- Tom Carpenter, Fantasy and Insider
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It was a thrilling end to the fantasy season, especially if you had players like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Pau Gasol, David Lee and Deron Williams pushing you down the stretch to a title. Having guys who finish the season strong is important, but it's crucial on draft day to aim for players who are going to be studs all season long. So let's celebrate the best of the best at each position by naming our NBA Fantasy All-Pro first and second teams. We took the top two players at each position from the Player Rater's season-total ranking, which means they gave your fantasy squads the most production possible during the course of the 2009-10 NBA season. Here's a look at what each of our All-Pros did this season and what they're in store for come draft day in October.
Point guard: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (Average Draft Position: 11.9)
Nash may be 36, but he's in fantastic shape and led the Association with 11.0 assists per game, while knocking down 1.5 3-pointers and maintaining his usual quality percentages. Not everything is bright for Nash, though. His 3.6 turnovers can kill you in some leagues, his 0.5 steals can be frustrating and his percentages can be hollow, since he doesn't take a lot of field goals (12.2) or free throws (2.8). There will be concerns about the veteran in the fall, because he averaged only 12.9 points after the All-Star break and could lose pick-and-roll mate Amar'e Stoudemire to free agency. But could you really bet against the future Hall of Famer?
Shooting guard: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (ADP: 3.9)
Call him Durantula. Call him Velvet Hoop. Call him a fantasy god for the next decade. He doesn't pile up dimes like LeBron James, but his overall value is nearly the same. In fact, because he played six more games than James, Durant finished atop the Player Rater this season. I'm a huge fan of prolific free throw shooters in Fantasyland, and nobody in the NBA was better than Durant, who hit 9.2 of 10.2 attempts per game on the season. As the Thunder mature, they may ask less of their star statistically, but any way you look at it, he's going to be a fixture near the top of fantasy for the foreseeable future.
Small forward: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (ADP: 1.6)
It's hard to be picky with the King's stats, since he contributes in every category and is a triple-double threat every night he laces up. Of course, LeBron not lacing up is a sore subject for a lot of fantasy heads out there, because he skipped the final four games. Don't blame him. Blame yourself for not dealing him as the season wound down and it became apparent the Cavs had a good shot at wrapping up their seeding early. Let this be a lesson for you. Next season, aim for players who will have a reason to play hard the final week or two.
Power forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (ADP: 7.8)
His rebounding (7.7 per game) slipped for the fifth consecutive season, but his overall value remained basically the same as it has been for years: a top-5 player. Dirk's stats aren't sexy like other top picks, because he doesn't have any one stat that pops out at you. But there's nothing wrong with taking a guy who has no negatives and gives you something in every category every game every season. He'll be 32 during the next campaign, but he's showing no signs of slowing down and will be a safe pick again in the fall.
Center: David Lee, New York Knicks (ADP: 30.7)
Lee was a monster in percentages and rebounds, while churning out an impressive 20.3 ppg and 3.6 apg. On April 2, he had an epic trip-dub with 37 points, 20 boards and 10 dimes. Numbers that big will help you forget that he averaged only 0.5 blocks on the season. Maybe no other player in Fantasyland is facing a longer summer than Lee. He's a free agent, and his current team is pining for some guy named 'Bron 'Bron. This likely was Lee's peak performance, but he should still be a quality double-double guy next season, regardless of what goes down this offseason.
Point guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (ADP: 92.9)
What's amazing about Curry finishing as the seventh-best performer on the Player Rater is that it reflects the season totals of a guy who didn't even get going until midseason. Take a look at post-All-Star splits to get an idea of just how huge he was at his peak. In fact, for the final 30 days of the season, he was No. 2 (behind only Durant) on the Player Rater. Steals, dimes, treys, points, percentages? He does it all. Barring a bizarre summer of change for the Warriors, Curry should again be a fantasy superstar and a top-5 pick in the fall.
Shooting guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (ADP: 6.2)
By his lofty standards, Wade's campaign was a bit pedestrian, as he failed to post a career high in any one category. On the other hand, if an understated season still puts you in the top five in Fantasyland, you probably have some pretty serious game. How he and the Heat handle his impending free agency this offseason could have a huge impact on his fantasy value next season. He's so good, though, that it's hard to imagine a situation where he would drop out of the top five on many draft boards.
Small forward: Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats (ADP: 30.7)
Bobcats coach Larry Brown loves players who hustle, and few do that better than Wallace. So it's not a big surprise that Brown coaxed a huge season out of Wallace that included a career-best 10.0 rebounds per game. What is surprising is that the career 71.3 percent free throw shooter shot better than 77 percent for the second straight campaign. Even more surprising to the fantasy cynic is that the injury-prone "Crash" played a career-high 76 games. His production in hustle stats (1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg) makes him exceptional, but the skeptic in me remains worried about his long-term health.
Power forward: Amar'e Stoudemire, Suns (ADP: 16.1)
I have Amar'e in a keeper league at a good price. I have no idea whether I'll keep him, because his value is going to be inextricably tied to whether he bolts out of Phoenix as a free agent. When management ties his hands like the Suns did before the All-Star break, he's just another big man (21.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 14.3 FGA, 6.9 FTA). When he's turned loose, like he was after the break, he's a star (26.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 17.4 FGA, 9.2 FTA). If he goes to a team where he's "the man," STAT could be a top-5 player again.
Center: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (ADP: 8.4)
For the first time in three seasons, Howard's scoring average fell below 20 ppg (18.3). But you didn't draft him to score points, you drafted him because you figured he was going to lead the league in rebounding (13.2), blocks (2.8) and field goal percentage (61.2), which is exactly what he did. If you aren't in a traditional rotisserie league with relatively short rosters, you can probably overcome his hideous free throw problems (59.2 percent of 10.0 attempts per game) and win. Keep in mind that Howard is only 24 years old, so we may still see a significant scoring boost in the coming years.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Tom Carpenter reveals the top players in fantasy basketball for the 2009-10 season