- Guy Lake
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We think this is the year LeBron takes the mantle of top small forward from Shawn Marion (Marion is small forward-eligible, but listed under power forwards in these rankings). It will be close, but let's consider what LBJ did last season: 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 3'-pointers, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game to go with 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 69.3 percent from the line. And that was a down year. The scary part about James' game is it will only get better. He could easily become a very good free-throw shooter and if he decided that blocking shots was a priority, you think he couldn't pick that up as well? While it is more likely that he adds improved free-throw shooting to his repertoire -- we think the 75.5 percent he posted in the playoffs is a good benchmark -- James has the ability to do whatever he wants in this game.
Bottom Line: The King. LBJ. Bron Bron. Call him what you will, he is the best small forward on the planet and will help you in every category except turnovers. The best part is that he might be available as the third overall pick; if you grab him then, consider that stealing the crown jewel.
Last season, after Allen Iverson had played his final game as a Sixer, AI2 proved he was capable of filling a stat sheet every night of the week. In those 59 games, he threw down 19.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.6 three-pointers and a 44.5 shooting percentage from the field with a stellar 82.5 from the line. If your league mates are aware of these post-Iverson numbers -- hint: they are -- you will have to grab him the second or third round. He will remain the No. 1 option for Philly and should, if anything, see his scoring improve. He has always shared the ball and played great defense, so don't look for any lapses there. Teams will be keying on Iguodala and he will be taking a lot more shots and handling the ball more, so expect a downturn in field-goal percentage and more turnovers.
Bottom Line: Eligible at both guard and forward, this Swiss Army knife of a player will fill most statistical needs on your fantasy team. As the No. 1 option on the Sixers, he will have some big scoring nights to accompany his all-around production in assists, boards, and steals.
Paul Pierce is the total package. As one of the most consistent fantasy performers in the game, Pierce always puts up big-time stats and, until last season, rarely missed time due to injury. What more can you ask for from a top-tier small forward? Some are worried that the addition of KG and Ray Allen will diminish his value. Fear not. Pierce is a multi-category producer who will score, rebound, dish, steal, and drill 3-pointers even with the new additions. With the three studs on the floor together, double-teaming will become nearly impossible and Pierce will punish single coverage. He'll get to the line about eight times per game, where he'll help your free-throw percentage immensely, shooting around 80 percent. Look for his field-goal percentage to rise as defenses will have to play him straight up much more than last season.
Bottom Line: You will get first-round production with a second-round selection of Pierce.
He is highly motivated this year and is less of an injury risk than many players on this list. His assists and shooting will improve while his points may dip toward 22 per game.
Move over small forwards, there's a new kid in the top 5 and his name is Josh Smith. In each of his three seasons, Smith has started the season slowly, but blown up the final few months. Last season was different in that he reached greater heights and reached them more quickly, really getting it going in January. However, it was after Joe Johnson was sidelined that Smith went on the offensive and showed what a force he could be in fantasy. After the All-Star break, Smith averaged 18.9 points, 0.5 3-pointers, 9.4 boards, 3.7 assists, 3.1 blocks, and 1.0 steals. He is becoming frighteningly similar to Andrei Kirilenko (circa 2004) in his statistical aptitude. Smith is highly coveted, so if you want him, the latest you'll get him is early in the second round. Let's just hope he can excel in the first half of the season as well as he has in the second.
Bottom Line: Smith is gold for teams in need of blocked shots, especially providing them from the guard spot as well as forward. To get this versatile talent you will have to do it early; he was taken in the early second round of most expert drafts.
Wallace is a fantasy favorite for his ability to contribute across the statistical spectrum. However, owners may want to mail Wallace some first aid kits this year as he is always getting banged up. In a career-high 72 games last season, Wallace impressed, averaging 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game with 50.2 percent shooting from the field and a career-high 69.1 percent from the line. Some owners were disappointed that Wallace did not repeat the great feat of averaging two blocks and two steals as he did in 2005-06. That was an aberration; Emeka Okafor was hurt and the Bobcats had no interior defense. Look for similar defensive stats as last season, which were excellent in their own right.
Bottom Line: On talent alone, Wallace is one of the best players on this list. He is a tenacious defender and is a great finisher around the rim. The addition of Jason Richardson may take a few jump shots away from Wallace, but that should only boost his field-goal percentage.
For a 6-foot-10 player, Lewis has incredible touch on his shot from the outside and will again be one of the best 3-point shooters in the game. Joining the Orlando Magic, Lewis' role will, if anything, be amplified. He will be the top scorer on the team, forming an imposing inside-outside tandem with Dwight Howard. His scoring will be equal to or greater than last season when he averaged 22.4 points with 2.5 3-pointers on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 84.1 percent from the line. His rebounding (6.6) and shot-blocking (0.7) are weak for a player of his size and they aren't likely to improve with Howard patrolling the interior. Lewis' greatest value is that he is only one of seven players to average two or more 3-pointers while shooting above 46 percent from the field.
Bottom Line: Critics grouse about Lewis' huge free-agent contract with the Magic. Don't let that depress his value. He will be one of the league leaders in 3-pointers made and will help your field-goal percentage in the process. That is a rare commodity and one worth paying for.
Butler emerged as an absolute stud small forward last season, averaging 19.1 points, 7.4 boards, and 2.1 steals per game with 46.3 percent shooting from the field and 86.3 percent from the line. These are pretty good numbers for someone who is the third scoring option in Washington behind Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. His totals would have made him a top-20 player if he hadn't suffered a broken hand and missed 19 games. Look for Butler to put up similar averages this season. Defensively, Butler will use his great anticipation and quickness to pick off passes. He is versatile offensively, scoring inside and out, and remains a competent rebounder.
