Player Rankings: Power Forwards
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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.
16. Zach Randolph - Portland Trail Blazers
For the second year in a row, Randolph disappointed fantasy owners. Bothered by soreness in his right knee and clashing with his coach, Zach Randolph did not deliver on his promise of two seasons ago when he won the Most Improved Player award. He averaged 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks on 43.6 percent shooting from the field and 71.4 percent from the field last year. Because Randolph is such a poor shot-blocker, he must have good percentages to retain his value. Last year he didn't. It was a season of regression, but Randolph is still young enough to reclaim his promise of a few years ago. He is a gifted scorer in the post and has the ability to hit 80 percent from the line. If he can embrace his new role as elder statesman on a young Blazers team, perhaps he can recover the love of fantasy owners.
Bottom Line: Randolph is a year and half removed from microfracture surgery on his right knee. If he has recovered physically and can mature mentally, Randolph still has good fantasy value. He is a risk on draft day, but even in a down year his scoring and rebounding remain impressive.
17. Emeka Okafor - Charlotte Bobcats
Limited to just 23 games last season, Okafor was unable to fulfill the hopes inspired by his strong rookie campaign. Even more troubling than the sprained ankle that refused to heal was Okafor's sharp regression in his field goal shooting. He fell from 44.7 percent as a rookie to 41.5 in his second season. Unsurprisingly, his scoring dipped as well: from 15.1 per game to 13.2. Okafor's defense and rebounding are good enough to give him value even if his percentages remain low. He should grab ten-plus boards a game plus two blocks and a steal. Okafor will vault up these rankings if he can get his shooting north of 45 percent from the line and 70 percent from the line. Staying healthy would help too.
Bottom Line: Okafor is a good gamble this year as he will slip some because of his injury marred 2005-06 season. Charles Oakley has joined the Bobcats’ coaching staff and could help Okafor to become an even stronger rebounder and defender. And if he improved his shooting, he could be scary next year.
18. Chris Wilcox - Seattle SuperSonics
Chris Wilcox finally got the playing time he needed to flourish in the NBA. Sitting behind Elton Brand in LA, it wasn't ever going to happen. Once he moved to Seattle, however, things changed quickly. After joining the Sonics, Wilcox averaged 14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks on an eye-popping .592 shooting percentage from the field and .787 from the line. While the defensive stats are subpar, the offense and rebounding are of great help for fantasy teams. Because Wilcox put up his best numbers in just 29 games with the Sonics, he may get overlooked. He will be a starter this year, and his hops and great upper body strength will translate to a lot of points in the paint.
Bottom Line: A power forward who will average around 15 points and 8 boards with great percentages? Yes, I'll take some please. Wilcox should be available later in drafts, and you should be ready to grab him if he's there.
19. Troy Murphy- Golden State Warriors
Troy Murphy is a nice addition to your team in the middle rounds of your drafts. He is a proven rebounder and gives you three-point range from the power forward position. If your league counts double-doubles as a category, bump his value up, as Murphy racked up 34 last season, tied for eleventh best in the NBA. He will get you between 14 and 15 points to go with ten boards and a little less than one made three per game. Fine numbers, so what's the catch? No defense and a career average of 43.1 percent shooting from the field. That'll happen when you have no post game and rely on jumpers. To be fair, Murphy also has a deceptively quick first step and is solid from the stripe after being fouled. And it isn't every day you can draft a double-digit rebounder who can hits threes like he can.
Bottom Line: Troy will help your team get near the top in rebounding. Just be prepared for the occasional 1-for-14 nights from the field. They are part of the package.
Update: Don Nelson is bringing his unique style to the Warriors and in keeping with his small ball strategy, he is moving the 6'11" Murphy to center. Murphy seems happy to play in the middle. He should be. Most centers will have a hard time guarding him on the outside. On the flip side, Murphy figures to get punished inside by bigger, more physical centers. This move raises Murphy's value by granting him eligibility at a thin position. His threes will be a welcome asset from the center spot though his lack of blocks will not.
20. Drew Gooden - Cleveland Cavaliers
If inconsistency had a name, it might be Drew Gooden, whose stats yo-yoed from excellent to inconsequential from game to game last season. He was in a time share with Donyell Marshall all season and that hurt. Still, Gooden found ways to give himself fantasy relevance. His averages were solid: 10.7 points and 8.4 rebounds on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 68.2 percent from the line in 27.5 minutes a game. If Gooden were to get his minutes in the low to mid-thirties, he would be a double-double threat every night. He has the skills, he just needs to stop being kidnapped from the box score every other game.
