5. Rudy Gay: SF, Memphis Grizzlies
2011-12 Projections: 19.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 6.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG
After missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, Rudy Gay is once again healthy and ready to go. Before the injury he was a top-25 fantasy option, and offered owners high amounts of points and rebounds on a nightly basis. With the improved Grizzlies roster you can expect Gay to have a little more freedom from the defense. Since players like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will steal a lot of the defensive attention, Gay should see his opportunities increase on the offensive end.
4. Josh Smith: SF, PF, Atlanta Hawks
2011-12 Projections: 17.4 PPG, 3.2 APG, 8.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Josh Smith offers fantasy owners a versatility that is nearly unmatched. While he doesn’t get all the hustle stats that he once did anymore, he’s still a very valuable addition to every fantasy roster. With the loss of Jamal Crawford, the Hawks will have to find scoring from other sources this season. One of those sources certainly seems to be Smith, who is looking to improve on his 16.5 PPG average from a year ago. Smith will also offer fantasy owners more blocks than nearly any other player at his position, and can be used as a small forward/power forward hybrid when needed.
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3. Carmelo Anthony: SF, New York Knicks
2011-12 Projections: 26.0 PPG, 3.2 APG, 6.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG
After being traded during the season last year from Denver to New York, Anthony found himself alongside a superstar player for the first time in his career. Anthony responded well to teaming up with Amar’e Stoudemire, and had a decent fantasy season as well. Anthony’s value also increases when you take into account head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, which virtually allows him to score as often as he wants. The only reason Anthony is listed as the third best player on this list is because the two guys above him are the top two players in the NBA period. Draft Anthony early and ride his run-and-gun offense all season long.
2. LeBron James: SF, Miami Heat
2011-12 Projections: 27.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
James is one of the most statistically versatile players in the NBA. On any given night he could end up with a triple double, but also provides plenty of blocks and steals for his fantasy owners as well. While many thought that playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would reduce his fantasy value, James still is managing to put up extraordinary numbers. While he may not be scoring as much as he once did, James is still an excellent choice as your first overall draft pick. In fact, the only reason he’s not listed number one on this list is purely because of the talent he has around him compared to Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City.
1. Kevin Durant: SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011-12 Projections: 28.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 7.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Last season Kevin Durant broke out in a very big way. He averaged 27.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.9 3-pointers and 1.1 blocks per game, and took home the NBA scoring title in the process. This year should be another big one for the young superstar, as he is looking to take the next step and contend for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Durant will put up great numbers in every statistical category, and will be the top overall pick in most NBA fantasy drafts this season. Durant never gets injured, either, which makes him one of the surest things in all of fantasy basketball.