Bottom Line: Last season was looking like a career year, but his broken hand kept him from padding his totals and he may slip in some drafts as a result. Scoop him up and watch him top last season's numbers. He is peaking and you want a piece of that.
If you are looking for scoring from your small forward, Carmelo is your man. He is a pure scorer, able to stroke jumpers from the wing and blow past most defenders. His first step and body control around the basket make him almost impossible to stop from getting to the rim. Last season, he averaged 28.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 80.8 from the line. His high volume of shots and free throws made make him an extremely valuable contributor in those categories. His defense and 3-point shooting could stand improvement, but remember this kid is only 22. He will just keep getting better and better.
Bottom Line: We'd like Carmelo to improve his rebounding and cut down on the turnovers (3.6 per game) but can live with the great percentages and the fact that he will once again be among the league leaders in scoring.
Deng is another small forward who can do a little bit of everything. Last season down the stretch for the Bulls, he proved himself the team's best player. He averaged 18.8 points, 7.1 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks for the season. He is not a good 3-point shooter but can score in a variety of other ways. His long arms make his pull-up very difficult to defend and he shoots it with great efficiency. His length also helps him on defense, but to take it to the next level he will have to add some upper body strength. Still, he should get more than a steal and close to a block per game. A healthy Andres Nocioni will not hurt Deng much. He is an efficient scorer and will post similar or improved numbers, even with slightly fewer minutes per game.
Bottom Line: Don't sleep on Deng. He's got talent and should be in line for an improved fourth season. We are not worried about Nocioni stealing too many minutes. Deng remains a great choice at small forward for scoring, boards and percentages.
Howard's numbers have tracked upward during his first four professional seasons. He can grab tough rebounds in traffic and uses his long arms to pick off passes on the defensive end. He is one of those players that finds the seam in opposing defenses and exploits it. Howard has had a hard time staying healthy, appearing in 59 and 70 games respectively over the past two seasons. Concerns about how his thin frame handles the banging for rebounds knock him down this list a bit. Still, last season's numbers -- 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.3 3-pointers, and 1.2 steals on 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 82.7 from the line -- should appeal to owners looking for an all-around contributor after the bigger names are gone.
Bottom Line: He won't hurt you in any category and is a solid scorer with good percentages who will grab his share of rebounds and pick up enough steals to make his owners happy. If he can stay healthy this season, he will build on his breakout last season.
No pressure, kid. Just save the franchise and keep it from moving out of Seattle. While there are few things the rookie can't do with a basketball, this is probably beyond his ability. So enjoy him while you can, Seattle fans. Durant's post moves, his 3-point range, and the ability to drive past defenders will all be on frequent display this season. There is talk in Seattle that Durant may start at shooting guard. His height will help him post up smaller shooting guards and on defense. He is not yet strong enough to battle NBA small forwards in the post. Durant should average about 20 points, 7-8 rebounds, and close to two 3-pointers a game. His field-goal percentage will be poor as he will be asked to take so many shots and defenses will key on him.
Bottom Like: Obviously, keeper league owners should jump early for Durant. He is the most talented player to enter the NBA since LeBron. Look for high-scoring nights followed by struggles from the field. The Sonics don't have much offense other than him, so he will take a lot of shots.
Ah, Ron Ron. Here's hoping we are reading about your nails-tough defense and clutch shooting rather than about your dogs or domestic violence. When he's going right, Artest is a fantasy beast. Artest was pretty good last season and this may be overlooked because of his rep.
Artest posted 18.8 points, 1.3 3-pointers, 6.5 boards, 3.4 assists, and 2.1 steals with good percentages. Artest cut down his 3-point attempts and his field-goal percentage jumped. Hopefully, Reggie Theus will continue to improve Ron's shot selection. Artest will miss the first seven games of the season, serving a suspension for domestic abuse. This hurts his roto value but not in head-to-head leagues.
Bottom Line: A high risk/high reward pick, Artest could pay huge dividends if he can keep himself out of trouble this season. All of his numbers should go up as long as he plays to his strengths -- incredible defense and a nice mid-range jumper -- and is more judicious with his shot selection.
Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzles
Age: 27 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 218 School: Florida Years in League: 6 Role: Starting SF/SG
Isn't it funny what happens when you get more minutes? For the past couple of seasons, Miller was one of those players who seemed like he should get better numbers than he did. After all, he is a gifted shooter, a good ball-handler, and his length and athleticism all point to a guy who should to average 20 points per game, yet before last season he averaged about 13 points per game. Add nine minutes played per game and how things change. Miller had career-bests in scoring (18.5), 3-pointers (2.9) and assists (4.3). He shot 46.6 percent from the field, despite all the 3-point attempts and hit 80 percent from the line. With better point guard play this season, the assists will drop but the scoring and 3's should improve. Keep an eye on his knee tendinitis. Those extra minutes come at a cost.
Bottom Line: Miller is one of the premier gunners in the league, and is one of the few who will be among the league leaders in made 3-pointers -- he was third with 202 last season -- yet still boast a good shooting percentage. Consider him a less expensive version of Rashard Lewis.
As a fantasy prospect, Granger has it all. He can score, steal, block, and hit 3's and free throws. The big question coming into this season is his role. He should be the No. 2 option on the Pacers after Jermaine O'Neal but, at this point, it looks very possible that O'Neal will be traded during the season. If that happens, no one is better positioned to increase their fantasy value than Granger. He improved his numbers in his second season, though he needs to rebound better. Given his size and strength, he should average much more than the 4.7 boards he grabbed last season. His improved 3-point shooting was a boon and we should see more of that this season. Granger is close to becoming very good.
