There’s nothing better than beating down a different opponent every week as opposed to the monotony of rotisserie. All of the trash-talking among friends is fun, but the biggest advantage of head-to-head is that there’s no shame in punting a category. That’s why it doesn’t matter when guys like Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo miss 1,000 free throws, or John Wall and Ricky Rubio clank 1,000 threes. All that ground can be made up elsewhere.
In a roto-dominated world, it’s near impossible to come across legitimate head-to-head rankings, so I took it upon myself to solve that problem. Remember, this list is in constant rearrangement, much like the landscape of the NBA, and is not to be taken as a concrete guide on who to take over whom.
[Eds. note: you won’t find Kobe in this list because right now, we have absolutely no idea when exactly he’ll be playing again, and more importantly how good he will look…]
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1. LeBRON JAMES, Miami Heat
I wouldn’t blame you for taking Durant here if you’re scared of your ace resting on the sidelines in the fantasy playoffs, but LeBron’s the best player in the game and his stats reflect it.
2. KEVIN DURANT, Oklahoma City Thunder
Not a bad consolation prize to missing out on LeBron, especially if he can raise his assists per game average again.
3. JAMES HARDEN, Houston Rockets
Scoring numbers make take a hit with the addition of Dwight, but he should be able to improve upon last year’s 45 percent from the field.
4. CHRIS PAUL, Los Angeles Clippers
CP isn’t the nightly triple-double threat anymore, but he’s easily the safest point guard you can take.
5. DWIGHT HOWARD, Houston Rockets
Dwight is a head-to-head matchup nightmare. I’m not sure if he’ll put up 20 points per game, but his numbers certainly won’t be any worse than last year (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks IN A DOWN YEAR).
6. KEVIN LOVE, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wouldn’t blame you for taking him over Dwight, depends on your preference of threes or blocks. Consider last year’s injury-marred season an outlier.
7. STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors
What’s scary is that Steph set the NBA record for treys in a season last year and he’s only scratching the surface.
8. RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s going to take more than a minor knee surgery to scare people off from 5.2 rebounds and 0.3 blocks per game from their point guard.
9. PAUL GEORGE, Indiana Pacers
The addition of Danny Granger only means more dimes for last year’s Most Improved Player.
10. KYRIE IRVING, Cleveland Cavaliers
It scares me to take someone who has missed 54 games in two seasons at the end of the first round, but his upside is through the roof.
11. DERRICK ROSE, Chicago Bulls
Wouldn’t call you crazy if you took him higher. In most leagues he’ll be the steal of the draft. Did everyone forget about 21.8 points and 3.4 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game?
12. AL JEFFERSON, Charlotte Bobcats
Al Jeff still has plenty of good basketball left in him, and more importantly, now has a frontcourt all to his self (sorry Cody Zeller).
13. DERON WILLIAMS, Brooklyn Nets
It’s doubtful that Deron will duplicate last year’s 18.9 points per game, but with a stronger supporting cast, I think an increase in assists and efficiency is in order.
14. CARMELO ANTHONY, New York Knicks
‘Melo is as good of a candidate as anybody to lead the league in scoring again. His power forward eligibility is what sets him apart.
15. SERGE IBAKA, Oklahoma City Thunder
The edge that Ibaka gives you in blocks is matched only by Larry Sanders. He has improved his numbers in every season so far and there are no reasons to think that will change.
16. MARC GASOL, Memphis Grizzlies
Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year tied Joakim Noah for most assists per game (4.0) amongst center eligible players.
17. DWYANE WADE, Miami Heat
Don’t sleep on D-Wade; his career isn’t over just yet. The blocks he gets you from your shooting guard are irreplaceable.
18. RAJON RONDO, Boston Celtics
Interested to see what Rondo will do with his own team. Expect the scoring numbers to come up and assists to go down.
19. PAU GASOL, Los Angeles Lakers
Don’t forget how fantasy dominant Pau has been when Bynum/Dwight were sidelined with injuries.
20. JOHN WALL, Washington Wizards
Wall was one of the best point guards in the second half of last season and can only get better as he heads into his fourth year.
21. RICKY RUBIO, Minnesota Timberwolves
Rubio is a triple-double waiting to happen and if he can clean up his field goal percentage even the slightest bit, he’ll be a draft day steal.
22. AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
Put him in the Al Jefferson category of big men with their own team who are set to dominate.
23. JOSH SMITH, Detroit Pistons
If there were ever a year for Smoove to set his career-high in points per game, this would be it. The Pistons are starving for offense.
24. NICOLAS BATUM, Portland Trail Blazers
Batum’s stats have been getting incrementally better each season and should do so again this year.
25. DeMARCUS COUSINS, Sacramento Kings
Replacing the ball dominant Tyreke Evans with the unselfish Greivis Vasquez could be just what Cousins needs to finally get that field goal percentage up.
26. LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Portland Trail Blazers
Aldridge’s shaky situation with the Blazers could scare off owners, but as long as he’s in Portland he’s one of the safest players you can draft.
27. MONTA ELLIS, Dallas Mavericks
No matter where he plays, Monta will always be Monta. In Dallas, expect tons of points and tons of gambles on defense. Not so great for his teammates, but awesome for the fantasy game.
28. TY LAWSON, Denver Nuggets
No Iggy and a lot of time without Gallo should equal a prime year for Lawson, at least to start.
29. TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs
Despite his age, it’s hard to disrespect Duncan in the rankings. Shows no signs of declining.
30. DIRK NOWITZKI, Dallas Mavericks
Dirk is still great for scoring and your percentages, but his upside is immensely limited compared to other guys you can draft near his rank.
31. DAMIAN LILLARD, Portland Trail Blazers
Hard to imagine Lillard not being able to build on last year’s 19.0 points per game and 43 percent shooting from the field.
32. TONY PARKER, San Antonio Spurs
You’ll have to get your threes and steals elsewhere, but San Antonio becomes more and more his team with every year that passes.
33. JRUE HOLIDAY, New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue proved his worth last season without a supporting cast, but all those guards he now plays with in New Orleans won’t really help his value.
36. JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
Apparently, the only thing that can slow him down is plantar fasciitis. With a fresh start and a summer to heal, look for Noah to continue to dominate the defensive stats while dishing out an above average amount of assists for his position.
35. ANTHONY DAVIS, New Orleans Pelicans
If you generally draft for upside you might even take Davis higher than this.
36. GREG MONROE, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons frontcourt is suddenly stacked, but Monroe has the basketball IQ to play with anybody.
37. ANDRE IGUODALA, Golden State Warriors
I’m expecting resurgence for Iggy in Golden State. He seems to be happy in his new home and the up-tempo Warriors should keep the diversity in his stat lines.
38. BROOK LOPEZ, Brooklyn Nets
If KG gets Brook to play mean, it might be the best thing to happen to Lopez’s career. Still, there are too many mouths to feed in Brooklyn for Lopez to have too strong of a fantasy impact.
39. DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors
Expect Lee to fully recover from his postseason hip injury and get back to his usual double-doubles.
40. RUDY GAY, Toronto Raptors
Averaged 19.5 points in 33 games with the Raptors and might be able to build on that.
41. TYREKE EVANS, New Orleans Pelicans
A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered to revive ‘Reke’s once promising fantasy career.
42. ZACH RANDOLPH, Memphis Grizzlies
A lock to average a double-double, but his stat lines are rather plain outside of points and boards.
43. PAUL MILLSAP, Atlanta Hawks
Millsap is the type of hustle player that will grind out stats wherever he goes and has already shown he can play with another sold big man. He should settle in just fine next to Al Horford.
44. LARRY SANDERS, Milwaukee Bucks
If you miss out on Serge Ibaka this is your guy. Has the upside to equal Serge’s numbers, but will be drafted a few rounds after.
45. BRANDON JENNINGS, ????
No matter where he plays, you know Jennings is going to get up enough shots to keep himself fantasy relevant.
46. MIKE CONLEY, Memphis Grizzlies
Conley’s ceiling is somewhat limited, but his floor is higher than most others at his position.
47. KEMBA WALKER, Charlotte Bobcats
What can Kemba do playing with someone that has a legitimate post game? I don’t see how it hurts.
48. NIKOLA VUCEVIC, Orlando Magic
Orlando did nothing to help their dearth of big men over the summer, so Vucevic should be in line for major minutes, thus stats next year.
49. JEFF TEAGUE, Atlanta Hawks
Without Smoove or Joe Johnson around anymore, the ball will be in Teague’s hands more often than not.
50. ROY HIBBERT, Indiana Pacers
Hibbert may have really turned a corner in last year’s playoffs, but how early are drafters willing to find out?
NEXT IN LINE
DERRICK FAVORS, Utah Jazz
THADDEUS YOUNG, Philadelphia 76ers
NENE, Washington Wizards
STEVE NASH, Los Angeles Lakers
GORAN DRAGIC, Phoenix Suns
GREIVIS VASQUEZ, Sacramento Kings
RYAN ANDERSON, New Orleans Pelicans
BEST OF THE REST
TYSON CHANDLER, New York Knicks
ANDRE DRUMMOND, Detroit Pistons
KENNETH FARIED, Denver Nuggets
NIKOLA PEKOVIC, Minnesota Timberwolves
ANDREW BYNUM, Cleveland Cavaliers
ERIC BLEDSOE, Phoenix Suns
CHANDLER PARSONS, Houston Rockets
ERIC GORDON, New Orleans Pelicans
What do you think of these rankings?
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