2018-19 Fantasy Basketball Positional Tiers Series: Power Forwards
Heading towards the start of NBA preseason, Alex Barutha breaks the players into tiers for Fantasy.
NBA training camps open in a matter of weeks. Here's how players are tiered now:
Tier 1: MVP-Caliber
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
LeBron James, Lakers
Both Antetokounmpo and LeBron are MVP-caliber talents, and are likely to be top-five selections in many Fantasy drafts.
Coming off two consecutive Second Team All-NBA selections, Antetokounmpo's ceiling is as high as anyone in the league's as he enters his age-24 season. The lack of a consistent three-point shot is his only major flaw, from a Fantasy perspective, but he still managed to score 26.9 points per game on nearly 53 percent shooting. He also became just the ninth player ever to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block per game.
Meanwhile, LeBron led the league in minutes (3,026) while playing all 82 games for the first time during his age-33 season.. In the process, he set career highs in assists (9.1), rebounds (8.6) and made threes (1.8) per contest. Another year older and joining a young Lakers team in a heavy Western Conference, the idea of LeBron leading the league in minutes in a do-or-die attempt to make the Finals during Year 1 isn't realistic. But that doesn't mean he won't continue to be one of the best and most consistent players in the NBA.
Tier 2: Highly Productive Starters
Draymond Green, Warriors
Kevin Love, Cavaliers
Aaron Gordon, Magic
While his three-point shooting hasn't proven sustainable, Green is still one of the best stat-stuffers in the league, averaging 10.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists and a combined 3.0 steals/blocks over the past two seasons. The Warriors adding DeMarcus Cousins could result in fewer opportunities for Green, but the situation is still cloudy in terms of how healthy Cousins will be and how much he'll play.
Given the departure of LeBron James, Love will become the focal point of the Cavaliers' offense, a role he hasn't occupied since he left Minnesota. At age 30 with recent injury concerns, it feels like a bit of a longshot for Love to average the 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists he posted during his final three years with the Wolves. Considering he averaged 19.0 points and 11.1 rebounds just two seasons ago, however, Love cracking 20/10 again feels realistic. Depending on how the Cavs' rotation shapes up, Love could also be eligible at center, where he played nearly all of his minutes last season.
Among players who saw at least 1,000 minutes last season, Gordon ranked second on the Magic in usage (24.%), behind only Nikola Vucevic. He set career-highs nearly across the board, averaging 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.0 made threes per game, though his outside shooting fell off considerably later in the season. Considering Orlando made no high-usage offseason additions, Gordon should again carry a large share of the workload. If he's able to stay healthy, he'll be on the short list of potential first-time All-Stars.
Tier 3: Fringe All-Stars
John Collins, Hawks
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Lauri Markkanen, Bulls
Nikola Mirotic, Pelicans
Blake Griffin, Pistons
Paul Millsap, Hawks
Though it's a mixed group in terms of experience, each player in Tier 3 should trend close to 30 minutes per night and be highly productive.
The veterans in the tier -- Aldridge, Griffin and Millsap -- have 15 All-Star appearances between them. But Aldridge and Millsap will each be entering their age-33 seasons. In addition to their age, Aldridge is expected to see lower usage with DeMar DeRozan joining the Spurs, and Millsap may be the third, or sometimes fourth, option in Denver. While he's four years younger than Aldridge and Millsap, Griffin hasn't played 70 games since 2013-14.
The most unproven of the young players is Collins, who averaged 24.1 minutes per game as a rookie last season. His upside may be the highest of the group, as he's a focal point for a rebuilding team with little reason to limit his minutes again. Collins averaged 12.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and a combined 2.0 steals/blocks when playing at least 30 minutes last season.
After being traded to the Pelicans, Mirotic played nearly 30 minutes per night and averaged 14.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 made threes. He should be in line for a similar role in 2018-18, even after the addition of Julius Randle. Markkanen earned All-Rookie First Team honors but will now have to share scoring duties with the likes of Zach Lavine and Jabari Parker.
Tier 4: Mid-Level Starters
Serge Ibaka, Raptors
Dario Saric, 76ers
Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
Carmelo Anthony, Rockets
James Johnson, Heat
Julius Randle, Pelicans
These players are solid, mid-to-late round options to help fill out your Fantasy team's bench. They're unlikely to crack 30 minutes on a regular basis but still have strong enough skill sets to be productive options..
Anthony, Ibaka and Johnson are on the tail ends of their respective primes. Anthony is coming off a severely underwhelming one-year stint in OKC, where the following were career lows: 16.2 PPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 STL, 76.7 FT%, 40.4 FG%. Another change of scenery could help the 34-year-old, but it doesn't feel safe to bank on it. Ibaka's workload has decreased each of the past three seasons, with his production following suit. Johnson remains on a crowded depth chart that's almost completely unchanged from last season.
Ascending toward their respective primes are Saric, Kuzma, and Randle. Saric came up just shy of 30 minutes per game last year, but he's destined to be a third or fourth option in an offense dominated by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Sixers also added Wilson Chandler via trade.
Kuzma, the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, outplayed his draft position to make the All-Rookie First Team last season. However, the addition of LeBron James complicates Kuzma's role moving forward. Randle averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds on nearly 60 percent shooting when playing at least 30 minutes last season, but it's unclear how, exactly, the Pelicans will balance Randle and Nikola Mirotic as the frontcourt complements to Anthony Davis.
Tier 5: The Rest
Larry Nance, Cavaliers
Marvin Williams, Hornets
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
Thaddeus Young, Pacers
Jaren Jackson, Grizzlies
Jabari Parker, Bulls
Jerami Grant, Thunder
Kelly Olynyk, Heat
Marvin Bagley, Kings
JaMychal Green, Grizzlies
Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers
Ryan Anderson, Suns
While Tier 5 is a grab bag of young players and aging vets, you can find consistency in this mix.
At this point, we know what to expect from players like Williams, Nowitzki, Young, Olynyk, Green and Aminu. They're the kind of players that appeal to risk-averse Fantasy owners who don't feel the need to take shots in the dark in later rounds.
More aggressive owners may look to target Nance, Jackson, Parker, Grant or Bagley. Nance may be in line for sixth-man minutes behind Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and it wouldn't be shock if he ends up starting over Thompson at some point. Jackson probably won't see high usage as a rookie on a relatively talented Grizzlies squad but could post a high block rate, with contributions in rebounds and threes.
Parker has torn the same ACL twice. Grant will compete for the starting power forward job in Oklahoma City and is proven defender but may not be a good enough shooter to ultimately warrant a roster spot in standard leagues. Bagley should see his fair share of opportunities in Sacramento, but he looked average-at-best in summer league and lacks a consistent outside shot.
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