Bottom Line: With his potential, Granger should be taken in the middle rounds. He needs to improve the rebounding and get his steals and blocks above one per game to move into the upper tiers, but he is very close.
Many Clippers stand to benefit because of Elton Brand's ruptured Achilles, but Maggette could benefit the most. He is the most proven scorer left on the team and will get plenty of opportunities, provided he can stay on the court. If you draft Maggette, don't bank on getting a full season out of him. He has never played in all 82 games and has averaged 64.8 games per season in his career. He will score around 20 points per game with this team. Maggette is a gifted athlete who drives the lane with authority and draws plenty of fouls. He has a career free-throw percentage of 82.0. Because of the number of attempts and makes, Maggette is a good player to pair with low-percentage free-throw shooters like Tim Duncan or Dwight Howard.
Bottom Line: Enjoy the points and the high volume of made free throws, but don't be surprised when he comes up injured.
Jefferson comes into this season best known for having donated 3.5 million dollars to his alma mater and for disappointing his owners last season. Regarding the latter, remember that he was bothered by a sore right ankle for the first few months of the season until undergoing surgery in January. Forget his regular-season numbers. A better indication of RJ's value was seen in the playoffs. His 19.7 points, 1.1 3-pointers, 5.6 boards with 48.2 percent from the field and 92.4 from the line show us what to expect this season. While Jefferson won't shoot that well from the line this year (expect 80 percent), we are confident RJ will be providing a gift to his fantasy owners this season as he will be a great value in the middle rounds.
Bottom Line: Jefferson is a model of efficiency who provides 50 percent shooting from the field and 80 percent from the line. He has the potential to score more than he does, but so long as Vince Carter is healthy, Jefferson will remain a 20 ppg guy.
Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz
Age: 25 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 225 School: None Years in League: 5 Role: Starting SF
Kirilenko is a huge draft-day dilemma. News reports had him wanting out of Utah. In fact, they had him wanting out of the NBA. Reportedly, AK-47 was willing to walk away from his contract just to escape the island of Dr. Moreau -- er, Jerry Sloan. It is unlikely that the Jazz will let him go, but either way the situation is clearly poisonous. Kirilenko is amazing when used correctly. He can score, dish, block shots and steal. Unfortunately, he did not fit well with the Jazz last season. He was forced to play outside more than he liked and his offense crumbled. He remained a force on defense but Kirilenko's beef, shared by his fantasy owners, was his role as the No. 4 option on offense.
Bottom Line: Until Kirilenko's situation is resolved, we advise you to stay away from the talented Russian. Even if he returns to the Jazz, we have a hard time seeing him realize his true value. If he is traded to another NBA team, his value would jump considerably.
Jackson has always been a quality option for points, steals and 3-pointers, but last season after his trade to Golden State, he added a new category: assists. Jackson bested his previous career high by 1.5 assists with the Warriors, averaging 4.6 per game. He worked the pick-and-roll with Andris Biedrins beautifully and should do so again this season. Jackson will fall into the bad habit of forcing the action and overshooting at times, but when he plays within Nellie's system he is an excellent contributor in scoring, 3's, steals, assists and free-throw percentage. He even posted the best field-goal percentage of his career (44.6) under Nelson.
Bottom Line: Jackson will miss the first seven games of the season due to suspension. Once he is back on the court, look for more all-around contributions from one of the Warriors' floor leaders. With J-Rich out of town, we expect Jackson's scoring opportunities and fantasy value to increase.
Bungee jumping. Asking out the hottest girl you know. Drafting Peja Stojakovic. All are scary and all provide serious thrills if things go right. Peja, of course, comes with huge upside. He is a deadly shooter from international waters and is playing with a superior playmaker in Chris Paul. His rehab has reportedly gone well and the team expects him to participate in training camp. We wish there was more definitive news, but at this point, that's all there is. Back injuries are scary. They linger, can lead to a cascade of other injuries as athletes compensate, and rob a player of mobility. Look, Peja may come back fine but like having your bungee secured by an alpine stoner, things may not go so right for you if you take Peja. Sometimes, the second best-looking girl is way cooler anyhow.
Bottom Line: Peja is a high-risk/high-reward pick. Watch his training camp closely. If his back turns into something chronic, you could see him in and out of the lineup all season. In other words, don't reach.
Last season, according to the "Larousse French-English Dictionary," the French word "Diaw" translated to "bust" in fantasy circles. Diaw did not adapt well to Amare Stoudemire's return. Whatever visions we had of Diaw lobbing alley-oops to his teammates and using his size and court sense to score in a variety of ways was lost somewhere along the Champs-Elysees thanks to a few extra croissants and café au laits. To be blunt, Diaw arrived out of shape and never regained form last season. While we expected the scoring to decline, the loss in rebounding and blocked shots was especially hard to swallow. Diaw looks much better now. He played very well in Eurobasket this summer and has lost 10 pounds from last season. A more determined and more fit Diaw is a boon to any fantasy owner.
Bottom Line: Diaw will slide in drafts because owners will remember being burned by him last season. However, the weight loss, the leadership he showed playing for France this summer and the departure of Kurt Thomas all point to a bounce-back season. Draft accordingly.
Prince is as solid as they come as both in real life and fantasy basketball. Prince's fantasy value lies in his ability to contribute in multiple categories while limiting his turnovers to 1.2 a game. He won't wow you anywhere, but will average around 14 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks with 46 percent shooting from the field and 77 percent from the line. Tayshaun will have nice-scoring games followed by single-digit efforts. This inconsistency follows him across categories from game to game, but when taken together you have a solid player worth a look in the middle rounds.
Bottom Line: Other than some streaks of inconsistency, there isn't much to complain about with Prince. An accurate shooter from both the floor and free-throw line, he won't hurt you in any category.
