Another fantasy season has passed, and with what promises to be an extremely exciting postseason coming up, now is a good time to take a look back at the best fantasy performances of the season (with an eye, as always, on the future). Without further ado, here are your 2010-11 Fantasy NBA All-Pros as determined by the unwavering eye of the ESPN Player Rater.
Point guard: Chris Paul, Hornets (No. 3 overall, ADP: 3.1). Here's how you know a guy is a phenomenal fantasy player … he has his worst season in four years and still finishes in the top three overall. Paul never really looked right at any point this season, but managed to play 80 games despite obviously being hurt much of the time. While there's some real concern in the fact his numbers slipped even more after the All-Star break, I still have him as the best point guard heading into next season, barely ahead of the still-improving duo of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
Shooting guard: Dwyane Wade, Heat (No. 8 overall, ADP: 7.0). Wade's numbers actually ended up looking a whole lot like they did pre-LeBron. His assists dropped a bit, but he made up for that with more rebounds and a better field goal percentage. He's still a terrible 3-point shooter, but beyond that his game is just about as well-rounded as it gets. Of course, he'll turn 30 next season, which is cause for concern given his mileage and his history of getting hurt, but it's worth noting that he's missed only 14 games total in the past three seasons. In other words, there's no reason to drop his stock quite yet.
Small forward: LeBron James, Heat (No. 1 overall, ADP: 2.6). Considering the fact Kevin Durant was an overwhelming favorite to occupy this spot at the start of the season, this might be LeBron's most impressive fantasy year yet. Additionally, it's pretty amazing that even though he got worse in every category besides rebounds and field goal percentage (where he had extremely small improvements) he finished as the best player in fantasy. He's the best basketball player alive, but at gunpoint I'd probably draft Durant ahead of him again next year, just because Durant's ceiling is higher in the fantasy game.
Power forward: Pau Gasol, Lakers (No. 5, ADP: 12.7). Pau had his ups and downs this season, and even though it felt like he was hurt from time to time, he played in 82 games for the first time in nearly a decade. The slight declines in field goal percentage and rebounding are concerning, but his game is so consistent that I can't imagine him slipping too much next season. Even though it seems like he's been in the league forever, he'll be only 31 for all of next season, so it's not as though he's over the hill quite yet. You can probably expect slight declines though, and it's hard to imagine he'll remain in the top 10 for too much longer.
Center: Amare Stoudemire, Knicks (No. 6, ADP: 13.5). It was, in most respects, a banner year for Amare. He set or approached career highs in points, blocks and assists. Just as important, we learned that he didn't need Steve Nash in order to be a force finishing on pick-and-rolls. Still, his numbers after the All-Star break (playing alongside Carmelo Anthony) don't look as good. In particular, he averaged an alarmingly low 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game over the final 25 games he played in. He'll be better than those numbers next year, but I don't think we'll see him hit the averages he put up over the season as a whole.
Guard: Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls (No. 4, ADP: 34.3). It's easy to forget this now, but no one thought Rose could be this good in fantasy before this season started. I was bullish on him, consistently arguing that he should go ahead of Tyreke Evans, but even that seemed controversial at the time. But while Rose's numbers were up across the board, you can trace his No. 4 overall ranking to one factor more than any other: he started shooting 3s. Yes, his 33 percent shooting from the arc is a significant improvement over the 27 percent he shot last season, but the most important thing is just that he took so many; 3-pointers are just that important in the fantasy game. As I've written before, he's still not a good 3-point shooter. Given his sub-30 percent shooting from the arc after the All-Star break, it's easy to call his early-season success from that distance a fluke, but Rose is going to keep taking 3s no matter what, and that's going to mean he'll be just as valuable again next season.
Forward: Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder (No. 2, ADP: 1.2). He was the second best player in fantasy, and yet this season was certainly a disappointment for KD as far as numbers go. His shooting was a bit off, he didn't rebound as well and he didn't make any strides in the other categories. On the other hand, we've seen this before; I'm reminded that LeBron also struggled (for him) in his fourth season, and then went crazy in the playoffs, led his team to the Finals and has been the best player in the league ever since. Nothing that happened this year changed my mind that Durant has the highest ceiling of any player in the league, both in real life and in fantasy, and I have no doubt that he'll be better next season, and probably once again the best player in fantasy.
