2013 Outlook: Given the season LeBron James had, some might be surprised to learn that it was Durant, not James, who finished atop our Player Rater in 2011-12. Durant posted monster numbers, including averages of 28.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers per game while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 86.0 percent from the line. His ability to contribute in multiple categories makes him the perfect building block for any fantasy team. Particularly attractive is his efficiency from both the floor and the line given his large volume of shot attempts, which makes it a toss-up between him and LeBron for the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts this year. KD has missed only 14 games in his five-year career, making him one of the safest investments in all of fantasy basketball.
2013 Outlook: This will be LeBron's 10th NBA season, but he won't even turn 29 years old until late December, so he's still squarely in his prime. Last season, he meshed well with D-Wade, Bosh and the rest of the Heat, which was reflected by career-high marks in field goal percentage (53.1), 3-point percentage (36.2) and rebounds (7.9 per game). Additionally, his free throw percentage (77.1) and steals (1.9 per game) were nearly career bests. In his current role with the Heat, his free throw and 3-point attempts have diminished, but his overall production volume remains massive. There's no reason to think that LeBron won't be near the top of the Player Rater at season's end.
2013 Outlook: Paul put to rest any remaining questions about the health of his knees after playing 60 games last season and finishing as the top fantasy point guard in his first year with the Clippers. CP3 finished third overall on our Player Rater with averages of 19.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 3-pointers per game while shooting 47.8 percent from the floor and 86.1 percent from the free throw line. The point guard position is 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.
2013 Outlook: It's not surprising that last season's compressed schedule took its toll on Wade, who turned 30 years old in January. He missed 17 games and required offseason knee surgery, though he should be fully healthy when this season starts. The downside is that the Heat likely will put less weight on his shoulders to limit his injury risk. Even last season we saw some dramatic changes in his production. He doesn't attack the lane as much; last year, he took 2.5 fewer free throw attempts and snagged 1.6 fewer rebounds per game than the previous season. He also essentially stopped shooting 3s. At this stage of his career, he's no longer a top-five fantasy option, but he should be a steady contributor worthy of an early second-round pick. Let's just hope he can stay healthy.
2013 Outlook: As we predicted last season, the move from Jerry Sloan's strict structure in Utah to a free-form, ball-hog role with the Nets resulted in increased scoring, 3s and turnovers -- and decreased field goal percentage and assists. This season, the Nets have a talented and diverse starting lineup, which should result in D-Will settling in somewhere between last season's production and what we saw in Utah. Averaging 20.0 points and 10.0 assists per game is fully within reach, and we should see an increase in field goal percentage with a likely dip in 3s. It's possible Williams could lead the league in dimes with a dip in scoring, but exactly how those stats balance out isn't as important as the fact that his overall value will remain elite.
2013 Outlook: With his explosiveness and ability to get to the basket at will, Westbrook has the talent (and talent around him) to be a perennial top-five fantasy player. Westbrook, who last year averaged 23.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 3-pointers per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor and 82.3 percent from the line, catapulted all the way up to fourth on our Player Rater in just his fourth season in the league. As versatile and consistent as any player in the league, Westbrook, 23, is a dominant, multi-category producer who hasn't missed a single game in his career. The ever-improving Westbrook should be considered a sure-fire first-round selection.
2013 Outlook: Our projections are actually conservative for what J-Smoove could offer this season -- and that says a lot. He's a physical freak entering his physical prime (age 26), Joe Johnson is out of town and Smith will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. In short, the sky's the limit. This is a guy who averages 2.9 blocks per game and shoots 50.1 percent from the field; plus, last year he averaged 23.9 points, 10.1 boards, 4.5 dimes, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks in 19 games in January. This season, expect Smith to come in with an agenda to dominate -- and for Atlanta coach Larry Drew to ride him hard while he's still there. Smoove is on the short list of ballers you can get in the second round who could finish as a top-five fantasy player.
2013 Outlook: He's been dreaming of the day when he'd be 'The Man' on a team. That day has arrived in Philly, and all signs point to Bynum being ready to handle the pressure of his new role. He should have little problem averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and close to 2.0 blocks per game. The upside is far greater if he gets enough shot attempts, but coach Doug Collins prefers to spread the ball around his offense, so there's hardly any guarantee that Bynum will get the 18 to 20 shots per game he'll need to become an elite fantasy player. There's also the matter of his lengthy injury problems. Risk aside, Bynum is one of the better centers out there and has the opportunity to finish as the best fantasy center.
