Fantasy Basketball Top 50 – Preseason Edition

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Preseason stats don’t mean too much, but it’s great to finally have something to analyze. My Offseason Top 50 was gathering a little bit too much rust, so now that we’re a few exhibition games deep, it’s time for adjustments. There aren’t too many drastic differences, but certainly there are some changes worth noting.

This is as originally posted on DimeMag.com. Kevin writes as Dime Magazine’s Fantasy Doctor. For more extensive fantasy basketball advice, follow him on Twitter at @DimeFantasyDoc.

My confidence level in Derrick Rose has been re-instilled after seeing him survive the first few contests. Although I was higher on him than most to begin with, I still don’t see why he won’t be a first-round talent this season.

The biggest jump goes to Anthony Davis, who’s up 13 spots from last time, thanks in part to a strong preseason effort so far. I always stress how important it is to take safe players early, and reach for the upside later on in your drafts, but Davis is my exception. The beginning of the second round is probably too early for me, but anytime after that is fair game.

New to the party are Ryan Anderson, Andre Drummond and Derrick Favors. You’ll find all three of them towards the end of this list, but they have nowhere to go but up. Ousted are Paul Millsap, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook.

Almost everybody received a bump when word got out about Westbrook’s knee surgery. Just a reminder that hurt players won’t be ranked. The varying opinions on them are way too difficult to judge. To each his own. That’s why you wont find Westbrook, Rajon Rondo or Kobe Bryant on this list.

Don’t forget you can ask any of your draft questions on Twitter at @DimeFantasyDoc.

*based on head-to-head format*

1. LeBRON JAMES, Miami Heat (Previously: 1)

Can’t fault you for taking Durant here if you’re worried about Spoelstra resting his stars during the fantasy playoffs, but assuming LeBron has been working at his post game this summer, it’s possible he becomes even more efficient. Scary thought.

2. KEVIN DURANT, Oklahoma City Thunder (Previously: 2)

Durant should see an uptick in production until Westbrook returns from knee surgery. Without him in the playoffs last year, KD put up averages of 31.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists, with 2.1 treys, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Looks like LeBron numbers to me.

3. CHRIS PAUL, Los Angeles Clippers (Previously: 3)

The main reason I like CP3 in this spot is because of safety. With tons of new weapons around him, and a long resume of past success, there’s no reason to think Paul will fall off at all. Sure, Harden might have a better season, but Paul is as much of a sure thing as you can draft.

4. JAMES HARDEN, Houston Rockets (Previously: 4)

Harden was hands down the best player not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant last season, but how will he be affected by Dwight Howard’s presence? If you’re confident that it will only help his efficiency, then he’s your guy.

5. STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors (Previously: 7)

Curry vs. Westbrook was a heated debate amongst fantasy basketball fans heading into the season, but now that the latter is out of the picture, does anyone have the guts to take Curry over Paul? Shooting guard eligibility and record breaking three-point potential makes it far from a crazy idea.

6. DWIGHT HOWARD, Houston Rockets (Previously: 5)

It’s tough to need to punt a category with your first-round draft pick, but if you’re going to do it with anybody, Dwight is your guy. Now that he’s happy in Houston, you can expect him to dominate field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks.

7. KEVIN LOVE, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previously: 6)

Whether you go for Dwight or Love depends on how you like your cup of tea. If you like players who get stats that aren’t normal for their position, then Love is your guy. He has made 213 treys over the last three seasons, albeit in only 146 games.

8. DERRICK ROSE, Chicago Bulls (Previously: 11)

Any questions about Rose’s health have already been answered this preseason. Considering the Bulls will be just as reliant on his offense as usual, there’s no reason to think he won’t play to a first-round level.

9. PAUL GEORGE, Indiana Pacers (Previously: 9)

No need to worry about Danny Granger’s return affecting George’s stats. George had a breakout season last year and is only going to get better. Multi-positional eligibility makes him even more valuable.

10. KYRIE IRVING, Cleveland Cavaliers (Previously: 10)

Either Irving is going to be a steal in the mid-late first round or he’s going to be a bust while missing tons of games due to injury once again. You have to pay to find out.

11. AL JEFFERSON, Charlotte Bobcats(Previously: 12)

In his new home, Jefferson has the potential to get back to his 20 and 10 days. He may miss the first few games of the regular season, but don’t let that cloud his long-term potential.

12. CARMELO ANTHONY, New York Knicks (Previously: 14)

If ‘Melo wants teams to line up and cater to him in July, he’s going to have to repeat last year’s league leading scoring performance. He’ll have all the opportunity in the world, as the Knicks will lean on him heavily for offense yet again.

13. DERON WILLIAMS, Brooklyn Nets(Previously: 13)

I know it’s just a sprain, but any injury to Williams’ ankle comes with a little concern. Still, when healthy, D-Will will have plenty of options offensively, and should see an uptick in his assist numbers and overall efficiency.