Bottom Line: Gooden is more valuable in a rotisserie league than in head-to-head. His up and down play can cost teams their H2H match-ups, whereas his averages will come out in the wash for roto teams. In the end it's all about the minutes. If he gets starter's minutes, the peaks will be higher and the valleys not so low.
21. Shareef Abdur-Rahim - Sacramento Kings
Shareef used to be fixture in top ten power forward lists. No longer. Injuries and reduced playing time have taxed his value. But remember this: at age 29, Abdur-Rahim is still in what should be his physical prime. Last year was his first season for the Kings and in 27 games before his jaw was broken in late December, Shareef averaged 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.9 blocks on 54.8 percent from the field and 79.2 percent from the line. Those percentages are fantastic and should be repeated this year. Shareef will once again be battling with Kenny Thomas for minutes. If he can avoid a time share and get the minutes he got the first two months of last year, Shareef will be a steal.
Bottom Line: If he gets starter minutes again, Shareef will be a great option in fantasy leagues this season. If not, ouch. His rebounding was down, but his assists came up last year on the Kings. That trend should continue this year.
22. Kenyon Martin - Denver Nuggets
Martin's left knee was the main culprit behind the worst numbers of his career. Martin fell off his previous career averages of 15 points, 8 boards and better than a steal and block per game to 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.9 blocks. His percentages were stable at .495 from the field and .712 from the line. There was some bad blood brewing between Martin and coach George Karl at the end of the season. If Martin works it out with Karl (or a head coach from another team) and can regain his former explosiveness, he should see his numbers return to their career norms.
Bottom Line: His greatest fantasy asset is his defense. Every year only about ten or so players average better than a block and steal per game; Martin is one who can.
23. Channing Frye - New York Knicks
After being called soft coming out of Arizona and largely dismissed in fantasy drafts last fall, Channing Frye made a lot people look silly. Frye is mobile, has a very nice mid-range game and is long. He showed that is going to be able to get his points in this league so long as he gets his minutes. Given that Isiah wouldn't trade him last year despite multiple offers and that Isiah is now the coach, Frye should get plenty of PT. Here are his numbers as a starter last year: 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 83.3 from the line in 32.1 minutes. We can all use some of that.
Bottom Line: Frye needs to bulk up and work on his rebounding, but otherwise it's all pretty good. He shoots great percentages, scores, and even blocks a few shots. He's a great grab later in your draft.
24. Kurt Thomas - Phoenix Suns
Thomas should see decent minutes this year despite the fact that he will likely be coming off the bench. He will backup all three frontcourt starters for the Suns because of the positional flexibility enjoyed by all four players. That, plus the fact that the Suns may not load the minutes on Amare to start the season means Thomas should be playing more than 30 minutes a game. If he does, expect him to average close to a double-double with his always excellent percentages plus a steal and block per game.
Bottom Line: Thomas has value later in drafts. He can play both center and power forward in fantasy leagues, and his solid if unspectacular averages hurt you nowhere.
25. Marvin Williams - Atlanta Hawks
Taking the long view, the Hawks may yet get some credit for selecting Marvin Williams ahead of Chris Paul. It's hard to see now but if Williams' summer league play is any indication, this kid wants to make good on his number two overall selection in 2005. Make no mistake, Williams is a very talented young player. He is faster than most fours and too strong for small forwards. He has an excellent shot and has the ability to contribute in multiple categories. With Al Harrington out of town, the starting power forward gig is all his.
Bottom Line: Williams could be the definitive sleeper of the 2006-07 season. He won the MVP award in the Rocky Mountain Revue on the strength of his back to the basket game and all-around play. He shoots great percentages and has the chance to blossom as a scorer this season.
26. Donyell Marshall - Cleveland Cavaliers
Just like Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall's fantasy value took a hit with their time share last season. Donyell made matters worse by shooting an appalling 39.5 percent from the field. The main cause was that he lost his range from outside. The previous two seasons shot in the low 40s from behind the arc. Last year, he shot 32.4 from deep and took a lot of shots. Donyell retains some value because he still helps in threes made and rebounding. It was three seasons ago when he last averaged over a block per game, so don't expect that from Donyell. Instead, hope he gets more minutes and that he fixes his three point shot.
