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2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Updated positional tiers

Fantasy Writer
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Earlier in the offseason, I presented my positional tier rankings, broken down by the three standard positions: guard, forward and center. That is a useful starting point for getting yourself ready for the draft, but it also shouldn't be the end of your studies.

This is especially true for those of you in leagues that allow a bit more nuance in your roster construction. After all, many leagues allow you to differentiate between point guards from shooting guards or small forwards from power forwards -- you need to know how everyone stacks up there as well.

Use these tier rankings to get a better idea of how every player stacks up to his peers as you get ready to draft.

Point Guard

Much ink has been spilled over the last few years about the strength of the point guard position in the league, and that transfers over nicely for Fantasy purposes. Point guard is, without question, the deepest position available on Draft Day. The one issue is seven of the elite or sub-elite options carry somewhat significant injury risks -- only Brandon Jennings, Damian Lillard and Mike Conley come without baggage. Don't worry too much about that, because you still have fantastic options available all the way down the line, leaving plenty of depth for you to pick up a quality backup to handcuff your starter. This is the one position you can go any number of ways with on Draft Day -- load up on two top-10 players to make up for deficiency elsewhere or wait and pick up a John Wall type as a No. 1, a nice consolation prize. Either way, you can enter the draft room confident in picking up a strong option at this spot.

The Elite: Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul

Sub-Elite: Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Derrick Rose

Next-best thing: Tony Parker, Kemba Walker, Jeff Teague, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Ricky Rubio, Kyle Lowry

Fallback options: Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic, Greivis Vasquez, Jeremy Lin, Raymond Felton

Low-end starters: George Hill,Eric Bledsoe,

Late-rounders: Jose Calderon, Michael Carter-Williams, Jameer Nelson, Trey Burke, Brandon Knight, Ramon Sessions, Nate Robinson, Mario Chalmers, Jarrett Jack, Luke Ridnour, Andre Miller, Isaiah Thomas, Patrick Beverley, Mo Williams

Shooting Guard

Just as in the league itself, shooting guard is a position of weakness right now. Due to age and injury concerns, a lot of the formerly elite options have fallen off just a bit, and the next generation isn't quite ready to pick them up. One caveat: if you could guarantee 75-plus games of healthy Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, they'd slot right in behind James Harden, bumping Paul George down a bit. Unfortunately, injuries make investing a high pick in either one an extremely risky proposition. Once you get below the top-15 or so, you start to see a lot of specialists of one sort or another -- either shooters like Kevin Martin and Danny Green, or empty scorers like Jamal Crawford and DeMar DeRozan. Luck for you, the rest of your league-mates are picking from the same sad crop.

The Elite: James Harden, Paul George

Sub-Elite: Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis

Next-best thing: Andre Iguodala, O.J. Mayo, Evan Turner, Klay Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Bradley Beal

Fallback options: Kevin Martin, Arron Afflalo, DeMar DeRozan, Joe Johnson, Victor Oladipo, Jamal Crawford, Dion Waiters, Lou Williams, Eric Gordon

Low-end starters: Danny Green, J.J. Redick, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, Gerald Henderson

Late-rounders: Vince Carter, Jared Dudley, Thabo Sefolosha, Marcus Thornton, Iman Shumpert, Tony Allen, Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen

Small Forward

Yikes. At least LeBron and Durant are great and Carmelo is pretty close, because it gets really ugly after that. Batum, Parsons and Gay are all solid players, to be sure, but they are hardly the near-elite options their ranking suggests. My tactic when targeting a small forward is to grab one of the first six early, because there are a lot of question marks beyond that point. That Kawhi Leonard, Gordan Heyward, Maurice Harkless, Jimmy Butler group has a lot of upside, but they're all a gamble you might not want to stake your team to.

The Elite: LeBron James, Kevin Durant

Sub-Elite: Carmelo Anthony

Next-best thing: Nicolas Batum, Chandler Parsons, Rudy Gay

Fallback options: Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward, Maurice Harkless, Thaddeus Young, Luol Deng, Paul Pierce, Jimmy Butler

Low-end starters: Otto Porter, Danny Granger, Tobias Harris, Shawn Marion, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andrei Kirilenko, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Carlos Delfino, Harrison Barnes

Late-rounders: Gerald Wallace, Danilo Gallinari, Al-Farouq Aminu, Alonzo Gee, Matt Barnes, Brandon Rush, C.J. Miles, Dorell Wright, Michael Beasley, Chase Budinger, Metta World Peace

Power Forward

Power forward and small forward show how this type of exercise if all relative -- the elite power forwards can't touch LeBron and Durant and the mid-range small forwards barely register next to their power forward peers. This is a position with solid depth across the board, as it features some elite options as well as 20 or so players you'd have no qualms about starting every week. In a league where you are drafting by specific positions, this is one where you can take your time and still find a solid option while shoring up other positions of need. Take advantage of that when building your team, you can wait a few rounds and see only a minor drop-off in quality here.

The Elite: Blake Griffin, Josh Smith, Kevin Love

Sub-Elite: Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis

Next-best thing: Ryan Anderson, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, David Lee, Zach Randolph

Fallback options: Derrick Favors, Ersan Ilyasova, Jeff Green, Amir Johnson, David West, Kenneth Faried, Carlos Boozer, Tristan Thompson

Low-end starters: Amar'e Stoudemire, Wilson Chandler, Jason Thompson, Anthony Bennett

Late-rounders: John Henson, Brandon Bass, Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, Luis Scola, Taj Gibson, Josh McRoberts, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger, Elton Brand, BIsmack Biyombo, Patrick Patterson, Ed Davis

Center

The perception of the center hasn't quite caught up to reality for Fantasy owners. Rather than some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland where you have to fight for every precious resource, center is almost a position you can wait on at this point. It is deep with elite options thanks to some players who took the next step last season, as well depth. I could go as far down as 15 on the list before reaching a player I don't like, and even then only because of injuries. There is still more separation between the elite and non-elite here, but center is finally a position at which you can build a little depth.

The Elite: Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, Al Horford

The Sub-Elite: Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Nikola Vucevic, Larry Sanders

The Next-best thing: Nikola Pekovic, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah

The Fallback options: Marcin Gortat, Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum, Jonas Valanciunas, Tiago Splitter, Nene

The Low-End Starters: Enes Kanter, Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Hawes, Kelly Olynyk, Emeka Okafor, Robin Lopez, Glen Davis, Cody Zeller, Andrea Bargnani

The Late-Rounders: Tyler Zeller, Kevin Seraphin, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins, Andray Blatche, Chris Kaman, Andrew Bogut, Kosta Koufos, Jordan Hill, Timofey Mozgov, Samuel Dalembert, Meyers Leonard

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"I felt like the team that wanted it more was going to win the game," Williams said after the game, per the Associated Press. "It's just, the teams are so much evenly matched and I felt like for the most part we came out and we punched them in the mouth early and we took their punch back, and we regrouped and came out in the third quarter and kind of punched them again and they just didn't recover after that."

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Westbrook missed his team's previous game after undergoing facial surgery and came back even stronger Wednesday, going 16 for 33 from the field and 16 for 20 from the free-throw line en route to arguably the best performance of his career. He's also delivered five 40-point performances in his last 13 games.

Westbrook also chipped in three steals and one block in 42 minutes of action Wednesday. The Thunder move on to face the Bulls Thursday.


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