallace - Detroit Pistons
Rasheed is hardly a consolation prize at power forward. Yes, he rebounds poorly for his size (just 6.8 per game last year), but his combination of three-point shooting and blocked shots is unique at power forward. Among power forward-eligible players last season, only Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki joined Sheed to average over one block and one three-pointer per game. Yet Sheed blocked only seven less shots than Marion and hit 59 more threes. And he blocked 47 more shots and hit 45 more threes than Dirk. Sheed will continue to stroke it from behind the arc in Flip Saunders' offense, opening up the lane for Billups and newcomer Flip Murray. Wallace's defense is a constant in his game, averaging a steal per game to go along with his blocks. Now that Ben Wallace is gone, Sheed will need to be more of a leader. Time will tell if he reverts to his tantrum-throwing ways.
Bottom Line: Draft Rasheed for his points, blocks, and threes. You'll need to take care of rebounding and field goal percentage elsewhere if you select Wallace, but his unique skill set is a valuable one for fantasy owners.
14. David West - New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Last season David West went from being an un-drafted afterthought to one of the best waiver wire pickups of the year. With a smooth mid-range jumper, the ability to drive left or right and an excellent free throw stroke, David West is going to be a solid scorer in the league. His post-up game still needs refinement, and he can stand some improvement as a rebounder, but he still brings a lot to the fantasy table. After being dinged up and underplayed his first two seasons, West flourished with the running, up-and-down style the Hornets employed with Chris Paul at the point. He averaged a team-high 17.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.9 blocks on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 84.3 percent from the stripe. West is a good bet to repeat these numbers, though Tyson Chandler could take some rebounds away from his teammate and the free throw percentage could slip back to the 80 percent range.
Bottom Line: West is a solid choice at power forward. He is a consistent scorer, scoring in single digits only six games out of seventy four last season. His percentages are top notch, and he even helps a little on defense. His biggest weakness is rebounding, but if you put the right players around him, he will not hurt your team.
15. Charlie Villanueva - Milwaukee Bucks
Many criticized the Raptors for using their seventh overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft on Charlie Villanueva, and fantasy owners largely stayed away from him until the end of their drafts. Those who picked him up were pleasantly surprised. Charlie averaged 13.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 0.9 threes on 46.3 percent from the field and 70.6 from the line. Though Villanueva had his up and down moments during the season, he showed tremendous potential, including a 48-point explosion against his new team on March 26. He is a versatile scorer with three-point range to complement solid post moves and a good first step. Villanueva will crash the boards as well. In his last 26 games, he averaged 8.3 rebounds. His game high for last year was 18 on April 2. His assist numbers weren't spectacular, but Charlie is an excellent passer. He needs to work on his defense, but with his length and mobility, he could develop into a solid shot-blocker.
Bottom Line: Villanueva creates match-up problems for opposing defenses with his length and range. His scoring and rebounding will improve as he gets more consistent. To take the next step in fantasy ball, he will need to work on his defensive numbers, especially blocks. There is every reason to believe Villanueva is player on the rise. He's a great value pick in the middle rounds.
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