While the whole country is gearing up for fantasy football, I feel that it’s never too early for fantasy basketball draft preparation. Most big men in fantasy share power forwards and center eligibility, except for dinosaurs like Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, and Marcin Gortat, who actually play with their backs to the basket every once in a while. Obviously if LeBron has PF eligibility he’s number one, but given how scarce a good small forward is, you’re probably going to want to start him there. Of course, if all else fails for your squad on draft day, ESPN leagues still allow you to draft both Shaq and Yao Ming.
DWIGHT HOWARD, Houston Rockets
KEVIN LOVE, Minnesota Timberwolves
Their 2012-13 season was sub-par based on the standard these guys have set for themselves, but both Howard and Love still represent the class of their position. Choosing between them is as easy as this. They’re both going to dominate the glass, but if you want to build around field goal percentage and blocks, go with Dwight. If you want free throw percentage and treys, then Love is your guy.
AL JEFFERSON, Charlotte Bobcats
At the age of 28, Jefferson still has a few prime years left in him, and with a team of his own in Charlotte, he should be able to get back to the big time production we saw out of him before the K-Love years in Minnesota. I’m expecting anywhere from 17-20 points per game with double-digit rebounds and almost two blocks.
CARMELO ANTHONY, New York Knicks
SERGE IBAKA, Oklahoma City Thunder
These guys have a ton of value in all formats, but even more so in head-to-head leagues. Even if Melo’s stats lack the defensive credibility that most of the guys getting drafted around him have, his offensive numbers are as close to a sure thing as you can get. The same goes for Ibaka with blocks, although his ceiling is way higher in the categories he doesn’t already dominate.
MARC GASOL, Memphis Grizzlies
PAU GASOL, Los Angeles Lakers
AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
JOSH SMITH, Detroit Pistons
All four of these players are as well rounded as they come, and carry greater value than in rotisserie formats than the guys in Tier 3. Whether you need points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks, these player’s have it covered, but in head-to-head formats, the guys who dominates a specific category should be more cherished than someone who does a little of each.
DEMARCUS COUSINS, Sacramento Kings
BLAKE GRIFFIN, Los Angeles Clippers
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Portland Trail Blazers
Cousins, Griffin, and Aldridge all posted similar numbers last season, so it’s wise to draft them in terms of upside. Aldridge is probably the safest, but once Blake and D-Boogie clean up a couple of categories that have been plaguing them to start their careers, they’ll be fantasy studs. Any season can be their best statistically, which is why I’d go with those two over Aldridge.
TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs
DIRK NOWITZKI, Dallas Mavericks
They aren’t dead yet! Duncan had one of his best statistical season of recent years despite falling just shy of a championship and Dirk came on strong at the end of last year after overcoming some prior injuries. Nowitzki now has a better team around him, meaning he should be just as efficient as ever.
JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
GREG MONROE, Detroit Pistons
DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors
This is the tier you shoot for if you missed out on some top point guards. Very few big men match their productivity in the assist column and they’re still reliable for rebounds and field goal percentage as well.
ANTHONY DAVIS, New Orleans Pelicans
BROOK LOPEZ, Brooklyn Nets
Love the prospects of Davis surrounded by those guards in New Orleans and am probably taking him higher than this, but he just didn’t fit in with the guys from Tiers 6 or 7. Kevin Garnett may be the best thing to happen to Brook’s game in the long run, but in the fantasy world he’s only going to eat at his boards, which he only averages 7.4 of on his career to begin with.
NIKOLA VUCEVIC, Orlando Magic
ROY HIBBERT, Indiana Pacers
DERRICK FAVORS, Utah Jazz
ANDRE DRUMMOND, Detroit Pistons
LARRY SANDERS, Milwaukee Bucks
Around now it’s getting to the point where you’re going to start drafting on upside a little more than safety, and this tier is the perfect group of players for just that. I’m hopeful Vuc and Hibbert will build on strong finishes to last season and while I might be a little too high on Favors, he can feasibly produce 15 and 9 with two blocks. Drummond’s free throw woes don’t matter in head-to-head, just don’t expect yourself to win the category every week.
