I've had a good summer with some extra time on my hands, but it just makes me sad. The lockout has wiped out the hard copy version of the Rotoworld NBA Draft Guide, and I've found putting together the online version very difficult due to all the questions still out there. Will there even be an NBA season? Where will the free agents land? Who will be traded? Who is going to coach the Wolves and Pistons? Those are just a few of the questions left unanswered, but that's not going to stop me from ranking players for the upcoming season, whenever it might happen.
1. Amare Stoudemire
There's not much to say here. He scores, rebounds, blocks shots and loves playing in New York. Maybe Dirk Nowitzki
, Kevin Love
or Blake Griffin
will finish as the No. 1 PF in fantasy this year, but I'm playing it safe and making Stoudemire the first one off the board. Having said that, his knee is probably due to break down again at some point in the next couple years, which is something to keep in mind.
2. Dirk Nowitzki
The Finals MVP is at an all-time high in popularity and still has a couple solid years to give. Some blocks and more threes would be nice, but he plays through injuries and is the focal point of the Dallas offense.
3. Kevin Love
Despite being benched by Kurt Rambis, his former coach, last year, Love was still a double-double machine and a very fun fantasy player to own. However, he doesn't blocks shot and outside of points and boards, only adds to his value by hitting some threes. But he's young, will only get better, and might be the best rebounder in the league.
4. Blake Griffin
Am I sleeping on Griffin? Quite possibly. He's only going to get better, meaning his steal and block numbers should rise, while he will probably become a better free throw shooter as well. Yes, I might take him over Kevin Love
in my draft, but for now, it looks like a toss up between the two. If you like seeing your guy on SportsCenter, Griffin is your man. And if you want to take a shot at him higher than this, I wouldn't be mad at you.
5. Josh Smith
Many of Smith's numbers were up last season, although he took a hit in blocks and steals. And since he's not a guy who is going to score 20 points per game, blocks and steals are his best assets. Maybe he bounces back this year in those categories, but given the fact that he's never met a shot he didn't want to take, his field goal percentage could tank at any moment. His shooting has been better over the last three seasons, but it's still tough to fully trust him. And the fact he might be on the trading block could hurt him. His basketball IQ isn't great, and learning a new system could be a real setback if he's moved.
6. LaMarcus Aldridge
The fact most of Portland's centers are constantly hurt works to Aldridge's advantage, as he had a breakout season in 2010-11. He averaged 22 points, nine boards, a steal and a block, and those numbers could even get better this season. But it's also possible he peaked last year, and I still like the upside of Josh Smith
(steals/blocks) more than the steady play of Aldridge, who averaged just 18 points in his previous season.
7. Pau Gasol
Gasol would probably be No. 1 on this list if he didn't have to fight with Andrew Bynum
for boards and blocks, and Kobe Bryant
for shots. After playing in just 65 games the previous year, he bounced back for all 82 last year. The 19 points, 10 boards and 1.6 blocks were very solid, but he disappeared on too many nights for my liking. Maybe he just ran out of gas, but the fact he failed to score more than 18 points in his final 12 games (10 of which were the playoffs), has me a bit concerned. He's also entering his 11th season, so the chances of him running out of gas down the stretch again are probably high.
8. Zach Randolph
No, Z-Bo doesn't block shots, but it's really tough to argue with the 20 points and 12 boards he put up last season for Memphis. He also emerged as a team leader and is doing all he can to change his image. The 0.3 blocks and 0.8 steals are simply brutal, but guys who average a double-double are few and far between. If you draft Randolph, make sure you make up for the lack of steals and blocks elsewhere.
9. Al Horford
I initially had Horford ranked in front of Randolph, but his numbers just don't support it. However, he should be ready for a breakout year of his own, and should average at least 18 points, 10 boards, a steal and a block, while also shooting it well from the floor and line. And if Josh Smith
ever leaves, Horford's value would be a lot higher.
10. Paul Millsap
Millsap would be higher on this list, but the truth is his game is very similar to that of teammates Al Jefferson
and Derrick Favors
. In fact, someone is probably going to get moved and Millsap may bring back the most in a trade. And if Millsap is traded, his value is dependent on where he lands. But the 17 points, eight boards, 1.4 steals and nearly a block a game last season were nice.
11. Greg Monroe
This might be a little high for Monroe, but he was probably the most underrated rookie last season, mainly because he played for the Pistons. As a rookie, he averaged 9.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in about 28 minutes per game. He'll have a new coach and should easily build on those numbers, hopefully coming in around 15 points, 9 rebounds, a steal and a block. And with the guys coming up next on this list and their assorted issues, Monroe's upside is worth the gamble.
12. Serge Ibaka
Do I have Ibaka ranked too high? It's quite possible, but his shot blocking alone gives him fantasy value, he's young, and he averaged about 10 points, 8 boards and 2.4 blocks last season. But he's not a scorer, and his sub-10 rebounds per game is a concern. But I love him as a sleeper pick with upside and there's a good chance he could really build on those numbers and come in near 11 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks per game. And if that happens, this ranking is too low.
13. Chris Bosh
I'm not a huge Bosh fan, but he played better in the second half once he figured things out with the Heat, and also played very well in the playoffs. His shot blocking is still not great, but there's a good chance he'll be a better fantasy player this season than last. Look for him to average around 19 points and nine boards, with less than a block per night.