Pip-pip! Huzzah! Ha-cha-cha! And bully! It’s time to wake grandma up, ask her where she keeps the key to the liquor cabinet, threaten her with permanent relocation to a faraway retirement community if she doesn’t tell you where the key is, get the key, use the key, grab that $9 bottle of champagne and pop that sucker. Now take an extra swig from the bottle, because you’ve waited extra long to get to this point in the season. We’re starting with the league’s 10 best picks in fantasy basketball, followed by the next 10, then the top 20 at each position shortly thereafter. Then the top 100. Then the top 200. Then some tiered rankings, maybe a few watercolors, a Haiku here ‘n’ there. Then the world.
All rankings are an amalgam of 9-category roto and h2h leagues (note the season projections at the end of each blurb. They’re compiled in increments of five-tenths. Why? Would I be here if I could predict in increments of one-tenth? C’mon. That’s just crazy talk).
Here ’tis, the top 10 for 2011 fantasy basketball:
1. Kevin Durant – Kid Delicious topped last year’s rankings too, but I was more sure of his No. 1 spot then than I am now. Mostly because we saw what LeBron was still capable of doing playing alongside other all-stars. Durant is also playing alongside an all-star and a bunch of guys I think will surprise fantasy folk (<– not LARPers) this year. Still, I think Durant’s supporting cast will make the Thunder better more than it will make Durant less productive. So why am I still second-guessing this top choice? I’m going with his ankles. Everytime he lands after a jump, I think, “This is it. Those little spire legs and ankles are never going to be able to support the rest of him. He’s done. Broken ankles.” His skinny legs and wide feet are what Chaplin imagined when he stuck those forks in the baked potatoes and made them dance. All that, and he’s still good enough to list as numero uno.
Season Projections: .470/.880/2 3pt/29 pts/6 rbd/3 ast/1 stl/1 blk/2.5 tov
2. LeBron James – There are guys in the league that seem absolutely indestructible. Tim Duncan in 2002. Garnett in ’04. Elton Brand in ’06. (Unless you were on the Jazz throughout the ’90s, most elite indestructible guys eventually destruct and miss half-a-season. It happens, but you can’t avoid these guys just because you fear this is the year they snap a femur). They’re the elite guys you target because, on top of their skill, they never seem to get injured. Even when they get hurt, they avoid injury. Being hurt and injured ain’t the same. I encourage you too look up the definition of each, but only after you’ve finished reading this post, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll get to flippin’ through the ol’ dictionary and WHAM-O, half-a-day has passed. Book learnin': what a delight! Anywoot, 2011 LeBron James strikes me as an indestructible player. Sure, he’s been hurt, but the only time he’s missed extensive games was when the Cavs rested him at the end of the 2009 season. Ain’t no rest for the wicked in short seasons. But there will be rest for the weakened. Here’s to hoping ‘Bron stays indestructible.
Season Projections: .515/.755/1 3ptm/25 pts/7 rbd/7 ast/1.5 stl/1 blk/3 tov
3. Chris Paul –Other fantasy blogs are going to lump in Paul with the first two blokes and tell you that you can’t go wrong choosing either one of them with the No. 1 pick. I won’t argue against that (mostly because arguing with a computer screen is the second-best way to get your neighbor to call the police on you. The first-best way, you ask? Retrieving your mail in an open bathrobe and nothing else), but I can’t honestly say I’d consider picking CP3 if either of the other two are still on the board. There’s just enough unsuredness to make me … well, unsure, I guess. He’s missed 17+ games twice in his last five seasons, the Hornets are in all kinds of flux and I’m not even sure if the Hornets matter because Paul might not be on N’Awlins’ roster much longer. Paul’s NBA value has yet to be fully realized. It’ll happen if he lands in New York or L.A. But if he lands in either of those places, I think his fantasy value takes a hit.
Season Projections: .480/.860/1 3ptm/18 pts/4 rbd/9.5 ast/2.5 stl/0 blk/2.5 tov
4. Derrick Rose – I almost sent Rose up to number three. I was close. Real close. I would have done it, too, if it hadn’t been for those nosy kids and their dog, Scooby. In just 0.6 mpg more than the previous season, Rose added 4.2 pts, 1.4 3ptm, 1.7 ast and shot almost 10 percentage points better from the line in addition to his already stellar stats. Never mind taking Chris Paul over Durant and LeBron, I’m not sure I’d even take him over Rose. I would, but just by THIS much. You can’t see me, but my thumb and forefinger are really, really close together, thereby signifying the slight advantage I feel Paul has over Rose. And what’s the advantage? Well, mostly that I’m not sure where Rose can go from here? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau runs too tight a ship in Chicago to let his star PG go any more than he has. In fact, I envision a more efficient season from Rose (fewer TOVs, better FG%, most ASTs) at the slight down-tick of his scoring. Not that it will matter much on draft day. A Rose by any other name might be Jalen.
