To get you prepared for next season now, let's dive into my highly speculative keeper list!
Tier 1: Still Worth It, No Matter What
1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC ($82, No. 1 in 2012-13 rankings)
2. LeBron James, SF/PF, MIA ($74, No. 2)
They won't be valued this high come next fall's list, but this is what they're worth. And yes, I think Durant is $8 better than LeBron. I'm aware LeBron posted one of the best months in the history of basketball this season, enlivening field goal percentages throughout Fantasyland.
But what people don't realize is that Durant had that type of impact on free throw percentage over an entire season. That's really the difference between the two.
Each player has their strengths and super-strengths, but Durant's free throw shooting was sublime this year. When you couple Durant's .907 percentage with a large volume of attempts (9.4 per game), what you have is perhaps the greatest single-season free throw performance of all time.
Several skinny little guards have shot 90 percent from the line over the past decade, but they don't get fouled with the frequency of a Kevin Durant. Volume plus efficiency is what great fantasy numbers are all about, and Durant put on a clinic this season.
Tier 2: The Future
3. Andre Drummond, PF/C, DET ($21)
4. Jonas Valanciunas, C, TOR ($8)
5. Bradley Beal, SG, WAS ($9)
6. Tobias Harris, SF/PF, ORL ($12)
7. Derrick Favors, PF, UTA ($7)
8. Dion Waiters, SG, CLE ($5)
9. Brandon Knight, PG/SG, DET ($4)
10. Nerlens Noel, C, CHA ($4)
11. Ben McLemore, SG, ORL ($4)
12. Eric Bledsoe, PG, LAC ($4)
13. Otto Porter, SF, CLE ($5)
14. Trey Burke, PG, NO ($2)
I honestly don't know how much Drummond will go for this fall. It depends on the level of hype he accrues between now and the end of training camp. But you might get a similar amount of upside for less by bidding on Valanciunas, who's had a similar -- yet under the radar -- late breakout. Drummond's historically terrifying free throw percentage gives me a lot of concern.
I had listed the rookies here by team based on Chad Ford's last mock draft (although I've adjusted some teams based on Marcus Smart staying in school). If Noel is healthy, he'll be the first rookie off the board, but keep an eye on whichever point guard ends up in Orlando. That could be a Damian Lillard-type situation.
Noel is listed here for cheap because of the knee situation. If Noel's ACL rehab looks like it's going to stretch well into 2014, he might be a dirt-cheap draft-and-stash candidate.
If Bledsoe lands a starting gig before the start of next season, add $15 to his price.
Tier 3: Safe Foundational Futures Bets
It's getting harder and harder to justify blowing $50 or more dollars on a point guard. The balance of statistical power has shifted so heavily to a sea of quality floor generals that a $60 Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook is becoming a needless extravagance.
If you want to blow $50 or $60, it's probably better spent on a scarcer position like center or shooting guard.
Tier 4: Too Late To Get In On The Ground Floor
These are all players with top-20 upside who have yet to hit their ceilings. You're just going to have to know when to bail out of the bidding, as every player on this list will come with a heaping amount of preseason praise and expectations.
If Wall continues rolling into next season, it will be interesting to see if he beats out Mike Conley for No. 5 point guard overall.
From a keeper perspective, Davis' durability is a bit of a concern. I'm not going to rush to judgment and proclaim him Marcus Camby 2.0, but the man missed 18 games this season, and finished it with a sprained MCL.
Tier 5: Under $20 Breakout Candidates
27. Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, UTA ($12)
28. Chandler Parsons, SF, HOU ($18)
29. Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, ORL ($15)
30. Ersan Ilyasova, SF/PF, MIL ($20)
31. Spencer Hawes, PF/C, PHI ($10)
32. George Hill, PG/SG, IND ($14)
33. Kawhi Leonard, SF, SA ($12)
34. Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN ($12)
35. Danny Green, SG/SF, SA ($8)
36. Amir Johnson, PF/C, TOR ($11)
37. Greivis Vasquez, PG, NOR ($16)
38. Kenneth Faried, PF, DEN ($7)
39. Glen Davis, PF/C, ORL ($4)
40. Isaiah Thomas, PG, SAC ($7)
41. Marcus Thornton, SG, SAC ($4)
42. Tristan Thompson, PF/C, CLE ($5)
43. J.J. Redick, SG, MIL ($7)
44. DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, TOR ($6)
A lot of these players were hamstrung by timeshare situations, which might or might not shake out by the fall. Hopefully, post-Skiles, Ilyasova's playing time is here to stay. A season's worth of Chandler Parsons-type run could turn him into a top-25 fantasy player.
