Fantasy Forecast: Preseason Picks
October means it is one of my favorite times of the year. No, not Halloween. October means fantasy basketball drafts have started and I get to once again hand-pick a line-up for guys that I want from around the NBA. I get to research who is a sleeper, who is a bust, who will start and who will be the sixth-man on each and every NBA team.
The Timberwolves are going to be an underrated team this year because of their history, but if you look at the depth chart they actually have fantasy starters in 4 of their 5 rotational spots. I’m not a proponent of having too many players from a single team on your fantasy rosters because when one guy has a huge night, it means someone else will have an off night.
I like to go with category based rankings because it gives you an across the board look at what a player can, and can’t, do. Standard category based scoring takes 13 stats into account: Points, FG Made, FG Attempted, FG Percentage, 3-Pointers Made, FT Made, FT Attempted, FT Percentage, Assists, Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, and Turnovers. Crunching all those stats together to get the best of the best can be somewhat difficult, and you should almost NEVER trust Yahoo’s projections or rankings because I have no idea how they come up with them sometimes.
In this article I am going to run down the top 10 players at each position, as well as the Timberwolves players if they are not listed in the top 10. I’ll also try and give you a few sleepers and busts to look out for when making your selections. So without further ado, let’s get to the rankings!
Stephen Curry – PG Warriors: Curry is always an injury risk because of his glass ankle. But, when healthy he is the #1 PG in the NBA considering all the stats. Curry will get you 20-plus points, 7 assists, 3-4 3-pointers, and a steal or two on average. Because of the 3’s, steals and points, Curry edges out the next two PGs on the list.
Chris Paul – PG Clippers: The Clippers have depth at every position on the team, so playing time is going to be a concern for fantasy owners when drafting their players. CP3 is still CP3, and I doubt he sees a dip in production this year. He is no longer a top 5 fantasy pick, but he is certainly in that 6-7 range depending on your draft plan. Paul’s value over Curry is in assists and steals, but will score fewer points and 3’s than Curry will. Paul’s usage is also going to catch up with him at some point
Kyrie Irving – PG Cavaliers: Without a doubt Irving has 1st round talent for fantasy leagues, but he’s only been able to play in 110 of the possible 164 games due to injury in his first two years in the NBA. On average Irving is going with pick 6.7 in Yahoo drafts, and a mid 1st round pick is risky for a guy that has played in 67 percent of his team’s games since joining them. Irving is a true high risk/high reward player in fantasy leagues because you will have to reach to get him.
John Wall – PG Wizards: Wall only played in 49 games last season, but what a 49 they were! Walls averaged 18.5 points, 7.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals a night, while turning the ball over 3.2 time’s per-game. The turnovers are a problem for leagues that count them (4th highest in NBA for PGs), but if you can just get players for your team that don’t turn the ball over much you can afford the hit here. Wall is healthy and looking to make the playoffs, which means a monster fantasy season could be in store for us. Wall is being taken near the top of the 2nd round, and that might be a value pick when the season is over if he stays healthy.
Damian Lillard – PG Trail Blazers: Lillard was the unanimous choice for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award last season, which means you won’t get him cheap this season. Right now he is going in the middle of the 3rd round, which is a little low considering some of the names going above him. I could see Lillard putting up 17 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds and a few 3-pointers per night this season. I wouldn’t mind taking him closer to the middle of the 2nd round and letting a few of those “name” players be someone else’s problem.
Derrick Rose – PG Bulls: How the mighty have fallen. Rose didn’t play a single minute last season, despite being cleared to play back in March. And to make things worse, Rose is already dealing with “knee soreness” that is causing him to miss time. Rose is going in the middle of the 1st round, which is too high given his injury history and obvious willingness to play through things. I would take him in the 2nd round, but he is sure to be gone in the first round. I think he misses games down the stretch if the Bulls are in the playoffs, which will hurt you when you need him the most. With all that said, his talent is immense and there is no denying that he can put up huge stats when healthy. If you reach to get him, get right with Jesus and put in a prayer for his health.
