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2012-13 Draft Prep: Positional tiers

by | Fantasy Writer
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With Draft season here, most Fantasy owners are doing their last-second preparations to be as ready as possible when the big day rolls around. And in the spirit of assembling the most potent team in your league, we at CBSSports.com have once again put together our annual tiers -- designed to help owners make the best selections possible. In this piece we have broken down each position into different tiers owners can use as a reference to see who is still available and who will add the most value to their squad. You must do your homework, but breaking down players into tiers should give you a leg up on the competition when drafting.

Best of luck to all playing Fantasy hoops this season and we hope to see you in the playoffs.

Guards

Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook look to be the best guards available on Draft Day in most formats, albeit Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis are right on their heels. However, there are still around 20 guards capable of producing at an extremely high level, including Derrick Rose and Ricky Rubio, who are both recovering from knee injuries. There is also a ton of sleeper and breakout potential in the lower tiers of the position, so owners could catch lightning in a bottle in the later rounds. Still, we recommend trying to grab at least one of the elite to high-end options in the early part of your draft.

A category to themselves: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook

Elite: Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving

Next best thing: Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Monta Ellis

High-end starters: John Wall, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Goran Dragic, Jrue Holiday, Joe Johnson, Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Jeff Teague, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Tony Parker

Reliable starters: Darren Collison, Lou Williams, Tyreke Evans, Raymond Felton, Brandon Knight, Damian Lillard, Evan Turner, Paul George, Marcus Thornton, Manu Ginobili, DeMar DeRozan, Mo Williams, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Martin, Isaiah Thomas

Low-end starters: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Luke Ridnour, Andre Miller, Ramon Sessions, Kirk Hinrich, Bradley Beal, Gerald Henderson, Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford, Nick Young, Jerryd Bayless, Devin Harris, D.J. Augustin, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jarrett Jack, Jason Terry, Rodney Stuckey

Quality Reserves: Jose Juan Barea, Jason Richardson, J.R. Smith, Alonzo Gee, MarShon Brooks, Jordan Crawford, Jared Dudley, Landry Fields, Jason Kidd, Gerald Green, Eric Bledsoe, Courtney Lee, Mike Dunleavy, Austin Rivers, Ray Allen, Ben Gordon, Stephen Jackson, Chauncey Billups, Aaron Brooks

Reserves: Mario Chalmers, Alexey Shved, Jodie Meeks, Tony Allen, Iman Shumpert, J.J. Redick, Dion Waiters, Randy Foye

Low-end reserves: Marquis Teague, Shannon Brown, Vince Carter, Ronnie Brewer, Jeremy Lamb, Steve Blake, Leandro Barbosa, Charles Jenkins, Jimmer Fredette, C.J. Watson, Delonte West, Terrence Williams, Will Barton, Shaun Livingston, Nate Robinson, Toney Douglas, Shelvin Mack, Willie Green

Forwards

LeBron James once again retained in crown as the top Fantasy producer last season but Kevin Durant and Kevin Love were right on his heels. However, Love's hand injury will force him to miss some time, which is the only reason why he is not grouped with James and Durant. Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin appear to be closing the gap while LaMarcus Aldridge also took some major steps forward last season. Owners should plan on trying to snatch up a forward from the first three tiers of the position in the early going as there is a huge dropoff in production once you get past the reliable starters. Still, with plenty of sleepers and breakout options at the position it's still possible to scoop up some solid starting-level talent in the later rounds.

A category to themselves: LeBron James, Kevin Durant

Elite: Kevin Love, Josh Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin

Next best thing: Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Greg Monroe, Andre Iguodala

High-end starters: Rudy Gay, David Lee, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan

Reliable starters: Gerald Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Luis Scola, Danny Granger, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Michael Beasley, Kenneth Faried, Ryan Anderson, David West, Zach Randolph, Kris Humphries, Nicolas Batum, Ersan Ilyasova, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson

Low-end starters: Glen Davis, Thaddeus Young, Gordon Hayward, Elton Brand, Trevor Ariza, Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Bass, Kawhi Leonard, Drew Gooden, Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino, Boris Diaw. Omer Asik, Caron Butler, Al Harrington, Antawn Jamison

Quality Reserves: Chandler Parsons, Derrick Favors, Dorell Wright, Lamar Odom, Derrick Williams, Taj Gibson, Tayshaun Prince, Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Amir Johnson, Hedo Turkoglu, Harrison Barnes, Metta World Peace, Jason Thompson

Reserves: Shane Battier, Corey Brewer, Wesley Johnson, Royce White, Brandon Rush, Jonas Jerebko, Ed Davis, Markieff Morris, Chase Budinger, Carl Landry, Trevor Booker, Tyler Hansbrough, James Johnson, Omri Casspi, Ekpe Udoh, Corey Maggette, Jordan Hill

Low-end reserves: Grant Hill, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Nicholson, Jared Sullinger, Kevin Seraphin, Thomas Robinson, Chris Singleton, Marreese Speights, Al-Farouq Aminu, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Patterson, Jan Vesely, Jae Crowder, Tyrus Thomas, Andre Drummond

Centers

While Dwight Howard has stood alone as the top option in the middle over the last few years, his move to Los Angeles seems to have shifted the balance of power a bit. The fact that Love is eligible at center gives him a slight edge over Howard and fast-riser Andrew Bynum, who were the two top-scoring options at their position last year, in terms of Fantasy points. However, because Love is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with an injury, Howard and Bynum earned their own category. Despite his setback, Love should still be considered an elite option at center along with DeMarcus Cousins and Aldridge. While center is still by far the shallowest position in Fantasy -- in terms of depth -- the addition of a new wave of young promising players has added some girth to the position. Still, with only a handful of proven elite and high-end talent available, owners may want to put a big man on their radar in the early going or risk paying the price down the road.

A category to themselves: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum

Elite: DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love

Next best thing: Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol

High-end starters: David Lee, Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, Marcin Gortat, Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bogut, Brook Lopez

Low-end starters: Anthony Davis, Nene, J.J. Hickson, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Pekovic, JaVale McGee, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, DeAndre Jordan, Glen Davis, Samuel Dalembert, Anderson Varejao, Gustavo Ayon, Omer Asik

Reserves: Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, Derrick Favors, Nikola Vucevic, Jason Thompson, Tiago Splitter, Drew Gooden, Andre Drummond, Amir Johnson, Boris Diaw, Jonas Valanciunas, Spencer Hawes, DeJuan Blair, Ed Davis, Chuck Hayes, Marcus Camby, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Camby, Meyers Leonard

Low-end reserves: Donatas Motiejunas, Kevin Seraphin, Kendrick Perkins, Zaza Pachulia, Udonis Haslem, Enes Kanter, Matt Bonner, Ekpe Udoh, Timofey Mozgov, Greg Stiemsma, Jason Smith, Robin Lopez, Jordan Hill, Chris Wilcox, Dante Cunningham, Matt Bonner, Nick Collison, Ian Mahinmi

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


 
 
 
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