14. PAU GASOL, Los Angeles Lakers (Previously: 19)

Pau is being way underrated by ESPN (ranked 60) and Yahoo! (ranked 28). It won’t be long before Chris Kaman is hurt and Gasol is gobbling up the majority of the frontcourt stats for the Lakers. Remember, Pau can easily average something like 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

15. SERGE IBAKA, Oklahoma City (Previously: 15)

Most experts love Ibaka for his dominance in blocks and overall efficiency, but should a leader in one category really warrant a second-round pick? I’m looking for a little more versatility out of such an early pick, but you could certainly do worse. Hopefully, Ibaka steps up his offense while Westbrook is out.

16. AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks (Previously: 22)

Horford is another guy being a little underrated by the major fantasy basketball sites. He finished last season incredibly strong, and now that Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are totally removed from the picture, the Hawks are truly his team. Twenty and 10 isn’t out of the question.

17. MARC GASOL, Memphis Grizzlies (Previously: 16)

Gasol is way more dominant in rotisserie than he is in head-to-head. He adds a little something in each category, but doesn’t dominate anything in particular. He’s still more than useful as your primary big man, but not as a first rounder.

18. DWYANE WADE, Miami Heat (Previously: 17)

Injury concern about Wade has dropped his draft stock a bit. You always have to be worried about him missing games, especially during the fantasy playoffs, but his positional dominance in steals and blocks still makes him one of the best shooting guards available.

19. JOHN WALL, Washington Wizards (Previously: 20)

Wall ended last season strong, posting 23.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game last April. He should keep up right around that pace as he continues to grow as a player and the Wizards grow as a team. Any semblance of a three-point shot will make him that much better.

20. RICKY RUBIO, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previously: 21)

Rubio and Wall are pretty much interchangeable. While Wall might be farther along in the scoring department, both have triple-double potential in any given game, but are lacking the three-pointers necessary to get their fantasy game to the next level.

21. NICOLAS BATUM, Portland Trail Blazers (Previously: 24)

Batum set career-highs in almost every category last season, but a cold second half has sunk his value. Still, he warrants a second-round selection, especially since he won’t be losing any looks to C.J. McCollum for a while.

22. ANTHONY DAVIS, New Orleans Pelicans (Previously: 35)

It’s not unrealistic to think that Davis could compete with Ibaka for the league lead in blocks, but in the first few rounds you should be looking for proven talent. Still, if you’re going to draft anyone early based purely on potential, then Davis should be your target. There isn’t much competition for minutes in the New Orleans frontcourt.

23. LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Portland Trail Blazers (Previously: 26)

Aldridge is about as safe as they come in the fantasy game, but he’s been the subject of trade rumors of late. If he stays in Portland, it’ll be another successful season, but if he gets moved, there are tons of question marks.

24. JOSH SMITH, Detroit Pistons (Previously: 23)

A new situation for Smoove leaves some fantasy experts weary of how he’ll produce this season. Detroit will be pretty desperate for scoring, so they may rely on Smith more than some think. You know his defensive stats will be there.

25. DeMARCUS COUSINS, Sacramento Kings (Previously: 25)

Because of his high turnover rate and hideous field goal percentage, Cousins is a disaster in the rotisserie game, but if you can fit him around guys who excel in those areas, then he’ll no doubt hold down the rebounds and points for your frontcourt. The 1.4 steals per game from a big man are a nice perk too.

26. TY LAWSON, Denver Nuggets (Previously: 28)

Without a ball-dominant Andre Iguodala to take any touches away, Lawson should improve even further upon last year’s breakout season. The Nuggets will find offense harder to come by, especially until Danilo Gallinari returns, so look for him to pick up some of that slack.

27. MONTA ELLIS, Dallas Mavericks (Previously: 27)

Dirk struggled adjusting to not having Jason Terry around for instant offense last year, so Dallas brought in Ellis to be an uber-Terry. As usual, Ellis will be a monster offensively, especially considering the assists he can give you as a shooting guard.

28. DAMIAN LILLARD, Portland Trail Blazers (Previously: 31)

Will it be a sophomore slump or continued brilliance for last year’s Rookie of the Year? We know Lillard can put the ball in the hole, but he’ll have to round out the rest of his game to become more dominant in the fantasy game.

29. BLAKE GRIFFIN, Los Angeles Clippers (Previously: 26)

Griffin’s rebounding and scoring numbers have dipped in each sequential season, but his defensive numbers are finally coming around. Still, he won’t be able to take his fantasy game to the next level unless he improves his free throw percentage and blocks.

30. DIRK NOWITZKI, Dallas Mavericks (Previously: 30)

I’m expecting a bounce-back year from Dirk now that his supporting cast has been significantly upgraded. Still, his age brings on tons of health concerns.

31. TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs (Previously: 29)

My faith in Duncan matching last year’s numbers is very high, but so is my faith in Gregg Popovich resting his older guys on random nights. You can’t help my fantasy team out from the bench.

32. JRUE HOLIDAY, New Orleans Pelicans (Previously: 33)

Many are worried about the crowded New Orleans backcourt, but the talent around Holiday should only increase his efficiency. He probably won’t come near last year’s numbers in Philly, but he’s still a solid mid-level point guard.

