Power forward could be the deepest position in fantasy basketball if we didn’t play so many of them at center. I’ve taken a few liberties with PF-C to balance the positions. Al Horford, Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett would definitely make this list much stronger, but as you’ll see tomorrow, the C tiers would be laughably shallow without them.
Fantasy sports are popular because everyone has an opinion. My rankings are loosely based on stats — some owners choose to play more strictly “by the numbers” — but I’m always trying to identify bargains. Predicting breakout seasons is a hybrid of science and art. It’s also a lot of fun when it works.
Kevin Love MIN: You can certainly live with 45% shooting from a PF if he drains two 3-pointers per game while rebounding like a fiend. Take him as high as third or fourth overall and enjoy.
Dirk Nowitzki DAL: Worth more this season than he is in dynasty formats. 34 isn’t old, but the others in this tier have more cumulative future value. As with Love, you need to get BLK elsewhere if Dirk is your #1 man.
LaMarcus Aldridge: The perfect combination of age (27) and stats. Other bigs with more BLK and REB tend to have a weak category or two. Not LMA, whose last five years are an indication of what to expect.
There isn’t a huge gap between the first two tiers at the 4; I’d be quite content to use any of the following as my #1 guy.
- Pau Gasol LAL: Two years younger than Nowitzki, still has reasonable keeper value and should be great to own this year. Very close to Tier 1, except that he may not play quite as big a role now that the Lakers have three other superstars.
- *Anthony Davis NOH: The longer you get to keep him, the earlier you should select him. Don’t over-estimate his rookie stats. He’s only 19, and the Hornets aren’t a powerhouse. BLK, REB, FG% will be strong and other categories will get better with experience.
- Paul Millsap UTA: There are noises about him coming off the bench behind Derrick Favors but that’s hard to believe. Millsap might get traded; his work ethic plays anywhere.
- Serge Ibaka OKC: I’m not the only Ibaka owner who can’t understand why he doesn’t play more. Limited to 27:00 for the second straight year, Serge disappointed us just a little in PTS and REB despite dominating the BLK category.
This quintet is also very interesting. Unlike SF, where there’s a sense of urgency to get a decent one before they are gone, you can be a bit more patient and selective.
- Amar’e Stoudemire NYC: There’s a lot of good offseason buzz about STAT working out and improving his game. Doubts remain about him ever being totally compatible with Carmelo Anthony on the court.
- David Lee GSW: If his REB numbers go down playing beside Andrew Bogut, might not be quite as valuable. Still a scorer and remarkably consistent the last four years.
- Blake Griffin LAC: If only he was better at the line. A poor 64.2 FT% his rookie year regressed to a terrible 52.1% last season. Punting that category — with Blake, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo as your three best players — is a thought.
- Zach Randolph MEM: We didn’t see the “real” Z-Bo until the playoffs, when he started, played big minutes and missed averaging a double-double by one board. Fully recovered from his knee injury, 18 & 10 is possible.
- Ryan Anderson NOH: A unique combination of FT%, REB and 166 3PTM last year to lead the entire league by a wide margin. He was the perfect stretch 4 beside a dominant center in Orlando. Forgive me for listing him as a SF (where he doesn’t even qualify) on our Depth Chart; couldn’t fit both Anderson and Davis into the starting PF role.
There’s a bit less certainty at this level, though everything in sports is uncertain. It’s not an actual formula, but a “confidence factor” is built into to my rankings. Each projection comes with some degree of doubt and varying degrees of risk. You feel better about some than others.
- Derrick Favors UTA: In case the rumors about him starting are correct, I’ve bumped him up a notch. Double-doubled against the Spurs in the last two playoff games.
- Carlos Boozer CHI: Minutes, scoring and rebounding were down last year but Booz remains a strong option as long as he can repeat those numbers.
- Andrea Bargnani TOR: Before a recurring calf injury ruined his season, there were signs that the former #1 overall pick had improved. The biggest risk-reward guy remaining.