Mike Conley – PG Grizzlies: Conley finished last season ranked 7th for PGs, and 25th overall, on Yahoo.com. The Grizzlies were overlooked by many when the season started, but that faded after they finished the season 56-26 and knocked out the Thunder in the playoffs. Conley actually improved after the Rudy Gay trade, and is easily one of the most consistent players in the NBA. I would have no problems whatsoever drafting him in the 3rd round and letting him handle my PG duties if I went with a SG, SF, and/or PF in the first two rounds.
Deron Williams – PG Nets: The Nets overhauled their depth chart by bringing in Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, and letting Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks go. On top of that, they brought in future Hall of Fame PG Jason Kidd to coach them. With all the new talent around him, assists should be easy to come by. The problem I see with the Nets is the average age of those four new players is 35.25 years. Williams will see a slight dip in points this season, but he should see a slight increase in points to make up for it. Because of the names on the Nets, Williams is going at the top of round 2, which is too high.
Ricky Rubio – PG Timberwolves: Rubio finished last season as Yahoo’s 26th ranked PG, but should fare much better this year with improved shooters around him. Rubio won’t score you as many points as Williams or Conley, and his 36.0 percent shooting from the field has to improve. But, he will get you 2-3 more assists a night along with an extra steal. If you can grab a SG or SF that can score, and a PF that can pad the FG percentage stat, then grab Rubio in the 3rd round as your PG, then you will have had a successful first three rounds and be well on your way to a fantasy title.
Kemba Walker – PG Bobcats: Walker is a safe pick here because he has yet to miss a game and is going at the top end of the 4th round on Yahoo. Walker finished last season as their 9th ranked PG and 30th ranked player overall. What hurts him is the 42.3 percent shooting from the field, but what helps him is the 2.4 turnovers per-game which is pretty good for a PG that handles the ball as much as he does. You’ll need to make sure to pick up someone for extra 3’s and to pad the FG percentage if you own Walker, but in the 4th round he is a great value pick at PG.
* Honorable Mentions: Brandon Jennings, Tony Parker, and Ty Lawson
Buyer Beware: Russell Westbrook – PG Thunder: Knee surgery will cost Westbrook at least 12 games, and that is bare minimum. There is no telling how healthy he will be when he does return, or how the Thunder will use him if Reggie Jackson can keep up the good work while he is out. Westbrook is in no danger of losing his job; but, if Jackson can fill in enough, the Thunder might chose to rest Westbrook during the season for a playoff run. With people drafting him in the middle of the 1st round, Westbrook has fantasy bust written all over him this year.
Sleeper: Michael Carter-Williams: The Sixers got rid of Jrue Holiday which means MCW will control their offense. The risk with him is going to be in his FG and FT percentages. But, for a guy being drafted in the middle of the 11th round, MCW could give you some big games at the utility spot for a Sixers teams that is sure to give him endless chances as they build for the future.
James Harden – SG Rockets: The days of taking Kobe Bryant with the first overall pick are long gone, and the Harden fantasy era is upon us. The Rockets brought in Dwight Howard to sure up the center position, which should help more than it hurts (Howard has a clubhouse cancer history). With the ability to score 25-plus points a night, while adding 5 assists and rebounds, a steal or two, and a few 3’s, Harden can safely be picked 3rd overall behind Lebron James and/or Kevin Durant.
Kobe Bryant – SG Lakers: The issue with drafting Bryant is going to be his health and age (35) this season. Word is that his knees are good and his rehab following Achilles surgery is going well. There is no word on if he will make the season opener on October 29th, but missing a few games to start the season is not really that big of a deal. The Black Mamba is being taken in the middle of the 3rd round right now and that is a safe pick with him being a lock to put up similar stats again this season.
