After months of not knowing if there would even be a season, we are finally approaching the start of the 2011-12 basketball year.
While most teams are trying to make the final tweaks to their rosters, Fantasy owners are gearing up for the start of the all-important draft season. However, with a six-month free agency period crammed into a two-week window due to the lockout, owners will be facing a slew of unprecedented circumstances while drafting this year, including a condensed schedule and a ton of players who are still unsigned. Luckily, we have been on top of all it from the start and are here to help by delivering our annual positional tiers column.
We once again have comprised our own tiers for owners at each position to use at their disposal on the big day. While we strongly urge owners to come up with their own tiers -- especially with tons of free agents on the market -- those without the time should be able to use ours as a guide to selecting the best team possible. Best of luck to all playing Fantasy hoops this season and we hope to see you in the playoffs.
LeBron James was again able to retain his Fantasy crown last year, so he will once again be our choice for No. 1 overall pick in all formats. However, Kevin Durant is right on his heels in a close second place. There seems to be a little more depth at the forward position than usual this year, so owners should be able to grab an elite or high-end option early on and then circle back for another reliable forward after filling other position needs. Of course, there is plenty of sleeper and breakout potential in the lower tiers of the position, meaning owners could catch lightning in a bottle if they play their cards right. Be selective when choosing lower-end options.
Super Elite: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
Elite: Amar'e Stoudemire, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge
Next best thing: Josh Smith, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay
High-end starters: Danny Granger, Paul Pierce, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Chris Bosh, Gerald Wallace, David Lee, Luis Scola, Paul Milsap, David West
Reliable starters: Stephen Jackson, Luol Deng, Dorrell Wright, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche, Carlos Boozer, Kris Humphries, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom, Elton Brand
Low-end starters: Michael Beasley, Greg Monroe, Carl Landry, Channing Frye, Serge Ibaka, Tayshaun Prince, Boris Diaw, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Danillo Gallinari, Shawn Marion
Quality Reserves: Derrick Williams, Nicolas Batum, Hedo Turkoglu, Corey Maggette, Thaddeus Young, Glen Davis, Grant Hill, Trevor Ariza, Tyler Hansbrough, Derrick Favors, J.J. Hickson, Ed Davis
Reserves: C.J. Miles, Carlos Delfino, Amir Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Al Harrington, Wesley Johnson, Chase Budinger, Tristian Thompson, Jason Thompson, Tyrus Thomas, Rashard Lewis, Marvin Williams, Jeff Green, Shane Battier, Metta World Peace, Brandon Bass, Charlie Villanueva
Low-end reserves: Anthony Parker, Travis Outlaw, Makieff Morris, Taj Gibson, Ryan Anderson, Darrell Arthur, Drew Gooden, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Al Thornton, Marcus Morris, Josh McRoberts, Austin Daye, Ersan Ilyasova, Dante Cunningham, Chris Andersen, Ryan Gomes, Brandon Rush
Derrick Rose and Chris Paul pace the guards as the super-elite options, but Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook are right behind them. After that, there are about 19 guards who can be counted on for high-end production on a nightly basis, but the well dries up pretty fast after that. While there is a ton of sleeper and breakout candidates in the lower tiers -- especially with the younger guys -- most are unproven or have yet to show they can stay healthy and be productive for long stretches of time. With a little more depth at forward this year, owners may want to think about scooping up a pair of top-tier guards in the early going.
Super Elite: Derrick Rose, Chris Paul
Elite: Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams
Next best thing: Monta Ellis, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry
High-end starters: Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Tyreke Evans, Joe Johnson, John Wall, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holliday, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Tony Parker, Raymound Felton, Manu Ginobili, Mike Conley, Stephen Jackson, Ty Lawson, Devin Harris
Reliable starters: Chauncey Billups, Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey, Ray Allen, Marcus Thornton, D.J. Augustin, Wesley Matthews, Nick Young, Jason Terry, Darren Collison, Baron Davis
Low-end starters: Gerald Henderson, Jose Calderon, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, DeMar DeRozan, John Salmons, Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams, Arron Afflalo, Jason Richardson, Toney Douglas, James Harden, Jamal Crawford, Jordan Crawford
Quality Reserves: Kyrie Irving, Beno Udrih, George Hill, Vince Carter, Jared Dudley, Luke Ridnour, O.J. Mayo, Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams, Wesley Johnson
Reserves: Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Ricky Rubio, Landry Fields, Tony Allen, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, Jerryd Bayless, Jose Juan Barea, Rudy Fernandez, Reggie Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Jarrett Jack, Gilbert Arenas, C.J Miles, Jimmer Fredette, Jordan Farmar, Mike Bibby, Daniel Gibson, Will Bynum, Eric Bledsoe
Low-end reserves: Anthony Parker, Ramon Sessions, Paul George, Derek Fisher, Gary Neal, Jonny Flynn, Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers, MarShon Brooks, Keyon Dooling, Alec Burks, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Marco Belinelli, Terrence Williams
Dwight Howard stands alone as the top option in the middle, but Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge round out the elite options. There is still plenty of quality high-end options beyond those five out there, although center remains the shallowest in terms of elite and high-end options of all three positions. With more high-end talent than usual at the forward position this season, owners may want to try and lock up a top center in the early going. While there is some sleeper and breakout potential in the lower tiers, owners who miss out on an elite or high-end option could have some trouble finding help in the middle throughout the year.
Super Elite: Dwight Howard
Elite: Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge
Next best thing: Al Jefferson, Al Hortford, Joakim Noah
High-end starters: DeMarcus Cousins, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Nene, Andrew Bogut, Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bynum, Andrea Bargnani, David Lee
Low-end starters: Javale McGee, Tyson Chandler, Marcin Gortat, Serge Ibaka, Chuck Hayes, Emeka Okafor, DeJuan Blair, Brendan Haywood, Channing Frye, Kendrick Perkins, Marcus Camby
Reserves: DeAndre Jordan, Ed Davis, Samuel Dalembert, Anderson Varejao, Chris Kaman, Darko Milicic, Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, Ekpe Udoh
Low-end reserves: Andris Biedrins, Enes Kanter, Udonis Haslem, Robin Lopez, Jason Thompson, Nenad Krstic, J.J. Hickson, Timofey Mozgov, Dante Cunningham, Nazr Mohammed, Ben Wallace, Jermaine O'Neal, Jordan Hill