Positional preview: Power forwards
Power forwards used to be the centerpiece of fantasy teams' "big man" stats, as most could be relied upon for efficient scoring, rebounds and blocks. But with the shift in the NBA landscape to more versatile "stretch fours," as well as an increasing number of players playing multiple positions, the expected production from a typical power forward is varied. When crafting a balanced roster, it's critical to get above-average blocks and rebounds from at least two of your starters, which comes from the forward and/or center position.
With the emergence of players such as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap and Blake Griffin in the upper echelon of power forwards who don't block shots, it's difficult to completely avoid power forwards who don't provide typical power forward production if they are available at the right price come draft day. If you select one of these players -- the list includes Carmelo Anthony, David Lee, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Ryan Anderson, Danilo Gallinari, Nene, Andrea Bargnani, Zach Randolph and more -- it's imperative that your center blocks shots and it's ideal that you couple him with another forward who provides rebounds and blocks.
Kevin Love is in a world of his own, and although he doesn't block shots and his rebounds took a bit of a dip last season from 15.2 per game to 13.3, the fact he hit 1.9 3-pointers per game, upped his steals to 0.9 per game and his scoring to 26.0 points per game puts him in a class by himself. His newfound love for the 3-pointer did hurt his field-goal percentage a bit, but he offers a great combination of points, boards and 3-pointers. He would've been a top-five overall pick before he broke his hand on Oct. 17 and likely will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the regular season. He should still be very dangerous when he returns to action.
In the second tier, Josh Smith and Al Jefferson are rock solid and provide the combination of points, rebounds and blocks you look for from a cornerstone power forward. Smith has more value in standard leagues, but if your league counts turnovers, bump Jefferson up to the No. 2 power forward, as his 1.0 turnovers per game last season are ridiculous.
Dirk Nowitzki's overall numbers took a step down last year, but that's because of a slow start due to his admitted lack of preparation in the offseason; his post-All Star numbers of 23.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 3s per game indicate he still has plenty left in the tank. Plus, his free throw numbers from the power forward position are especially valuable. You could make a case for Paul Millsap ahead of Nowitzki, but I worry about Derrick Favors cutting into his production and that his 1.8 steals per game are unsustainable.
DeMarcus Cousins has as much upside as any player in the league, and already posts an insane combination of points, rebounds, steals and blocks. However, his mediocre percentages and endless questions about his character harm his value, and he'll need to put together a full season of numbers without off-court distractions in order to be elevated into the second tier. Al Horford's value will be depressed due to his injury-marred 2011-2012 campaign, but the offense will often run through him now that Joe Johnson is gone, and he should be in line for a huge bounce-back and potential career season. Serge Ibaka is essentially a one-category wonder, although I put him among the elite because blocks are so scarce that his value is underestimated. No player rater number had a more positive value on fantasy teams than Ibaka's 8.09 blocks last season, and it's not even close.
Big Names, Big Risk
I put Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin in their own tier, although they will often be drafted before players in tier three. The holes in their fantasy games and questions surrounding their production put them on their own island. I typically avoid both players in drafts, although if they fall to you be sure to compensate for their deficiencies elsewhere on your roster. One way to do this is by starting 'Melo at small forward as his statistical output better lines up with what you'd traditionally expect from that position. And Griffin's value is much higher in head-to-head leagues, in which his -6.50 rating on the Player Rater in free throw percentage is easier to compensate for.
A glut of dependable power forwards is available in the middle rounds, although the disparity between tier five and tier six is the biggest dropoff in the power forward ranks. This is critical to note in snake drafts; be sure to try to select at least two players from the first five tiers. These power forwards are all worth starting on fantasy teams, and there's not a lot of downside among the players in tier five.
Greg Monroe just needs one more season of improvement to ascend into the next tier, and Kenneth Faried's per-minute numbers are too enticing not to bet on a breakout. Despite the depth and roster flexibility that the Denver Nuggets boast, they're not especially deep with true power forwards, and his April numbers of 11.6 points on 58.4 percent shooting with 9.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals as a rookie are just too promising for me to pass up in favor of lower-upside players such as Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Wallace.
There are also several players coming off injury-plagued seasons that could be in line for bounce-back campaigns. Joakim Noah, Danilo Gallinari, Andrea Bargnani and Zach Randolph could post tier three-worthy numbers, but have all missed time in each of the past two seasons, so each is an injury risk.
