Razzball Nation! You’ve been clamoring for some updated rankings, and here they come! I’m going to release them slowly, teasing them out, just like how we did the offseason rankings 5 months ago. These top guys haven’t changed too much, but the rankings will expand to the top 200, culminating in an easy-to-use and frequently updated cheat sheet you can use during all your drafts as they commence in the next few months. Fantasy NBA is coming and we’re ready to win you titles (or titties – depending on your league’s prize pool). Previous ranks from my Off-Season Rankings are in parentheses before this re-rank:
(1) 1. LeBron James - Not much has changed for me to stick with LeBron #1 in the LeBron vs. Durant debate. Listen, you could go either one, but I think everyone is still freaking out over LeBron getting benched and blindly assumes that the Heat will be just as good next year and the 2013-14 season will be the exact same. I just don’t buy that, and if LeBron wasn’t benched late, I think he’d be the overwhelming favorite at #1 vs. the slight underdog. Sticking with him.
(2) 2. Kevin Durant - I’m still gonna take Durant second to LeBron despite popular opinion, but it’s razor close. It really comes down to personal preference, I don’t think you can argue Durant is going to just completely overthrow the King as the miles-ahead #1 fantasy player.
(3) 3. James Harden - As I said in the first round of rankings in May, it’s easy to forget that Harden was traded a week before the season last year. Now the Rockets have an elite center with Dwight Howard to dish to, Jeremy Lin I don’t think will take a big step forward, so a lot of rock in Harden’s hands with Lin and Chandler Parsons to dish to on the perimeter. The next four guards are all personal preference as well, the difference is razor-thin and you can go with any of them, but I like the elite scoring, the assists to go up a tad, and another near 2 steals a game from Harden.
(6) ↑ 4. Chris Paul - The first mover in my rankings, with Paul now officially back with the Clippers (there was a shade of uncertainty when I previously ranked) I think Paul is going to be the best fantasy PG. There was also talk of bringing in some big free agents, but the only really big name the Clippers brought in was J.J. Redick who will help stretch the perimeter, but the rest of the line-up will be very similar. Since the Clips didn’t add new huge offensive weapons, Paul will be leaned on to score closer to the 2011-12 season (19.8 Pts) vs. the 12-13 season last year (16.9 Pts) in my opinion in Doc’s new system. Also, no Eric Bledsoe has me seeing his minutes getting back to the 35ish range rather than 33:21 a game we saw last year. These are minor upticks, but enough for me to move him above the other two big-name point guards and 4th overall.
(4) ↓ 5. Russell Westbrook - With Paul vaulting up a few spots, I’ve moved Westbrook down one who I love to keep his improving numbers on the upswing. As I stated in the previous rankings, marginal improvements in rebounding and 3-point shooting, but the AST:TO ratio going from 5.5:3.6 in 2011-2012 to 7.4:3.3 last year is the big step forward. Love the way he attacks the basket, does a little bit of it all, love him at #5.
(5) ↓ 6. Stephen Curry - I really like Steph as a player, but he’s the last of the #3-#6 guards for me with the ankle issues my main concern. Yeah he played 78 of 82 last year, but it was a huge wear-and-tear at 38+ minutes a game last year and 2013-14 will see no Jarrett Jack to help spell from handling the ball. Curry had a huge 2012-13 and I expect another big season, don’t get me wrong, but he’s just a micro-shade below the other guys for me.
(7) 7. Serge Ibaka - I might be a tad high on Ibaka, but I love his big step forward offensively scoring 4+ more Pts a game, almost 10% better from the line, 4% better from the floor, and is even expanding a little-bit of a deep game making 0.3 3′s a game last year. It might sound like a toss-away, but he’s going to lead the NBA in blocks and shoot that mid-to-high 50% from the floor (57.3% last year), and if he gets that up to 0.5-0.7 a game, it’ll be an elite set of contributions. The biggest knock on Ibaka is he only grabs about 7.5 boards a game, but REB is one of the easiest stats to boost at your back-end. I’ll grab a guy like Chris Kaman late to balance it out.
(13) ↑ 8. Kyrie Irving - If you somehow missed what the Cavs did in a very loud off-season, I’m buying Kyrie Irving to vault into the first round with the superfluous talent now surrounding him. I like the upside of Andrew Bynum and Anthony Bennett as guys to dish to down low (not really in love with them as individual fantasy-players, but think they will benefit Irving), but I really like the pick-up of Jarrett Jack who helped vault Stephen Curry to fantasy stardom. Look for Jack to play some of the 1/2 hybrid along with Irving – especially late in games – giving Irving the ability to score/drive/create off the ball. All the pieces are put in place for Irving to really break out. The biggest concern is his injury-history, but I like the upside so much I’ve put him in the first round.
(10) ↑ 9. John Wall - As I mentioned in the earlier rankings, Wall was downright elite down the stretch last year, and I think is ready to ride off that late-season success last year into a strong 2013-14. He was a 22.1 PPG scorer in March and 23.9 in April while also dishing 8 a game plus sneaking in close to an out-of-position block a game. I know the lack of 3-point shooting is a concern, but I can fill those out with some ThrAGNOF guys later in the draft and through streaming, plus I think he can improve perimeter game a little bit as well. Don’t forget he started last year hurt and had to ease his way in when looking at his overall 2012-13 numbers on draft day – go big on him.
(8) ↓ 10. Marc Gasol - I love Gasol’s game heading into 2013-14 as the final pick of the first round. He only moves down a shade with other guys moving up, but really like the spike we saw in his scoring after Rudy Gay was shipped off (13.9 in February and 17.2 in March) plus the all-around stats you know you’re going to get from the versatile center.
Dropped Out: Deron Williams