We hit you with the top five tiers of fantasy basketball players yesterday, ranking 1-21. Today, the second tier of players rolls out and this is where things can get a little trickier since this player pool has some questions and aren’t as rock solid as the higher tiers. In any case, check the rankings and digest.
NOTE: The number in parentheses is an actual rank number, but is used loosely to help you decide within the tier. However, all players within tiers basically have the same value. All stats are from last season, unless otherwise specified.
Tier Six — Pau Gasol (22), Carmelo Anthony (23), Rajon Rondo (24), Brandon Jennings (25)
In this tier, we have players that have been consistent performers the past few seasons and/or have some high potential to get better. For the two guards, there’s some upside despite some flaws.
There may be some worry that Gasol’s production — 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks — may dip because of Dwight Howard calling Hollywood home, but remember Gasol achieved the aforementioned numbers during Andrew Bynum’s breakout season. And since D12 will still need to get 100 percent healthy and learn to play with Kobe Bryant, Gasol should be able to average a double-double still for most of the season and possibly even up his assists (3.7) and field goal shooting (50.1 percent) production.
The blocks and field goal percentage is why I have Gasol over Anthony, who definitely scores (22.6), but did see an almost four-point decrease from the previous season (26.3) when he played 27 games after being traded to the New York Knicks. In fact, his shooting was significantly lower after the honeymoon period of 2011 in FG% (46.1 down to 43.0), 3PT% (42.4 to 33.5) and FT% (87.2 to 80.4). There are too many issues going on with the team in regards to chemistry, so going with Gasol before Melo makes the most sense.
Both Rondo and Jennings are high-producing point guards, but with obvious flaws. Rondo doesn’t score like the top lead guards (11.9 points) and his shooting from the charity stripe leaves something to be desired (59.7 percent). Jennings has to deal with still acclimating to playing with Monta Ellis in the backcourt, as well as shooting the rock a lot better (41.8 percent).
However, the positives are that Rondo should once again lead the league in assists (11.7) and be right there at the top of the steals category (1.8), potentially leading the NBA in both categories. Also, the Boston Celtics are a team transitioning to having Rondo as “the man,” so we very well may see more Euro steps that lead to more points. For Jennings, he’s seen his field goal percentage trend up since his rookie season from 37.1 percent to 39.0 to 41.8. He can also hit the three (2.0 treys per game), steal the ball (1.6) and isn’t too shabby with dimes (5.5) while still scoring pretty well (19.1). Also, if the Bucks don’t extend him, a contract year adds some extra motivation for Jennings to produce.
Tier Seven — Serge Ibaka (26), Rudy Gay (27), Andre Iguodala (28), Joe Johnson (29), Steve Nash (30)
In this tier, players either produce huge in a category or significantly throughout multiple ones.
Ibaka blocks the ball at a fairly decent rate (3.7). OK, it’s actually a ridiculous rate, but you know what I mean. Defensively, he should continue to do it big and has the potential to help you win a category almost by himself in weekly H2H leagues. If he can get more burn on the court from last season (27 minutes), and it’d be hard to understand why he wouldn’t considering his recent contract extension, Ibaka will improve his 9.1 points and 7.5 rebounds from last season when he also shot 53.5 percent from the floor, but only 66.1 percent from the line. However, the 1.8 free throw attempts isn’t significant enough to downgrade him too much.
I chose Ibaka over Gay because of Serge’s promise to improve while Rudy seems to be fairly level since getting starter minutes his second season. You can expect about 19 points on 45 percent shooting from the floor and 77 percent from the free throw line, six rebounds, two assists, a three, a block and 1.5 steals, which is in-line with what he’s done the past five seasons.
Iguodala, when it comes to points, has been the opposite of Gay in that he’s been trending down since averaging a career-high 19.9 points during the 2007-08 season to 18.8, 17.1, 14.1 and 12.4 last season. I mention this because the descent should stop now that Iggy will be playing with the best passing point guard (Ty Lawson) he’s probably ever played with in a dynamic, up-tempo offense. Of course, the steals (1.7), relatively high assists (5.5) and rebounds (6.1) from the two-spot is what makes him enticing.
Johnson is likely a safer pick than the previous two, but the lack of defensive stats is what makes him fall a bit in this tier. He’ll be residing with the Brooklyn Nets and playing alongside the best point guard he’s ever played with (but only because Steve Nash played absolutely zero defense) in Deron Williams. I expect a return to 20 points per game and steady four and four production in boards and assists. He should also hit about two triples per game just setting up on the outside waiting for a D-Will dime or for Brook Lopez to spot him after a double-team. A very safe pick here.
Nash could obviously do some big things in Los Angeles with the weapons he’ll have at his disposal. The pick-and-rolls, post feedings, and Kobe spots could make any point guard dizzy. Despite his advanced age, Nash could experience a resurgence, particularly with assists (10.7 last season). He should maintain his lower double-digit scoring (12.5) and threes-made (2.0) and get back to being a 50/90/40 shooter.
Tier Eight — Mike Conley (31), Marcus Thornton (32), Danny Granger (33), Marcin Gortat (34), Blake Griffin (35)
In this tier, we have some relatively young players and a former fantasy basketball darling on the decline.