Bottom Line: Many fantasy owners will shy away from Marshall due to his performance over the last two seasons, so he’ll likely come at a discount price in this year’s draft. His potential to hit threes, rebound and block shots remain tantalizing but know he is unlikely to ever equal 2003-04's totals again.
27. Ryan Gomes - Boston Celtics
Though he has the height of a small forward, Ryan Gomes has the heft of a power forward. His surprising numbers last year point to the four as his more natural position. In the last two and half months of the season after Gomes became a starter, he averaged 12.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.9 steals on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 77.6 percent from the line. He will compete with Al Jefferson for the starting power forward job, but if his summer league play was any indication, he should win it. Gomes has a great nose for the ball and has a polished game both in the paint and from mid-range. He could take another step this year, but even if he doesn't, he remains solid.
Bottom Line: Gomes is a great addition to teams in deeper leagues. He may get overlooked because he started only 33 games, depressing his totals, but he will deliver very solid numbers to whoever takes him.
28. Ike Diogu - Golden State Warriors
Diogu should get minutes one way or another this season. He will be the primary backup to Troy Murphy and if last year is any indication, he could get some starts at center when the match-up is right. Diogu has great footwork and post moves to go with albatross-like arms. He shoots high percentages from the field (.524) and the line (.810), so the offensive potential is there. He scored in double-digits in each of his last seven games last year. If he can stay away from the cheap fouls and use his long arms to improve his blocks, Diogu could really blossom this year. The Warriors will give him the opportunity; it's up to Diogu to take the next step.
Bottom Line: Take a flyer towards the end of your draft and you could have a gem of a sleeper. His offensive potential and toughness on the glass make him an excellent gamble.
29. Al Jefferson - Boston Celtics
Many experts picked Jefferson to break out last season. It didn't happen. Jefferson was hampered by a sprained right ankle and was never comfortable on the floor, especially on defensive rotations. His limited minutes (18 per game) and poor numbers will cause Jefferson to drop in this year's drafts. The other issue is that he is battling Ryan Gomes for the starting job. Jefferson has more upside, but Gomes has a more refined game and it showed in their summer league play. Don't write Jefferson off yet, however. His ankle wasn't 100 percent this summer and isn't expected to be until the start of the season.
Bottom Line: This year could be the breakout season for the young power forward. However, he needs to get his ankle completely healthy and play better defense to keep himself on the floor. If these things happen, this sleeper will finally awaken.
Update: Losing weight to add quickness seems to be the common theme in the NBA, and Big Al is the winner of this year’s Biggest Loser competition, shedding a whopping 30 pounds during the summer. Pounds like that just don’t come off without a serious work ethic, and Jefferson is earning the respect of his teammates and coach due to his dedication. Oh yeah, he’s also quicker on the defensive end and has noticeably increased his hops due to his hard work. Start moving him up on your draft boards, folks.
30. Udonis Haslem - Miami Heat
Udonis Haslem is consistently one of the more underrated fantasy players in the game. Yet for the past two seasons, he has averaged close to a double-double with great percentages. Antoine Walker's arrival did trim Haslem's minutes some, but he still helped the Heat and his fantasy owners. Haslem averaged 9.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 78.9 percent from the line. Very solid. He won't block shots, but if you are getting near the end of your draft and need rebounding, Haslem is your man.
Bottom Line: He is a younger version of P.J. Brown. That's a good thing. Expect a steady diet of double-doubles and good percentages. No, he won't score a ton inside with Shaq there, but if the big fella goes down, watch Haslem's numbers jump up.
31. P.J. Brown - Chicago Bulls
Every year P.J. Brown is underrated in fantasy drafts, and every year he produces close to 10 points and 8 rebounds and good percentages. Brown is also a tough defender who has averaged 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks a game for his career. Last season his numbers slipped a bit with reduced minutes (31.7). He also once again played out of position at center. This year, he should see most of his minutes at the four. Expect similar or a little less playing time as last year as rookie Tyrus Thomas will push him for minutes. Still, he will once again post solid numbers for your fantasy squad after being available late in your draft.
Bottom Line: Brown always goes later than he should. Pick him up in the later rounds and enjoy the near double-doubles almost every night.