I like Orlando to remain as an off-the-map fantasy hotbed next season. Think about all the players they put on the fantasy radar: Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Glen Davis, Beno Udrih, Andrew Nicholson, E'Twaun Moore. Not all of them stayed on the radar, but the Magic are a case study as to why you need to pay attention to struggling franchises.
Because of Keith Smart, I'm conflicted about listing any Kings as breakout candidates. The talent and upside is there, but it's such a goopy, pouty, rotational mess that it's hard to think of a single King as a reliable season-long bet.
Tier 6: Veterans You Can Steal For Under $25
45. Jeff Green, SF/PF, BOS ($24)
46. J.R. Smith, SG/SF, NY ($22)
47. O.J. Mayo, SG, DAL ($18)
48. Jeff Teague, PG, ATL ($24)
49. Roy Hibbert, C, IND ($22)
50. Kemba Walker, PG/SG, CHA ($23)
51. Jose Calderon, PG, DET ($17)
52. Wesley Matthews, SG/SF, POR ($12)
53. Martell Webster, WAS, ($10)
54. Jeremy Lin, PG, HOU ($24)
55. Brandon Bass, PF/C, BOS ($8)
56. Mo Williams, PG/SG, UTA ($7)
57. J.J. Hickson, PF/C, POR ($10)
I pay a lot of attention to how players close out the final month of the season. J.R. Smith, Kemba Walker and Jeff Green are 16th, 18th and 19th overall since March 16.
Pre- and post-All-Star Weekend, Roy Hibbert logged one of biggest splits in the NBA. He's shaken off his injuries and is looking like a top-10 center heading into next season. As of this writing, Mo Williams is absolutely unconscious, and should be a great value buy.
Here's your grain of salt: Some of these players got more playing time than usual due to other injuries on their respective teams (Green, Smith, Bass) or just a lack of overall depth (Matthews, Hickson).
Tier 7: Dented Stars
58. Kevin Love, PF/C, MIN ($48)
59. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI ($45)
60. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS ($38)
61. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, DEN ($12)
62. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO ($12)
63. Joakim Noah, PF/C, CHI ($12)
64. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE ($14)
65. Eric Gordon, SG, NOR ($18)
66. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL ($10)
67. Andrew Bynum, C, PHI ($18)
68. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL ($20)
This season produced a lot of trips to the operating room. It ended with over a dozen good-to-elite fantasy players with injury concerns. That can be good news for fantasy owners, who could luck into some bargains.
We don't know when Bynum will play again, let alone for what team. Rose will be back, and I'll assume he'll be as good -- or better -- than he was last season. Ditto for Rondo and Love. Love's injury was a freakish one, and I really could have placed him in the top 20 as a safe foundational futures bet. If all appears well in the preseason, I'll bump him up.
Aside from Bynum, Kobe's value is the biggest shot in the dark. It would be unprecedented for Bryant to come back from an Achilles rupture (a full tear, mind you) at his previous level of play. I'm not even taking his age into account. It would be unprecedented if he were 24 instead of 34.
I'm rooting for a full recovery to happen. I can't think of a player I've had a larger opinion swing on over the past 10 years. But my gut tells me he'll be a solid-to-very good player the second half of next season, then respectably diminished for however many additional seasons he decides to play.
Tier 8: Reliable Investments Under $30
69. Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET ($23)
70. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL ($30)
71. Klay Thompson, SG/SF, GS ($24)
72. Goran Dragic, PG, PHO ($27)
73. Ryan Anderson, PF, NOR ($15)
74. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA ($22)
75. Kyle Lowry, PG, TOR ($14)
76. Rudy Gay, SF, TOR ($28)
These are all players I expect to outperform their pricetags in 2013-14.
