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: 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 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: 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: On the strength of his scoring and efficiency, Aldridge finished the year ranked 20th on our Player Rater despite missing eight games. Aldridge is one of the few big men in the league who can knock down his free throws at an 81 percent clip. With 21.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks, Aldridge is as solid as they come, though we'd love to see a few more blocks out of our big men. Still, he's been a perennial top 25-30 player for three years now and is an extremely safe fantasy investment.
2014 Outlook: Davis started his rookie season slowly as he battled through some minor injuries, but he turned things on in a big way in the second half with 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line in 24 games after the All-Star break. With numbers like those, it is becoming increasingly clear that Davis is a fantasy superstar in the making. He has the potential to provide first-round value as early as this season if he can keep himself on the court.
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: Since Horford does not do one thing at an elite level, he flies under the radar. However, he does contribute stats in all big-man categories, which means he carries excellent fantasy value, especially since his role on offense should grow with Josh Smith out of town. He averaged 19.7 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG and 54.8 FG% after the All-Star break last season, a pace that should be within his range over the full 2013-14 campaign. Paul Millsap's arrival should push Horford to center, which means we may see an increase in block production, too.
2014 Outlook: Always a dominant rebounder who has a nose for tracking down loose balls, Lee is more than just a double-double machine in fantasy leagues, thanks to his impressive percentages and ability to create steals. On the strength of his league-leading 56 double-doubles, Lee finished 14th on our Player Rater in 2012-13. He's not a shot-blocker, but his owners won't complain when he's putting up 18-20 points and 9-11 rebounds per night. Fully recovered from the hip injury that limited him in the playoffs, Lee is a quality high-round fantasy pick as long as you can find your blocks elsewhere.
2014 Outlook: Howard's only season in Los Angeles might have been a disaster, but he still managed to average 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.4 blocks in 76 games as a Laker. We should expect similar numbers from Howard now that he's joined James Harden in Houston. It's unlikely that he will be able to return to his 20/14 days, though, with Harden commanding touches and Omer Asik requiring minutes in the frontcourt. Fantasy owners tolerated his poor free throw shooting (49.2 percent) in the past because of his dominance in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage, but is it still worth punting the free throw category now that his numbers have slipped a little?
2014 Outlook: Griffin might have posted career lows in points (18.0) and rebounds (8.3), but he turned in the best fantasy season of his career by making major strides in creating steals (1.2) and knocking down his free throws at a much higher clip (66.0 percent). Those improvements helped catapult him to 31st on our Player Rater on the season. Since he doesn't block shots, and is still a below-average free throw shooter, Griffin is not quite a complete fantasy player. Typically drafted a little higher than he should be because of his name recognition, Blake is still a nice investment due to his dominant scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.