Conley is one of those underrated players that always produces, but you don’t realize just how well until after the season. Last season, he averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 treys, 86.1 FT% and more importantly 2.2 steals. His 43.3 percent shooting from the floor is close to his 44.0 career average, which is very acceptable for a guard. In many ways, he’s the paragon of a very good point guard.
Thornton is another young player that may be the model of being very good at his position, the two guard. He scores (18.7 points), boards a bit (3.7), gets a few assists (1.9), hits the three (2.1), hits well from the line (86.5 FT%) and can steal the ball (1.4). Even with a Tyreke Evans comeback of sorts, Thornton will still be a valuable player to own in fantasy circles.
Granger, the former object of infatuation of fantasy basketball managers, has declined in a bunch of areas over the past four years, but is lucky that the starting point was so high. Since averaging 25.8 points on 44.7 percent shooting from the floor and 2.7 triples made four seasons ago, Granger has gone in subsequent seasons: 24.1 points/42.8 FG%/2.5 threes to 20.5 points/42.5 FG%/2.0 threes to 18.7 points/41.6 FG%/2.0 threes this past season. Granger’s high free throw percentage (87.3) is attractive because he gets to the line enough (4.7 FTA) to make a positive impact for your team.
Gortat is such a great fit in Phoenix and has done well the full season and part season he’s been there. He’s a double-double (15.4-10.0) player that can block the ball (1.3 per game in 2010-11 and 1.5 last season), shoot the ball (55.5 FG%) and even do relatively well from the charity stripe (67.4 career FT%). There’s still some upside here for the Polish Hammer too. Feel comfortable with him as your top center.
There may be some belly-aching about having Griffin this low, especially considering his 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds production. However, those numbers actually are less than what he did his first season (22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds). It’s a small sample of two seasons and I have every faith Griffin will once again double-double up, but he’s relatively average in the defensive stats and is a big hindrance from the line (52.1 FT%) because of the amount of times he gets there (7.1 FTA). The assists (3.2) are nice, but for fantasy purposes there are better power forwards.
Tier Nine — Nicolas Batum (36), Paul Pierce (37), Greg Monroe (38), Stephen Curry (39)
The tier also has some youngsters and a declining player.
Batum is multi-talented, as last season’s 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.8 treys, 45.1 FG%, 83.6 FT% and one of each in steals and blocks clearly shows. If you remember the days when Shawn Marion justified the first overall pick, you see the upside with Batum, but with lesser boards. There’s a real good chance of Batum improving, and with Damian Lillard passing the rock, Batum could jump a tier or two by the end of the season.
Pierce’s production last season was somewhat a surprise as most are waiting for the shoe to drop on him. Reaching last season’s 20/5/5-type numbers with a triple or two wouldn’t be surprising, but not reaching those numbers is more of an expectation, especially considering the amount of games he’s played on those knees and the Celtics need to rest their veterans for the postseason. He’s too talented for a total descent into fantasy basketball oblivion, but the truth may be that he’s become a middle-of-the-road kind of player.
Monroe is quickly racing up the charts of many fantasy basketball enthusiasts. He’s a double-double (15.4 points-9.7 rebounds) big man that can shoot the ball (52.1 FG% and 73.9 FT%), but cannot block it (0.7). This is the main reason that Monroe dips a bit on my rankings. Also, if Andre Drummond actually pans out, I’d expect some numbers to drop for Monroe.
There is no question that Curry is a great point guard when healthy, but that’s the problem — constant, nagging ankle issues. This season will be a big one for Curry, especially if he doesn’t sign an extension. It’s almost make or break for him and he’ll need to prove he’s durable in order to succeed. Teaming up with Klay Thompson for the next several years would do wonders for the Golden State Warriors, so they’ll be crossing their fingers this season.
Tier Ten — Goran Dragic (40), Kyle Lowry (41), Paul George (42)
This tier is the all high-potential tier.
Dragic goes back to Phoenix to lead the charge with the Nash Era over. Dragic’s 18.0 points, 8.4 assists, 1.8 treys, 49.0 FG%, 83.9 FT%, 37.9 3PT% and 1.8 steals in 28 games as a starter last season invokes comparisons to Nash when he was with the Dallas Mavericks. The Suns are hoping for Nash Redux with Dragic returning after some time away, just like, ummm … Steve Nash.
Lowry, whom Dragic replaced as the starter for the Rockets last season, has some really nice potential, although his is a bit lower than his former back-up. Can he come back healthy and lead the Raptors back to respectability? There are some nice young pieces there in DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross et al. However, it’s still a mish-mash in the T-Dot at this point. Hopefully, Lowry can help shape the team.
I’ve been high on George for the longest time and, with more chances on the court, he could be a special type of player. However, on a team like the Pacers where it’s really all about “team,” it will be hard to break out as a star. Ask Danny Granger. Still, look for an improvement from last year’s 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 triples and 1.6 steals.
DV is the founder at Baller Mind Frame and can be reached on Twitter if a fantasy basketball question arises. Or a query on the best way to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For actual position rankings, you can check here. Paz!