We’re back with the Top 10 fantasy forwards (my Top 10 fantasy guards are here), and I’m here to clear up the debate between LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the No. 1 overall fantasy pick. (Again, my rankings and opinions — and much of my life, frankly — are based on the primary eight categories.)
1. LeBron James, Heat: I realize Durant topped LeBron — and everybody else — on the 8-charts last season, but sometimes overall rankings are overrated. Not always … or usually … but sometimes there’s a fantasy practicality that comes into play. For instance, Durant’s overall stat line is ridiculous, but he can’t match LeBron’s seven assists per game. Getting 7+ assists from your forward, who’s also netting 28 points and seven boards per game, makes him two players for the high price of one — as in, No. 1 overall.
2. Kevin Durant, Thunder: This might be KD’s first MVP season, and even with LeBron’s extra assists it’s still a very close call between the two. Durant plays hurt, he’s efficient, he flirts with one-one-and-one in blocks, steals and threes, and he’s explosive. If you draw the deuce and take KD, you will compete for a fantasy title.
3. Kevin Love, Timberwolves: Not only is Love my third overall forward and my first overall power forward, but he’s my fourth overall pick behind LeBron, Durant and Chris Paul. The reason? Well, there’s never been another person in NBA history who goes 25 and 15 while banging a boatload of threes. Never.
4. Pau Gasol, Lakers: Last year, Pau’s production was dragged down by the persistent trade rumors that distracted him, as well as being under-utilized in Mike Brown’s Bryant/Bynum-heavy offense. Despite the buzzkills, Pau still ranked fourth among power forwards. Now that he is no longer being dangled in a possible Dwight Howard deal, Pau’s focus will return to where it was during the Lakers’ repeat years of 2009 and ’10. And now that Andrew Bynum is in Philly, and with Steve Nash on board to QB the offense, Gasol’s touches will increase. So will his numbers.
5. Carmelo Anthony, Knicks: Raise your hand if you’re feeling a monster year from the Melo Man. Not only is he reportedly 15 pounds down from last year and not only was he the NBA’s top scorer last April (under Mike Woodson), but he dropped a U.S. Olympic single-game record 37 points in 14 minutes against Nigeria. This might be the year that Melo finally leads the league in scoring. You heard it here first.
6. Josh Smith, Hawks: With Joe Johnson jettisoned to Brooklyn for spare parts, the Hawks are Smith’s team. That means more leadership, more minutes, more shots, more everything. You can’t win in fantasy hoops without blocks and steals, which is Josh’s specialty. He’s been fantastic for years, but he’s due for a spike in production, especially when you consider his contract-year status.
7. LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers: L.A. leaves me hanging with his relative lack of blocks and steals. That said, he ranked third among power forwards last year because he hovers around 20-10 with sparkling percentages. As the face of the franchise in Portland, he is guaranteed major minutes and major shots. Believe it or not, there’s still upside here.
8. Blake Griffin, Clippers: Speaking of upside, if Griffin can improve his free-throw shooting and shot-blocking, he could vault into the top 5 on this list. Last year, The Poster Child ranked 16th among power forwards, so I’m probably overrating him as my eighth overall forward. But if this is the year that he gets to 70 percent from the line and 1.5 blocks, then I’m a genius …
9. Paul Pierce, Celtics: Each fall there are people who expect Pierce to start tailing off, but last year he proved them wrong again, ranking third among small forwards — topped only by KD and LBJ. With the Celtics reloading in the offseason for another title push, expect Pierce to keep pushing himself to greatness.
10. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies: As many of you have read over the years, I am obsessed with fantasy gold (blocks, steals and threes). Not only does Rudy give you 18 and 6 every night, but he hovers around one block, one steal and one three every night. And don’t get it twisted that Gay is injury-prone. Save for the 2010-11 season when his season was cut short with a serious shoulder injury, Gay has been consistent and durable.
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.