Walton won't wow you, but he is versatile and he will get a lot of minutes at small forward on the Lakers. And you'd think that if you were on the Lakers, just by passing to Kobe you would get four assists a game, right? And so it is with Luke. His knowledge of the triangle and the addition of a 3-point shot have made Luke fantasy-worthy. Last season, he averaged 11.4 points, 0.8 3-pointers, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and those 4.3 assists per contest. These are nice fill-in numbers from a No. 3 or 4 forward. And best of all, for head-to-head players, his play was consistent week-to-week. Take Walton in the late middle rounds. His role is secure and so is his low-budget production.
Bottom Line: He's better than you think. Enjoy his steady numbers and don't be surprised to see an improved 3-point shot from Luke. He found it last season and will build on it this season.
Andres Nocioni, Chicago Bulls
Age: 27 Ht: 6'7" Wt: 225 School: None Years in League: 3 Role: Starting SF/PF
Nocioni is another player who could get pinched for minutes. The Bulls re-signed him this summer to a five-year deal, indicating they intend to use him. But with Luol Deng becoming a star and power forward occupied by Tyrus Thomas, Joe Smith, and Joakim Noah, where does this leave the scrappy Argentine? We know what he can do with playing time. As a starter last season, he averaged 16.9 points, 1.9 3-pointers, 6.4 rebounds on 48.6 percent from the field and 85.6 percent from the line. These are some sweet digits. If we know this, so does Scott Skiles. But that won't necessarily make him a starter and that is what he will need to maximize his fantasy value.
Bottom Line: The key to Nocioni's strong play last season was playing time. If he plays 30-plus minutes he will be quite valuable. Unfortunately, one can't expect anything so logical to a fantasy player from coach Skiles. After all, he is trying to win real games, not your league championship.
Josh Childress, Atlanta Hawks
Age: 24 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 210 School: Stanford Years in League: 3 Role: Backup SF/SG
Childress is a very nice pick late in the draft for those of you in deeper leagues. He is eligible at both guard and forward and can contribute in several categories. Last season, he posted solid numbers: 13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.5 3-pointers, and 0.7 blocks with excellent percentages. Childress will again use his extremely long arms to pick off passes and grab his share of rebounds. He will be the sixth man for the Hawks, command 30-plus minutes and is a nice guy to have as your fantasy sixth man, backing up your forward and guard positions.
Bottom Line: Childress does not appear as if he will "break out" this season or any other. He played 35 minutes per game last season and put up very respectable numbers. Expect similar production this season and enjoy his services as a versatile fill-in for your squad.
Al Thornton, Los Angeles Clippers
Age: 24 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 220 School: Florida St. Years in League: R Role: Backup SF/PF
With Elton Brand out, Thornton will have a big role on this team. Blessed with hops, a great first step, and good range on his jumper, he will put up points. With minutes, he will contribute primarily in points and free-throw shooting. He has a nasty shot fake and with his explosive hops, he will be headed to the line often. He is not a great defender, despite his quickness; ironically, given his own talents he had a bad habit at Florida State of biting on head fakes. In the NBA, that will send him to the bench quickly. He is likely to grab more steals than blocks. There will be a lot to like about Thornton, but he is a rookie and there will be groans at his rookie mistakes as well.
Bottom Line: Thornton will see time at power and small forward. While not a great rebounder or defender yet, his athleticism and smooth shooting will give him value. He may remind some of teammate Corey Maggette for his ability to get to the line and hit his free throws.
Ruben Patterson, Los Angeles Clippers
Age: 32 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 223 School: Cincinnati Years in League: 9 Role: Backup SF/PF
Patterson is a journeyman bench player who is capable of double-digit scoring even in limited minutes. He does most of his damage close to the rim, where his imposing strength makes him hard to stop. Last season, in the Milwaukee stop of the Ruben Patterson career tour, he set career highs in scoring (14.7), rebounds (5.4), assists (2.9) and field-goal percentage (54.8) and came close in steals (1.4). This season he will ply his trade at the Staples Center helping the Clippers. His intensity and defense should earn him a minimum of 25 minutes per game. Expect scoring in the low double-digits, one-plus steals, and a high shooting percentage.
Bottom Line: Patterson is valuable for points, steals and field-goal shooting, but always has a hard time hitting shots from the free-throw line. There is a very good chance he plays as an undersized power forward this season, but he will see minutes in the Clippers frontcourt.
Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic
Age: 28 Ht: 6'10" Wt: 220 School: None Years in League: 7 Role: Starting/Backup SF/SG
We love Turkoglu's scoring and 3-point shooting, but have questions about his role this season. With Rashard Lewis now on the Magic, where will Hedo play? In June, Stan Van Gundy said there would be times he used Turkoglu at power forward, but all season? We think not. If he comes off the bench, he will be competing with a superior defender in Trevor Ariza and we know how much Stan likes his defense. The Magic could slide Turkoglu to the 2-guard, where he has played in the past. He lacks the lateral quickness to stay with shooting guards, but has a clear size advantage on offense. He's good player with many possibilities. In other words, pay very close attention in training camp and don't be shocked by an early-season trade.
Bottom Line: Turkoglu is a great 3-point shooter (1.5 per game) and is very creative on the floor. However, his skills are largely redundant with Lewis on board. It will take some creative coaching to get the most out of Turkoglu this season. The preseason should tell us a lot.
Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks
Age: 21 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 230 School: North Carolina Years in League: 2 Role: Starting PF/SF
Williams just needs minutes. He is too talented to be the odd man out, but there are a lot of forwards in the Atlanta frontcourt. With Al Horford, the best pure power forward on the team, due his minutes and Josh Smith emerging as a star, plus Shelden Williams and Josh Childress, it is hard to see how Marvin can maximize his value. Make no mistake, though: Williams is a very talented young player. He is faster than most power forwards and too strong for small forwards. He has the ability to contribute in multiple categories and is especially useful at the line, where he can make opponents pay for fouling him. The problem is he is not quite a power forward, and yet he'll have to start there. Somehow, some way, he just needs minutes.
Bottom Line: If only he were guaranteed 35-plus minutes a game. That would give him the chance to blossom as a scorer. But without a trade involving someone in the frontcourt, Williams and Horford will cannibalize each other's fantasy value, frustrating their owners.
Walter Herrmann, Charlotte Bobcats
Age: 28 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 225 School: None Years in League: 1 Role: Backup SF/PF
Who said Fabio can't dunk? Herrmann was unknown for most of the season but made a big splash at the very end of the season. He scored 20 or more eight times in the final 18 games and 30 points once. In 12 games as a starter, all at the end of the season, Herrmann averaged 19.6 points, 2.3 3-pointers, 5.7 boards, 0.8 steals and just 1.1 turnovers. For the season, he shot 46.1 percent from deep, so his range is for real. Yes, it was garbage time when he went off, but he was still putting up these numbers against NBA ballers. Let your league mates dismiss his efforts as you come in late to nab this potential sleeper.
Bottom Line: Love the hair. Love the stats. It isn't clear whether he will start or come off the bench, but the minutes will be there. Look for scoring in the mid-to-low teens and a little less than two 3's per game.
Outlaw's athleticism is typically described as "freakish" or "jaw dropping." Certainly, those of you who remember his March 2005 dunk over Yao Ming have been waiting for this kid to blossom into a legitimate fantasy force for a while now. This season, with starter's minutes at small forward, Outlaw could realize some of that potential. In April, Outlaw averaged 31 minutes per game and produced 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks in nine games. The Blazers are in need of offense and Outlaw has the tools to supply it. With 30 minutes per game, he should easily get one-plus blocks and steals per game as well. This is good value for a guy flying under the radar.
Bottom Line: One more time: Can you say sleeper? Many of us have been calling out Travis for years, but we feel pretty secure -- now that Ime Udoka is out of town -- the starting small forward job will fall to Outlaw. With starter's minutes, Outlaw will help in scoring, steals and blocks without too many turnovers.
The low scoring turns many would-be fantasy owners away from Battier, but to see his true value you have to look past the most publicized stat in the game. True, Battier averaged just 10.1 points last season, but he helped on defense with 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks and set a career high with 1.9 3-pointers per game. Battier is solid from the field and the charity stripe, and in turnovers leagues he is quite valuable as he lost the ball just 0.9 times per game, which is excellent for his 36 minutes played. His game is dull, but in roto leagues his contributions will add up over the course of the season.
Bottom Line: Draft for scoring elsewhere, but don't overlook Battier as a player who can be a statistical "glue" guy for your team, helping you in a variety of harder-to-fill categories.
Last season was a mixed bag for Richardson. On one hand, Q resurrected himself, playing 33 minutes a game and averaging 13.0 points, 2.0 3-pointers, and 7.2 rebounds, mostly at small forward. On the other hand, for the second season in a row, he missed time because of his ailing back, playing just 49 games. Richardson underwent successful surgery in March to repair a herniated disk and will be ready for training camp. If his back woes are truly behind him, Q is a good bet for two-plus 3-pointers a game to go with low-teens scoring and better-than-you'd-expect rebounding from a 6-foot-6 small forward.
Bottom Line: Steals and 3's are what you can expect when Q is on. He should see minutes in the low-30s. We don't see Isiah extending him more than this. He has a capable backup In Renaldo Balkman, and Richardson hasn't shown great durability as a pro.
Trevor Ariza, Orlando Magic
Age: 22 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 210 School: UCLA Years in League: 4 Role: Backup SF
Ariza is an energizer off the bench who possesses great athleticism and great defensive intelligence. While he is not a great shooter from outside (0-for-7 in '06-07), he plays within himself and scores most of his points close to the bucket. Not surprisingly, this yields a good field-goal percentage (53.9). His greatest fantasy asset is his ability to generate steals. Ariza stole three or more balls seven times in just 57 games last season. With more minutes -- Ariza played 22 minutes per game in '06-07 -- he would easily average more than a steal per game. This season, he will again be the stopper off the bench. Teams in deep leagues looking for steals should grab Ariza. He has the upside to score in double figures and grab five-plus boards with more minutes.
Bottom Line: Ariza is end-of-the-draft material when you are looking for category specialists. He will get you steals, but also won't hurt you with his solid percentage from the field.
Kapono cashed in on a strong season with Miami in '06-07 when he put up career highs in scoring (10.9), 3-pointers (1.6), field-goal percentage (49.4), and free-throw shooting (89.2). Now, he is the starting small forward for the Raptors. However, he will be sharing the position with a number of players. Kapono will play a very specific role for the Raptors. He will stretch the defense for T.J. Ford and Chris Bosh much as he did for Wade and Shaq in Miami. Look for Ford to drive and kick the ball out to Kapono when defenses collapse into the lane. Kapono will probably see a slight drop in numbers this season given Toronto's depth, but will remain valuable for the 3-pointers and excellent percentages.
Bottom Line: Kapono is a decent end-of-the-draft guy when you are looking for 3-pointers but don't want to sacrifice your field-goal percentage in the process.
