Fantasy Forecast: Draft Report



With the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement settled, we can finally get some fantasy basketball in. The good news about starting the season this late is that the NFL is almost finished in fantasy terms, so you can pretty much focus on your basketball team and not have to worry about the troubles of juggling two teams and your already busy schedule.

The main thing you must realize is that a lot of moves were made after the lockout ended and one stud was traded, so the complexion of the NBA is different now and you need to draft based on current player value rather than where they ended last season. There are far too many moves to list here, so just pay close attention to the rankings as you will see the value difference in the positional tiers.

POINT GUARD

1) Chris Paul: CP3 may have a new zip code, but his value is still the same. Playing alongside Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler is going to do more for his value than he ever had in New Orleans.

2) Derrick Rose: Rose is improving his game every year, and a healthy Carlos Boozer is only going to make him better. Rose has the complete package of tricks for fantasy owners and is a “stat stuffer” that is sure to go within the top 5 picks in any format.

3) Russell Westbrook: Because of the crunched timeframe of this NBA season, teams like the Thunder and Clippers are going to fare better than older teams like the Lakers and Mavericks due to the quick turnaround time for games. That being said, Westbrook just turned 23-years-old and he has the No. 1 overall pick in any format to dish to, Kevin Durant.

4) Deron Williams: I like D-Willy, but his supporting cast is just not that great outside of Brook Lopez. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Nets, but the one constant is going to be the double-double Williams is capable of putting up each and every night.

5) John Wall: Wall gets the slight edge over Stephen Curry because of the points, assists and overall playmaking ability. The Wizards are going to be a team that comes into its own this season and I expect Wall to make a jump into the top 5 PGs and never look back.

6) Stephen Curry: The value that Curry brings to the table is that he helps in every category without hurting you in any one area. He is a 3-point magnet and has proven that he can produce despite playing alongside Monta Ellis.

7) Steve Nash: This was a problem for me as Nash is 37 years old and there is a possibility that he doesn’t stay with the Suns for the whole season. Durability is a concern for me and a compressed season means he could get rest during back-to-back games. His stats are on the decline, but he is still a very good PG to have anchoring your squad.

8) Rajon Rondo: The major knocks on Rondo are his low scoring totals and the age of his supporting cast. However, when I draft a PG I am looking for assists and steals, and those are two stats he excels in. You can count on him giving you about 10 assists and 2 steals a night, and he usually finds a way to score 10 points and snatch 4 boards. He is a little underrated and should be a good value pick.

9) Jrue Holiday: Holiday took a major step forward last season and nearly doubled his PPG and APG from '09 to '10. The concern here is a regression as the 76ers didn’t exactly get better during the short off-season. I still like him as a top 10 PG, but I have seen rankings with him as high as No. 7, and simply don’t see that kind of value in him.

10) Tyreke Evans: Evans is a bit more of a scoring PG than a distributing PG, but that could also change with the addition of Jimmer Fredette. The Kings got rid of Beno Udrih, so the job is Evan’s to lose and I think he has good value once the bigger names are gone.

* Ricky Rubio: Rubio may have some expectations placed on him that just aren’t realistic to reach this season. Because of the Timberwolves' PG logjam with Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, you won’t want to take Rubio as anything more than a late round flier in the hopes that his creativity will win him the starting job before long.

SHOOTING GUARD

1) Dwyane Wade: You know what you get with Wade, and there should be an improvement now that Heat have had a season to gel as a team. He will be in the hunt for a scoring title and he even adds a few blocks a night, which is great for a guard.

2) Monta Ellis: The reality is that Ellis won’t reach his numbers from last season, but the falloff is still not enough to keep him out of the No. 2 spot. Having a PG like Curry will help keep the double-teams off him long enough to score 20-plus PPG.

3) Kobe Bryant: I’m not really a big fan of Bryant anymore as he is more of a jump-shooting guard that isn’t nearly as selfish as Wade is these days. With off-court distractions and at 33 years old, Bryant is on the decline, but he still scores enough to make it worth taking him as your SG.

