21. Damian Lillard - (ADP: 32, 9-cat: 24)
22. Carmelo Anthony - (ADP: 12, 9-cat: 21) - Last season's No. 22 and 21 play in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively, Anthony looks to post numbers more or less in line with last year.
23. Marc Gasol - (ADP: 12, 9-cat: 17)
24. Kobe Bryant - (ADP: 36, 9-cat: 32) - One of the tougher players to rank, he is also a guy that I missed bad on last year. I thought for sure he was due to see his effectiveness decline and I bought into the whole idea of Steve Nash running the show. And that's the story of Kobe in a nutshell. You think he's going to miss a game, he plays. Years of experience tell us that a player takes 'x' amount of time to return from an injury, or in the case of his ruptured Achilles, that it could be career ending -- and Kobe beats the timetable.
Either nobody knows or nobody is saying when he will return, and therefore his ranking is wobby just on the account of missed games, but a rank on Kobe Bryant is a vote on whether or not he'll finally lose his effectiveness. That we're having that conversation about a player with his mileage is something special, but the fact that we're having it as he comes off this type of injury is unprecedented. And it's in this very situation that he has proven us wrong time and time again.
It should also be noted that Kobe has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to to returning from injury. He likes to play things up, and we don't have to look too far back to recall that reports on his wrist injury from 2011 were overstated. While recent reports have made him seem doubtful for the opener, it wouldn't surprise me at all for him to have an 11th hour miracle return on that night. With current projections of 25 points with a normal stat line and nine missed games on the year, this is where he lands in the rankings today in terms of value. Knowing what (we don't know) right now, I'd be looking at him in the early third round with the hopes he pulls off the unthinkable. Again.
25. Ty Lawson - (ADP: 32, 9-cat: 26)
26. DeMarcus Cousins - (ADP: 38, 9-cat: 47)
27. Derrick Favors - (ADP: 59, 9-cat: 36)
28. Rudy Gay - (ADP: 39, 9-cat: 41)
29. Larry Sanders - (ADP: 34, 9-cat: 16)
30. Roy Hibbert - (ADP: 43, 9-cat: 35)
31. Eric Bledsoe - (ADP: 59, 9-cat: 33) - Folks are having a hard time pegging Bledsoe's value because they don't quite know what to make of the pairing with Goran Dragic, but here's the answer for you. They're going to run, run, run and run some more. Now I don't like to shift rankings or projections for pace on a whim, but in the case of Bledsoe with the Suns it has been easy to give more credibility to his stellar production in limited minutes last year. And going from a team with many options to a team in Phoenix lacking options where he is a primary threat, projecting improvements isn't a stretch. It all adds up to the value you see here and I wouldn't get caught up with which guard gets the 'PG' label in the box score.
32. Goran Dragic - (ADP: 59, 9-cat: 37) - Ironically he holds the same ADP as his partner in the Suns' double-PG attack, and getting the ankle business right out of the way I haven't adjusted him downward in terms of MPG and I'm hesitating to drop him below the 78 games played I have him slated for. I'll adjust the latter if this moves beyond the spectre of an everyday ankle sprain, and once we get beyond the ankle issue we see a player whose profile has actually improved with the addition of Eric Bledsoe. Under Alvin Gentry and Lindsay Hunter, he was frustrated all season as the team desperately wanted to make the Michael Beasley contract pay off. Dragic eventually got his feet underneath him but the subpar play and chaos surrounding him kept him from gaining ground coming off of a promising late-season push the year before in Houston. Now we won't know if new coach Jeff Hornacek will push all the right buttons, but at least the players know what is expected of them in terms of getting out and running. That plays to both Dragic and Bledsoe's strengths, and in open spaces both guys should be able to get in the lane and also get free for 3-point chances.
33. Thaddeus Young - (ADP: 54, 9-cat: 18) - Like Evan Turner, Thad is a threat to play 40 minutes per game this season and as one of the only good players on a potentially historic bad team he's going to get as many touches as he can handle.