32. Vladimir Radmanovic - Los Angeles Lakers
Whether he is lined up at small or power forward, Radmanovic is good for one thing: three-point shooting. Last year, he drained 1.8 threes in just 25.6 minutes per game. He is a weak rebounder at power forward and won't be asked to crash the boards in the Staples Center. Radmanovic is a good add if you are in need of threes. Given how many of his shots come from international waters, it isn't surprising that his career field goal percentage stands at .414. He will grab about a steal a game but don't look for many blocks despite his 6'10" frame.
Bottom Line: One trick ponies have value in fantasy. Look for about 10 points, a steal and two made threes a game. Beyond that everything else is gravy.
33. Kenny Thomas - Sacramento Kings
Thomas had a great run last year after Shareef Abdur-Rahim went down with a broken jaw, averaging a double-double in January and February. Once Abdur-Rahim returned and his minutes went down, Thomas's value plunged. This year, he will be the back-up. When he is on the floor, Thomas is a blue-collar banger doing most of his damage inside. He shoots a great percentage from the field (.505 last season) and is an aggressive rebounder. However, when his minutes hang around 25 or so per game, his numbers slide considerably.
Bottom Line: Since he’ll see only around 25 minutes a game, Thomas warrants no more than a late round fantasy selection. That said, he has always had fantasy value when given the playing time so be ready to make a move if Abdur-Rahim should go down with an injury again.
34. Sean May - Charlotte Bobcats
May never really showed what he was capable of last season because of playing time and injury issues. He will be backing up Emeka Okafor again but is coming into the season with a clean bill of health. May has very good footwork and the strength to score inside. He's not a great leaper but can use his size to establish and hold position inside. With Okafor having injury issues of his own, there is a chance that May will see meaningful minutes this year.
Bottom Line: May could turn into a quality NBA power forward but may not see enough time on the court to make an impact in fantasy leagues this season. Keep an eye on him and be ready to add him if he can carve out 25 or minutes per game for himself.
35. Juwan Howard - Houston Rockets
Juwan will not give you anything fancy. He is a long way removed from his days as 17 point per game scorer. He will still get 10 to 12 points per game with a solid post game. His rebounding is passable at about seven a game, but Juwan will not be a good source of defensive stats. He does shoot well from the line for a big man, but Juwan is essentially back-up fantasy material to protect against injury. In deeper leagues, he's worth a look at the end of drafts.
Bottom Line: Howard's not what he once was but is useful in deeper leagues and for teams bitten by the injury bug. You'll get modest scoring and decent percentages but not much else.
36. Nenê - Denver Nuggets
If you are especially cautious and find yourself with Marcus Camby on your team, Nenê makes for a decent handcuff. After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Nenê has been largely forgotten. Indeed, if not for the big contract he signed this summer, he would've garnered no headlines at all. There is talent here, however. He is very athletic and has the ability to average a steal and block per game—provided he gets the minutes. Given that he is backing up two brittle players in Camby and Kenyon Martin, Nenê could see those minutes this year.
Bottom Line: If he can stay healthy this year, Nene will have good fantasy value especially for his ability to nab steals out of the PF spot. He’ll have even more value if Camby goes down with an injury and should be drafted in the later rounds for his upside.
37. Tyrus Thomas - Chicago Bulls
A lot of people see the LSU string bean power forward with jumping bean hops and think, "another Stromile Swift." Thomas shares a similar body type and similar explosiveness, but has an intensity all his own. He needs to add a mid-range game to get to the next level, but for next year you can expect a lot of highlight reel dunks and blocks from the rookie. His defensive intensity should earn him minutes from Scott Skiles, but he will have to show some offense to get time on fantasy teams.
Bottom Line: He is a raw talent who will block shots. He needs to add some weight and develop an offensive game. He could be special in a few years.
38. Antonio McDyess - Detroit Pistons
McDyess has evolved into a solid backup power forward for the Pistons. He averaged just 21.1 minutes per game and his fantasy value was limited last year. However, this year with Ben Wallace gone, there is a very good chance that McDyess will earn more minutes. Last year after the All-Star break, McDyess' minutes went up to 23.3 per game and he averaged 9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals on 53.9 percent shooting from the field and 51.5 from the line. He should put up similar numbers in similar minutes this year.
Bottom Line: His value is limited but if injuries should strike the Pistons' frontline he could turn into a great pickup.
39. Tim Thomas - Los Angeles Clippers
Tim Thomas will probably go higher than he should in this year's drafts because of his spectacular showing in last year's playoffs (15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 threes on 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 77.6 percent from the line). It goes to show that Steve Nash can help anyone's fantasy value. Now the question is whether Thomas can deliver similar production off the bench for the Clippers. Expecting his career averages is probably safer. Thomas should score about 12 points, grab four boards and hit 1.1 three per game.
