2013 Outlook: Those who expected Harden to become an elite fantasy player weren't disappointed last season when he exploded with averages of 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 84.6 percent from the line. Thanks to his dominant percentages and ability to contribute in multiple categories across the board, Harden finished the year ranked No. 13 on our Player Rater. His breakout campaign was no fluke, either. With plenty of open looks as the third option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden's per-minute numbers always suggested that he was capable of putting up big numbers once his playing time increased. After a preseason trade sent him to Houston, expectations will again be high for Harden. He'll be the No. 1 scorer on a team that lacks true scoring options, and he should post career highs in nearly every category as his playing time will skyrocket. Keep in mind that the move will negatively impact his field goal percentage and turnovers, but feel confident in rolling with Harden as one of your top players.
2013 Outlook: Building off of a spectacular second half during the 2010-11 season, Lawson broke out in a big way in 2011-12 to the tune of 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per contest in his first full season as a starter. With tremendous percentages (48.8 percent from the floor, 82.4 percent from the line), he catapulted to No. 19 on our Player Rater by the end of the season. Lawson is blessed with top-end speed and quickness, and is fearless in his attempts to get to the basket, where he can create or finish with a variety of offensive moves. Already a borderline elite fantasy point guard, Lawson looked brilliant last season during a seven-game playoff series against the Lakers and is poised to deliver once again in 2012-13.
2013 Outlook: An elite fantasy center who produces in nearly every fantasy category, Marc Gasol finished 17th on our Player Rater in 2011-12. Gasol did a little bit of everything for the Grizzlies and his fantasy owners last season, posting averages of 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.9 blocks while shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 74.8 percent from the line. Zach Randolph's knee injury certainly played a part in Gasol's big season, but these are the types of numbers we've come to expect from the big man who is entering his fifth NBA season. He might see a slight decrease in scoring and rebounding with a healthy Z-Bo around, but Gasol is versatile enough to remain a top-25 fantasy option for 2012-13.
2013 Outlook: Rondo has been the definition of a classic point guard: He dishes assists, racks up steals and doesn't care to shoot. While that's a dream scenario for an NBA coach, it keeps Rondo from being an elite fantasy option. With the Big Three previously taking care of the scoring, Rondo hasn't been asked to shoot; he just dished and let others put the rock in the hoop. But with Ray Allen gone and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aging, will the C's finally ask Rondo to shoot? Probably not, since he doesn't have a reliable jumper. Espn.com's John Hollinger put it this way: 'If he could shoot at all, he'd be dominant.' He's just 26 years old, so he could still develop a midrange jumper. But until then, he'll be a two-category (assists, steals) wonder.
2013 Outlook: Smashing even the most optimistic expectations over the past two seasons, Love has turned into one of the premier fantasy players in the game thanks to his unique statistical diversity. Love proved that his breakout performance in 2010-11 was no fluke, finishing 5th on our Player Rater in 2011-12 with averages of 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 1.9 3-pointers on the year. In addition to his dominant scoring, rebounding and 3-point shooting, Love is also one of the best free throw shooters in the fantasy game, connecting on 82.4 percent in 8.4 attempts per game. A broken hand will keep Love out of action for the next 6-8 weeks and assuming a return in late November or early December, Love will miss at least the first 15 games of the season. A top-5 pick prior to the injury, Love looks more like a late second or early third round pick in fantasy leagues.
2013 Outlook: Though some might debate Cousins' value because of his somewhat underwhelming field goal percentage (44.8), he finished last season as one of fantasy's premier big men, posting averages of 19.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game in 32 contests after the All-Star break. Most impressive about those numbers is that he played just 31.5 minutes per game. Imagine what the 22-year-old can do if he figures out how to stay out of foul trouble -- or if he becomes more efficient at scoring around the rim. Cousins averaged a league-high 7.3 shot attempts at the rim last year, according to Hoopdata.com; however, he converted just 56.7 percent of those attempts, well below the league average. Already a top fantasy option, Cousins could be in for a huge year if he improves even a little in his third professional season.
2013 Outlook: No longer one of the league's best-kept secrets, Millsap had his second straight big season, posting 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor and 79.2 percent from the line. Those numbers were good enough to rank him No. 7 on our Player Rater for the 2011-12 season. Millsap's motor and effort are almost unmatched by his competitors, which makes him a strong force on both ends of the court. Utah's frontcourt is absolutely stacked with talent -- including the up-and-coming Derrick Favors -- but Millsap has found a way to get his minutes and numbers despite the depth up front. Though the emergence of Favors could potentially have an impact on Millsap, fantasy owners should still draft him with confidence and enjoy his well-rounded production.