Monta Ellis – SG Mavericks: I saw one fairly major fantasy website with Ellis ranked above Bryant for SGs, and that is a huge risk considering how O.J. Mayo’s production dropped once Dirk Nowitzki was back up and running for the team. Ellis can score 20 points with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals, but his FG percentage has gone downhill in each of the past three seasons and bottomed out at 41.6 percent last season. SGs do to more shots, so their FG percentage is going to be a little lower than that of other positions. However, 41.6 or even 42.6 percent is still near the bottom for fantasy SGs. Make sure you understand the hit you are taking by drafting him.
Dwyane Wade – SG Heat: D-Wade is one of the biggest names in the NBA and that often causes owners to reach when drafting SGs. Right now Wade is going near the top of the 2nd round, which is too high for a guy who will NOT play a full season, and is likely to be rested down the stretch for a playoff run. With all that being said, you can count on Wade to give you 20 points, 5 rebounds and assists, with a steal or two mixed in. The downside to Wade is he will shoot in the low 70 percent range for free-throws. He’ll make up for it with a FG percentage near 52 percent, just make sure you have a good back-up SG for the fantasy playoffs, and make up the FT percentage somewhere else.
O.J. Mayo – SG Bucks: After a failed breakout season as the Mavericks starting SG last season, Mayo moves on to take over Ellis’ old spot with the Bucks. What is different this season for Mayo is Dirk won’t be around to drain his fantasy value, and the Bucks will need his scoring after also moving Jennings to the Pistons. Mayo has a tendency to force shots, which has caused him to shoot 43.6 percent from the field over his career. I like Mayo as a top 5-6 SG this season, and think he is an amazing value pick in the 8th round where he is currently being taken.
Eric Bledsoe – SG Suns: Bledsoe moves from the Clippers to the Suns, who already have Goran Dragic at PG. That pushes Bledsoe to SG and Suns GM Ryan McDonough has made it clear he plans to play Dragic and Bledsoe at the same time. Bledsoe has drawn praise from teammates, even being called a “mini Lebron James”, which his stats up to this point have not shown. If Bledsoe can guard opposing SGs and work with Dragic on the floor, the Suns may have something special in this 23-year-old raw talent. He is a bit of a risk because up to this point he’s only averaged 6.7 points, 3.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds a night, while shooting 43.1 percent from the field over the course of his career. Bledsoe’s going at the top of round 5 right now, which is about right.
Klay Thompson – SG Warriors: The addition of Andre Iguodala means Thompson will see a slight dip in his fantasy numbers which could actually be a good thing since he shot 42.2 percent from the field last season. Thompson gets you about 16 points with a few 3’s each game, but his lack of real rebound or assist totals per game (3.7 and 2.2 respectively last season) keep him more in the 50-55 range for overall pick. I don’t see a problem with his current 5th round Average Draft Position (ADP) and would target him right after Mayo is off the board.
Kevin Martin – SG Timberwolves: Martin shot a career high 42.6 percent from 3-point land last season, and improved his FG percentage to an even 45.0 percent. Martin has an injury history and will turn 31-years-old before the season is over, meaning his days of 23 points a night are behind him. But, Martin will be in a featured scoring role with the Wolves this season and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to put up 16 points with a couple of 3-pointers for you. The drawback to him is they are empty points, so you will have to get rebounds, assists and steals elsewhere.
Bradley Beal – SG Wizards: Once you get past the top 8 or so SGs, the drop in production is steep. Beal is someone I like the 7th round because he has shown the ability to 14 points while not having to be a “volume shooter” to do it like Ellis. Beal should also be able to give you 4-5 rebounds and a few 3’s, but you’ll have to compensate for his 14th ranked FT percentage (for SGs) of 78.6 percent.