- Tim Duncan SAS: In redraft leagues only. At 36, his keeper value is diminishing. If you own him, remember to check the starting lineup, as random nights off are likely.
- Ersan Ilyasova MIL: Coming off his best year in scoring, FG% and rebounding, still needs to develop consistency and there is plenty oc competition for minutes
- Luis Scola PHO: Might fit in very well alongside Marcin Gortat; a safe pick though he doesn’t block shots.
- Thaddeus Young PHI: More of a 3 with 4 eligibility, and only 24, Young could see the most minutes of his career this season and improve his counting stats.
- Kenneth Faried DEN: Didn’t play much as a rookie until late February, then the Manimal amazed us with his energy and effort. Had three double-doubles in the playoff series vs. the Lakers and is ready to take another big step.
- Nene Hilario WAS: Missed 27 games last year with various injuries but stayed productive when he was able to suit up.
There are more caution flags in this segment, but still some fine candidates for your #2 PF spot.
- Kris Humphries BRO: Though Brook Lopez isn’t known for rebounding, he may cut into Hump’s stats a little. The Nets’ improved depth also figures to cost Kris minutes.
- David West IND: Dropped abruptly to 12.8 PPG a year ago, well below his career average. I don’t have a simple explanation and am concerned it’s a trend.
- Al Harrington ORL: After an inspired season in Denver, might not be as happy with the Magic. He’s a useful source of PTS and 3PTM as this position thins out.
- Brandon Bass BOS: That was an impressive first year in green. Nothing fancy, just useful stats across the board.
- *Thomas Robinson SAC: Was a monster at Kansas (17.7 PTS and 11.9 REB) but might not play right away. A target in keeper leagues if you’re not impatient.
- Jason Thompson SAC: Ranking him here with Robinson because it could be a timeshare. Finished last season strong and is the likely starter until the rookie is ready.
- Carl Landry GSW: One of my favorite players had some knee trouble last year but should be fine. Even in a bench role he can score, rebound and help your percentages.
Still a nice mix of promising young guns and veterans transitioning to lesser roles.
- Elton Brand DAL: Likely to be overdrafted because of still-respectable numbers. He started 60 games last year but is now backing up Nowitzki, who seldom sits.
- Derrick Williams MIN: Second overall pick learned a lot his rookie year and even started 15 games. May have to settle for a backup role, as the team is deeper.
- Tristan Thompson CLE: Too skinny to bump with NBA power forwards as a 20-year-old rookie, Thompson was rushed into service when Anderson Varejao got hurt and played center (!) averaging 10.4 PTS and 7.5 REB in 25 starts. Back at the 4, older and bigger.
- Antawn Jamison LAL: Took over 1,000 shots last year as Cleveland didn’t have a lot of options. His totals will be down but his efficiency could improve in his new role.
- Taj Gibson CHI: Limited to less than 22:00 per game, he doesn’t help fantasy teams. If he ever takes over from Carlos Boozer, could become an elite rebounder.
- Drew Gooden MIL: The Bucks’ frontcourt is getting crowded, with Samuel Dalembert expected to start at C and Ekpe Udoh needing to develop. Gooden is now the backup PF, so I don’t expect a repeat of last season.
- Gustavo Ayon ORL: 27-year-old free agent from Mexico was a big surprise last year for New Orleans and has a chance to earn significantly more minutes with his new team.
- *Donatas Motiejunas HOU: Thought he’d be a sleeper C, but Yahoo has him at SF-PF so it will take a while to gain C eligibility, even if my hunch of a timeshare with Omer Asik proves correct. An excellent shooter for a 7-footer.
- Tyler Hansbrough IND: On one hand, he’s backing up David West, whose production took a large step backwards last year. On the other, rookie Miles Plumlee might cut into Hansbrough’s minutes.
It’s a good time to take a chance on a rookie. Where a player was selected in the NBA draft is unimportant, what matters is opportunity. Of the four rookies in this tier, the one with the lowest upside has the best chance to play right away.
- Jonas Jerebko DET: Just a guess; the Pistons have options. Jerebko, a standout for Sweden in Eurobasket qualifying games, is more reliable than Charlie Villanueva.
- *Mike Scott ATL: Got better every year at Virginia (18 PTS and 8.3 REB as a senior) and at 24 is more mature than a lot of freshmen. Unheralded second-rounder might surprise in a backup role.
- Amir Johnson TOR: Here we go again with another tossup. There really aren’t enough minutes for one Toronto backup PF to be a fantasy asset, and they have two. Amir may be on the trade block.
- Ed Davis TOR: Younger and a little taller than Johnson, though not as intense. As usual in these situations that are hard to predict, I downgrade both players slightly.
- DeJuan Blair SAS: It’s ironic that the team I admire most in real life for a tremendous front office and coaching staff is so infuriating for fantasy owners. After starting 62 games in the regular season, Blair was a forgotten man in the playoffs.
- Bismack Biyombo CHA: A teenager forced to start 41 games due to injuries and a lack of better options, Biyombo learned the hard way. His FT% and A/T are hard to like.
- Brandon Wright DAL: He’s listed as the backup C on our depth chart but isn’t eligible there (yet) on Yahoo.
- Lamar Odom LAC: If you can forgive him for being overweight, apathetic and confused last season, be my guest. The distractions of being a reality TV celebrity may not disappear in L.A. but perhaps he’ll take basketball more seriously.
- *Perry Jones III OKC: Has a better chance at a championship ring than most rookies, just a tougher path to playing time. Could see backup minutes at the 3 and 4; bump him up in keeper leagues.
- *Jared Sullinger BOS: Only the tendency of the Celtics to rely on veterans and a short bench keeps me from being more enthusiastic. If Jeff Green is 100%, even backup minutes will be in short supply this year.
- *John Henson MIL: A double-double machine at North Carolina now waiting for a chance to play. The Bucks have a lot of veterans at the 4 and the 5, so Henson owners may be disappointed at his minutes.
At any position, the eighth tier is of interest only in 20-team leagues. Consider one of them as a late pick in deep formats.
- Markieff Morris PHO: Last year, I tagged Morris as a breakout sophomore based on some big games off the bench. However, the Suns added Michael Beasley and Luis Scola, so Markieff isn’t likely to become a starter just yet.
- Matt Bonner SAS: It was better when the Red Rocket had C eligibility. In deep leagues, you could get a hundred 3PTM a year from him as a late pick or FA. Now limited to PF by Yahoo and part of the “too deep” Spurs rotation.
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute MIL: His substantial defensive talents don’t translate to fantasy stats.
- Trevor Booker WAS: Last year’s numbers are inflated because the Wizards were so shorthanded. I’ll take the under on him starting another 32 games.
- *Miles Plumlee IND: Might have a clearer path to minutes on a weaker team. With the Pacers, looks like a third-stringer at PF-C for this year at least.
- Anthony Randolph DEN: One possible surprise in the very late stages of your draft, Randolph can keep up with the fast pace and if he stays in the rotation will get PTS, REB and BLK.
- Tyrus Thomas CHA: Has had countless chances without proving he belongs. Seems less than the sum of his parts.
- Hakim Warrick NOH: Big man rotation isn’t easy to predict in N’Awlins; I have him backing up Anthony Davis.
- Jason Maxiell DET: Earlier, I kind of “reached” for Jerebko as the potential starter and am imagining a battle for backup minutes.
- Charlie Villanueva DET: An underachiever. Often brilliant in brief flashes, his effort and concentration are intermittent. On my “avoid” list because he’s so frustrating to own.
- *Andrew Nicholson ORL: A four-year man from St. Bonaventure, where he did it all. Good opportunity with the Magic because their front court is full of question marks.
- Samardo Samuels CLE: Someone has to be the 60th name on the list. My apologies to Reggie Evans, whose game I admire on the floor, though not in fantasy.
We hope that publishing tiered lists before the exhibition games begin is helping readers with early drafts. The idea isn’t for you to use my rankings, it’s to help you prepare for your own league(s) by thinking about where we disagree.