Finding a small forward who can contribute in numerous categories can pave a fantasy team's way to a title. Who should you be targeting this year. Here's thw top 12, led off by some guy named Lebron.
(If you're looking for more about LeBron everything you need to know about the fantasy season ahead, check out the 2008 NBA Fantasy Draft Kit.)
To LeBron or not to LeBron. Do you draft him No. 1 overall like countless others have done over the past few years because his potential is limitless? And if you pick him, do you surround him with 80 percent free-throw shooters and cross your fingers, or do you draft Dwight Howard and throw that category out the window? Those are the questions. As for LeBron's stats, his assists are likely to fall with Mo Williams now in town, but his field-goal shooting should climb to make up for it. It wouldn't surprise me if he averages 32 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field this season.
Butler has missed at least 19 games in each of the past two seasons, and he's never played 80-plus games in his six-year career. So it will take Sam Cassell-like cojones to use a top 10 pick on him, but if you take the risk, you could be rewarded nicely. Since Gilbert Arenas has a bum knee once again, Butler is sure to put up excellent stats as Washington's main man. If you let him fall past pick No. 15, you're making a big mistake.
If you want to know how valuable Granger's fantasy game is, just ask anyone who won their league last year in large part thanks to him. He doesn't get assists, but Granger does everything else extremely well, and at 25 years old, is just entering his prime. He's one of the most accurate free-throw shooters in the league, he's deadly behind the arc, he doesn't commit many turnovers and he's one of the most active steals and blocks guys around. Don't sleep!
Anthony has always been a top-notch scorer, but now he's well-rounded enough to be considered a fantasy stud. He's on the verge of shooting 50 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line, which is very solid for a guy who shoots as much as he does. His steals and threes have improved in recent years, and he should set a career-high in rebounds now that Marcus Camby is gone. Just be careful of him in nine-category leagues, because he turns the ball over a lot.
After a solid but unspectacular rookie year, Gay exploded in his sophomore season. His length and athleticism allows him to easily rack up steals, blocks and dunks, but he also turned into a deadly three-point shooter last season. But while I'm projecting a slight increase across the board for Gay's stats, I'm a little worried about him now being "the man" in Memphis. The young backcourt of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo is going to be inconsistent, and their big men are unproven to say the least. That puts a lot of pressure on Gay to produce, which is why I think his field-goal shooting is going to fall.
Iguodala is a freak of nature whose best basketball days are still ahead of him, which is very intriguing from a fantasy standpoint. He's among the league leaders in steals every season, he gets a decent amount of blocks and he dishes out a lot of assists for a swingman. His points are sure to fall thanks to Elton Brand, but he should make more three-pointers and commit fewer turnovers as a result. If he could just improve his shooting percentages (45.6 percent from the field and 72.1 percent on free throws last season), he'd be an all-around stud.
Pierce saw his numbers decline last year, but he's still an excellent fantasy option. He'll stuff the stat sheet in every single category, and he shot the ball much better after the All-Star break. I have him ranked No. 7 because his upside isn't as high as the youngsters ahead of him, but you shouldn't write him off just yet.
Turkoglu had a career-year in '07-08, so it will be hard for him to repeat some of last year's numbers. Still, he's an excellent offensive weapon and you could argue that he's worth more to Orlando than Rashard Lewis is. Of the guys on this list, only LeBron dished out more assists and only Granger made more threes. The bad? He was one of just 11 players to average three-plus turnovers per game last season.
Howard set career-highs in points and rebounds last season, but he was a disappointment because his steals, blocks and threes plummeted. He's capable of stuffing stat sheets and being a top 40 fantasy player, but he also has a knack for missing games and saying the wrong things at the wrong times. Feel free to gamble, but don't overreach.
It's do or die for Artest. He turns 29 in November, but he's yet to have a solid complete season. The talent has always been there, but he's never been able to put it all together and stay healthy. But if there was ever a time to gamble on him, it's now. He's re-united with Rick Adelman, and the two seem to have a solid relationship. He can also defer to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady on offense now, which is good because he's much better as a third option. His main stats will suffer as a result, but his shooting (42.5 percent from the floor for his career) should improve quite a bit and his turnovers will decline. If he falls far in your draft, he could be an excellent value pick.
Maggette spent the last eight seasons playing for the lowly Clippers, and while he always put up solid stats, he battled injuries and didn't always get along with his coach. Now he's playing for Don Nelson, who loves to push the pace, outscore opponents, and go to guys who have mismatches. Being an elite scorer and superb athlete who can run the floor and is stronger than most of his defenders, Maggette should thrive in Nellie's system. For his career, he's an 81.9 percent free-throw shooter who has averaged eight-plus attempts per game in each of the past five years. With Baron Davis gone and Monta Ellis out for most of the season, Maggette is the Warriors' go-to scorer, meaning he could lead the league in free throws made. His career average of .76 steals per game is very unimpressive, but the Warriors' offense thrives on their ability to force turnovers (No. 1 last year with 16.9 opponent turnovers per game), so don't be surprised if Maggette sets a career-high in steals. Nelson also allows his players to jack up threes, so I'm predicting Maggett will make more treys this season as well. What does all of this add up to? A career-year for Maggette in '08-09.
After a stellar '06-07 campaign, Deng's minutes and stats declined last season. However, he's only 23 years old, so there's plenty of time for him to bounce back and improve. He collects a lot of rebounds, steals and blocks, and his shooting percentages are rock solid. Just remember that he rarely attempts threes, so be sure to draft a prolific shooter to team up with him. He should be a nice value pick since his '07-08 season was disappointing.