- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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This list is new, and I think it's a great idea; reshuffling the top 150 players with a futures market mentality.
I make a list like this every season because it keeps at least part of my perspective focused on the long view. And you've got to have that ability if you want to dominate an auction keeper league. It's a format that rewards patience and studied risk-taking.
Yes, you can play in auction keeper leagues year-in, year-out with a "the future is now" mentality. But the idea is to not just win one measly season. The idea is to be a simulated dynasty, a pixilated juggernaut, the kind of make-believe team that strikes loathing and respect into your fellow owners' souls.
Another important factor to consider within the auction keeper format is inflation.
Inflation occurs when owners carry cheap keepers over from one year to the next. The more keepers are kept below their market value, the more it drives up the values of the available players. So if someone in your league got Kyrie Irving at $7 last season, and this season he's worth $49? That's $42 in added inflation right there.
(If you don't want to sit down and calculate your league's rate of inflation -- and you really, really should -- a safe assumption is that from Year 2 onward in most leagues you'll be looking at a minimum of 15 percent inflation. So, if you're a cheap tipper, you'll already know how to tack on that extra 15 percent off the top of your head.)
The dollar values on our site have been scrupulously tabulated, but they don't account for ongoing future value. This season, would you rather have a $36 DeMarcus Cousins or a $36 Pau Gasol? Tough call. But for the next say, one to three seasons? You'd surely want Cousins and his still-rising value.
To help break it down, I've grouped the players using the tier system. I'm including ESPN.com's auction value in parentheses, and making any $0 player a $1 player.
Please keep in mind here that I'm not only factoring a player's likely keeper value heading into 2013-14, but also how much they're likely going to cost in 2012-13. As you'll see, some players are going to slip based on their recommended price.
Most of all, you'll see why this is going to be such a changing-of-the-guard season in fantasy basketball. There's just too much young, rising talent coming on to not force some of the old guard down the ladder.
Come 2013-14, we're going to be looking at a very different top 30.
Tier 1: Worth it, no matter what
1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC ($66)
2. LeBron James, SF, MIA ($62)
The irony here is that I think Durant's keeper league value is actually closer to $90, with LeBron maybe $8-10 behind. Both offer broad-based elite production across multiple categories, durability and the ability to carry a fantasy team on any given night. Their statistical versatility guarantees you can acquire either one and still set up your draft to go in any direction you choose.
Tier 2: The future
3. Anthony Davis, PF, NO ($15)
4. Klay Thompson, SG, GS ($6)
5. Damian Lillard, PG, POR ($4)
It's imperative to roll the dice on a couple of young players in every draft. Getting in on the ground floor on elite upside is only way to compete year-in, year-out in a keeper situation.
The goal is to lock in keepers who will eventually end up being worth four to six times their original price. That's how you build a virtual dynasty. Have I ever told you about how I locked in Dwyane Wade for $10 his rookie season? That's a great feeling, my friend.
I'm betting that all three of these players will be top-30 by next year. And Davis' ceiling is still uncharted territory; we simply don't know how productive he'll be on the offensive end. But all the early signs are pointing Davis toward eventual first-round value. Get in cheap while you still can.
Tier 3: Safe foundational futures bets
6. Kevin Love, PF/C, MIN ($37)
7. Chris Paul, PG, LAC ($66)
8. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC ($59)
Putting Paul and Westbrook this high supplies me with a hint of pause. Not because I doubt their abilities, but because as you're about to see, there is a ton of young, cheap upside at point guard. The terrain under PG is shifting at RG3-type speeds.
I espouse building around point guard play, but I'm starting to think it might be more advantageous to use your budget on lower-priced floor generals. (That's why you won't see Deron Williams' name for a little bit.) For now, Paul stays this high because of the elite steals and Westbrook because of the scoring.
Forget the negatives about Love; broken hand, poorly trimmed beard, his uncle just broke up the Beach Boys, whatever. In a keeper league, with center eligibility? Love is worth more than $65. No one mentions this, but as long as Love qualifies at center, he's the No. 1 center in fantasy. Case closed.
