Friday, October 2, 2009

Fantasy Basketball: Top 12

Just like last year, I'm going to run down the top 12 picks in Fantasy Basketball. The couple top picks are no-brainers. But if you get stuck with a late draft pick, things get much trickier. This list is for 12-Team H2H leagues with the standard 9 scoring categories. Next to each player name is their position eligibility from Yahoo!.

1. Chris Paul (PG): Last year, CP3 was the consensus top pick. But with Lebron James's improved free throw shooting, I think you can go either way this year. Both guys are great for building your team around. CP3 once again led the league in both assists (11.0) and steals (2.8) per game; and by a large margin. He can single-handedly help you win those 2 categories. He's also a prolific scorer, netting over 22 points per game, nearly 1 3PT per game, and crazy high percentages for a Point Guard (50% FG and 87% FT). His only downside is a lack of blocks and a high amount of turnovers. But anyone who has the ball in his hands as often as CP3 will cough the ball up a few times. I should also mention that he averaged an impressive 5.5 rebounds per game from the Point Guard position.

2. Lebron James (SF): I like to think of CP3 as option 1A and Lebron as option 1B. You can't go wrong selecting either of these players. Lebron James is the league MVP and fills up the stat board like no other: 28.4 points (second in the league), 7.6 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 3PT. He's improved on his FT shooting which used to be his Achilles heel (78% last season), to go along with his solid 49% FG. If you select Lebron James, you can go with any kind of draft strategy cause he's so well-rounded. He's valuable in that he gives you PG type assists and steals from the SF position. And he's a true ironman. He rarely misses any games. And the addition of Shaq on this team, could free him up for more open looks. Maybe. His only downside is his turnovers, which were down last year compared to the previous year.

3. Dwyane Wade (PG/SG): He rebounded brilliantly from an injury-plagued season and posted Fantasy MVP worthy type numbers. He averaged 1.3 blocks per game from the Point Guard position, which is unheard of. He also led the league in scoring at 30.2 points and was second in steals at 2.2 (and unfortunately second in turnovers at 3.4). He also improved on his 3PT shot, and averaged a shade over 1 per game. How's that for versatility? To finish off the rest of his statline, he averaged 5.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists, on 49% FG and 77% FT. Wade does it all. I rank him a shade under CP3 or Lebron because there are some injury concerns. He seemed to run out of gas at the end of the last season, probably from carrying his team all season long, and his team is basically the same as it was last year. Can he keep up this high level of play? Probably. The dual position eligibility is a nice bonus.

4. Kevin Durant (SG/SF): It feels a little strange ranking Durant so high, but he was a beast last year after moving to the SF position. He put up a statline of: 26.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.5 3PT, 3.0 turnovers (unfortunately), 48% FG and 86% FT through 61 games. And I think he still has room to grow. He will only get better as this young Oklahoma City team improves. I really like their young nucleus of Westbrook/Harden/Durant/Green. I expect Velvet Hoop to make his first all-star game this upcoming season, and finally get some of the recognition that he deserves. I also considered Granger for this spot, but I have some injury concerns about Granger. Sometimes its better to go with the safe pick in the first round. Also I like his dual position eligibility. It adds some flexibility to your roster.

5. Danny Granger (SG/SF) You gotta love Granger's upside. He has made some great strides in his game over the past couple of years. He was second in the league in 3PT made with 2.7 per game and 5th in the league in scoring at 25.8. He also contributed on the defensive end with 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. He makes 88% of his FT which is dynamite. But he missed 15 games last season with a right knee injury, which is a bit worrisome. Also the rest of his statline is not as impressive, he only averages 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 45% FG. There's a good chance that he'll be able to improve in those areas, but he doesn't offer the across the board versatility that other players do. It's no clear how the return of Mike Dunleavy will affect his stats. I like the dual position eligibility, though. I'm going to be saying that a lot.

6. Kobe Bryant (SG): This year's Lakers squad is arguably the most talented team that they've rolled out in the past several years. The signing of Artest and the return of Bynum from injury could decrease the number of touches that Kobe gets each game. I think he is at the point in his career when he'll start deferring to his teammates more and playing less minutes during the regular season to be rested for the postseason. I still expect an excellent statline, but nothing like what he posted during his prime. He won't be averaging 30 points per game any more, and I expect his statline to look something like his career averages: 25.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.5 3PT, 45% FG and 85% FT. Still very solid, but he doesn't have the upside that either Durant or Granger has. With Kobe you know what you are going to get; and that's both a good and bad thing. Also of note is that he has not missed a game in the past 2 seasons. He's rock-solid consistent.

