If you’re in a 10- or 12-team league, you’ll want to grab a power forward within the first four or five rounds this year. The position is extremely top-heavy, with eight guys who have an ADP no lower than 35, but the draft board thins out incredibly quickly from there.
With your No. 1 power forward, you’re mostly looking for positive contributions in points, rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage. From there, grabbing a big man who can drain the occasional three-pointer is a huge plus, and it always helps if he has the requisite passing ability to rack up assists, too.
While the top power forward on the board should be the first player drafted in every format, the rest of the positional ranking quickly becomes a matter of preference. Versatility earns bonus points in these particular rankings, but you’ll have to suss out the strengths of each player when determining what type of roster you’re aiming to construct.
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
If Davis isn’t the first player off the board in your league this year, your leaguemates are doing it wrong. Despite missing 14 games last season, Davis finished as the fourth-best fantasy player at any position, as he averaged 24.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting, 10.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
With Alvin Gentry now in town, the Pelicans figure to increase their tempo—they had the fourth-slowest pace last season—which is only going to further benefit Davis’ fantasy value. Now that Alexis Ajinca is set to miss four to six weeks due to a hamstring strain, opening the door for the Brow to earn some minutes at the 5, he appears to be a certifiable lock for this year’s top fantasy value, barring injury.
- Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
As mentioned in the intro, the power forward spot quickly becomes muddled after Davis, as each of the next seven players have an ADP in the top 35, and three of the next five are within five spots of each other. Though Millsap is fourth in ADP among true power forwards, trailing Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, his categorical versatility gives him the edge over those two.
Millsap’s fantasy value has thrived since he arrived in Atlanta two seasons ago, as the Louisiana Tech product has averaged 17.3 points, 8.1 boards, 3.1 dimes, 1.8 steals, 1.0 treys and 1.0 blocks per game in that span. He might not be a nightly 20-10 threat like Aldridge or Griffin, but his contributions in threes, steals and blocks more than compensate for the slight deficit in points and rebounds, and he also hits his free throws at a reasonably proficient clip (75.7 percent last year) for a big man.
- Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
In 10-team ESPN and Yahoo leagues, Serge Ibaka is often being drafted back end of the second round, but he’s going toward the end of the seventh round in CBS leagues, driving down his ADP significantly. The reasons for skepticism are readily apparent: He shot a career-worst 47.6 percent from the field last year, averaged 2.4 blocks per game, his lowest mark since the 2010-11 season, and missed the final 18 games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
While Ibaka, like Millsap, won’t be a nightly 20-10 threat, you could do far worse from a guy who’s likely to average 15 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, especially considering he knocked down a career-high 1.2 treys per game last year, too. For what it’s worth, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Ibaka “may have had the best summer of any of our players, just in terms of improvement and overall development,” per ESPN.com’s Royce Young. So… there’s that.
- Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin’s counting stats from last season jump off the screen—21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and a career-high 5.3 assists per game—and he went absolutely bananas in the playoffs, averaging 25.5 points, 12.7 boards and 6.1 assists per game. Though DeAndre Jordan is around to steal boards from him, he’s one of the rare reliable 20-10 threats at the position, and he knocked down a career-high 72.8 percent of his free-throw attempts last season, too, only further bolstering his fantasy value.
Griffin won’t help you much in the steals and blocks categories, however—he averaged just 0.9 thefts and 0.5 swats per game last year, right in line with his career averages. Compound that with his lack of three-point range—he hit just 10 triples last season on 25 attempts—and you’ll have to temper your expectations of well-rounded contributions from Griffin if you do decide to draft him.
- Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Love was long a fantasy goldmine in Minnesota, gobbling up every board in sight while drilling threes at a virtually unparalleled rate for a big man. Some regression was inevitable upon his arrival in Cleveland, as he went from being his team’s unquestioned No. 1 option to, at best, the third in command. Anyone who drafted him with a top-20 pick wasn’t thrilled with his 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 treys last season, but he did finish the year with the 35th-best fantasy value.