Tier 4: Too late to get in on the ground floor
9. Kyrie Irving, PG, CLE ($49)
10. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC ($36)
The word is out on Irving and Cousins, so to get them -- and their top-10 potential -- you're going to have to pay through the nose. I still believe they'll be worth it, as both players could be in $55-60 range come 2013.
Tier 5: Under $20 breakout candidates
11. Marcus Thornton, SG, SAC ($7)
12. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS ($18)
13. Nicolas Batum, SG/SF, POR ($9)
14. Paul George, SG/SF, IND ($18)
15. Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, UTA ($4)
16. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, SAC ($17)
17. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI ($11)
18. Jeremy Lin, PG, HOU ($7)
19. Jeff Teague, PG, ATL ($5)
20. Wesley Matthews, SG/SF, POR ($6)
21. Brandon Knight, PG/SG, DET ($3)
22. Kenneth Faried, PF, DEN ($5)
These are still-rising-in-value players who could potentially triple or quadruple in value in the next couple of seasons. Some carry red flags (Curry's health, Evans' motor). But at these prices, the rewards outweigh the risks.
Something many of these players have in common is multipositional eligibility. Keepers with positional flexibility gain extra value due to their ability to maximize your roster-building options. Evans' rare 3-slot-eligibility gained him an extra 10 spots.
(And you people are sleeping on Brandon Knight. I'll leave it at that and move on.)
Tier 6: Veterans you can steal for under $25
23. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, DEN ($13)
24. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, BKN ($16)
25. Danilo Gallinari, SF, DEN ($14)
26. Danny Granger, SF, IND ($23)
27. Brook Lopez, C, BKN ($12)
28. Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, TOR ($6)
A mix of undervalued tried-and-true mainstays and underachieving Italians. Look, I'm not here to label; the key is that these players could double or triple their value this season. And you could have the entire tier for $84. These guys are the kinds of sneaky keepers who beget imaginary championships.
Tier 7: Draft-and-stash point guards
29. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI ($1)
30. Ricky Rubio, PG, MIN ($1)
31. John Wall, PG, WAS ($8)
If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one of these guys up. It means eating a roster spot for a month (or two, or three), but a single-digit Rose, Rubio or Wall will be looking awfully good by March. At worst, you'll have a valuable trade asset at your league's deadline. Take a shot at one in an auction. If the price gets too crazy, you can always bail out.
Tier 8: Reliable investments under $30
32. Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET ($26)
33. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL ($25)
34. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, MIL ($23)
35. Mike Conley Jr., PG, MEM ($22)
36. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO ($20)
37. David Lee, PF/C, GS ($21)
38. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA ($19)
39. Goran Dragic, PG, PHO ($27)
There's fantastic value at both point guard and center here. Conley, Dragic and Jennings are all poised for breakout seasons. I like how Ellis has reined in his efficiency issues in Milwaukee. Why not have Jennings and Ellis for less than the price of Deron Williams?
Gortat, Lee and Bosh can all serve as No. 1 centers for half the price of a Howard, Cousins or Love. They won't provide the same off-the-charts production, but could provide better returns on a comparatively smaller investment.
Remember, this is an auction league. You can build through depth. You don't need to go Stars and Scrubs to win your league. I usually prefer to have several players in the $20-30 range. Personally, I'd rather have five second- and third-round picks than two first-rounders.
Tier 9: Not cheap but still worth it
40. Al Horford, PF/C, ATL ($32)
41. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM ($42)
42. Dwight Howard, C, LAL ($45)
43. James Harden, SG, OKC ($40)
44. Marc Gasol, C, MEM ($41)
45. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA ($35)
46. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, POR ($48)
47. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS ($36)
48. Ty Lawson, PG/SG, DEN ($42)
49. Al Jefferson, PF/C, UTA ($50)
50. Josh Smith, SF/PF, ATL ($57)
51. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC ($28)
52. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC ($34)
These players slid only because of price. You won't regret having one or two of these guys on your team. But acquire more than a couple of these players and you might regret not having been a little more patient in the early stages of your auction.
My obsession with Rudy Gay is well documented. He's sort of a junior Durant or LeBron; a small forward you can plug in and get production across several areas while not getting hurt in any others.