Jeff Green, Seattle SuperSonics
Age: 21 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 235 School: Georgetown Years in League: R Role: Starting/Backup SF
Green should get minutes this season and could have some fantasy value. We say could because one of Green's greatest assets as a basketball player could set back his fantasy value. We are speaking of his selflessness on the court. He will defer to Kevin Durant and other more experienced scorers before taking the shot himself. P.J. Carlesimo will have to mimic Green's college coach, John Thompson III, and urge him to shoot more. He will contribute modestly in steals, rebounds and field-goal percentage. However, turnover league players should note his assist-to-turnover ratio was not good in college (1.23 last season) and doesn't promise to get any better as a rookie.
Bottom Line: Green will get minutes and just because of that (and his ability), he will put up some modest numbers. Look for 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and a little more than a steal per game, plus solid shooting from the floor and line.
Mike Dunleavy, Indiana Pacers
Age: 27 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 230 School: Duke Years in League: 5 Role: Starting SF/SG
There may be no more frustrating player to own in fantasy basketball than Dunleavy. He has all the physical tools to succeed: good size, great court vision, excellent ballhandling, nice-looking follow-through on his jumper. Yet it never quite comes together for Dunleavy. He will have the benefit of a training camp with the Pacers this season, and, really, he looked better as a Pacer last season than he did a Warrior, improving his scoring and rebounding slightly. Now, it remains to be seen if Jim O'Brien has the magic bean that will transform Dunleavy into a consistent contributor. Expect about 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, one 3-pointer and a little less than a steal per game. Also, don't be shocked if Kareem Rush pushes him for PT.
Bottom Line: Dunleavy needs to stop thinking about his game and just start playing it. If coach O'Brien can define his role better and Dunleavy and finds his comfort zone, he has legitimate value. Unfortunately, it is more likely that Dunleavy will remain his mediocre frustrating self.
Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns
Age: 35 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 225 School: Duke Years in League: 12 Role: Backup SF/SG
This should be a good fit. Hill's efficiency and selfless play seems like a perfect match for the high-octane Phoenix Suns. It will certainly be a change offensively. Last season, the Magic averaged the second-fewest assists in the NBA (18.6) while the Suns (25.9) led the league. This should suit Hill well as he was an excellent source of assists (among other stats) earlier in his career. With Steve Nash and Co. distributing the ball, Grant should maintain his career-high field-goal percentage from last season (51.8). We like him to score in the low-to-mid teens and boost his assists close to four per game. Injuries are always a concern but, as a late pick, Hill is worth the risk.
Bottom Line: Take Hill late in your drafts as you fill out your bench. He will help you in percentages, scoring and assists. His turnovers are a little high but in non-turnover leagues this is not a concern.
Renaldo Balkman, New York Knicks
Age: 23 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 210 School: South Carolina Years in League: 1 Role: Backup SF/PF
Defense may not get the glory, but it is necessary to win fantasy championships. Balkman has huge upside in steals and blocks this season. The Knicks were not the strongest defensive team last season, allowing 100.3 points per game (20th in the NBA) and the addition of Zach Randolph isn't exactly a finger in the dam. Coach Isiah Thomas will need defense in the frontcourt and we think Balkman is going to get the call. He is freakish in the defensive categories and with minutes he could do serious damage. His per-48-minute numbers scream for more playing time: 2.6 steals and 2.0 blocks. We think he'll get it and you should get him if you find yourself in need of defensive numbers at the end of your draft.
Bottom Line: He has the potential to be a Gerald Wallace lite. That is, he will get you steals and blocks but without the offense Wallace provides. Don't doubt him. This was the guy who held Kevin Durant to five points in the Vegas Summer League.
Mickael Pietrus, Golden State Warriors
Age: 24 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 215 School: None Years in League: 3 Role: Backup SG/SF
Pietrus had his best season in '06-07 under Don Nelson, averaging 11.1 points, 1.3 3-pointers, 4.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks. He is a dynamic player to watch. Unfortunately, his minutes yo-yo according to Nelson's whims and his fantasy value suffers as a result. His defense will always get him minutes and we expect similar production this season as we saw last season. He is playing for a contract, so he could exceed expectations.
Bottom Line: Pietrus' upside makes him a good late-round gamble in case minutes open up for him at either small forward or shooting guard.
Matt Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Age: 27 Ht: 6'7" Wt: 235 School: UCLA Years in League: 4 Role: Backup SF/PF
Barnes made the most of his training camp invitation last fall. He made the team and was the beneficiary of injuries and his own relentless (and some say reckless) style of play. Barnes will do a bit of everything coming off the bench this season. He can hit 3's (1.4 per game), rebound some (11 double-digit rebounding games), score (14.3 points as a starter in 23 games), and play defense (2.2 blocks plus steals as a starter). The downside is the minutes. Barnes is a creature of opportunity and it is up to Don Nelson to provide those opportunities. Injuries and matchups will dictate playing time, so expect to see a roller coaster of minutes for Barnes.
Bottom Line: Barnes will again be very valuable in stretches. These weeks will then be followed by fallow stretches that will test an owner's patience. In shallow leagues, feel free to stream Barnes. Deeper leagues should rotate him to and from the bench as his play dictates.
Matt Harpring, Utah Jazz
Age: 31 Ht: 6'7" Wt: 230 School: Georgia Tech Years in League: 9 Role: Backup SF
Everyone's favorite backup, Harpring always seems to step up and provide good numbers when Andrei Kirilenko or Carlos Boozer sit with an injury. Last season, he averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.7 steals along with excellent 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 76.7 percent from the line. Harpring is quite strong for a small forward and finishes well close to the bucket, leading to excellent shooting from the field. He is a good player to add at the end of drafts for points, rebounds and field-goal percentage.
Bottom Line: He's not going to blow you away with statistics, but Harpring is a solid option to have at the end of your fantasy roster.