34. Deron Williams - (ADP: 15, 9-cat: 53) - With an ensemble cast of legitimate scoring and playmaking options, I don't even have to look to the ankle injury for reasons to drop Williams down in the rankings. And with numbers that were already on the downswing because of declines in athleticism and trouble shooting the ball, this is a perfect time for Williams to take a step back and let the game come to him a little bit more. While that might be the best way for Williams to right the ship and contribute to the greater goal of a championship, it's not going to propel him to a fantasy valuation made by most sites on the basis of past returns.
35. Gordon Hayward - (ADP: 79, 9-cat: 44)
36. Blake Griffin - (ADP: 38, 9-cat: 45)
37. Jrue Holiday - (ADP: 45, 9-cat: 62)
38. Monta Ellis - (ADP: 38, 9-cat: 59)
39. Nikola Vucevic - (ADP: 42, 9-cat: 25)
40. Jeff Green - (ADP: 57, 9-cat: 43)
41. Tobias Harris - (ADP: 76, 9-cat: 27)
42. Dirk Nowitzki - (ADP: 24, 9-cat: 23)
43. Russell Westbrook - (ADP: 39, 9-cat: 74) - ADP data is a bit flimsy on Westbrook right now and details about his timetable are pretty scarce. I'd say no news is good news but I think it's the opposite in Westbrook's case, though I haven't made any judgments one way or another about his return date. Given that the injury was on the milder side of what knee injuries usually entail, I'm not so much concerned about his effectiveness upon return as I am that Reggie Jackson can help keep Westy's workload from heading in the direction that Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka's is heading. And just like my take on his return, I'm not rendering any judgment about whether or not Jackson will impact his value. As of this writing my position is that Westbrook will return and be the same stud he always is. With 20 missed games currently projected, his year-long value is more in the top-60 range and if you consider replacement value it climbs up a handful of spots. This ranking represents where I'm comfortable drafting him with the hopes that he can beat his timetable and improve over last year's numbers, whereas this ranking is based off of 33.5 minutes per game and no improvements while in the prime of his career.
44. Dwyane Wade - (ADP: 20, 9-cat: 69) - As you can see the general populace has greater faith in Wade than I do, as a projected 17 games off and declines in most categories offset a still dynamic fantasy game. Just in case you forgot, Wade was able to shake off a rough start to post top 5-10 value throughout February and March before he disappeared as expected in April. Watching him shrink in the playoffs was cringeworthy, and knowing that he's clearly in maintenance mode for his knees it's hard to see him having a Kobe Bryant-like turn back the clock experience.
45. Dwight Howard - (ADP: 22, 9-cat: 71)
46. Greg Monroe - (ADP: 59, 9-cat: 67)
47. Brook Lopez - (ADP: 40, 9-cat: 29)
48. Andre Drummond - (ADP: 72, 9-cat: 30)
49. Danny Green - (ADP: 83, 9-cat: 38)
50. JaVale McGee - (ADP: 78, 9-cat: 56)
51. Josh Smith - (ADP: 36, 9-cat: 70)
52. O.J. Mayo - (ADP: 77, 9-cat: 72)
53. Jonas Valanciunas - (ADP: 65, 9-cat: 46)
54. Kyle Lowry - (ADP: 79, 9-cat: 63)
55. Bradley Beal - (ADP: 65, 9-cat: 54)
56. David Lee - (ADP: 36, 9-cat: 58)
57. LaMarcus Aldridge - (ADP: 14, 9-cat: 42) - How does one fall from a first and second round rating by many analysts all the way down to No. 57? Let's take a look. First off, Aldridge wasn't a first round talent last year, finishing as the No. 21 play in 8-cat formats (No. 14, 9-cat) despite having a pair of outlier categories (9.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks) in his favor. Part of the trouble was a high volume decrease of about three percent in FG% and yet another dip in attempts (0.3) from the line. The extreme lack of depth in Portland is why Aldridge bucked trend lines for blocks and rebounds and also why he shot the ball so much and so ineffeciently.
