By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Tiers are an indispensable draft-day tool in all Yahoo Fantasy sports. So, we made some for you in time for the Fantasy Basketball season.
A few notes before we dive in:
Overall, the tiers cover players projected to rank roughly among the top 120 overall.
Within each tier, players are generally listed in the order in which they should be drafted. Of course, come draft night, team construction and roster constraints must be considered.
Yahoo assigns most players eligibility at multiple positions. As such, players are included in these articles for every position at which they are eligible. Players who do not have multiple-position eligibility are denoted with an asterisk, as their single-eligibility can be a strategic disadvantage in some settings.
Unless otherwise noted, players are listed only within the positions at which they are currently eligible in Yahoo fantasy Basketball leagues.
Tiers assume 9-category roto settings, unless otherwise noted.
One last thing: Per-game production is valued above season-total production. For example, Chris Paul was a top-10 per game fantasy producer in 2017-18, but since he missed 24 games, he was closer to the 20-25 range by total production. While Paul’s chronic injury risk impacts his standings here, he’s still valued as roughly a top-15 player. Most leagues allow for easy and frequent substitutions, and season-total rankings are often counterproductive for head-to-head playoffs.
Tier 1: Potential No. 1 Overall Picks
James Harden – Steph Curry
When reliable ADP numbers start coming out in early October, the gap between Harden and Curry will make some hesitate to consider Curry at the top of their draft boards. Harden has a clear advantage over Curry in terms of projected games played, but Harden has never once finished above Curry in end-of-season per-game rankings.
The Warriors end-of-season schedule all but guarantees Curry will rest a few games late, and that does give Harden the clear advantage in head-to-head formats. But these two are a coin flip apart in roto.
Tier 2: Elite first/second-round options
Damian Lillard* – Chris Paul* – Russell Westbrook*
All three of these players could easily produce top-10, or even top-5 value, but each carries their own significant warts:
In 8-category or head-to-head leagues, Westbrook would make up his own mini-tier between Tiers 1 and 2. However, his propensity for turnovers and sup-par (for a top guard) threes and free throw efficiency knocks him down a peg in 9-category and roto leagues.
Lillard has quietly been a top-20 value for years, and the 28-year-old jumped into the top 10 in 2017-18. But it’s hard to see where his numbers can improve as he’s already near the top of the league in minutes, field goal attempts, and free throw attempts.
Paul has been a top-10 per-game producer for over a decade, but he’s 33 years old with a lengthy history of knee injuries. The Rockets played like a 51-win team in 24 games without him last season, demonstrating that they can be careful with his health during the regular season.
Note that all three of these players are only eligible at PG, which can impact roster flexibility. Lillard is somewhat likely to add SG eligibility, and Paul has roughly a 50 percent shot at getting an SG tag midseason, but neither of those are guaranteed.
Tier 3: Top-notch foundational options
Victor Oladipo – Kyrie Irving – Ben Simmons* – John Wall* – Kemba Walker* – Kyle Lowry*
This is a wide tier for point guards, spanning my 13th overall player (Oladipo) to my 27th (Lowry). Though there is a big gap in value between the top and the bottom of this tier, few experts are going to agree on the proper ordering of these six. Every one of these players can anchor a team, and with the exception of Oladipo, each can provide a solid baseline of assists.
Each of them — except Simmons (and possibly Lowry) — provide a solid baseline of points which rosters that still don’t have a PG when this group is off the board will be forced to use multiple picks on playing catch-up in the later rounds. Simmons is currently eligible only as a PG, but there is a decent chance that changes. Last season, he also had SF and PF eligibility, and the addition of a healthy Markelle Fultz to the 76ers rotation could be relevant.
Tier 4: Potential top-notch foundational options
Mike Conley* – Jrue Holiday – Eric Bledsoe
Holiday’s 2017-18 campaign was incredible, in part because it was so unexpected. At 27 years old, after only once cracking fantasy’s top-50, he broke into the top-25 setting career highs in points, rebounds, threes and field goal percentage. If he had done that at age 25, he’d be in Tier 3. Entering his age-28 season, however, there is some concern about the replicability of his 2017-18 campaign. Bledsoe, on the other hand, is positioned to improve upon his 2017-18 numbers, but he has never reached the top-30 in a full season.
Tier 5: Building blocks with upside
Josh Richardson – Devin Booker – Donovan Mitchell – Jamal Murray
All four of these players are 24 or younger and have the potential to be future All-Stars (at least in Mitchell’s case, that potential feels all but certain). All four finished last season close to one another, between 45th and 60th in per-game production. These young stars will never leave your starting lineup, and each offers quality production toolkits. Richardson is one of few players with the ability to provide multiple threes, steals and blocks per game, while the other three could be some of the last 20-point scorers drafted.
Take note: I’m misaligned with the mainstream on all four of these players. I’m unusually high on Richardson, and low on Booker, Mitchell, and Murray. Anyone drafting early might be able to wait a round on Richardson, and managers will have to reach if they want any of the other three.
Tier 6: Solid options with some downside
Lonzo Ball* – Jeff Teague – Ricky Rubio* – Lou Williams – Darren Collison
My baseline projections model loves all five of these guys. Teague, Williams, and Collison finished above this range in 2017-18, and Rubio was a top-40 player after the All-Star break. But each has major drawbacks. Ball has to adapt to the addition of LeBron James (and Rajon Rondo). Teague’s production was inflated by injuries around him, and he suffered multiple knee injuries of his own; PGs with knee problems don’t have a great history in coach Thibodeau’s rotations.
Rubio has to fight for minutes on one of the deepest rosters in the league. As for Williams, players who post career-best numbers after they turn 30 tend to decline rapidly. While it’s possible that Williams staves off aging for another season, he’s far riskier than many of the players getting picked around him.
Tier 7: Low-ceiling starters
Goran Dragic – Reggie Jackson
Mini-Tier: Isaiah Thomas goes somewhere?
This man was an All-NBA player two years ago. Last summer he was recovering from injury and put in two of the worst possible situations. If everything breaks right, he could be a top-50 player — or he could be a fantasy afterthought. Both possibilities are completely on the table. Where you take him depends on your appetite for risk.
Tier 8: Solid players with funky stat profiles
Dejounte Murray* – Kris Dunn – D’Angelo Russell – Elfrid Payton*
Russell doesn’t fit the title of this group, but this is where he belongs in terms of draft value. Murray rebounds like a power forward, while Dunn is a candidate to lead the league in steals. Payton is a poor man’s Rajon Rondo stepping into the Rondo role in New Orleans; he won’t do much scoring, but he’ll probably see tons of minutes, bolstering his assists, rebounds and steals while maintaining a good field goal percentage.
Tier 9: High-probability upside players
Avery Bradley – Patrick Beverley – Markelle Fultz – Zach LaVine – Luka Doncic* – George Hill – Trey Burke* – Tyler Johnson – Trae Young*
Tier 10: Low probability upside players
Rajon Rondo – Dennis Smith Jr – De’Aaron Fox – Malcolm Brogdon – Marcus Smart – Terry Rozier