Dorell Wright, Miami Heat
Age: 21 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 205 School: South Kent Prep HS (CA) Years in League: 3 Role: Backup SF
Wright was in Pat Riley's doghouse this past season after showing up out of shape and unready for the starting job at small forward. This season he is looking much better. Nothing will be handed to him, but his athleticism and defensive ability should give him the edge at small forward. In 2006-07, as a starting forward, Wright averaged 28 minutes, 8.7 points, 6.7 boards, 1.0 steals, and 0.9 blocks. We like all these numbers to improve with the same playing time.
Bottom Line: Wright is a nice upside pick late in mid-sized and larger leagues, especially for his blocks and steals.
Chuck Hayes, Houston Rockets
Age: 24 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 240 School: Kentucky Years in League: 2 Role: Backup SF/PF
This undersized power forward had value at the end of last season for his rebounding (7.7 for March and April) and steals (1.3). Hayes is a magnet for loose balls and gets steals by stripping players as they pump-fake Yao. As a result, his steals were much higher when Yao was on the court. Hayes doesn't need a lot of minutes to have value, but he does need to play alongside Yao.
Bottom Line: Hayes' will lose minutes to Luis Scola, but will still collect rebounds and steals; he's worth a look in ultra-deep leagues for these categories.
As one of the league's best one-on-one defenders, Bowen is not asked to do more on offense than spot up for that corner 3 he loves so well. Bowen is a pillar of health and has started in all 82 games for the Spurs in each of the past five years. His offense has slipped the past few years and you should expect no more than six points, a 3-pointer and a steal per game.
Bottom Line: Bowen is more valuable to the Spurs than he is to your fantasy team. He's OK if you need steals and 3-pointers and you're in a deep league.
Green is a player with all the talent in the world. He has 3-point range and incredible hops. He is young and raw and is still learning the pro game. The battle for minutes at small forward and shooting guard is fierce in Minnesota. If he can play well enough on defense to keep himself off the bench, his owners could have a big-time sleeper on their hands.
Bottom Line: Don't expect much more from Green than scoring and 3-pointers. His defense hasn't developed yet and unless that changes all his numbers will suffer.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers
Age: 19 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 220 School: Georgia Tech Years in League: R Role: Backup SF
Coming out of Georgia Tech after his freshman season, Young is going to be pretty raw as a rookie. He does have a ton of talent and can elevate. This will help him when playing alongside a distributor as gifted at delivering air mail as Andre Miller. He needs to get stronger and learn NBA-style defense, but his athleticism is so extreme, we like his chances. Despite leaving school early, do not mistake Young for a knucklehead. He is extremely bright. This, plus his physical attributes should make for great success down the line.
Bottom Line: He will have moments this season, but don't expect greatness for a few more years.
Back in Milwaukee, Mason will be the Bucks' slasher to Michael Redd's shooter. The 3-point range of Redd and Mo Williams should help Mason find lanes to the basket where he can finish with authority. Last season, he averaged 13.7 points, 4.6 boards and 0.7 steals for the Hornets. Mason should put up decent scoring numbers again, but does face competition from Bobby Simmons.
Bottom Line: Mason will have some nice scoring games and he should shoot about 45 percent from the field. However, he contributes little else to fantasy teams, hence the lower rating.
Bobby Simmons, Milwaukee Bucks
Age: 26 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 240 School: DePaul Years in League: 5 Role: Backup SF
Simmons missed all of last season and is two years removed from his Most Improved Player award. It remains to be seen if he is fully healthy, but even if so, he's likely to share time at small forward with Desmond Mason. He is a better all-around fantasy asset than Mason -- he scores, shoots excellent percentages, hits 3-pointers and gets steals -- but we fear he won't see the minutes he needs to be a fantasy starter in most leagues.
Bottom Line: Simmons is a nice gamble because we know he can contribute if he's healthy and getting minutes.
Rodney Carney, Philadelphia 76ers
Age: 36 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 200 School: Memphis Years in League: 1 Role: Backup SG/SF
Carney is a great athlete who will compete for minutes at small forward and shooting guard. He can jump, but he needs to develop more consistency on his jumper if he is to take the next step in his career. He is already an excellent defender, but to become fantasy relevant, the offensive numbers must jump. Scoring 6.6 points per game just isn't enough.
Bottom Line: He must develop more offensively to be worthy of a roster spot on your team. With the Sixers in rebuilding mode, he will get the chance to show he can.
James Posey, Boston Celtics
Age: 29 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 215 School: Xavier Years in League: 7 Role: Backup SF/SG
Posey is a good defensive player who uses his long arms to pick off passes and frustrate shooters. He won't wow you anywhere, but is capable from deep and will get his share of steals. Last season, he averaged 27 minutes, 7.8 points, 1.4 3-pointers, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals. He should see similar or greater minutes this season as he will be one of the first players off Boston's bench.
Bottom Line: Posey is a good option for 3-pointers and steals, but will have a hard time scoring more than 10 points a game on a star-studded Celtics team.
Jarvis Hayes, Detroit Pistons
Age: 26 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 220 School: Georgia Years in League: 4 Role: Backup SF
Hayes will serve as Tayshaun Prince's primary backup at small forward this season. Hayes was healthy last season -- something of a rarity in his career -- and was a solid shooter for the Wizards. He will have a similar role with the Pistons: spelling Prince, setting screens and rolling to open spots on the floor for jumpers. This will not translate to great fantasy value and only Hayes' family members should consider adding him to their squads.
Bottom Line: Jarvis is a solid NBA backup who plays his position effectively. He is a health risk, however, and that plus his limited ceiling make him eminently skippable.