ZACH RANDOLPH, Memphis Grizzlies
PAUL MILLSAP, Atlanta Hawks
These two have been around the block, but are still reliable fantasy contributors. Their stat lines can be a bit empty, but it’s hard to compete with their ability on the glass and in the percentages.
RYAN ANDERSON, New Orleans Pelicans
THADDEUS YOUNG, Philadelphia 76ers
Andreson and Young can provide your team with some scoring punch, something hardly matched by any other big. It really works as an advantage if you have a big time rebounder and field goal percentage guy already drafted in place ahead of them.
TYSON CHANDLER, New York Knicks
NIKOLA PEKOVIC, Minnesota Timberwolves
KENNETH FARIED, Denver Nuggets
NENE HILARIO, Washington Wizards
KEVIN GARNETT, Brooklyn Nets
This tier is full of players whose upside is limited by their scoring output. Pek knows how to work the post but his fantasy potential is limited by his injuries. Chandler led the league in field goal percentage, but he does it on such a small sample of attempts per game that it barely has any impact on your squad’s percentage. Still, they all have value in their defensive stats and should be used as a second center or power forward.
CARLOS BOOZER, Chicago Bulls
DAVID WEST, Indiana Pacers
CHRIS BOSH, Miami Heat
These three have been somewhat lumped together in terms of fantasy value throughout their careers and nothing will change that in 2013. All of them play on teams that make it hard for them to be consistent forces in terms of scoring, but undoubtedly they will all have their nights to go off. They don’t hurt or help in steals and blocks and their rebounding numbers are limited, but they make up for it with solid percentages.
JAVALE McGEE, Denver Nuggets
ANDREW BYNUM, Cleveland Cavaliers
ANDREW BOGUT, Golden State Warriors
ANDERSON VAREJAO, Cleveland Cavaliers
Can we please get more than 18 minutes a game out of Javale this season? As long as he gets more floor time, he’ll be in a much higher tier come this next year. As for the rest, their fantasy value lies solely in their health. If they’re on the floor, they’re going to produce, but they are extremely risky draft choices,
JONAS VALANCIUNAS, Toronto Raptors
ENES KANTER, Utah Jazz
These two are just waiting to explode on to the fantasy scene, and will get the chance this upcoming year. During the most important time of the fantasy basketball season, the Jazz and Raptors will be eliminated from playoff contention, freeing up all the run in the world for the young guns.
GLEN DAVIS, Orlando Magic
KRIS HUMPHRIES, Boston Celtics
JOHN HENSON, Milwaukee Bucks
SPENCER HAWES, Philadelphia 76ers
The lack of frontcourt depth on their respective teams may bring all of these guys to fantasy relevance, but they definitely aren’t a sure thing. Henson proved his upside is way higher than the rest of them with an impressive Summer League showing.
MARCIN GORTAT, Phoenix Suns
DEANDRE JORDAN, Los Angeles Clippers
ANDREA BARGNANI, New York Knicks
Here’s to hoping this year is better than last. The players in this tier can either turn things around and be a steal of the draft, or continue sinking in to oblivion.
J.J. HICKSON, Denver Nuggets
DERRICK WILLIAMS, Minnesota Timberwolves
Hickson and Williams can both do big things, but are stuck behind established starters on the depth chart. They’ll still be worth using, but their value will be hindered barring injuries.
OMER ASIK, Houston Rockets
TRISTAN THOMPSON, Cleveland Cavaliers
LUIS SCOLA, Indiana Pacers
All three of these players could be starters on many teams, but instead will be adjusting to new roles off the bench this season. It will be too easy for help defense to sag in the paint if Asik and Howard are on the floor together and Thompson will have to compete with the first overall pick of the draft for playing time.
GREG ODEN, Miami Heat
SAMUEL DALEMBERT, Dallas Mavericks
EMEKA OKAFOR, Washington Wizards
ELTON BRAND, Atlanta Hawks
TIAGO SPLITTER, San Antonio Spurs
CHRIS KAMAN, Los Angeles Lakers
The only player on this list with any upside whatsoever is Greg Oden, but like the Portland Trail Blazers, you can only wait on that potential for so long. Until he proves something on the court, there’s no reason for you to draft him.