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: 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: 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: Long known as J-Smoove, most just call him Smoove now, which is appropriate since he doesn't actually have a "J" in his hoops repertoire. It's going to be interesting to see how the Pistons handle his shoddy jumper even though he likely will spend a good amount of time at small forward this season. If GM Joe Dumars and coach Maurice Cheeks can persuade him to take only quality J's, he could get his FG% up over 50 percent again. Time will tell how many shots he gets off in The D and whether he can top 15-16 PPG, but we can safely expect him to continue churning out excellent rebounds, dimes, steals and blocks this season. The multiposition eligibility is a bonus, too.
2014 Outlook: Those who love analytics and poring over contract numbers might loathe Gay, but we fantasy folks don't care so long as Gay is churning out big stats, and that's exactly what he's destined to do this season with the Raptors. In the 33 games he played after being traded to Toronto, Gay averaged 17.1 shots and 4.0 3-point attempts, both of which would be career highs over the course of a full season. Basically, he should wind up in the 19-20 PPG range, while making roto hoopers happy with some 3s, steals, blocks and quality rebounding numbers. There is little risk and plenty to like when it comes to Gay this season.
2014 Outlook: We've been teased by Ilyasova in the past. He's looked like an All-Star at times, yet he couldn't convince his coaches to feed him the rock. He picked up steam again after the All-Star break last season (17.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.7 3s, 48.7 FG percentage) and should finally parlay that into a full season of big-time fantasy production in '13-14, because the Bucks have dramatically thinned out their roster and will have no choice but to lean heavily on him as a primary scorer. As you can see, he also has a diverse statistical game for roto teams, too. If he takes a large leap in confidence, 19-20 PPG could be possible.
2014 Outlook: If Thompson didn't open eyes by finishing 37th on our Player Rater during the regular season, he sure made a name for himself on the national stage during Golden State's 12-game playoff run. We'd love to see him create more steals and be a bit more selective with his shots, but we won't complain with 16.6 points and 2.6 3-pointers per game for the 23-year-old sharpshooter. Already a fantastic fantasy selection, Thompson should continue to improve as he enters his third year in the league.
2014 Outlook: Despite playing in 1,102 games, chucking up 17,630 shots and turning 36 during training camp, Pierce has managed to hold Father Time at bay. He's avoided any catastrophic injuries, missed only sporadic game action and has continued to be a viable fantasy force. In fact, his combination of scoring, assists, rebounding and helpful production from both the 3-point and free throw lines still makes him one of the better small forwards in Fantasyland. Donning a new jersey (pun intended) in Brooklyn should have little effect on his production; Pierce will remain a solid contributor across the board, so long as his body continues to stand the test of time.
2014 Outlook: Currently recovering from Achilles tendon surgery, it remains to be seen how Bryant will be hampered to start the season. If he's 100 percent healthy, Kobe is still an elite fantasy option after posting 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.7 3-pointers per game with terrific percentages a season ago. With Kobe hoping to return for the start of the campaign, fantasy owners will want to watch his progression closely before using a high pick on him in fantasy drafts.
2014 Outlook: Tabbed as a potential breakout candidate in 2012-13, Leonard delivered on his promise, particularly in the playoffs where he posted 13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.1 3-pointers in 21 postseason games. Leonard's playoff success did not come as a surprise after he averaged 11.9 points, 6.0 boards, 1.7 steals and 1.1 3-pointers in only 31.2 minutes per game during the regular season. The 22-year-old is one of the more talented young stars in the game today, and fantasy owners should expect big things in 2013-14.
2014 Outlook: Savvy fantasy owners are well aware of this underrated statistical gem. Not only is Young eligible at both forward spots, but he can score, rebound, shoot over 50 percent from the field and pile up a quality steals total. Last season, he averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 53.1 FG% and 1.8 SPG. This season, with the Sixers roster stripped bare, Young has the chance to take a career-high in shots, which means he could score in the upper teens. Expect him to be one of the better breakout players in fantasy this season and a sleeper NBA All-Star candidate.
2014 Outlook: We finally saw Smith fully live up to the production of which he was capable. He posted career-highs in scoring (18.1 PPG) and rebounding (5.3), while chipping in a respectable 42.2 FG percentage, 1.9 3s and 1.3 SPG, all while coming off the bench. Yet it's hard to not be skeptical about what we should expect this season. Last season was a contract year, and since he got his payday in July, he has undergone knee surgery (questionable for start of season) and was suspended five games. It's easy to imagine Smitty sliding back into his old habits of being flaky, though he remains in position to continue as a scoring and 3-point threat. The additions of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih could curtail Smith's upside.
2014 Outlook: Now three years removed from his record-setting rookie season, Evans posted 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 3-pointers in 2012-13. Evans' numbers have gone in the wrong direction since posting 20/5/5 as a rookie, but he's still a quality fantasy option thanks to his production in multiple categories. Evans is a better fantasy player when he has the ball in his hands, but he'll be expected to play more off the ball at small forward with the Pelicans. He'll earn plenty of minutes and should be a solid investment in fantasy leagues as long as you aren't expecting him to recreate his rookie season magic.