Season Projections: .460/.850/1 3ptm/24 pts/4 rbd/8 ast/1 stl/0.5 blk/3 tov
5. Dirk Nowitzki – His rebounding has dipped more often in six years than Lenny Dykstra throughout his entire chaw-filled career. Also, my wife refers to him only as, “that blonde guy who looks like an ’80s player from the waist down.” Why, yes, it is he. The Finals MVP back again to do everything just about the same way he did it the year before. He won’t be as efficient (he shot a career-best .517 from the floor last year) and as long as Dallas keeps Tyson Chandler or replaces him with someone of that ilk (or “Ill ‘K,” if you’re a Beastie Boy), Dirk (or Durr ‘K, if you’re a Beastie Boy) won’t grab more than seven boards a game. He’ll be 34 at the end of this season and, forgive me, I imagine this is the last time we’ll see him in the top 5 on most fantasy boards.
Season Projections: .475/.885/1 3ptm/22.5 pts/7 rbd/2.5 ast/1 stl/1 blk/2 tov
6. Pau Gasol – I know, I know. Pau’s value shrinks if Andrew Bynum is healthy. First of all, Andrew Bynum is never healthy. Second of all, it’s not as drastic a plunge as, say, deep V-neck t-shirts from American Apparel. He averaged 19/10/4 starting at center with Odom in Bynum’s place and 19/10/3 with Bynum at center. Also, I’m pretty sure Pau owns a half-dozen deep V-necks. Also 2: The Bride of Also – I reserve the right to completely void this entry if Dwight Howard dons a Laker jersey at any point this season.
Season Projections: .529/.830/0 3ptm/19 pts/9.5 rbd/3.5 ast/0.5 stl/1 blk/2.5 tov
7. Dwyane Wade – I never have anything insightful to say about Wade (or anyone really, but especially Wade), and that in and of itself, is the biggest insight I can offer about the guy. He’s you’re slightly younger brother’s Kobe. He’s you’re slightly less front-running cousin’s LeBron. He’s Lisa Bonet’s Kadeem Hardison-less Dwayne Wayne. He’s whomever you want him to be. Unless this is 2007 and you want him to be healthy. Otherwise, even with James and Bosh shootin’ the curl in Miami, Wade is still the best fantasy option at SG, still a great source of blocks from a backcourtsman (<– fancy term!) and still has yet to play 80 games in a season. Wait, that last one wasn’t a positive thing. Doesn’t matter. Whatever. This is Miami. They’re used to things being done kinda half-assed.
Season Projections: .485/.765/0.5 3pt/26 pts/6 rbd/5 ast/1.5 stl/1 blk/3 tov
8. Stephen Curry – Did anyone have a 19/4/6 season with 2.0 threes and 1.5 steals per game while leading the league in FT% more quietly than this kid did last season? Part of it was his nagging foot problem that forced him to miss eight games. Part of it was that he played for Golden State. Had I divided this excuse pie into only two parts, I’d be done. But I divided it into three parts, so I still owe you one. I tend to think the high expectations leading into last season pickled his favorability with fantasy owners instead of, ahem, currying it. He was better, but not immensely better and it made his owners feel as if he was underachieving. Totally unchill, bro. In 2010, he was being drafted somewhere between No.5 and 14 after a spectacular 18/5/6 rookie campaign. Where was he going to go from there? 30/15/15 with the ability to balance the U.S. budget and explain to people why Whitney Cummings is popular? No way. He showed minor improvement as a sophomore and will add slightly to those improvements this season.
Season Projections: .470/.895/2 3ptm/21 pts/4 rbd/7 ast/1.5 stl/0 blk/3 tov
9. Deron Williams – I ranked Deron Williams here last season and he ended up missing 17 games, turning the ball over a career-high 3.5 times a game, doling out a four-year low in assists and shooting .439 from the floor (the lowest since his rookie season). He injured his wrist and even when he was healthy enough to play, it killed his shot. Wow. Doesn’t seem like a top 10 player to me. Ah-ha! Me thinks you doth protest too much, Italicized Voice. I’m not protesting. It takes at least a nine-man drum circle and a tent full of Hemingway books before it counts as a protest.All that bad news about D-Will and he still ended with a career-high 20.1 points and 10.3 assists per game. Alas, he’s one of the few players who started playing professional basketball on time this season, something that may prove itself useful in the first four weeks of the season. It’s also worth pointing out that while Williams was suffering from a .349 FG% in 12 games as a member of the Nets, he was also averaging almost 13 assists and 1.5 steals. Look for a very good season from New Jersey’s finest.
Season Projections: .475/.800/1 3ptm/19 pts/4 rbd/10.5 ast/1 stl/0 blk/3 tov
10. Kevin Love – There are a lot of players that could have been listed here: Kobe, ‘Melo, Amar’e. I went with Love. Always go with love. Hos before bros, I always say. Love offers far fewer weaknesses than anyone else ranked outside the top 10. He’s a big man who shoots threes and free throws well, passes the ball and does the rebounding work of two average fantasy forwards. The same way Wade’s blocks make him way more valuable than the average SG, Love’s accuracy from outside 10 feet make him a huge asset amongst big men. Now imagine if either Anthony Randolph or Ricky Rubio turn out to be valuable and either free up Love (Randolph) or set him up with ease (Rubio)? Love was double-teamed automatically by February and still averaged a double-double every night, he was that good. Love may be all you need, Lennon, but Minnesota could use a third weapon to throw out there besides Kev’ and Beasley. If Minny finds that weapon, it’s not inconceivable that Love could add another 5-6 points per game and an extra rebound or two. Goosebumps!
Season Projections: .475/.845/1 3pt/19 pts/14 rbd/3 ast/0.5 stl/0.5 blk/2 tov