4) Eric Gordon: Gordon moved from the Clippers to the Hornets, and he is sure to be the focal point of the offense since they have little else to count on for scoring. He has the skills to be a true No. 1 for fantasy teams, but keep an eye on the FG percentage as he should see more double-teams.

5) Joe Johnson: With Jamal Crawford out of the picture, Johnson should see his scoring numbers bump back up to 20 PPG while seeing his rebounds and assists slightly increase. I think a 2009 repeat is within reach.

6) Kevin Martin: Martin is a guard that you can count on to score 20 points a night, but he does little else to help fantasy owners. The reality with Martin is that he has probably reached his ceiling and he isn’t going to make some kind of statistical leap this season. SG is a scoring position, and that is about all Martin does.

7) Manu Ginobili: I’ve been in drafts where Manu went in the top 5 for SGs, and that is just not realistic. At 34 years old, his body won’t handle the condensed season won’t do him any favors and Gregg Popovich loves to play it safe with his aging team.

8) Ray Allen: Ray-Ray is old enough to collect NBA Social Security, and accordingly all he does is shoot the ball. Allen will get you 14 points a night and plenty of 3’s for those who need them, just don’t expect anything more than empty points.

9) Stephen Jackson Jackson is a scoring guard, and with Brandon Jennings, Carlos Delfino and Andrew Bogut all sticking around, Jackson’s numbers are going to fluctuate throughout the season. One thing is for sure though, Jackson will get his shots and that is what you want from a guy that is going to go in the 4th round.

10) Jordan Crawford: The one thing that Crawford has going for him is his confidence, as proof by his words about being an All Star this season and thinking he is better than Michael Jordan. I think these things make Crawford jumps up to about 14 points a night, and expect him to throw in a steal or two. He will have good sleeper value in the late rounds.

* Wes Johnson: Johnson was given a 3-year extension this off-season and he is the clear starter at SG. He should see a decent bump in PPG this season (10-11 PPG), plus throw in a few rebounds, assists and a block/steal per night. These numbers aren’t bad when you look at a utility player that can be had near the end of the draft. Johnson is a good value pick.

SMALL FORWARD

1) Kevin Durant: There is no denying that Durant is going to be the No. 1 overall pick in most fantasy drafts this season. Durant is someone that can score 30 points while still snatching 6-7 rebounds and block a shot and grab a steal. The guy is just that good.

2) Lebron James: The good news is that thanks to Kris Humphries wedding disaster over the summer, King James is no longer the most hated man in sports. So, that should give him the confidence to finally develop a post-up game and lead his team to the finals once again. James is easily a top 5 pick in most formats and will give you stats across the board.

3) Carmelo Anthony: Melo is going to be a little more comfortable this year since he has had time to understand Mike D’Antoni’s offense. He is healthy and the only stat he doesn’t provide help in is the assists. I can see Melo being drafted in the top 5-7 players overall.

4) Danny Granger: I know Granger pretty well as I’ve covered his basketball camps for the last four years, and his desire to win is as strong as ever. The addition of David West is going to do wonders for Granger since he won’t be the only guy you have to worry about on offense. Plus, I think Paul George is due to a major jump in his maturity as a player this season and Granger should return to All Star form once again.

5) Rudy Gay: Gay signed a max deal, so you would think he would have the proper motivation to continue where he left off last season. The Grizzlies don’t have much depth, so Gay’s minutes will stay steady. I see no reason why he can’t match last season’s numbers and be a top 5 pick at the SF position.

6) Paul Pierce: Pierce is rock-steady with his production and you know what you get when you draft him, 19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal per night. Sometimes it is better to make the smart pick than try and grab a sleeper once you see Gay or Granger go; Pierce is safe.