Danny Green – SG Spurs: Green missed two games last season, and 0 the season before that, so there is little to worry about in terms of risk here. The Spurs are probably one of the smartest teams in the NBA when getting the most out of their players, so there is no reason to think Green couldn’t average say 13 points, 3-4 rebounds and 1-2 steals a night while shooting 45 percent from the field if the team can increase his MPG to around 30-32 a night. Green is more of a utility or G flex player, not a starting SG in fantasy terms. If you have him in your SG spot, you waited too long and should look at making a trade.
* Honorable Mentions: Gerald Henderson, DeMar DeRozan, and Jimmy Butler
Buyer Beware: Ray Allen – SG Heat: Allen is being taken around the 12th round in fantasy drafts which is a little concerning since his minutes dropped by nearly 10 per-game last year, his defense is probably worst in the NBA, and the thing he is best at [3-point shooting] saw a decline from 45.3 percent shooting to 41.9 percent last season. Allen is 38-years-old and entering his 18th NBA season, and one has to wonder how much value he will actually provided to the 99 percent of people who own him on Yahoo.com.
Sleeper: Victor Oladipo – SG Magic: Oladipo is owned in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues, but the 2nd overall pick in the NBA draft is being put in the utility spot for now. The Magic finished last season with a league worst 20-62 record, so playing time should be no problem for a guy who recently put up 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a block against the Cavaliers. I’d trade for Oladipo if the price is right.
Kevin Durant – SF Thunder: You could pick Durant #1 overall or go with Lebron James and not miss much, if anything, in the way of production. The reason that I take Durant is because he will usually finish a season off strong, whereas Lebron has a tendency to rest up near the end of the season. The extra 3-4 games you get out of Durant are usually the difference between the #1 overall Yahoo ranking, and the #2 overall ranking.
Lebron James – SF Heat: Besides the missed games near the end of the season, the one noticeable spot where James is weaker than Durant is in FT percentage. Last season James shot 75.3 percent from the charity stripe, whereas Durant shot 90.5 percent. And, Durant took 215 more shots from the free-throw line than James did. Choosing between Durant and James is like splitting hairs, but I will take Durant over James because of the games played near the end.
Paul George – SF Pacers: George has officially taken over the Pacers as the team leader and is ready to put up HUGE fantasy numbers for his owners. Last season he finished ranked #20 overall in Yahoo’s 10-category format, but is being taken with the 9th overall pick on average right now. As good as George is, the truth is he hasn’t even reached his potential yet. If he can get the FG percentage back in the 43 percent range, and not attempt so many 3’s (a Pacers common problem), George will be every bit worth a top 10 pick in any format.
Carmelo Anthony – SF Knicks: Melo is a lock to compete for the NBA scoring title most years, and he will add 6-7 rebounds and a few 3’s while shooting near the 45 percent mark from the field. What hurts his fantasy value is that he’s averaged less than a steal per game in 3 of the last 4 seasons, and he is probably going to get you less than 3 assists per game. Melo is a blackhole with the ball, it comes in but it doesn’t come back out. You will have to pad the assists and steals elsewhere if you take him in the first round.
Nicolas Batum – SF Trail Blazers: Last season Batum averaged 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists 1.2 steals, 1.1 blocks and 2.3 3-pointers per game while playing 38.4 MPG. He did shoot just 42.3 percent from the field and turned the ball over 2.6 times-per-game, so you’ll have to pad those stats when taking him. And because the Trail Blazers are well-rounded team offensively, owners will need to make up about 6-10 PPG elsewhere. What Batum has over the SFs below him is an all-around game that provides stats across the board. Just make sure you know where he will hurt you, and make up for it with your next few picks.
Jeff Green – SF Celtics: The Celtics have a whole new look this season with Pierce, Garnett and Terry gone. That leaves Green with a major opportunity for advancement this coming season. Green is a good shooter from the field (46.7 percent last season), which means he should have no problems scoring 18-20 points most nights while adding 5-6 rebounds and 3-4 assists. He doesn’t get many steals, so pad that stat elsewhere. Overall Green is a safe pick at the SF position if the top 5 guys are gone.
Rudy Gay – SF Raptors: Gay moves from the Grizzlies to the Raptors, which worked out well for him as he saw an increase in FG, FT, and 3-point percentages, points, rebounds, assists and steals. There’s little reason to think Gay will see a drop in his 34:44 MPG average from last season in Toronto and his other stats should remain relatively the same. He will hurt you in FG percentage (42.5 last season with the Raptors), and that is what ranks him below Green in my book.
Josh Smith – SF Pistons: Smith is someone you could easily take as high as 6th for SFs, if it weren’t for his 3-point and free-throw percentages. Smith attempted 201 3-pointers last, and made just 61 of them, which is 30.3 percent. The 201 shots rank him 100th in the NBA for total 3-pointers taken, and the 30.3 rank him as the 2nd worst 3-point shooter out of those top 100 players. Then you to look at his free-throw shooting, which he set a career low for last season with a 51.7 percent mark. Smith will get you roughly 18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal per-game, but he will tank your 3-point and free-throw percentages.
Kawhi Leonard – SF Spurs: The only things keeping Leonard from being ranked higher are a lack of assists (1.6 APG last year) and blocks (0.6 BPG). He shot 49.4 percent from the field, 82.5 percent from the free-throw line, and averaged 11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals a night last season. If Leonard can increase his scoring to around 15 PPG, he’ll be well worth a starting SF spot should you decide to go elsewhere early in your draft.
Andre Iguodala – SF Warriors: The drop-off in quality is pretty steep once you get past Leonard, and I personally wouldn’t want to see Iguodala as my starting SF no matter the format or league size. That being said, he is the best of what is left at this point. Iggy will get you about 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists most nights while shooting 45 percent from the field. But, he will drain your FT percentage with his steadily sinking average that hit a career low of 57.4 percent last season. He was also ranked #8 for SFs in turnover’s per-game with 2.6. So, make sure you find guys to compensate for free-throws and turnovers if you take Iggy in your draft.
* Honorable Mentions: Luol Deng, Thaddeus Young, and Wilson Chandler
Buyer Beware: Paul Pierce – SF Nets: Pierce moves over to the Nets this season and they one of the deepest teams in the NBA when looking at the depth chart. Pierce just turned 36-years-old and has to fight for minutes with Andrei Kirilenko and possibly Joe Johnson, so the potential for fantasy owners to reach on him based on his name is certainly there. A drop in fantasy stats is a given in Brooklyn, so people taking him in the 7th round on Yahoo right now are sure to be disappointed.
Sleepers: None really. Once you get out of the top 10, it’s pretty much a roll of the dice with mediocre fantasy players.
Kevin Love – PF Timberwolves: Love is a fantasy owner’s dream because he is a double-double machine that gives you 20-plus points, 13-15 rebounds, free-throw shooting in the low 80 percent range, and a couple of 3-pointers a night. He doesn’t get many blocks or steals, and the FG percentage is in the 44-45 percent range, but that is what PGs and Cs are for. I have no problem whatsoever taking Love in the 7-10 overall range, and you shouldn’t either.
LaMarcus Aldridge – PF Trail Blazers: Aldridge spent more time on the floor than any PF or C in the NBA last year with 37:39 MPG. The Trail Blazers did nothing to help out with depth, so look for Aldridge to spend plenty of time on the court again this season. He will get you about 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and a block most nights, but he doesn’t shoot the 3-pointer and the rebound difference is what makes him a 2nd round pick whereas Love is a 1st round pick.
Anthony Davis – PF Pelicans: Davis lived up to his #1 overall pick hype last year by putting up 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals a night, while shooting a monster 51.6 percent from the field. Davis is currently being taken in the middle of the 2nd round, so you’ll have to take him early in the 2nd if you want him. Davis should be the 3rd PF off the board in your draft.
