2014 Outlook: Given the season that LeBron James had, some may be surprised to learn that it was Durant, not James, who finished atop our Player Rater for the second consecutive season. With 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.7 3-pointers per game while shooting 51.0 percent from the floor and 90.5 percent from the line, his ability to contribute in multiple categories makes him the perfect building block for any fantasy team. If you're wondering why Durant over LeBron, look no further than KD's incredible efficiency and high volume of shot attempts, but don't overlook the newest flavor to his game: his ever-improving ability to hand out assists to his teammates. Oh, and if that's not enough, KD has missed only 15 games in his six-year career, making him one of the safest investments in all of fantasy basketball.
2014 Outlook: The two-time NBA Finals MVP is in his physical prime and unquestionably the best all-around player in the world. It's reflected in his stats, which remain elite and include relevant numbers in all categories. He has reached a comfort level where his stats are becoming more refined. While he has settled in as a 27-PPG scorer, James posted career-bests last season with 56.5 FG%, 8.0 RPG and 3.0 TOPG while dishing out the second-most APG (7.3) of his career. He's the King of Hoops and one of the top two picks in any format. He will basically post the stats of two quality players and could see an overall boost in value if Dwyane Wade's body continues to deteriorate.
2014 Outlook: Harden was masterful in his first season with the Rockets, posting a versatile 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.3 3-pointers on the season. Those numbers, along with his 85.1 percent shooting in 10.2 free throw attempts per game, were good enough to finish fourth on our Player Rater in 2012-13. Harden will have to share some of his touches with Dwight Howard now in the fold, but any decrease in scoring could result in a corresponding bump in field goal percentage and assists. Only 24 years old and entering his prime, Harden is a safe bet to finish as a top-10 fantasy player once again in 2013-14.
2014 Outlook: Paul delivered yet another dominant season finishing sixth on our Player Rater on the strength of 16.9 points, 9.7 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.1 3-pointers per game with his usual terrific efficiency. Few can match Paul's dominance in assists and steals, and even fewer can do it while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the line. The point guard position may be as good and as deep as it's ever been, but Paul clearly stands alone at the top in the fantasy game. Draft him accordingly.
2014 Outlook: Fully healthy after struggling with ankle injuries in 2011-12, Curry turned in a truly fantastic fantasy season, finishing third on Player Rater behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James. A dynamic talent, Curry posted career highs in points (22.9), assists (6.9) and 3-pointers (3.5) and managed to stay on the court for 78 games on the season. Fears over his ankles will follow him for a little while, but Curry was able to remain healthy with a heavy workload of 38.2 minutes per game, which suggests that he's not much more of an injury risk than any of your first-round options.
2014 Outlook: Hand and knee injuries forced Love to miss all but 18 games of the 2012-13 season, in which he posted a modest (for him) 18.3 points, 14.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.1 3-pointers per game. Reportedly healthy, Love hopes to return to his 2011-12 ways when he finished fifth on our Player Rater on the strength of his 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.9 3-pointers per game. He's easily a top-10 fantasy player when operating at full strength, so fantasy owners will have to decide whether the risk is worth the reward when selecting Love this season. He hasn't quite been labeled injury-prone just yet, and staying healthy this year will go a long way in calming concerns about his durability.
2014 Outlook: The book on Irving is pretty simple: The PG will be a superstar as soon as he can make it through a season in one piece. Dating back to his failed run at Duke, he has been equal parts amazing and injured. The skeptic will say that the kid is just brittle and will always battle long-term injuries. The optimist will say that he's just a 21-year-old kid who eventually will develop a durable NBA body. Both will agree that his statistical ceiling is extremely high. Consider his 14 January games last season: 25.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 3 PPG, 2.4 SPG, 48.0 FG% (19.8), 89.5 FT% (5.4 FTA). A season of high-end production like that is well within reach if he can stay on the hardwood.