2013 Outlook: Kobe might be getting up there in age (34) and mileage, but his decline hasn't been as quick as many expected: He averaged 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 3-pointers while shooting 84.5 percent from the line in 2011-12. In doing so, Kobe quieted many critics who believed he'd struggle with the tough scheduling of the shortened season. But new questions now face Bryant as he enters his 17th professional season. The arrival of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard gives Kobe more firepower to make another run at a title, but will it come at the expense of his stats? Expect a decrease in numbers across the board, particularly in the assist category, as Kobe won't dominate the ball as much as he has in the past. That said, any reduction in numbers should come with a corresponding bump in field goal percentage as Nash and Howard will create more open looks for Bryant. While his numbers might dip, fantasy owners shouldn't downgrade Kobe too much in 2012-13. He's still a great foundation player to build a team around thanks to his ability to produce and dominate in multiple categories.
2013 Outlook: One of the premier scoring forwards in the league, Big Al uses a variety of low-post moves and ball fakes to score almost at will in the paint. But Jefferson isn't only a scorer in the fantasy game -- he finished 18th on our Player Rater last year. In addition to putting up 19.2 points per game last season, he also averaged 9.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.7 blocks while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 77.4 percent from the line. When healthy, he's been remarkably consistent over the past five seasons, and although he struggled with nagging injuries early in his career, he's missed just 11 games over the past three seasons. The Jazz are ultra-deep in the frontcourt with Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but Jefferson is their best offensive threat in the paint, and he shouldn't have a problem getting his numbers.
2013 Outlook: Last season, Irving lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 pick. In fact, he exceeded expectations in some areas, which gives hope to bigger long-term fantasy production. Despite being a scrawny, 6-foot-3 point guard, Irving shot 46.9 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 18.5 points per game last season. Clearly, he can score at the NBA level. His assists, however, were limited by a team devoid of other scorers; as a result, we expect his assist production to increase as the youthful Cavs figure out how to put the rock in the hoop. It should be noted that Irving missed all but 11 games at Duke, 15 games as a rookie and broke his hand this offseason, so there remains some concern about his durability -- but his upside outweighs that.
2013 Outlook: On the strength of his scoring and efficiency, Aldridge finished last season ranked 29th on our Player Rater despite missing the final eight games with a hip injury. Prior to the injury, Aldridge was an elite fantasy big man, averaging 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and 81.4 percent from the line. Though we'd like to see him tally a few more rebounds and blocks per game, Aldridge is one of the few big men who can knock down free throws at a high rate. Reportedly healthy after surgery on his hip, Aldridge once again will be a big force in the paint and a safe investment for fantasy owners in 2012-13.
2013 Outlook: Questions surrounding Gasol's ability to produce with a healthy Andrew Bynum on the court were put to rest when he averaged 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game in 2011-12. With or without Bynum in the lineup, Gasol has always been a top fantasy player thanks to his scoring, rebounding, shot-blocking and efficiency. His numbers might regress slightly with Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison now in the mix, but the decline won't be terribly steep. The Lakers have a ton of weapons but little depth, and Gasol will still play a major role both offensively and defensively as he enters his 12th season.
2013 Outlook: Howard has been the league's most dominant fantasy center for the better part of the past six seasons, but a change in scenery and offseason back surgery have the fantasy community questioning him for the first time in his career. Fantasy owners tolerated Howard's poor free throw shooting (49.1 percent) in the past because of his dominance in scoring (20.6 ppg), rebounding (14.5 rpg), field goal percentage (57.3) and blocks (2.1 bpg). But will he still be worth punting the free throw category if his numbers slip a little now that he has a supporting cast of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol? That said, we should expect only a modest dip in production if Howard is 100 percent healthy to start the year. Andrew Bynum didn't have a problem producing in the Lakers lineup, and although some of the dynamics have changed with Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison in town, there will still be plenty of opportunities for Howard to get his in the Lakers' frontcourt.
2013 Outlook: With Jeremy Lin and Mike D'Antoni out of the picture, the Knicks offense should run entirely through the hands of Melo and Amare Stoudemire. Because of the changes in personnel, coaches and schemes during their collective tenure with the Knicks, it's still not clear exactly how the two will manage to mesh. However, we think coach Mike Woodson will figure out a way to allow both of them to score in the low- to mid-20s. Hopefully, Melo learned a lot about winning this summer with Team USA, but there is a residual concern that the extra offseason action might have worn down his body. Keep in mind that he missed 11 games last season and has hit the 70-game mark just once since 2007-08.