UTILITY: Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder (No. 7, ADP: 30.6). If Durant slipped a bit this season, Westbrook certainly picked up the slack for the Thunder. It is my belief that Westbrook was every bit the player this season that Rose was, but no one talked about his improved 3-point shooting (he shot the same 33 percent from the arc Rose did, though on fewer attempts). Westbrook's 8.2 assists and 1.9 steals put him near the top of the league in those categories even though he's a far better scorer than guys like Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd. What's amazing is that it seems like Westbrook and Durant still are figuring out how to play with each other as they improve as individuals. I think we'll see an even better Westbrook next season; the sky is the limit. If he takes more 3s, he'd probably pass Rose in the fantasy game, even if it would probably be bad for his team and his actual game.
UTILITY: Dwight Howard, C, Magic (No. 9, ADP: 7.2). There's not much to say about Howard, really. He had a phenomenal season, probably the best of his career. Consider that he finished ninth on the Player Rater despite losing 6.21 points to his poor free throw shooting, by far the biggest penalty given to any player in any category. If he had merely been average -- a zero -- in that category this season, his Rater score would shoot up to 18.14, making him far and away the best player in fantasy (and perhaps in the NBA). Unfortunately, he's still a putrid foul shooter who lives at the line, and since there's no reason to believe he'll improve, this is about as high as he can go in the fantasy game.
UTILITY: Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Warriors (No. 10, ADP: 10.9). It's pretty rare that someone has pretty much the exact numbers everyone thought they'd have at the start of the season, but that's what Curry did this year. He actually improved on all of his shooting numbers, even though they were already ridiculously good last season. His steals went down a bit, but he also played fewer minutes, so that's probably excusable. He was remarkably consistent, but does seem to be slowly improving. That will continue, and he should certainly be a top-10 pick again next season.
Monta Ellis, SG, Warriors (No. 11 overall, ADP: 19.9). Unfortunately, the fact he ended the season with a concussion took some of the shine off what was a great individual season. Even though he and Curry are both great and can play together offensively, it would seem that the Warriors' inability to win speaks to an inherent problem with playing two undersized guards together. I'm not sure it can last, and if I were the Warriors, Ellis is the guy I'd be looking to move. Curry would be valuable anywhere because he can shoot, but Ellis requires volume, and he would not have that anywhere else the way he's got it in Oakland. I think he's a top-25 guy for sure, but I'd be hard pressed to spend a top-20 pick to get him next season.
Paul Pierce, SG/SF, Celtics (No. 12 overall, ADP: 30.0). We all thought he'd decline, but Pierce went out and had the most efficient season of his career. On the other hand, his raw totals have declined to the point that he pretty much needs to shoot 50 percent from the floor to carry this kind of value in the fantasy game, and the fact he struggled with his 3-point shot as the season went on (35 percent after the break) is a reason to be concerned going forward. If you had him this year, you got great value, but his ADP wasn't a mistake, and right around No. 30 is where he should go next year, as well.
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks (No. 13 overall, ADP: 5.4). Dirk is just not selfish enough to be as good as he could be in fantasy. If you tailored Dirk's game to fantasy, you'd have him concentrate on jacking up 3s and flying over for blocks on defense (without really guarding his man). That's not how he plays though, and the way he plays is far better for his team. He doesn't get blocks or steals anymore, he doesn't make any more 3s than Dwyane Wade (even though he's a phenomenal shooter from the arc), and he doesn't crash the boards the way he used to, either. He's going to play forever, I think, and just slowly decline a little each year. Still, you know what you're getting with Dirk, and that might be a reason to take him toward the back of the top 12 next year if you want to play it safe.
Seth Landman is a contributing fantasy hoops analyst for ESPN.com