The Dwight Howard question is one that deserves its own column. I'll leave it at this: Even a fully healthy Howard averaging a 20 and 12 with two blocks and toting a 26 percent usage rate still will shoot 50-58 percent from the free throw line.
It's the same problem we had with Shaq a decade ago. Howard is elite. You can win with Howard. But he either forces you to punt a category or weigh the rest of your draft to balance out a glaring deficiency. If you like that challenge, then $42 is a reasonable price.
Blake Griffin is a solo column in waiting. He needs to show he can stay healthy, make free throws, and add some heft to his blocks per game before he becomes a true top-30 player. (In his defense, I do like the assists).
And while 3.5 blocks a night is spectacular, Ibaka needs to show some diversification in his stat lines before he jumps a tier.
Tier 10: Like fine wine fine, expensive wine
53. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL ($53)
54. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA ($65)
55. Deron Williams, PG, NJ ($62)
56. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL ($47)
57. Paul Pierce, SG/SF, BOS ($38)
58. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL ($55)
59. Carmelo Anthony, SF, NY ($41)
60. Eric Gordon, SG, NO ($15)
These are older players who you will feel fine about owning this season, then jauntily toss back into the player pool come 2013-14. You'll throw them back because they've all most likely peaked in value. There's nothing wrong with owning any of these players. Just don't plan on keeping them. If you want them back, you'll likely be able to get them back at an equal or lesser price.
I included Gordon and Bynum on the graybeards list. Why? Because their four knees, taken as a whole, are approximately 288 years old. Think of Bynum and Gordon the way you'd think of players on the wrong side of 30. They could squeeze out a few seasons at peak value, or both yield to multiple microfracture surgeries.
Wade is as tough as any player to rank on this list. $65 for a player whose minutes are dipping perilously close to the 30 per game mark? He's still a top-15 player this season, but I worry about the future at that price tag.
What does a point guard offer that no other position can? Assists. And while Deron Williams offers good to very good numbers in points scored, steals, 3s and percentages, he's only elite in one area. $62 is a lot when there are so many thrifty alternatives. Deron for $50? Sign me up. But if I want to spend more than $60 on a point guard, I want CP3. Otherwise, I bide my time.
Tier 11: The future, Part 2
61. Bradley Beal, SG, WAS ($1)
62. Harrison Barnes, SF, GS ($1)
63. Jonas Valanciunas, C, TOR ($2)
64. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, CHA ($1)
65. Andre Drummond, PF, DET ($1)
66. Dion Waiters, SG, CLE ($1)
These are all rookies you can acquire as endgame picks who could be top-40 players in a season or so. Some will bust, some won't. But they're all bargain-basement grabs with high ceilings. Get one.
Tier 12: Glue guys
67. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI ($17)
68. Ryan Anderson, PF, NO ($19)
72. Tony Parker, PG, SA ($14)
73. Steve Nash, PG, LAL ($24)
74. Roy Hibbert, C, IND ($16)
75. Arron Afflalo, SG, ORL ($8)
76. Kevin Garnett, BOS, PF/C ($13)
77. Amar'e Stoudemire, C/PF, NY ($9)
78. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA ($7)
79. Tim Duncan, PF/C, SA ($10)
80. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, BKN, ($7)
I like or really like every player on this list. They're all bona fide fantasy starters who could even sneak in as keepers under certain conditions (like, say, you traded your cheap keepers for a run at a title). Just remember that they're all at their peak in value or are already on their way down.
I was really high on Ryan Anderson this season until all this sixth-man palaver started leaking out. Will someone please play Anthony Davis at the 5 and let Anderson get me my 16 points and 2.5 3-pointers per game?
The Dirk Nowitzki Tier
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL ($28)
I feel bad ranking Dirk this low, so for now I'm just giving him an incomplete and not committing to a rank just yet. I'm troubled because we're looking at back-to-back campaigns in which his lofty value has been decimated due to injury.
Dirk used to be durable. And If Duncan and Garnett can claw their way back to semireliability, there's still hope for Dirk as a solid fantasy bet. Just not as of this writing.