Paul Millsap – PF Jazz: Millsap always had to compete for minutes in Utah, and it limited his fantasy value for years. But now he is in Atlanta and the Hawks have nobody at PF or C who is going to challenge him for minutes. I’m looking for Millsap’s numbers to jump this season and complete for career highs across the board. What makes him a better pick than the next two or three guys on this list are his FG percentage, and the added steals he provides. Those two stats are the difference makers.
Serge Ibaka – PF Thunder: Ibaka gave back top 10 value last season despite his limited minutes for a starting PF (31:04 MPG). Ibaka lead the league with 3.0 BPG and managed to set career high averages in points (13.2), rebounds (7.7), and FG percentage (57.3). The Thunder are going to have a hard time limiting his playing time going forward is he is obviously a top PF in the NBA. There is certainly a case to be made for a late 1st round pick with Ibaka, but he is currently going mid 2nd round on Yahoo.
Dirk Nowitzki – PF Mavericks: The days of Dirk being a top 3 PF pick are long gone. What drops him this season is the addition of volume shooting Ellis, and him being 34-years-old now. He should still be able to get you 18-20 points with 6-7 rebounds and a 3-pointer most nights, but the danger in Ellis not playing well with others is also very real. He’s being taken at the end of round 2, or the start of round 3, and that is right on point considering that is the exact value he provided owners last season. There’s also a chance of rapid decline given his age, so pay attention to his stats.
David Lee – PF Warriors: With the additions of Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal, you can be sure Lee will see his minutes dip this season from the 36:46 he saw last season. Fewer minutes means fewer stats, and Lee’s ADP has reflected that this season as he is being taken in the bottom of the 4th round, despite finishing last season with mid 3rd round value. The end of the 4th is about right for lee, and you might even be able to trade for him if you take a name guy like Blake Griffin, who is overrated in fantasy basketball.
Derrick Favors – PF Jazz: Favors is like Millsap above, finally the clear-cut starting PF for his team after splitting time for two year. Favors’ value comes in three main categories: points, rebounds and blocks. He should be able to average near a double-double in points and rebounds, while throwing in nearly 2 blocks-per-game. He’s actually quite a steal at the top of the 6th round where he is going on Yahoo right now when you consider that Griffin is going in the middle of the 4th round.
Tim Duncan – PF Spurs: The only thing that is keeping old faithful this low is his propensity to miss games late in the season. Duncan will turn 38-years-old before the season is officially over, but he managed to turn back the clock about five years last season and finished with 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and a 50.2 FG percentage. Those stats ranked him 6th overall in Yahoo’s 9-cat scoring system last year, but he is currently being taken in the first half of the 3rd round in drafts. Duncan is a steady workhorse that has on “upside”, but he is as consistent as they come.
Zach Randolph – PF Grizzlies: When looking at a PF you really want to consider three main categories: points, rebounds and FG percentage. Blocks are an added bonus, but a stat that is really handled by the C. Z-Bo gives you 15-17 points and 11-12 rebounds most nights, but lacks in the FG percentage department (career mark of 47.2). With a double-double a certainty most nights for him, I see absolutely nothing wrong with taking him in round 7 and making up the blocks and FG percentage with a quality C. There is a chance his FG percentage continues to slide and the Grizzlies unload him to get out from under the remaining two years of his contract, but a double-double in the 7th round is solid value for the pick.
* Honorable Mentions: Greg Monroe, Amir Johnson, David West
Buyer Beware: Blake Griffin – PF Clippers: People think of Griffin and they think of the highlight reel dunks and assume that is fantasy gold; that’s not true. Griffin is being taken in the first half of the 4th round, yet he finished last season ranked 53rd overall, which is a full round lower. I could go on and on about Kevin Garnett, but the Nets fantast bust potential is well known and obvious by now. When drafting Griffin you are likely to have to reach to get him, which means you passed on more productive players in the process, and will have to essentially “punt” the FT percentage stat all together since he shoots 61.1 percent from the charity stripe for his career. And, you also have to consider his 2.3 turnovers per-game average from last season which ranked 2nd worst among PFs (David Lee was worst at 2.6). Griffin isn’t a bad pick, but his name causes him to go about a round higher than he should.