7. Dirk Nowitzki (PF): He is probably the most overlooked superstar in the league. He quietly does his thing, and does not get a lot of accolade or attention. I wish that he would shoot more 3PT (only makes 0.8 per game), but you can't find much fault in his statline: 25.9 points (4th in the league), 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals. 0.8 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 48% FG and 89% FT. The low turnover and the higher percentages are especially valuable. How many big men are there in the league that shoot nearly 90% from the charity line? And there's a chance that Dirk might gain Center eligibility in Fantasy Leagues. I heard that Rick Carlisle plans to play Dirk at Center for stretches at a time. That would make his selection at the #7 even sweeter. He's a great consolation prize if you get a middle of the pack draft pick, and is a great building block.

8. Amare Stoudemire (PF/C): Obviously, there is some injury risk with selecting Amare, but with the Suns returning to their old Run-And-Gun style, he has a chance to set career highs across the board. He is the only legit big man on the Phoenix team. So he'll get plenty of scoring, rebounding, blocking opportunities. Looking at his statline from 2 years ago before the Suns acquired Shaquille O'Neal, Amare averaged: 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.1 blocks, 59% FG and 81% FT. He can probably do better than that. And also it's worth noting that he's in a contract year, so he'll be eager to prove his worth. You have to love that he qualifies for both the Power Forward and Center positions. This makes him the top ranked Center in the game; with Centers being a prized commodity in Yahoo! Fantasy leagues.

9. Dwight Howard (C): He leads the league in both rebounds (13.8) and blocks (2.9), and like CP3 he can singlehandedly help you win 2 categories. But his FT shooting is just atrocious (59% on 11 attempts). It's the number of attempts that really hurts your team. In my opinion, if you select Howard, you have to go with the strategy of punting FT%. It's just not worth the effort to select high percentage and volume free throw shooters to try to compensate for Howard. He's the only player in the first round that necessitates a specific draft strategy. He also contributes nicely to points (20.6) and FG (57.2%), and is a decent thief for a big man with 1.0 steals per game. But his turnovers (3.0) are pretty awful for a big man. He needs to learn how to pass out of the post better. He and Yao are the only big men amongst the top 20 worst in turnovers. It's a gamble to select Dwight, unless you know what you are doing.

10. Deron Williams (PG): He is the #2 Point Guard in Fantasy Basketball. And that is not a bad thing. He will always be overlooked by CP3, but he is not a bad consolation prize. The main difference between the two is CP3 gets 1.7 more steals, and a couple more rebounds and points. Deron Wiliam is second in the league in assists (10.7) and also contributes nicely to the scoring categories: 19.4 points, 47.1% FG, 85% FT, 1.0 3PT. Like most other superstar point guards, he does average a lot of turnovers though (3.4 per game which is good for 2nd in the league). He missed 14 games early last season, but he was able to bounce back nicely and show his resilience. I'm not worried about any injury risk. The uncertainty of Boozer in Utah may add some distractions to this Jazz team. He should be safe to pick in the first round. His high number of assists can help anchor your team in that category.

11. Chris Bosh (PF/C): He is one of 2 players in the league to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds last season. He's a great percentage guy, shooting 49% FG and 82% FT. And he takes approximately 8 attempts from the charity line each game. He is solid on the defensive end too, averaging roughly 1 steal and 1 block per game. The addition of Hedo Turkoglu on the Toronto squad should make him even better. As he has another shooter to stretch the floor, and another playmaker on the floor to feed him buckets. Supposedly he's put on a lot of muscle over the offseason and should be poised for another all-star season. As I've mentioned many times, these dual eligibility players are very valuable. I give him the nod over other remaining Centers like Pau Gasol or Al Jefferson, who are more risky acquisitions.

12. Brandon Roy (PG/SG): He keeps on getting better each year. The addition of Andre Miller should help him lessen his workload. He won't have to be a facilitator and a scorer. Miller should give him more easy buckets, and allow him to focus more on scoring and defense. Portland will need to improve their defense to become an elite team. He averaged 22.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.1 3PT, 48% FG and 82% FT. He is like the guard version of Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Bosh. He's rock solid and puts up comparable stats to Kobe Bryant who is being drafted several spots earlier. The dual position eligibility is a nice bonus. He is a shooting guard that can post point guard type assist numbers. He's a very efficient player and averages only 2 turnovers per game, which is solid for a superstar player.

Players on the bubble: Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson, Steve Nash.

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