2014 Outlook: An elite fantasy center who is able to produce in nearly every fantasy category, Gasol finished ninth on our Player Rater in 2012-13. With 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.7 blocks while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and 84.8 percent from the line, Gasol did a little bit of everything for the Grizzlies and his fantasy owners. Gasol won't dominate any one particular category outside of blocked shots, but he's still a perfect building block for any fantasy team thanks to his across-the-board productivity. Missing only a handful of games in his five-year career, Gasol is one of the safest investments in all of fantasy basketball.
2014 Outlook: The fantasy hoops world already knew what George was capable of, but the rest of the basketball universe was introduced to George during his official breakout season. Not only was he an All-Star, but he churned out terrific across-the-board stats, chipping in scoring, 3s, rebounds, dimes and steals. It's exactly the type of well-rounded game that makes roto junkies drool. The scary thing is that he is just 23 and has plenty of room for improvement. Specifically, if he takes a couple of more shots per game and has a modest bump in FG% from last season's 41.9 percent, he could push up over 20 PPG and 2.5 3 PPG. He's a safe pick in the first round of fantasy drafts.
2014 Outlook: In many ways, Melo is the modern version of Allen Iverson. There is an endless debate about whether he truly understands the nuances of winning games through team ball, but there is no doubting his love for hogging the rock and hoisting a ton of shots. In other words, just like A.I., Melo is a beast in fantasy! He will continue to be a statistical force as a scorer, including plenty of 3s and a ton of FTs this season, too. The only drawbacks are a mediocre FG% at high volume (20-plus FGA per game), no hustle stats and a propensity for missing 10-15 games each season. He'll be highly motivated, though, since he can opt out and become a free agent at season's end.
2014 Outlook: It's logical to compare D-Will to Rondo, now that he is balling with the Rondo's former teammates (Pierce and KG). There is a very good chance that Williams will bump his APG over 10 for the first time since '10-'11 a la Rondo, but Williams should remain a quality scorer, too. He isn't likely to top 20 PPG, as he should take fewer shots; but by taking better shots, he should raise his FG% dramatically (perhaps over the 46.0-percent mark) and keep his scoring in the upper teens. He's reportedly in excellent shape, but his troublesome ankles already are an issue in camp. He's probably the riskiest player with top-10 potential.
2014 Outlook: Ibaka followed up an impressive 2011-12 campaign by finishing eighth on our Player Rater in 2012-13 on the strength of his dominant shot-blocking and much-improved efficiency on the offensive end. Many criticized Ibaka's inability to step up offensively after Russell Westbrook's postseason knee injury, but Ibaka still had a fantastic season, posting career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. He led the league in blocks for the second straight season by a healthy margin with 242 (Roy Hibbert finished second with 206), and his all-around game has steadily improved during his first four years in the league. He makes for a terrific second-round selection in fantasy leagues.
2014 Outlook: One of the most unique fantasy players in the game, Batum was a top-10 fantasy player for much of the season before struggling down the stretch with shoulder and wrist injuries. It was a tale of two seasons for Batum, who posted a brilliant 15.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks and 2.3 3-pointers before the All-Star break and a solid but unspectacular 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.1 blocks and 2.1 3-pointers after the break. He can do a lot for fantasy owners, and can provide first-round value in the second round if he can remain healthy this season.
2014 Outlook: Nowitzki struggled while recovering from a knee injury early in the 2012-13 season, but he finished strong with 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers after the All-Star break. Although his numbers have slipped in each of the past two seasons, Dirk is still a fantastic fantasy option thanks to his ability to contribute in multiple statistical categories while providing dominant field goal and free throw percentages. Nowitzki has a new supporting cast around him this season, and although he's starting to get up there in age, he should benefit from the additions of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.
2014 Outlook: The only thing standing between D-Wade and a top-10 fantasy finish is his body, primarily his balky knees. When healthy, he has continually generated huge stats across the board. Last season he took part in just 69 games, but his 52.1 FG% was by far the best of his career, his 5.1 APG was a three-year high and his 1.9 SPG a five-year high. Wade has reportedly been solely focused on shedding some pounds and getting in peak physical condition this offseason, and since he can opt out of his contract in the summer, he should be particularly motivated to max out his games played and stats. It's a big if, but if Wade can stay healthy, he could be one of the top early-round bargains in Fantasyland.