So what about this year? Well, for starters, the Blazers big man crew is much better off and Aldridge has a direct backup that's a second year lottery pick in Thomas Robinson. Unlike J.J. Hickson (now in DEN), Robin Lopez will plant a foot in the paint and second year center Meyers Leonard will see more minutes than he got last year. Aldridge has only exceeded last year's 37.7 minutes in one season (10-11, 39.6), and with knee and quad injuries already this season and two straight injury-shortened years under his belt I've pegged him for 35 mpg, a near three-minute drop over last year.
Because it's unlikely that he continues along the trajectory of last year's aforementioned outlier numbers, I regress them a small amount. But mostly maintain the same type of production he gave owners last season (with expected improvements in field goal shooting). The result is the drop you see here, which can be summed up as a playing time decrease, but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I'm concerned about his athleticism and state of mind following a tumultuous offseason with the team. They're not on the same page with regards to his role and his contract, so I'd expect both parties to be looking out for ol' No. 1 season. The off-court stuff doesn't figure into my numbers, but it didn't exactly make me want to hold a first or second round valuation being found in the majority of fantasy sites.
58. George Hill - (ADP: 68, 9-cat: 40)
59. Al Jefferson - (ADP: 17, 9-cat: 31) - Opinions certainly differ around here as some of our guys think he's a top center option this season, but I'm diametrically opposed to that assessment given his declining numbers and athleticism over the past few years. Looking at last year alone (Bruski 150 rank: 22, final rank: 24), a year in which Ty Corbin continued to pound the rock no matter how much it bogged down the offense, Jefferson saw declines in FGAs (1.4), rebounds (0.4), blocks (0.6), scoring (1.4) and minutes (0.9 to 33.1). The No. 31 player on a per-game basis last season in 8-cat leagues, he was saved by somehow playing through plenty of pain in 78 games -- with only 15 missed games in four years.
The problem for Jefferson is that his situation is only getting worse in Charlotte. For all the talk of playing in a crowded frontcourt his touches weren't impacted by the presence of Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter in their minimal minutes, and he'll be hard pressed in Charlotte to find that Steve Clifford can meet or beat Corbin's unwavering committment to him.
In terms of supporting cast, in Utah Jefferson played for stretches with pass-only PGs Jamaal Tinsley (66 games, 19 mpg) and Earl Watson (48 games, 17 mpg) running the show, while offensively challenged Marvin Williams played 24 mpg and one-trick spot-up shooter Randy Foye was custom built to attract defenders out of the lane.
The cast in Charlotte is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but they hardly resemble a team looking to spread the floor around their interior post presence and they aren't such a downgrade from the Utah group that we should be projecting increases in FGAs for Big Al because of their ineptitude. Kemba Walker is an emerging point guard that lives in the lane, not beyond the arc (32.2 3P%), and what good is that with Jefferson backing down the defense all day? Gerald Henderson? He's another guy the Bobcats just re-signed that doesn't fit the mold of ground and pound hitting just 33.0% of his triples. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? You get the point.
Cody Zeller and Josh McRoberts aren't plus players in the frontcourt this year, nor is Bismack Biyombo, but they're serviceable bodies that can help Jefferson limit his minutes as he starts to break down, even if he continues to play through pain as he did last year. My prediction is that Charlotte limits Jefferson's minutes and goes to him a little bit more than they normally would if he played a full slate, keeping Jefferson happy while allowing the other players to continue to develop. As for his projections of 16.6 points, 8.56 boards, 1.1 blocks, 50.1 percent FGs and six missed games, they're very consistent with last year's numbers and in the case of FGs and BLKs they represent an increase.
The bottom line is that it doesn't take much to move a guy from No. 24 to No. 59 once you get past the sticker shock of it.
60. Chris Bosh - (ADP: 40, 9-cat: 50)