(If you're looking to learn you need to know about the fantasy season ahead, check out the 2008 NBA Fantasy Draft Kit.)
Nowitzki his been an elite fantasy player for a long time, and he should have a few more excellent years before his numbers start to decline. After Jason Kidd arrived in Dallas, Nowitzki's rebounds and assists went down, but his points, threes, and field-goal shooting soared, which made him even more valuable. He's a solid pick for 2008-09 because new Dallas coach Rick Carlisle will push the pace much more than Avery Johnson did, resulting in better stats for everyone. Fantasy-wise, he doesn't have any weaknesses, which is why I wouldn't hesitate to draft him if he falls past pick No. 5.
After averaging 38-40 minutes per game from 1996-07, Garnett's minutes plummeted to just 32.8 last season. He was still a top 10 fantasy player, but Boston's dominance really limited his value. However, his '07-08 stats are somewhat misleading, because he averaged just 13.7 points per game in February, when he was dealing with that abdominal injury that sidelined him for awhile. I expect his boards and blocks to improve, and I wouldn't write him off just yet.
After missing most of '07-08, Brand is back, healthy and in a new uniform. How can you not like a guy who's averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and 50 percent field goal shooting for his career? The former Blue Devil is rock solid, but I do have a few concerns. Will he get as many shot attempts as he did in Los Angeles? Does Philly have enough three-point shooting to prevent teams from constantly double-teaming him?
Marion is a very risky pick this year. His shooting plummeted after he was sent to Miami, and he's no longer playing for the team that turned him into a fantasy superstar. A healthy Dwyane Wade should make things easier for him, so his numbers should bounce back slightly, but I don't recommend using a top-5 pick on him like you did in the past.
If you miss out on the four veterans above, Smith is a very nice consolation prize. He's only 22 years old, so he's still improving and his ceiling is very high. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if he becomes a top-5 fantasy player one of the years. Obviously, the steals, boards and blocks make J-Smoov a stud, but he also dishes out a lot of assists for a power forward. Just be careful of his shooting percentages, because they're pretty poor.
Lewis is the anti-Josh Smith. His boards and blocks are very weak for a power forward, but he'll be one of the top three-point shooters once again, and his shooting percentages are excellent. He also turns the ball over less frequently than J-Smoov, which is why he's a better choice in 9-category leagues.
West finally got some much-deserved recognition last season. He's a very versatile player, and he displays a lot of passion and heart on the court. He's money from the free-throw line, his shooting is solid and he's capable of putting up monster statlines. Just don't be surprised if his blocks decline, because last season's 1.3 swats per game average was below above his previous high of .86 per contest.
Boozer gets a few more rebounds, assists, and steals than West, but his blocks are limited and his free-throw shooting hurts a lot (he's shot under 74 percent from the line four seasons in a row). Still, his field-goal shooting can help carry your team (he's shot over 54 percent from the field three seasons in a row) and he's in the prime of his career.
Year in and year out, Jamison puts up solid stats. He'll have more pressure on him to score once again with Gilbert Arenas out, which is good for his scoring average but bad for his shooting. Last season was the first time he pulled down double-digit rebounds, so don't expect him to repeat that. He's never blocked more than .5 shots per game, but the threes and steals are very nice.
It's hard to believe that Wallace is only 26 years old, as this will be his eighth NBA season. He posted career-highs of 19.4 points, 1.1 threes, 3.5 assists and 73.1 percent free-throw shooting last year, but he didn't come close to the 2.5 steals, 2.1 blocks, 7.5 boards, and 53.8 percent field-goal shooting that he put up in '05-06. But if you put those two statlines together, you see what kind of potential he has. He's never played more than 72 games in his career, so he's a major injury risk, but if Larry Brown can maximize his potential, we could see a career year for Wallace in '08-09.
Finally we get to see what Lee can do in 32-plus minutes per game. Isiah Thomas really cramped his style by bringing him off the bench, but fortunately, there's a new coach in New York, and Mike D'Antoni is no moron. He knows how athletic the former Gator is, and how Lee can beat most power forwards running down the floor. As a result, he should get a lot more fast-break buckets this season. I'm projecting his points and assists to soar past his previous levels, and his shooting percentages are always excellent. He doesn't block many shots, and Zach Randolph will steal some rebounds from him, but at 25 years old, Lee seems primed for a breakout campaign.
Aldridge was rock solid last year, and he's only 23 years old, so he has plenty of time to improve. However, it's tough to project better stats since Portland has so many more weapons this season. His blocks and shooting may improve, but his rebounds are sure to decline thanks to Greg Oden, and he could lose shot attempts to Rudy Fernandez.