Sleeper: Amir Johnson – PF Raptors: Johnson is being taken in the 2nd half of the 7th round, which is a bit low considering he finished with 4th round value last season thanks to his 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per-game average. Oh ya, he also shot a blistering 55.4 percent from the field! Andrea Bargnani and Ed Davis are gone, which means Johnson has a clear path to be the primary PF for the Raptors this season. I could see him finished with maybe 14 points, 9 rebounds, a block or two and a steal most nights, while still shooting in the 55 percent range.
Marc Gasol – C Grizzlies: Center is one of the thinner positions in fantasy basketball because once you get past the top 7 guys, the drop-off at #8 is fairly steep. Gasol is being taken at the end of round 1, so be prepared to spend your first pick on him if you are in that 12/1 hole for rounds 1 and 2. Gasol will give you about 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal while shooting 50 percent from the field most nights. With the Grizzlies adding depth all over the team, Gasol could see a little less playing time here and there. But, it’s not enough to keep him from being excited if he is my starting fantasy C this season.
Al Jefferson – C Bobcats: I’ll be honest and say that there isn’t all THAT much difference between Gasol and Jefferson in fantasy terms. Jefferson will score 2-3 more points and grab a rebound or two more than Gasol, but Gasol will block an extra shot, dish a few extra assists, and hit a free-throw or two more than Jefferson. You can honestly flip a coin between Gasol and Jefferson and not be wrong either way unless an injury happens. I prefer Gasol because the Grizzlies are a playoff team and the Bobcats are NOT.
DeMarcus Cousins – C Kings: Cousins burned fantasy owners last year who thought he was a breakout candidate. He was able to average 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds last season, but he shot just 46.5 percent from the field and blocked 0.7 shots a night. The blocks put him outside the top 50 eligible fantasy centers, and the FG percentage is at least 30 points lower than you want from a center. This season the Kings have new owners and a new head coach in Mike Malone. There is room for Cousins to average a double-double and I think he could be a steal in his current ADP of pick 41.8 on Yahoo.com.
Al Horford – C Hawks: Horford gave his fantasy owners high 2nd round value last season with his 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals and blocks per-game averages. And, his 54.3 percent shooting from the field is the kind of padding owners love when they take a volume shooting, FG percentage problem player like Harden, Westbrook or George. Horford is as sound as they come at center and he should have no problems matching his stats from last year. You’ll have to burn a high 2nd round pick to get him, but he will give you an equal return on your investment.
Larry Sanders – C Bucks: If Sanders could just score a few more points every night (9.8 PPG last season), and foul a few fewer times each game (3.3 fouls-per-game) he’d be pushing Horford or Cousins for their spots. But, his offensive game is raw at best, but the 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 50.6 percent shooting from the field gave him high-end 3rd round value last season. I see him putting up similar numbers this season, with maybe a couple of added points with the new contract extension.
Roy Hibbert – C Pacers: Hibbert has the potential to be huge in fantasy leagues given his near double-double average in points and rebounds (11.9 and 8.3) and the 2.6 blocks-per-game he averaged last season. His problem has always been minutes and fouls, both of which seem to be going up as the other goes down (in a good way). The 44.8 FG percentage last season was a concern for a center, and his 2.1 turnovers a night ranked him #6 for fantasy centers last season. All that being said, I want rebounds and blocks from my center No. 1, and FG percentage No. 2. Hibbert does well in two of them and isn’t a bad option when the top 5 centers are gone.