7) Luol Deng: Deng was able to stay healthy last season and that lead to him seeing 39 minutes-per-game for the Bulls. Deng is a lot like Pierce, just a little lighter. He is a safe pick right around the 5th-6th round and a steal later than that.

8) Gerald Wallace: Wallace was a top 6 pick in last season’s draft at the SF position, but the trade to Portland is not a good thing for him this season. The Trail Blazers have Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford and Nicolas Batum at the wings, so minutes are going to be hard to come by. He has the skills to be a top 10 pick at SF, but realize there is risk involved with the pick.

9) Andre Iguodala: Iggy is often drafted too early and he finished last season with 5th round value despite being taken closer to the end of the 3rd round. Add to that the fact that he is an injury risk that looks like he is running on two flat tires at times. His upside is that he can score 14 points while grabbing 6 boards and handing out 6 assists at the same time.

10) Dorell Wright: Wright took a major leap forward last season, jumping his points from 7.1 PPG in '09 to 16.4 PPG in '10. The bonus to Wright is that he also lets it rain with the 3-pointers and the Warriors run a fast paced offense.

* Michael Beasley: Beasley is going to get the starting nod over Derrick Williams at SF, so he is obviously worth owning as a utility player. However, you can’t look at last year’s numbers as an indicator to this year’s value because Williams’ arrival is certainly going to impact his numbers adversely. Once you see Trevor Ariza or Corey Maggette go, Beasley should be next.

POWER FORWARD

1) Kevin Love: Love has officially taken over the No. 1 PF spot in fantasy circles and he is simply a beast with the points and rebounds. Not only did he put up 31 boards in one game last season, but he also had 20 or more in 12 others. He doesn't block shots, but helps make up for that with the 3-ball, and he will average close to 21 points and 16 boards a night for the Timberwolves this season.

2) Dirk Nowitzki: Fresh off a championship, Nowitzki and the Mavericks are sure to be pumped heading into this season. The problem with the Mavericks is the age of their starters is 34 years old, not to mention that Jason Terry is 34 and Lamar Odom is 32. Nowitzki is as steady as their come, so draft him with confidence, but the Mavericks will not repeat as league champions.

3) Blake Griffin: The addition of CP3 catapults The Poster Child into the top 3 at his position. There is no reason to think an improvement across the board in his stats isn’t achievable, and a double-double in points and rebounds is a lock.

4) Pau Gasol: The Lakers lose Lamar Odom, and they are also going to have to adjust to a new coach in Mike Brown. There is some concern because Brown said he might give some of Gasol’s minutes to Bynum early on, but I see no reason for him to be taken outside of the first round.

5) Amare Stoudemire: Amare is still a first round pick, but he could rebound just a little more for a guy his size. His scoring and blocks is where his value is, but it should be noted that his scoring took a dip once Anthony came in. I still think he is a top 5 pick that double qualifies at PF and C, just make sure you get a center that is a rebound beast if you have Amare.

6) Zach Randolph: Z-Bo is in a great spot with the Grizzlies because they have nobody that is going to challenge him for the PF job or jeopardize his scoring and rebounding totals. I personally think Randolph has hit his career high and will see a slight decline going forward. If he can reach 19 points and 11 boards a night, you will get great value once Stoudemire goes.

7) Josh Smith: There is a lot of hype surrounding Smith, but there are some red flags when it comes to his maturity, work ethic and basketball IQ. I don’t really see any major increases in his production and I think more of the same from last season is in line.

8) LaMarcus Aldridge: You know the Trail Blazers have depth at the wings, but their frontcourt is a concern as Marcus Camby is fragile and Greg Oden can’t walk 3 steps without hitting the I.R. Aldridge put up elite numbers last season (21.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG), and we should see more of the same this season.

9) Chris Bosh: Bosh the third link in the Miami Heat’s 2.5 star show. He isn’t worth a first round pick, yet many owners take him that high because of his teammates. He shoots well and can grab 8 boards a night, but he doesn’t block shots. He is still one of the leagues better PFs, but don’t overdraft him because you don’t get points based on name value.