2013 Outlook: With huge expectations coming into last season, Ibaka lived up to his lofty billing by putting up 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and a league-leading 3.7 blocks per game in 2011-12. On the strength of his shot-blocking dominance, Ibaka finished 11th on our Player Rater in just his third NBA season. The word 'dominance' might not even justly describe his blocking ability; in addition to rejecting more shots (241) than Dwight Howard (116) and Andrew Bynum (116) combined -- which also was 100 more than his next-closest competitor, DeAndre Jordan -- Ibaka did it all while playing just 27.1 minutes per game. Most impressive about the soon-to-be 23-year-old is the rapid improvement in his game on both ends of the floor. His new, smooth midrange jumper (which he showcased during the Thunder's playoff run) should go a long way in securing more minutes for the big man in 2012-13. It's a scary prospect, but with more minutes on the horizon, Ibaka should continue to improve as he matures.
2013 Outlook: A torn pec cost Horford nearly all of last season, but he looked fine in the playoffs and is now 100 percent. The former No. 3 pick has a well-rounded fantasy game, contributing scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks, low turnovers and high percentages. However, low shooting volume from the field (12 shots per game) and stripe (just a few per game) have kept him from advancing to the next level. That could change with Joe Johnson gone, and certainly would change if contract-year Josh Smith is traded so Horford could play his more natural power forward position. Even without that bump, he remains a rock-solid fantasy center with upside who will help in many categories -- and hurt in none.
2013 Outlook: A top-25 fantasy option, Gay is a multi-category stud who can do a little bit of everything for fantasy owners. With efficiency from both the floor and the line, Gay posted 19.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers per game in 2011-12. What makes him such an effective fantasy option is his ability to produce in nearly every category other than assists. Over the course of his six-year career, Gay has been an extremely safe fantasy investment, scoring at least 19 points per game in four seasons and missing just 29 total games due to injury. Draft him with confidence in 2012-13.
2013 Outlook: After taking the NBA by storm in his rookie season, last year Griffin continued to dominate offensively alongside Chris Paul, posting 20.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 54.9 percent from the floor. Those expecting him to put his athleticism to good use on the defensive end, however, were disappointed with his somewhat underwhelming stats (0.8 steals per game and 0.7 blocks per game). That, along with his detrimental free throw shooting (52.1 percent on 7.1 attempts per game), caused Blake to drop all the way to 62nd on our Player Rater despite his aforementioned brilliance on offense. Griffin is reportedly healthy after undergoing offseason knee surgery, but fantasy owners would be wise to check his status in the preseason to ensure that he is 100 percent. He is still a dynamic fantasy player because of his strengths, but those who select him should have a specific strategy to compensate for his weaknesses.
2013 Outlook: Last year, Dirk posted some of his lowest per-game averages in his past nine seasons, including points (21.6), rebounds (6.7), blocks (0.5) and field goal percentage (45.7). Regardless, he still produced enough to finish 12th on our Player Rater. Dirk looked sluggish to start last year's lockout-shortened season, but really turned it on in the second half once he got his conditioning back. Nowitzki, who turned 34 years old in the offseason and has 14 years of NBA experience, still has a few more years left in him as an elite fantasy player. Dirk still gets it done in a big way in terms of points and percentages, and that doesn't figure to change anytime soon. He'll start this season sidelined after having his right knee scoped, but even if he misses 15-20 games, he'll be elite enough upon his return to warrant a late-third, early fourth-round pick in 10-team standard leagues.
2013 Outlook: Fantasy's best midseason pickup in 2011-12 was the big winner of the offseason when he signed with the Suns to replace Steve Nash. Dragic, who was Nash's understudy in Phoenix before moving to Houston, showed signs of brilliance despite being relegated to backup duty before getting his first opportunity for extended minutes in relief of Kyle Lowry for the Rockets last season. The results? Dragic posted 18.0 points, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per game while shooting 49.0 percent from the floor and 83.9 percent from the line in 28 starts. He was so valuable in the fantasy game that, despite starting in only 28 games, he still finished 46th on our Player Rater. Now the clear starter for the rebuilding Suns, fantasy owners should expect big things from the 26-year-old entering his fifth NBA season.
2013 Outlook: Monroe, who has lived up to the hype of being a steady big man, has fundamentals and a terrific work ethic. That's been reflected in consistent improvement on the court with glimmers of serious fantasy upside. In 14 February games, he averaged 18.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. Plus, he achieved that while taking 14.4 shots per game -- a number that's an entirely realistic expectation this season. He isn't a shot-blocker, but he makes up for that by stealing a lot of balls for a big man. His free throw shooting could use improvement, too, but it won't kill you from a fantasy perspective. We're expecting Monroe to fully break out -- not because it's his third year, but because he is a legit 20-10 threat.
2013 Outlook: Jennings is a hard player to peg. He's an insane athlete but a streaky scorer who hoists up far too many bad shots. Plus, he's a small guard paired up with another small guard (Monta Ellis), both of whom are really shoot-first point guards. On top of those factors, Jennings is entering into the final year of his rookie contract, which means the Bucks could be inclined to trade him during the season to address the size issue in their backcourt and save themselves from a big contract payout next summer. Landing in the wrong spot could limit his production. In Milwaukee, he remains in a position to contribute quality guard stats and likely will continue boosting his field goal percentage.