With the dawn of the Fantasy Basketball season upon us, it's a good time to discuss the top players and who I would draft in the first round. For simplicity's sake, I will assume Yahoo Fantasy Basketball league settings; that is a 12-team H2H league with the standard 9 categories. Without further adieu...
1. Chris Paul (PG): It's hard to argue against CP3's stats. He leads the league in both assists (11.6 per game) and steals (2.7 per game); and can single-handlely help you win those categories. Unlike other point guards, he can also help you out in all of the scoring-related categories. He scores over 20 points per game, hits over 1 3pt per game, and shoots crazy high % (48% FG and 85% FT). He has no weaknesses. And he even turns the ball over less than Kobe or Lebron. While I wouldn't call this pick a no-brainer, I would pick him over the above said players in a draft.
2. Lebron James (SF): Lebron James is arguable the most dominant player in the league, and is a great player to build your basketball team around. He provides excellent versatility, helping you out in nearly every category. He gives you approximately 30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1.5 3pt per game. Those are great assist numbers coming from the forward position. His downsides are his sub-par FT shooting (70% FT on over 10 attempts per game) and 3.5 turnovers per game. His 48% FG is very solid, however. He misses few games, and is one of the elite Fantasy players.
3. Kobe Bryant (SG): Another solid candidate for the #1 spot. I have no qualms with anyone selecting him with the first pick. I have some concerns about his injured pinkie finger; but that didn't force him to miss any action last season. He's a great all-around player, and unlike Lebron, will not hurt you with his free throwing shooting (84% on 9 attempts per game). His points, rebound, assist and block totals are a shade lower than Lebron's, but he does offer more 3pt made per game and less turnover. Kobe is the MVP in real life, and offers similar Fantasy value.
4. Amare Stoudemire (PF/C): Amare is the last of the "fantastic four". You are in a great shape if you can grab one of these guys with your first round pick. He's center eligible, which is very helpful in these Yahoo leagues. And Post-Shaq, his #s were crazy. He averaged nearly 30 points per game on ridiculous percentages (59% FG and 81% FT on 9 attempts per game). The free throw shooting is a huge plus coming from the C position. While his rebound #s aren't that great (9 rebounds per game), he did average 2 blocks per game last year. I expect more of the same this year.
5. Dirk Notwizki (PF): Dirk is an underrated superstar in Fantasy basketball league, just like in real life. Everyone knows about his offensive prowess, he scored about 24 points per game on 50% FG and 90% FT (on 7 attempts per game), but he also averages nearly 1 block, 1 steal, 8.5 rebound and 3.5 assists per game. His 3pt shooting went down a bit last year (only 1 make per game), but with Kidd on board for a whole season, you can expect a bump in all scoring categories from Dirk. He's not a traditional big man, so be prepared to team him up with a shot blocking Center.
6. Shawn Marion (SF/PF): I may be in the minority, but I think Marion will have a better year than Wade. He offers huge value in difficult categories to win, and doesn't hurt you anywhere. He averages nearly 10 rebounds per game, 2 steals per game, 1.5 blocks per game, and 1 3pt per game. Not only that but he averages less than 1.5 turnover per game and shoots 50% from the field. While he had an off-year from the charity line last year (71%), this is a guy that shoots over 82% for his career. So I think that he'll bounce back. He will also give you 16+ points per game.
7. Dwyane Wade (PG/SG): Are Wade and Marion the best teammates in Fantasy Basketball? I have some injury concerns when it comes to Wade, but if healthy, he can put up huge #s. You have to like his upside. Playing with Marion and Beasley, can only make him look better. Besides the injury concern, the other reasons I ranked Marion above him are his high turnovers (4.5 per game), and his lack of 3pt shooting (0.5 per game). Besides that, however, the rest of his game is outstanding. He should be able to post numbers like: 26 points on solid % (nearly 50% FG and 80% FT), 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 1 block per game.
8. Steve Nash (PG): For all of this talk about Nash slowing down, he still puts up elite numbers. He's always amongst the top in assists and 3pt made, and his shooting % for a point guard are outstanding (50% FG and 90% FT) en route to 17 points per game. There are some health concerns when it comes to Nash, however, over the past 3 years he's averaged 78 games played. His turnovers are high (3.5 per game), and he doesn't offer you much in terms of steals. But his assist, 3pt and other scoring categories more than make up for that. He can carry you in those categories.
9. Kevin Garnett (PF): These last few picks are getting pretty tough; but you can never go wrong with KG. Though his stats and minutes have gone down since he joined Boston, he is still one of the more reliable and versatile big men in the game. His statline last year was: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steal, 1.5 blocks per game, on excellent shooting (50% FG and 80% FT), and he averages only 2 turnover per game. He rarely misses games due to injury, and plays hard each and every game.
10. Elton Brand (PF/C): Brand gets the nod for the #10 spot because of his center eligibility. In Yahoo leagues, they force you to start 2 C, so it's imperative that you don't get stuck with Eddie Curry. He was injured nearly all of last year, but looked strong when he returned at the end of the season. There is some injury risk selecting him this early. But looking at his stat line from 2 years ago, he averages 25 points, 10 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 steal, 2.5 blocks per game on 52% FG and 78% FT. Excellent. If he can come close to matching that, he'll be an excellent value at this pick.
11. Allen Iverson (PG/SG): He is an ageless wonder that seems to amazingly get better with age. FG% used to be a weakness of Iverson, but he's managed to shoot better than 45% each season since joining the Nuggets. He gets to the free throw line a ton also, where he shoots above 80% on roughly 10 attempts per game. He gives you over 7 assists, 26 points, 2 steals, 1 3pt per game. Very solid stats, and it doesn't look like he'll slow down any time soon. His turnovers are a little high, however (3 per game). Deron Williams is interchangeable at this selection. He gives you better FG% and more assists, but less points and steals.
12. Josh Smith (SF/PF): His main value comes from his blocks at the F position. He averages nearly 3 per game. And can help you win that category single-handedly. But let's not forget the rest of his game, which has improved over the years. He can give you 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. His shooting % are a little iffy, however: 45% FG and 70% FT, and he turns the ball over 3 times per game. Adding a 3pt shot to his repertoire would be both a good and bad thing.