Marquis Daniels, Indiana Pacers
Age: 25 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 200 School: Auburn Years in League: 4 Role: Backup SG/SF
"Quisy" fell out of the rotation hard last season, averaging just 17 minutes per game, then fell out of the game altogether after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Coming into this season, Daniels is reporting feeling discomfort in both knees but expects to be ready for the opener. We'll see. Daniels is a versatile offensive player and can be a good source of points, steals and assists when he's on the floor.
Bottom Line: If Quisy is to have any value this season, the knees will have to heal up quickly.
Jared Dudley, Charlotte Bobcats
Age: 22 Ht: 6'7" Wt: 225 School: Boston College Years in League: R Role: Backup SF
The former Boston College Eagle does not have great hops or a blindingly quick first step. But he finds ways to score, is a quality defender, and was named the ACC Player of the Year last season. With Sean May undergoing season-ending microfracture surgery, there will be more minutes in the frontcourt. Dudley is not draftable for fantasy coming into the season, but he could impress Sam Vincent enough to earn legitimate playing time as the season progresses.
Bottom Line: Dudley has an ugly but effective game, and as he gains more experience he will have modest value for fantasy teams down the line in his career.
Rasual Butler, New Orleans Hornets
Age: 28 Ht: 6'7" Wt: 205 School: LaSalle Years in League: 5 Role: Backup SF/SG
If you need 3-pointers late in your deep-league draft, Butler is a good player to key on. Last season, he averaged 10.1 points. 1.7 3-pointers, 0.7 blocks and 0.5 steals. This season, he will be the backup to Mo Peterson and Peja Stojakovic. The best hope for extended minutes is with Peja's back. If he can't go, Rasual will get the first call.
Bottom Line: Butler is worth grabbing late for 3-pointers and modest scoring in deep leagues. If Peja gets hurt again, Rasual will be the big beneficiary.
Antoine Walker, Miami Heat
Age: 31 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 245 School: Kentucky Years in League: 11 Role: Starting/Backup SF
The fantasy book on Walker is well known: expect low percentages -- especially from the line -- and a propensity to turn the ball over at a high rate to go along with 3-pointers and occasional rebounding. Look for similar production this season: 8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and a little over one 3-pointer per game. He'll again shoot in the low 40s from the field. Let's just hope he doesn't shoot 43.8 from the line again.
Bottom Line: Walker is toxic to most fantasy teams. Draft him only if you are in a league that substitutes field goals and free throws made for percentages.
Bostjan Nachbar, New Jersey Nets
Age: 27 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 220 School: None Years in League: 5 Role: Backup SF
Nachbar established himself as a quality scorer off the New Jersey bench last season. He is an excellent 3-point shooter (42.3 percent last season) and was given a serious look by the Nets in the second half and through the playoffs. Don't expect much else from Nachbar (more than half of his field-goal attempts came from deep), but you can count on about 20 minutes and 1.5 3-pointers per game.
Bottom Line: If you need 3-pointers off the wire or at the end of a deep draft, Nachbar is a nice selection.
Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats
Age: 23 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 205 School: Gonzaga Years in League: 1 Role: Backup SF
Morrison's name recognition should not push him up draft boards as it did last season. His minutes are in serious jeopardy with the arrival of Jason Richardson and the strong play of both Walter Herrmann and Matt Carroll. He will find ways to score when he is on the floor, but his defense and lack of physical strength will land him on the bench for long stretches.
Bottom Line: Morrison will need to add something to his game to have any fantasy impact. Call us skeptical, but we don't see it happening this year.
Julian Wright, New Orleans Hornets
Age: 20 Ht: 6'8" Wt: 225 School: Kansas Years in League: R Role: Backup SF
While he is currently buried on the depth chart in New Orleans, Wright has the talent and the physique to become a serious fantasy commodity. He has great hops, excellent passing and court awareness and the long arms those of us in search of steals and blocks crave. That said, the learning curve is steep and Wright won't realize his potential this season.
Bottom Line: Wait till next year on Wright, though with injuries anything can happen and the rookie could have some relevance.
He certainly has the athleticism to make it in the NBA, but Graham has not yet found his way to prominence. He is hampered by the lack of an outside game and the inability to consistently create his own shot. That, and there is a freaking logjam at small forward in Toronto that would make Paul Bunyan tremble. It is hard to see how Graham, despite his talent, will break through this season.
Bottom Line: Pass. Until he can get minutes on a fast-breaking team, Graham will not be fantasy-worthy.
Ime Udoka, San Antonio Spurs
Age: 30 Ht: 6'6" Wt: 215 School: Portland State Years in League: 3 Role: Backup SF
Meet the heir to Bowen's role on the Spurs. Udoka, like Bowen, is an excellent one-on-one defender with a penchant for the deep shot on offense. Last season with the Blazers, he averaged 8.4 points, 1.2 3-pointers, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals. Looks a little like Bowen, no? He should see fewer minutes this season as Bowen is such an iron man, but remember Udoka's name in the unlikely event of a Bowen injury.
Bottom Line: Udoka is a good shooter and a good defender. Look him up if his minutes climb into the mid-20s.
Darius Miles, Portland Trail Blazers
Age: 26 Ht: 6'9" Wt: 210 School: East St. Louis (HS) Years in League: 7 Role: Backup SF
Miles is fighting for a roster spot on the Blazers after coming back from microfracture surgery. He was always a tantalizing talent, but never found consistency. He put on weight after the surgery and while reports are he has dedicated himself to making the team, we have a hard time seeing how Miles will earn enough minutes to make a splash in the fantasy pool.
Bottom Line: Miles has shown the ability to do a bit of everything on the court, but we doubt he will get the chance this season.
Every small forward is broken down and their fantasy value is found by our ESPN fantasy hoops experts.