In tier six, there are plenty of solid options, but every player here has some questions surrounding them. Will Anthony Davis have any offensive production whatsoever? Can Ersan Ilyasova replicate his career numbers in a non-contract season? How will Kris Humphries, Glen Davis, Luis Scola and Al Harrington respond to having significantly different supporting casts? Again, these questions make it important to secure at least two of the players in the top five tiers. From there, modify your strategy based upon whether you selected a high-upside or dependable player early, and do the opposite with your post-tier five power forward selections to balance your risk/reward factor.
Glen Davis averaged 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the floor in 13 starts last season, and with Al Harrington likely to miss the start of the season due to knee surgery and Dwight Howard being on the other coast, he'll easily have the best season of his career, and could flirt with 20 points per game. Carlos Boozer's minutes per game were the lowest since his rookie campaign, and he still averaged a respectable 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds while shoting 53.2 percent from the floor. With Derrick Rose set to miss the first several months and Omer Asik out of the picture, Boozer will get as many minutes as his body can handle and very likely see a spike in statistics.
Anderson Varejao was well on his way to a career year before succumbing to injury, with averages of 10.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.7 blocks in 25 games. The Cleveland Cavaliers' frontcourt depth is abysmal, so Varejao should get plenty of run and once again average a double-double, a feat only eight other players achieved last season. Derrick Favors is bursting with potential, although the Utah Jazz frontcourt is loaded with Jefferson, Millsap and Enes Kanter. If you feel solid about your starting options at power forward and want to swing for the fences, Favors' upside dwarfs that of nearly every player in the draft.
Andre Kirilenko, fresh off a Euroleague MVP award, is ready to reclaim his status as one of the best sources of blocks/steals in the league, although he has more value starting at small forward, especially if you have a power forward or center who doesn't block many shots. Rookie Thomas Robinson was second in the NCAA with 11.9 rebounds per game, a stat that translates relatively well to the league, and his poise should complement Cousins' unpredictability. But he blocked just 0.9 shots per game at Kansas, and will help the Sacramento Kings more than fantasy teams.
Tristan Thompson finished his rookie campaign with zest, averaging 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 0.6 steals per game in 25 starts. At just 21 years old, he's got plenty of room for improvement, and will be heavily relied upon amidst the aforementioned mediocrity on the Cavs' roster.
It's too early to label Derrick Williams a bust after a rookie campaign in which he saw just 21.5 minutes per game, especially since his numbers extrapolate to 13 points, 7 rebounds, 0.9 3s, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game over 32 minutes per game. With Love and Kirilenko around, it'll be difficult for him to get big minutes, but the upside is there and in the final rounds I'd rather have the potential for a steal, three and a block per game over the solid-but-unspectacular Brandon Bass or Drew Gooden.
Bismack Biyombo is unpolished, but can already block shots with the best of them, and if you find your team lacking swats late, he can fill the hole. Markieff Morris is a bit like Derrick Williams, as his pre-All Star 7.9 points. 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.9 3s in 20.5 minutes per game demonstrates. That multi-category potential makes him a nice sleeper. Patrick Patterson has already claimed he's going to win the most-improved player award, and he'll have every opportunity to flex his ability starting for a confusing Houston Rockets squad. He's another intriguing sleeper worth grabbing super-late, as his combination of rebounds, steals and blocks and increased opportunity will give him a chance to break out.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Cockcroft: Stolen base strategy
- Tardy: Hoops Forecaster for March 17-23
- Sleeper stolen base options for 2014
- Fantasy Hockey Forecaster: Week 22
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2013 Basketball Draft Kit
ESPN.com's fantasy experts offer all the information you'll need to succeed in your draft this year.
Draft Kit Home
Get in the Game
2012-13 Projections and Profiles
• Top 200 Overall Rankings
• Cheat sheet: Printable rankings
• Point Guard: Rankings | Preview
• Shooting Guard: Rankings | Preview
• Small Forward: Rankings | Preview
• Power Forward: Rankings | Preview
• Center: Rankings | Preview
• Cregan's keeper league/auction rankings
Strategy and Analysis
• Injuries to watch
• McKitish's Love/Hate for '12-13
• Mock draft analysis: Oct. 4 | Oct. 22
• ADP trends: Oct. 18 | Oct. 24
• McKitish's Fantasy Basketball Blueprint
• Sleepers/Busts for '12-13
• Offseason movement analysis
• Rookies to watch in 2012-13
• Fantasy relevant stat splits
• Helpful, hurtful, empty stats
• Head-to-head versus roto strategy
• Points league strategy
• Auction draft strategy
• Draft strategy: Tips for building a winner
• Intro to fantasy basketball