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Fantasy Basketball: Power forward draft tiers

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By Nick Whalen / Alex Barutha, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Separating players into tiers is a popular method of draft prep, and it de-emphasizes the idea that you must draft a player because his projections come out slightly more favorably than those of another player. Often, the difference between a player ranked, say, 30th, and a player ranked 45th is smaller than you think.

Tiers help account for those discrepancies by grouping players with similar risk/reward profiles, empowering the fantasy manager to choose for themselves. Tiers are also a great way to stay organized and disciplined while drafting. The default queue is a good place to start, but tiers add a personal touch and allow for more precise roster management as a draft plays out.

Some notes on methodology:

Tiers take into account players with top-120ish upside. Essentially, players who could reasonably come off the board in a standard draft.

Players within tiers are not ranked in a specific order. Ideally, everyone in a tier has an argument to be taken over by anyone else in that tier.

Plenty of players are multi-position eligible, but to avoid confusion and redundancy, each player only appears at what we assume to be their primary position.

Tiers are based on 8-category, rotisserie scoring. Without further ado, here are the power forwards.

Tier 1

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

The two-time MVP continued to put up elite numbers last season en route to an NBA title, averaging 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks. His free-throw percentage (68.5 FT%) drags his fantasy value down, and it’s resulted in him ranking outside the top 10 in per-game value over the past two seasons. However, he’s still worth a pick in the top 10 due to his high floor, and he obviously has a great ceiling if he starts hitting more freebies.

Kevin Durant, Nets

Coming off a lost 2019-20 campaign due to a torn Achilles, Durant struggled to stay healthy last season, appearing in just 35 games. However, he played up to his own standards, ranking fourth in per-game fantasy production. Injuries should still be a concern for the soon-to-be 33-year-old given the last two years, but he clearly has top-5 upside.

Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Tatum has improved his fantasy value every season, topping out at rank-15 on a per-game basis last year. The 23-year-old forward should continue upping his usage rate and/or efficiency in 2021-22. He’s one of the more promising young players in the NBA and is a fringe MVP candidate.

Tier 2

Anthony Davis, Lakers

Even putting aside his injuries, Davis took a step back last season. He saw a statistical decline in almost every category and averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 combined blocks-plus-steals. With Russell Westbrook coming to town, it’s hard to say what will happen with Davis’ usage, though there’s certainly a chance it declines. That could be countered by an increase in efficiency, however.

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers
What will Anthony Davis bring in 2021-22? (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Julius Randle, Knicks

Randle had a career year as the focal point of the Knicks’ offense, and he won the Most Improved Player award while also finishing eighth in MVP voting. He should again be a top option for New York, though the team has increased offensive weapons, including Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. RJ Barrett figures to continue making strides, as well. It’s possible Randle takes a step back, but he’s still a relatively safe pick on draft night.

Zion Williamson, Pelicans

Coming off of an injury-marred rookie year, Williamson had an impressive sophomore season, ranking 50th in per-game fantasy production behind 27.0 points on 61.1 FG%, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. Considering he’s just 21 years old and has only played 85 NBA games, the sky's the limit for Williamson, who is one of the most unique players the league has ever seen. All indications are that the Pelicans want to turn the keys over to Williamson, who flashed much better playmaking skills over the second half of last season.

Domantas Sabonis, Pacers

Sabonis has improved his per-game fantasy value every season, topping out at rank-18 last year behind 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 36.0 minutes. If the Pacers stay healthier, Sabonis might take a step back, plus new head coach Rick Carlisle may change the offensive game plan. Still, Sabonis has a high floor as a two-time All-Star who should maintain roughly the same role.

Tier 3

Tobias Harris, 76ers

Harris is coming off the best season of his career in per-game fantasy production, ranking 36th overall. In terms of scoring, he was the clear second option behind Joel Embiid. With Ben Simmons expected to be traded, Harris could take on an even larger role, especially if Simmons were to hold out and miss time early on.

John Collins, Hawks

Collins’ role was reduced last season due to the addition of Clint Capela and better overall depth for the Hawks. Still, Collins ranked a solid 62nd in per-game production. His upside is relatively capped given Atlanta’s wealth of offensive options, but Collins is an established, highly efficient power forward who will see low-end starter’s minutes.