Pau Gasol – C Lakers: This Gasol brother is more of a boom-or-bust pick since you’re going to have to take him near the top of the 3rd round with Yahoo projecting him at #28 overall. With Dwight Howard gone he COULD get back to 18 points, 7 rebounds and 1-2 blocks a night form. Or, he could see his minutes conserved in an effort to keep him fresh for the playoffs, thus hurting fantasy owners toward the end of the season when they need him the most, their fantasy playoffs. He finished last season with mid 8th round value, and I don’t see him doing THAT much better this season to be honest. Gasol is a buyer beware pick because of where you’ll have to take him.
JaVale McGee – C Nuggets: McGee is my sleeper pick at center because he is being taken on average in the 9th round. Kosta Koufos is now with the Grizzlies, and Coach George Karl has been replaced by Brian Shaw. That means there are no more obstacles in his path to playing 25-30 minutes a night and being worth a starting fantasy center ranking. If it all works out for McGee, he could average as many as 13 points a night with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. I love him in the middle rounds, and think he is an absolute steal in round 9.
Joakim Noah – C Bulls: The thing to know about Noah right off the bat is that he will have to get right with Jesus to see 70 games this year (60.5 games played average over the last 4 years). In knowing that, you should also know that Noah gave owners back low 2nd round value when looking at averages, and mid 3rd round value when looking at totals. Either way, Noah produces when on the floor. His 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks are top notch for centers, and the 48.1 percent shooting is helpful if you need the padding. You’re going to have to spend a high 3rd round pick to get him on average in Yahoo leagues, which is about where he’ll finish. My problem is you don’t know if he will miss games early on, or late in the season when you need him most. Noah is a risk/reward player.
Brooks Lopez – C Nets: If you get to this point and are looking for a starting center, you waited too long. Lopez can score in the 15-17 points range and get you 2 blocks a night while shooting 52 percent from the field. But, he will also around 5-6 rebounds a night, and even that total could drop with Garnett, Reggie Evans and Andre Blatche in town. The only things that rank him over a guy like Andre Drummond are the points and free-throw shooting (Drummond averaged 7.9 rebounds and shot 37.1 percent from the free-throw line last season).
Nikola Pekovic – C Timberwolves: Pekovic is underrated when it comes to centers because he doesn’t get many blocks (0.8 BPG). But, he does give owners 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a night, while shooting 52.0 percent from the field last season. He doesn’t turn the ball over much (1.6 TOPG) which is a good thing if you have a PG/SG/SF that does. He’s being taken in the middle of the 5th round on Yahoo right now, so be prepared to grab him right around there.
* Honorable Mentions: Drummond, Chris Bosh and Jonas Valanciunas
Buyer Beware: Dwight Howard – C Rockets: Along with Pau Gasol, Howard is a center that is drafted way too high (28.5 ADP) because of his name. Yes, he gives you 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks a night. But, he’ll also tank your FT percentage (52.6 percent average over the last 3 seasons) and be in the top 12 for turnovers per-game (3.0 last season), which is appalling for a center. He finished last season ranked 210th in Yahoo 9-cat leagues and is one of the bigger injury risks in the NBA. He’s being taken with the first pick of the 3rd round right now and Yahoo projects him #43 overall. He’s a 4-cat monster (FG percentage, PPG, RBP and BPG) that kills you in 2 cats (FT percentage and turnovers) and might not make it to the finish line when you need him in the fantasy playoffs.
Sleeper – JaVale McGee
There you have it fantasy basketball fans, the 2013-14 NBA Fantasy draft rankings. If you need help with your specific team, you can look me up on Facebook, Twitter, or send me an email. I look forward talking with Timberwolves fans this season and remember, 2nd place is just the first loser!
James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for just over 15 years. Not only does he write the Timberwolves fantasy basketball section, but he crosses over the sports boundary and writes the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals fantasy football sections. Just send him an email and he will reply back the same day with your answer. Or, find him on Twitter (Fantasyguy23) and Facebook to get all your NFL news before it hits the national media. For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.