Tier 13: The future, Part 3
81. Kemba Walker, PG/SG, CHA ($2)
82. Isaiah Thomas, PG, SAC ($7)
83. JaVale McGee, C, DEN ($4)
84. Tristan Thompson, PF/C, CLE ($1)
85. Glen Davis, PF/C, ORL ($1)
86. Evan Turner, SG/SF, PHI ($2)
87. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, PHO ($1)
Yeah, Kemba Walker. So what if he couldn't shoot in his first season? He's 22, plays on a bad team that's offensively challenged, and qualifies at both guard slots. And he's two dollars. I see a little bit of early Baron Davis in him, which is probably more of a threat than a sales pitch.
I feel people have been a little hard on Tristan Thompson. A second-year player who can average a double-double and 1.5 blocks per game? With center eligibility? And he's $1? I'm sorry he disappointed all those beat writers, but come on.
And don't sleep on Big Baby. Bad teams are the stuff fantasy dreams are made of. And Orlando is going to be baaaaaaad this season.
Tier 14: The all-you-can-eat fantasy buffet
88. Luol Deng, SF, CHI ($7)
89. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI ($6)
90. Darren Collison, PG, DAL ($3)
98. Raymond Felton, PG, NY ($5)
99. O.J. Mayo, SG, DAL ($4)
100. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE ($3)
101. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL ($2)
Here's some more of that cheap PG production I was talking about earlier. Collison, both Williamses, Felton and Nelson are steals at these prices. I've been loading up on them this preseason in the last rounds. Believe it or not, Jameer Nelson is, basically, the face of an NBA franchise. A great $2 bet.
Tier 15: The future, Part 4
107. Kevin Seraphin, PF/C, WSH ($1)
108. Kawhi Leonard, PF/SG/SF, SA ($2)
109. George Hill, PG/SG, IND ($3)
110. Enes Kanter, C, UTH, ($1)
111. Thomas Robinson, PF, SAC ($1)
112. DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, TOR ($1)
113. Markieff Morris, PF, PHO ($1)
114. Trevor Booker, PF, WSH ($1)
115. Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, NO ($1)
116. Jared Dudley, SF/SG, PHO ($1)
117. J.J. Hickson, PF/C, POR ($1)
Take a second look at some of these names; Jordan, Seraphin and Leonard all had their moments last season. All it takes is an injury to a frontline player for one of these guys to land squarely on the fantasy radar. A lot of former first-round picks here, which means someone thought a lot of them at some point in the not-too-distant past.
Tier 16: Endgame grabs
118. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, HOU ($1)
119. Greivis Vasquez, PG, NO ($1)
120. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, MIN ($1)
121. Luis Scola, PF, PHO ($2)
122. Jordan Crawford, SG, WSH ($1)
123. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET ($2)
124. Spencer Hawes, C, PHI ($3)
125. D.J. Augustin, PG/SG, IND ($1)
126. Dorell Wright, SF, PHI ($1)
127. Jeff Green, SF/PF, BOS ($1)
128. Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA ($2)
129. Gustavo Ayon, PF, ORL ($1)
130. Andrew Nicholson, PF, ORL ($1)
131. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, DEN ($1)
132. Nene, C/PF, WSH ($5)
133. J.R. Smith, SG/SF, NY ($1)
134. Jonas Jerebko, SF/PF, DET ($1)
135. Samuel Dalembert, C, MIL ($2)
136. Landry Fields, SG, TOR ($1)
137. Tony Allen, SG, MEM ($2)
138. Ben Gordon, SG, CHA ($3)
139. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, PHI ($2)
140. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, WSH ($1)
141. Ed Davis, PF/C, TOR ($1)
142. Alonzo Gee, SG/SF, CLE ($1)
143. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, LAC ($1)
144. Brandon Rush, SG/SF, GS ($1)
145. Chris Kaman, C/PF, DAL ($1)
146. Elton Brand, PF, DAL ($2)
147. Amir Johnson, PF/C, TOR ($1)
148. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR ($1)
149. David West, PF, IND ($1)
150. Tiago Splitter, PF/C, SA ($1)
2hMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
3hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins