For us fantasy junkies, one of the first thoughts that scurried through our heads post-Decision was: how does this affect the fantasy values of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
Dr. A at Rotoworld.com, Brian McKitish at ESPN.com and John Cregan at ESPN.com have already posted their thoughts (which are highly recommended), and I’m here to follow suit with a preliminary ranking of the top-25 fantasy players for the 2010-11 NBA season. A longer list of rankings will be here soon enough, but I’m hoping this will whet your appetites.
In honor of Dan Gilbert’s captivating response to the King’s departure, the rankings will be typed in the glory that is Comic Sans.
Just kidding. That punishment is a step below seeing your hometown hero rip your heart out and chew on it for an hour on national television.
- Kevin Durant: The kid was arguably the top fantasy stud last season, and with his sole competitor set to take a voluntary step back in production this season, there’s even more reason to take Durant at No. 1. It’s also entirely likely that the kid still has some upside to grow into.
- Chris Paul: He’s fragile, but when healthy, CP3 is a fantasy monster. Paul appears ready to start the season healthier than he was last year, so if you’re OK with swallowing the injury risk, draft him and don’t look back.
- LeBron James: Yes, he’s going to take a hit in fantasy value (not to mention popularity) by playing alongside Wade and Bosh in South Beach, but I agree with Tim Legler, who has said that if LBJ ever decided to score six to seven fewer points per game, he could feasibly average a triple-double. Is 22/9/10 out of the question for LeBron this season? Not at all. While nearly everyone is assuming James will be content to play Pippen to Wade’s Jordan, there’s still a chance that No. 6 could continue to be the top dog on his squad. (I’m probably not the first one to notice this, but once LeBron announced he was going to switch to No. 6 this season — the number of his jersey during the Beijing Olympics, where he, Wade and Bosh supposedly plotted to join forces — isn’t it safe to say he was dropping a huge hint at his plans this summer? I digress.)
- Dirk Nowitzki: Diggler is another year closer to the worse side of his career arch, but it’s hard to believe it’ll happen just yet. Don’t expect more from him than last season, but don’t expect less either. He’s as steady and reliable as they come.
- Kobe Bryant: He showed signs of wear-and-tear last season and missed the most games since 2004-05, but he’s still a lock for 26/5/5 every night. Also, don’t underestimate the burning desire that could be brewing in him to obliterate the superfriends trio down in Miami. That could help fuel him throughout this season.
- Danny Granger: He’s a portrait of frailty and his increasing fondness for the places on the court outside of the three-point line is somewhat of a bummer, but Granger puts up fantastic numbers when he’s healthy. The Pacers forward is a great candidate to trade early in the season after he puts up a few stellar lines.
- Pau Gasol: The only thing he doesn’t do is hit threes. Expect him to carry a slightly larger share of the load this season.
- Deron Williams: His spotty health record is concerning, as is the absence of Carlos Boozer. Nevertheless, with more of the offense resting on his shoulders, D-Will should be in for a very solid season.
- Gerald Wallace: If you trust that he’s finally over the injury-riddled days that earned him the nickname “Crash,” you take him here. If not, let him slip to the second round — just don’t count on him being there.
- Stephen Curry: His rookie year numbers were bananas and he should be able to reproduce those stats, if not improve on them, this season. Decreasing his turnovers alone could give him a nice little boost from 2009-10. But if Nellie goes mad with Curry’s minutes, all bets are off.
- David Lee: The Warriors are a wilder, more frenetic cousin of the Knicks, which bodes well for Lee’s stats. Expect him to replicate his numbers from last season, with a chance that he’ll even improve on them. Again, Nellie is in control of Lee’s destiny, so draft him based on how you think that will turn out.
- Dwyane Wade: Yes, he’s playing alongside a lot more talent this year, which should put a wet blanket on his stud status on some nights. But he’s still D-Wade. The real concern here is his minutes. He averaged 36:17 per game last season, the fewest since his rookie year. With the Heat’s thin roster, Wade could have to push that number up to around 40, and that could mean major fatigue and a higher level of injury risk throughout the season.
- Dwight Howard: I don’t really dig Howard for fantasy purposes and try to avoid him at all costs because of his abysmal FT% and turnovers. But he’s a beast for rebounds and blocks, and isn’t too shabby for FG%. If you can handle his weaknesses in H2H leagues, you can definitely make a case that he goes much higher on this list. If you’re in a roto league, the opposite is true. No. 13 seems like a happy compromise.
- Steve Nash: He’s older and he just lost his best finisher. His shooting percentages will remain strong, but it’s tough to see Nash avoiding a slight dip this year.
- Josh Smith: His steals and blocks always make him sexy, but his career-best FG% and assists last season were the cherry on top. But his dismal FT% makes him a fantasy equivalent of a butterface.
- Brook Lopez: He’s the mini-Gasol not named Marc.
- Jason Kidd: He’s overcome low expectations and his age over and over again, and until he finally succumbs to the downturn many think he should be experiencing, it’s tough to drop him out of the top 20.
- Carmelo Anthony: He scores a lot but his overall stats are disappointing. He’s the poster child of an NBA player whose real-life value far exceeds his fantasy value.
- Tyreke Evans: The lack of threes hurts his fantasy stature but Evans is an all-around stud who should improve in his sophomore campaign.
- Chauncey Billups: He’s a steady, silent, unheralded killer in fantasy leagues, and defies age like Nash and Kidd do. Still, his fantasy value has very little room for improvement and a looming possibility of backsliding.
- Amar’e Stoudemire: No Nash and less help on offense spells bad news for STAT. He should still fare just fine on most nights, but expect a lower FG%, more turnovers and some frustrating inconsistency.
- Brandon Roy: He puts up great numbers, but his health is too much of a concern to confidently take him higher than this.
- Al Jefferson: The low cap on his minutes last season killed his value, but things can’t get worse, right? With a healthier knee and the prospect of a trade for him or Kevin Love could do wonders for Jefferson, who has top-15 potential.
- Chris Bosh: Bosh is a lock to score fewer points this season. However, he’ll likely be the Heat’s only skilled big man, so his rebounding should remain pretty solid. Also, there will be nights where he benefits from the attention Wade and James get from defenses.
- Rajon Rondo: He coasted for certain parts of 2009-10, but he’s clearly capable of handing out tons of assists and stealing tons of balls. If he takes a more prominent role in the Celtics’ offense, hits more threes and cracks 70% from the free-throw line, Rondo could go much higher than this.
On the cusp: Russel Westbrook, Marc Gasol, Andre Iguodala, Joe Johnson, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson