Not so many years ago, I was in a few redraft fantasy leagues that banned Michael Jordan for being too dominant. First pick in the draft was such an advantage, it could decide the entire season and ruin the competitive balance. Now there are two players that good.
Kevin Durant and LeBron James are so far above everyone else, it’s ridiculous. Both their games translate extremely well into the standard fantasy categories. The ever-useful BasketballMonster.com shows KD with the slightest edge over LBJ (who really closed the gap in the last two weeks) and both are a whopping 14% better than any other player, based on cumulative value for the season so far. It’s a very long way to the third-best SF, which apart from the two mega-stars is the weakest position in fantasy hoops.
On my imaginary all-star team, leadership doesn’t count. Defense isn’t a category, other than blocks and steals. These are not necessarily the best players; they have simply been the most rewarding to own.
Russell Westbrook gets the nod over Tony Parker, mostly on durability. Though Parker has been amazing, he plays slightly fewer minutes each game and his occasional rest games are a drag in Head-to-Head leagues, where every start is magnified. Chris Paul and Stephen Curry are tremendous when they are on the floor; CP3 has the best per-game stats at this loaded position. It’s difficult to leave Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving off the roster.
What a difference a trade makes. No longer the third option on the Thunder, James Harden is every bit as good to own as Kobe Bryant — he’s even better in keeper leagues. After them, there isn’t a ‘pure’ SG who stands out. Dwyane Wade remains very good to own, though he defers often to the King. Fortunately, there’s so much depth at PG that fantasy owners can start dual-eligibility players like Greivis Vasquez at SG.
Obviously, it’s a tossup between KD and LBJ, but who is next-best? It depends on position eligibility. In leagues where Josh Smith qualifies at SF, he’s my choice, bringing some valuable ‘big man’ stats to the position. Paul George has been fantastic and could be considered third best at either SG or SF, while Paul Pierce would be close behind at both those spots. Despite his huge scoring numbers, Carmelo Anthony doesn’t do quite enough in other categories to make this imaginary lineup.
Again, there many PF-C eligible players whose versatility is a fantasy asset. I’m trying to stick with guys here who actually start at the 4 spot. LaMarcus Aldridge gets my call over Blake Griffin, with David Lee right there in the photo-finish. Tim Duncan has been fabulous, when he isn’t hurt or being rested; the others have provided more total value.
Some players are better in fantasy than reality. I’m not suggesting that Al Jefferson is the best center in the NBA — far from it — only that he’s been the best one to own this year. Rapidly-improving Greg Monroe is close behind and has a better future than Big Al. Injuries have weakened this position, with Dwight Howard still contributing at less than 100% and Joakim Noah slowing down recently. Anderson Varejao was having a superb fantasy season before he got hurt.
In any competitive fantasy league, you want to own as many of these stars as possible, but it’s rare to have more than two or three on a single team. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the All-Bargain team. Those are the guys who really help you win.
The Fantasy Spin is here every morning by 10:00 EST. Be sure to read the Fantasy Planner by Mitch McClure this afternoon, previewing Week 17 with advice on players to Start and Sit. Follow us on Twitter — @SheridanFantasy — for updates.