Heading into the 2015-16 campaign, though, there’s reason for considerable optimism when it comes to Love’s fantasy stock. During the Cavs’ media day, LeBron James told reporters that he expected “big things from [Love] this year with a year up under his belt,” and Love echoed those comments to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, noting his confidence is rising as he grows more comfortable in Cleveland. With no end in sight to Tristan Thompson’s holdout, Love appears to be in line for a huge role this season, assuming the shoulder injury he suffered during the first round of the 2015 playoffs doesn’t hamper him in any way.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Those who own LaMarcus Aldridge in keeper leagues (myself included) should begrudge his offseason move to the Spurs. Whereas he was a lock for a usage rate north of 25 percent during his days with the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio’s movement-heavy system may diminish his total number of touches, likewise causing a dip in his fantasy production.
Throw in the Spurs’ tendency to reduce players’ minutes during the regular season—Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News recently shared a great anecdote about Aldridge’s first “Welcome to the Spurs” moment—and it’s hard justifying a top-20 rank for Aldridge. However, even with a slight minutes reduction, the former Texas Longhorn will still be a nightly 20-10 threat, and a burgeoning three-point game—Aldridge hit a career-high 37 treys last season—gives him a good shot of finishing among the top 30 in fantasy production.
- Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Anyone who grabbed Draymond Green with a late-round pick last season reaped the rewards, as he erupted with career highs in points (11.7), rebounds (8.2) assists (3.7), steals (1.6), treys (1.4), blocks (1.3) and minutes (31.5) after bumping David Lee from the Warriors’ starting lineup. During Golden State’s run to the title, his averages jumped even higher: 13.7 points, 10.1 boards, 5.2 helpers, 1.8 thefts, 1.2 swats and 1.1 triples in 37.3 minutes per game.
Playing time is the key for Green, as the Warriors routinely blew out their opponents last year, allowing their main rotation members to take a breather throughout the fourth quarter. If the going gets a bit tougher for the Dubs this season—considering the improvements other top West contenders made, that’s entirely possible—Green may be forced into more action on a nightly basis, boosting his fantasy value accordingly.
- Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
Players rarely experience a fantasy renaissance at age 34, but Gasol proved the exception to that rule during his first season with the Bulls. After years of declining production, Gasol erupted for 18.5 points, a career-high 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 34.4 minutes per game, finishing with the 10th-best fantasy value among all players in eight-category leagues.
With new head coach Fred Hoiberg in town, the Bulls figure to run a more up-tempo offense—they were the 10th-slowest team last year—and Gasol may have more of a green light from beyond three-point range, too. If he’s able to replicate his stunning 2014-15 campaign, he has top-five upside at the position, but if Joakim Noah returns to form, Gasol’s fantasy production could take a considerable hit.
- Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Here’s all you need to know about Noel’s fantasy upside: Following the trade deadline, when the Sixers shipped out Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks, Noel averaged 13.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 2.1 steals and 1.9 assists in just 32.1 minutes per game. Only two players last year averaged at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game: Noel and DeMarcus Cousins. That’s it.
While there are reasons to wonder how Noel and Jahlil Okafor will co-exist offensively in the Sixers’ frontcourt, there are no such concerns about the Kentucky product’s defensive contributions. You’ll have to counter his low scoring production and dismal free-throw percentage (60.9 percent last year) with efficient guards, but the upside he brings in steals and blocks is unmatched.
- Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Before Bosh was forced to miss the second half of the season due to blood clots in his lungs, he was in the midst of a fantastic fantasy campaign in Year 1 of the Heat’s post-LeBron James era. The big man knocked home a career-high 1.4 triples per game to go with 21.1 points (his highest since joining Miami), 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks, although his field-goal percentage unsurprisingly dipped to 46.0, the lowest it’s been since his rookie season.
It’s impossible to know how the touches will be distributed in Miami this year, but if Bosh stays healthy, he’ll have a great chance to return top-40 value. You won’t find many big men capable of averaging 20-plus points and a trey per game, and if he starts blocking shots more regularly—Hassan Whiteside’s presence may actually help in that regard—owners who grab Bosh with a fourth- or fifth-round pick won’t be disappointed.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets
Other positional rankings
Players’ positions are based on Basketball-Reference.com‘s play-by-play data, unless otherwise noted. All fantasy-value data from 2014-15 are via FantasyPros.com and are based on eight-category leagues.