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Kristaps Porzingis, Mavericks

Porzingis has put up top-55 fantasy numbers every season he’s been in the league, but his injury woes have made it difficult to get value drafting him in that range. He’s one of the highest-risk, highest-reward players in fantasy for that reason.

Tier 4

Draymond Green, Warriors

Green had a mini-revival last season after a terrible 2019-20 campaign. He is someone who has higher upside when he has better weapons around him, and the Warriors will be getting Klay Thompson back around Christmas, which is a major development. Green ranked 37th on a per-game basis last season and could certainly hit that mark again.

Jaren Jackson, Grizzlies

Jackson’s first three seasons have been tainted by injuries, and the big man has appeared in just 126 games. That said, he’s shown clear upside. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged 16.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 combined steals-plus-blocks, and 1.3 assists in 27.6 minutes. If he can stay healthy, there’s a clear path to him seeing 30-plus minutes regularly.

Pascal Siakam, Raptors

Siakam took a slight step back last season but was still a top-45 player. However, he’s expected to miss the first few weeks of the 2021-22 season due to shoulder surgery, which caps his upside and makes him tougher to draft as high as the fourth or fifth round.

Tier 5

PJ Washington, Hornets

Washington made subtle but meaningful strides across the board as a sophomore and ranked a surprising 79th in per-game production behind 12.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 combined blocks-plus-steals in 30.5 minutes. He should continue to see that kind of workload at both power forward and center.

Jerami Grant, Pistons

Grant took on the biggest role of his career last season as the Pistons’ No. 1 option, and he averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks. He could take a small step back this season if Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes step up to take on more playmaking responsibilities. Still, Grant is a clear option inside the top 100.

Keldon Johnson, Spurs

After an encouraging end to his rookie campaign in 2019-20, Johnson took another step forward last season, putting up 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 28.5 minutes per game. With the Spurs finally poised to enter a rebuild, Johnson will likely be entrusted with a larger workload this season — particularly after Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan departed in free agency. He'll still have to compete with new arrivals Thaddeus Young and Doug McDermott, but Johnson will have the inside track to a starting frontcourt spot. If things break right, Johnson could push for top-75 value.

Tier 6

Chuma Okeke, Magic

During his final 18 appearances last season, Okeke averaged 12.8 points on 45/35/81 shooting, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 2.2 combined steals-plus-blocks. While the end of his season was also cut short due to an ankle injury, he still managed to rank 86th in per-game fantasy value from March 24 through the final game of the season. There’s a good chance he’ll start at forward, but he’ll also be competing for minutes with Jonathan Isaac, Franz Wagner, and Terrence Ross.

Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

The Cavaliers’ frontcourt rotation is as crowded as any in the league, making it difficult to project Mobley’s role. The biggest part of the equation is Kevin Love’s presence on the roster. If he’s around, it may be tough for Mobley to be fantasy-relevant. If Love is not playing for the Cavs, Mobley could see sixth-man minutes at power forward and center.

Lauri Markkanen, Cavaliers

Part of Cleveland’s logjam in the frontcourt, Markkanen is getting a fresh start after four up-and-down, injury-riddled seasons in Chicago. He has the potential to revive his career with the Cavs, but he’ll be competing for minutes with Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, and potentially Kevin Love.

Miles Bridges, Hornets

Bridges made steady improvement for a third-straight season last year, and he was part of one of the most explosive and entertaining alley-oop connections in the league with LaMelo Ball. The biggest improvement in Bridges' game was increased efficiency. While his points per game dropped marginally from 13.0 to 12.7, the forward nearly shot 50/40/90. His role may be somewhat challenged by Kelly Oubre, but Bridges should still see minutes in the mid-to-upper 20s, especially if the Hornets play small-ball often.

Next up: Larry Nance, Thaddeus Young, Daniel Theis, Aaron Gordon, Royce O’Neale, Kelly Olynyk, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Love, Marvin Bagley, Scottie Barnes, Patrick Williams, Davis Bertans