33. TONY PARKER, San Antonio Spurs (Previously: 32)

Every year that passes by, the Spurs become more and more Parker’s team. If he can get back up to averaging a steal a game and improve his three-ball, he’ll be even more valuable.

34. JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls (Previously: 36)

Two words: plantar fasciitis. If it weren’t for his bout with that injury last season, I would have him ranked way higher. Noah is a lock for hustle stats and assists, but injury is always a concern for someone who throws his body around as much as he does.

35. DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors (Previously: 39)

Lee continues to be under-ranked by experts because of his lack of treys, steals and blocks. Sure, more contribution in those stats would be nice, but he’s rock solid in the rest and all injury concerns about his hip are gone.

36. ANDRE IGUODALA, Golden State Warriors (Previously: 37)

Iggy should bounce back a bit now that he’s found a home in the Warriors fantasy friendly offense. He struggled with consistency last season, but if he can put that behind him, he’ll enjoy a fantasy rebirth.

37. LARRY SANDERS, Milwaukee Bucks (Previously: 44)

Sanders spent the whole offseason working on improving his offense, but I want to see it consistently over the span of a whole season before I invest too high of a pick on him. That goes for many players.

38. NIKOLA VUCEVIC, Orlando Magic (Previously: 48)

Vucevic became a rebounding force last season, especially down the stretch. One thing we know is that the young guns will get all the run they can handle in Orlando.

39. MIKE CONLEY, Memphis Grizzlies (Previously: 46)

I’m harsher on Conley than most. The dominance in steals is nice, but 14.6 points, 6.1 assists and 1.3 treys per game can all be found elsewhere for a discounted price.

40. BRANDON JENNINGS, Detroit Pistons (Previously: 45)

The Pistons will most likely be starving for offense, especially in the backcourt. We all know Jennings isn’t shy about taking an open look, but with more weapons around him, it’ll be easy for him to improve his passing game too.

41. RUDY GAY, Toronto Raptors(Previously: 40)

If you miss out on one of the top-flight small forwards, then Gay is someone you should be targeting. Once he got comfortable in Toronto, Gay looked to be his old self.

42. BROOK LOPEZ, Brooklyn Nets(Previously: 38)

Kevin Garnett’s attitude could be the best thing to happen to Lopez’s career, but it may not be reflected in his stat lines. You would like your center to grab some more rebounds, but at the very least, Lopez can block close to 2.0 shots per game.

43. TYREKE EVANS, New Orleans Pelicans (Previously: 41)

Evans will be the Pelicans sixth man and should thrive in the role. The versatility in his stat lines are of the most help, especially considering his small forward eligibility.

44. ZACH RANDOLPH, Memphis Grizzlies (Previously: 42)

Z-Bo doesn’t offer too much help aside from rebounding and scoring, but at least you know he’s a lock for a nightly double-double. There’s no reason to think this will change.

45. RYAN ANDERSON, New Orleans Pelicans (Previously Unranked)

The Pelicans are pretty thin in the frontcourt, so as long as he’s healthy, Anderson will get plenty of time to play. Floor time means lots and lots of threes. Tons of them.

46. KEMBA WALKER, Charlotte Bobcats (Previously: 47)

Walker improved almost all of his stats from his rookie to sophomore year, but how much higher is his ceiling? He can certainly improve his field goal and three-point percentages.

47. JEFF TEAGUE, Atlanta Hawks (Previously: 49)

Teague has major breakout potential this year now that ball-dominant Josh Smith is out of town. You might be better off waiting for him if you’re having trouble deciding on a point guard earlier in your draft.

48. DERRICK FAVORS, Utah Jazz (Previously Unranked)

Finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Now that Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are out of the picture, it’s time for Favors and Enes Kanter to thrive.

49. ANDRE DRUMMOND, Detroit Pistons (Previously Unranked)

Drummond is a beast in the head-to-head world, as long as you know that you’re never going to win free throw percentage with him. He’s a perfect match if you’ve already drafted Dwight or Rondo.

50. GREG MONROE, Detroit Pistons (Previously: 36)

Monroe certainly comes with some question marks. How will he fit in with a crowded Detroit frontcourt? Will he last the whole season as a Piston? The assists and steals he gets you as a big man make him worth the risk.

BEST OF THE REST

ERIC BLEDSOE, Phoenix Suns

THADDEUS YOUNG, Philadelphia 76ers

PAUL MILLSAP, Atlanta Hawks

ROY HIBBERT, Indiana Pacers

TYSON CHANDLER, New York Knicks

NENE, Washington Wizards

STEVE NASH, Los Angeles Lakers

GORAN DRAGIC, Phoenix Suns

GREIVIS VASQUEZ, Sacramento Kings

NIKOLA PEKOVIC, Minnesota Timberwolves

JaVALE McGEE, Denver Nuggets

CHANDLER PARSONS, Houston Rockets

ERIC GORDON, New Orleans Pelicans

 

LEFT OUT BECAUSE OF INJURY

RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Oklahoma City Thunder

KOBE BRYANT, Los Angeles Lakers

RAJON RONDO, Boston Celtics

 

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