Bottom Line: Take him late as Thomas could be a useful fantasy option for points and threes. He will not rebound, and his defense has never been a strength.
40. LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers
Aldridge is big, mobile, can block shots and has a sweet jump hook. He runs the floor well and has good hands. He will be a good scorer in the NBA. But probably not next year. It is doubtful that he ready to bang inside with the big boys. At this point, he is more of a finesse forward than a power forward. Once he realizes he has to get a little dirty to secure rebounds and score regularly inside, he will be a solid fantasy player. It is unlikely that he figures it all out this season.
Bottom Line: He has the size and skills to perform well in the NBA. Keeper league owners should check in on him late in the season to see how he is grasping the NBA game. If he demonstrates toughness inside, he could be good come his second season.
41. Michael Sweetney - Chicago Bulls
Many people anticipated something of a breakout season for Sweetney last year. It didn't happen. His poor conditioning and penchant for this quick foul—they are not unrelated—kept him off the court long enough to hurt his fantasy value. This year, he will see most of his minutes behind Ben Wallace at center as P.J. Brown, Tyrus Thomas and Malik Allen will take most of the power forward minutes. If he gets in better shape and the fouls come down, Sweetney could bulldog his way to eight points and five rebounds a game.
Bottom Line: He is a backup, but one with some ability, especially rebounding. He isn't worth drafting except in the deepest of leagues but keep an eye out for any injuries that could open up playing time.
42. Reggie Evans - Denver Nuggets
What Jeff Foster is to the center position, Reggie Evans is to power forward. He is a monster rebounder with limited offensive skills. He will get about 20 minutes per game because of his rebounding, but his offensive ineptitude will keep him from getting much more. Expect about eight rebounds a game to go with five points in limited minutes. His shot-blocking is nonexistent, and he is deadly from the line at 53.5 percent for his career. If Foster is gone and you need rebounding late in your draft, Evans might be the answer
Bottom Line: Draft him only if you are desperate for rebounds. He will not help in any other category but is capable of big nights on the glass.
43. Eddie Griffin - Minnesota Timberwolves
Eddie Griffin is the fantasy equivalent of a scratch ticket—you are excited at the moment of purchase, imagining all the possibilities of a payoff, then after you have seen him for what he is, you are filled with immediate remorse. What is so tempting about this perpetual underachiever? The rare ability to hit threes and block shots. Last year the threes were down (0.2 per game), but the blocks were up (2.1 per game). He shoots a terrible percentage (.379 for his career) and will not see much more than 20 minutes per game. So expect nothing and you will regret neither the scratch ticket nor Eddie Griffin.
Bottom Line: If you are hurting for blocks and like the potential of Griffin, scoop him up at the end of your draft or get him off the wire.
44. Anderson Varejao - Cleveland Cavaliers
Varejao's game is all about effort, and he gives 100 percent at all times. This translates to putbacks and rebounds. He runs the floor well and is a good leaper. He started to play himself into minutes at the end of last season and showed that he has fantasy potential. In April he averaged 7.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks on 56.9 percent shooting from the field in 25.3 minutes per game. He also grabbed 18 boards in the last game of the year. His value is contingent on minutes, but he could earn them with his hustle this season.
Bottom Line: Varejao is safe to leave un-drafted in most leagues, but he could well be worth a pickup if the Cavs give him 25 plus minutes per game.
45. Hakim Warrick - Memphis Grizzles
Warrick is a player one should look at once the season starts. On the offensive end, he’s a great dunker and has some post moves. On the defensive side, he’ll get pushed around a little bit due to his wiry frame but has the length and athleticism to create some steals and block some shots. He averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds last season. Warrick will be pressed to get minutes behind Pau Gasol, but it could happen, especially when Gasol shifts to center on certain sets.
Bottom Line: Warrick could have some fantasy value this season and should be grabbed off the waiver wire if he demonstrates that he will get minutes in Memphis.
Update: Hakim Warrick has found his minutes, and they will come courtesy of Pau Gasol’s foot injury. Pau is expected to be out for four months, giving Warrick ample opportunity to show what he’s got. When Gasol comes back, however, Warrick’s minutes will undoubtedly be reduced.
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