It’s that time of the year again, fantasy draft time. With an eventful off-season, I’m sure you’re all wondering which players to take this season. Without further ado, the top 25 picks with a breakdown of when and why to take them.
1) LeBron James
He’s the most talented player in the NBA. Not the best scorer, rebounder, passer or defender, but by far the best all around player. His team hasn’t changed too much and there’s no reason he shouldn’t put up even better numbers than last year.
2) Kevin Garnett
It’s possible to argue that his new club will diminish his fantasy value and it probably will, but not significantly. Expect fewer points, but possibly more rebounds and blocks due to weaker competition. His shooting percentage might go up thanks to fewer double teams and a shoot-first-ask-questions-later supporting cast. Even if any of his numbers go down he’s still the best fantasy big man in the NBA.
3) Shawn Marion
Marion’s easily the most versatile player in the league right now. He averaged 17 and 10 last year, but every fantasy owner knows that’s not even half the reason he’s number 3. He shoots with a high percentage, plays stellar defense and never misses a game and playing with Steve Nash can’t hurt either. He’s definitely someone to build your team around.
4) Kobe Bryant
He’s going to be the league’s best scorer again this year and hopefully your team will reap all the benefits. 32 PPG, with 5 rebounds and assists every night makes Kobe an MVP candidate and fantasy stud. Without any other options, he gets every offensive touch for the Lakers and he feels like he’s got something to prove this year. He won’t be holding out this year and if he gets traded (which he won’t) the worst that can happen is he trades some points for assists.
5) Steve Nash
He’s perfected the assist and you’re guaranteed to win that category every week with him on your team (I did last season anyway). The ultimate floor general can outscore any other PG on a give night and his percentage is up there. If you draft Nash, you don’t need to worry about assists with any of your other picks.
6) Gilbert Arenas
The only thing to keep in mind while drafting Agent 0 first is that you will need a SG who can pass. Gilbert doesn’t need to pass, doesn’t want to pass and probably couldn’t pass if he tried. I’m not criticizing because most of those non-passes end up as 3-pointers. His numbers are similar to Kobe’s, but he doesn’t score as much and gets an extra dime. Your team will lead in 3PM but probably not percentage. If he’s healthy, he’s deadly.
7) Dirk Nowitzki
You can probably expect a consistent 25 and 10 from Dirk this season. Everyone knows he’s the best shooting 7-footer and there’s no reason he won’t play at the MVP level again this year. He shot the coveted 50-40-90 percentages last year and he gets better every year.
8) Dwayne Wade
This is undoubtedly a risk with two looming injuries coming into the season, but he wants to get better and once he returns I expect him to finish the season strong. He’s liable to have 35 points one night and 11 assists the next. He’ll average at least 2 steals a game and he’ll head to the line a lot.
9) Josh Smith
A 6’9’’-er might lead the league in blocks this year and his stock goes up if you’re in a keeper league. With injuries to Joe Johnson, he’s Atlanta’s number one option. He might not play with the best supporting cast but he can do it all himself. The only downside: he could average as many assists as he does blocks.
10) Andre Iguodala
He may not have had the best season last year, but if the second half is any indication, he could get 20, 7 and 7 this year. With A.I. gone and an actual point guard in his place, Iguodala’s upside just got a lot bigger.
11) Amare Stoudemire
Just when you thought Stat’s injury wasn’t a problem anymore, he got surgery on his right knee. He made the comeback once, why shouldn’t he do this again? Easily a 20 and 10 player and his jump shooting got better over the off-season. He’s lucky enough to play with Steve Nash and he could recapture and surpass his numbers from 2005.
12) Chris Bosh
Basically an even younger Amare Stoudemire. He can shoot, take it inside and the Raps only real competition is the Celtics. He’s surrounded by shooters so the pressure should be off for the most part.
13) Jason Kidd
His triple doubles are somewhat overrated but never unappreciated by fantasy owners. He’s rarely hurt and could actually average close to 10, 10 and 10.
14) Rashard Lewis
The off-season was good to Rashard. Howard’s inside game gives the shooter plenty of looks and Jameer Nelson will have no problem seeing him off slashes. Lewis will take the Magic to the next level.
15) Chris Paul
There’s no doubt that Paul will eventually be the best PG in the league. He breaks the definition of scoring point guard by getting 9 assists to go with his 18 points.
16) Yao Ming
With Shaq’s slow decline, he’s becoming the most dominant player in the NBA. Sure, he can get 25 and 10 with 2 blocks and assists to boot, but he has a problem with staying healthy. Averages don’t mean anything if he only plays in 40 games.
17) Pau Gasol
He’s constantly on the verge of superstardom. He is the number one option, unfortunately on the worst team in the NBA. Just over 20 and 10, easily.
18) Tim Duncan
Obviously one of the best players in the league, but he tends to take it easy until the playoffs start. He’s the definition of 20 and 10 every night. The biggest upside to drafting him? You get to name your team “The Big FUNdamental!”.
19) Ray Allen
His numbers will definitely go down, but going 26 ppg to 22 ppg isn’t too bad. He’ll easily get open looks all season his assists should go up. If the Sun’s trifecta can keep their fantasy numbers up, why shouldn’t the Ceatles be able to?
20) Gerald Wallace
I believe he can stay healthy and if your league knows what it’s doing, they’ll let you play him at the PF. His numbers should go up next to Richardson and he’ll get better as the ‘Cats do. Morrison will be sorely missed, but his shot attempts are going straight to Wallace.
21) Dwight Howard
He might be under ranked here, but the addition of Lewis won’t help his numbers much. He shoots an abysmal 58% from the line and he’ll be getting fouled a lot this year. His blocks may be the only category to improve, but chances are good he’ll pick up lots of fouls trying to get them.
22) Vince Carter
He’s a safe pick and consistently gets 25, 6 and 4 with one or two treys. He’s liable to explode on any given night and supply 35 points.
23) Allen Iverson
Now that he’s on a real playoff contender, A.I. might start passing the ball. His assists will go up and his points will go down but his overall numbers will suffer becoming the second option. From a Nuggets fan perspective, this is a good thing, but from a fantasy owner’s perspective, you should hope Carmelo gets in another fight.
24) Tracy McGrady
He can stay healthy and his offense will thrive under Adelman. He’s got to meet his potential sooner or later. Regardless of how many games he plays, he’ll average 27, 6 and 7. If Yao stays healthy, the pressure will be taken off and he’ll get better looks and someone to actually pass to.
25) Paul Pierce
Obviously not the number one option anymore, but his passing game should surprise some people. He’ll still get upwards of 20 ppg and 5 rebounds. His fantasy stock definitely doesn’t get higher this year, but he’ll get a higher percentage and more dimes.