10) Paul Millsap: Millsap’s value is being sapped out by rookie Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Last season Millsap was a solid top 10 pick at PF; but this season he is a bubble got for the No. 10 spot since Favors will need his minutes and Al Jefferson has slimmed down enough to make him available at PF while Mehmet Okur and Kanter man the middle. Be aware and beware.

* Derrick Williams: Rookies are going to have an even harder time than usual this season because of the lockout. Williams is a legit talent no doubt, but he has been having trouble defending the SF position in practice and he is going to have problems guarding the size of the PFs in the NBA.

CENTER

1) Al Jefferson: Jefferson will dual qualify at PF and C, so he has versatility as well as the stats to be the No. 1 C this season. What makes him a slightly better pick than Dwight Howard is the difference in their free-throw percentage (76.1 – 59.6) and turnovers (1.3 – 3.6) per-game. Jefferson just doesn’t hurt you as much as Howard does.

2) Dwight Howard: Superman is going to get you a ton of points, rebounds and blocks, but the FT percentage and T.O.’s do hurt his overall value. Plus, you have to wonder what his value is going to be should he get traded mid-season. If you can take a PG that makes up for the FT percentage and don’t get guys who give the ball up, taking Howard as the No. 1 C is not something I can fault you for.

3) Al Horford: Horford is steady on the court and has become a leader in the locker room. What that means is his maturity should elevate his game from flirting with a triple-double to achieving them on a nightly basis. I think 16 points and 10 rebounds is achievable from Horford this season.

4) Roy Hibbert: The problem with Hibbert has always been that he plays defense with his hands, instead of with his height and body. He gets into foul trouble and then he rides the bench the rest of the game. This season I hope that is different with West and newly acquired Louis Amundson in the mix. He can lead the league in blocks and flirt with 10 boards a night, meaning his value at C should be within the top 5 given the stats we need from them.

5) Greg Monroe: Center is such a thin position in the NBA, that a guy like Monroe might see a nice bump in his stats this season. Last year he put up 9 points and 7 rebounds a night, and with a new head coach and nobody to push him for minutes, I think he could see double-doubles this year. His major knock for me is the lack of blocks, a stat we need from out starting C.

6) JaVale McGee: McGee grew a lot last season as a player and came into his own averaging 10.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per-game. This year McGee has even more reason to step his game up as he will be a restricted free agent after the season and wants a big raise I’m sure. His problem is free-throw percentage (58.3), but the blocks will keep you in the league lead all season long.

7) Marc Gasol: Gasol is a solid center to grab after you see McGee go. His points (11.7) and rebounds (7.0) are disappointing, but if you wait much longer than this to grab a center, you will be looking at the wrong end of Andrew Bogut or Samuel Dalembert.

8) Joakim Noah: Noah comes with injury baggage, as testament to the average of 26 games missed the last two seasons due to the injury bug. With an average of 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a night, he is right in line with a middle of the road center for fantasy purposes.

9) Marcin Gortat: Gortat is this low despite his fifth round numbers after the trade last season. The problem I have with him is that if Nash leaves, the Suns offense is going to drastically change and that will in turn affect Gortat’s numbers. He has the size and ability to average a double-double, but his blocks are low (1.1 BPG) and Nash is a real possibility to move before the season is over.

10) DeAndre Jordan: Most rankings will put Nene here, but I like Jordan because of the slightly better rebounding numbers and the massive increase in blocks he provides. You take a bit of a hit in the points, but you aren’t drafting a center for the points he can score. Jordan is locked into the starting role at C and CP3 should help unclog the lanes so he can do his thing.

* Darko Milicic: Darko’s value is in the blocks, plain and simple. He is going to score about 8 points and grab about 5 boards, but he should also block about 2 shots per night. Meaning, for someone that owns a Monroe or Jefferson, Milicic is a great late round grab to make up for the blocks.