Lowry, in particular, should be primed for nice return on what promises to be a small keeper investment. He had sort of a lost campaign this season, but is cemented at point guard for the Raptors, who have a nice, underrated fantasy rotation going (Lowry, DeRozan, Gay, Bargnani/Amir Johnson, Valanciunas).
Millsap's value is tied to where he goes. Utah can't keep all of their promising big men. If I had to pick a Jazz big man to let go, it'd be Al Jefferson, as Millsap's skill set would slot in nicely next to the rapidly evolving Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Tier 9: Not Cheap, But Worth It
77. Paul George, SG/SF, IND ($48)
78. Deron Williams, PG, BKN ($60)
79. Nicolas Batum, SG/SF, POR ($46)
80. Carmelo Anthony, SF/PF, NY ($47)
81. David Lee, PF/C, GS ($38)
82. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C ($45)
83. Dwight Howard, C, LAL ($52)
84. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI ($34)
85. Al Horford, PF/C, ATL ($48)
86. Mike Conley Jr., PG, MEM ($41)
87. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA ($36)
88. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, MIL ($46)
89. Brook Lopez, C, BKN ($38)
90. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC ($35)
91. Al Jefferson, PF/C, UTA ($42)
92. Ty Lawson, PG, DEN ($32)
93. Josh Smith, SF/PF, ATL ($42)
These are high-priced players who you won't regret acquiring. But auction keeper dynasties are built around undervalued upside, not established value. And most of these players are at a stage of their careers are giving back equal value on your investments. You'll acquire them, enjoy them, and then probably throw them back into the player pool.
Tier 10: Like Wine, Fine Expensive Wine
All of these players posted good-to-great fantasy seasons relative to their age. Tim Duncan in particular (along with Kobe) had one of the great age-adjusted fantasy seasons in recent memory. All of these guys will give back solid production next season, but come with injury concerns, minutes limits and sudden unreported games off (any Spur can get Popoviched at any given moment).
Tier 11: The Future, Part 2
100. Maurice Harkless, SF, ORL ($6)
101. Harrison Barnes, SF, GS ($4)
102. Enes Kanter, C, UTA ($6)
103. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, CHA ($6)
104. Lance Stephenson, SG, IND ($5)
105. Thomas Robinson, PF, HOU ($1)
106. Victor Oladipo, SG/SF, PHO ($4)
107. Anthony Bennett, PF, DET ($4)
108. Gary Harris, SG, MIN ($2)
If Kidd-Gilchrist develops a ballpark-consistent shot this summer, he could be one of the best fantasy bargains of 2013-14. He's got that quality so many other fantasy should-have-beens lack; motor. Assuming Charlotte ends up with Noel or McLemore, MKG will have guaranteed starters' minutes on a team with zero expectations. That's a good recipe for a breakout campaign.
I'm keeping an eye on preseason reports on Thomas Robinson. He was brought in to start and anchor the power forward spot for the most fantasy-friendly team in the NBA. There's a big opportunity there for whoever comes in and grabs that spot.
I'm moving Gary Harris up onto the board since projections have him going to Minnesota. Shooting guard minutes are there for the taking (and have been so for about two decades), and Harris could beat out the veteran competition with a solid camp.
The DeMarcus Cousins Tier
???. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC ($34)
I have nothing else to add on the subject.
Tier 12: Glue Guys
109. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, MIN ($8)
110. Danny Granger, SF, IND ($10)
111. Andrew Bogut, C, GS ($6)
112. Steve Nash, PG, LAL ($10)
113. Tyson Chandler, C, NY ($8)
114. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA ($5)
115. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, SAC ($11)
116. Kevin Martin, SG, OKC ($8)
117. Louis Williams, PG/SG, ATL ($7)
118. Jarrett Jack, PG, GS ($4)
119. David West, PF, IND ($10)
120. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, PHI ($8)
121. Tony Allen, SG, MEM ($4)
122. Robin Lopez, C, NOR ($6)
123. Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, LAC ($9)
124. Gerald Henderson, SG, CHA ($7)
125. Corey Brewer, SG/SF, DEN ($5)
126. Nene, PF/C, WAS ($8)
127. Omer Asik, C, CHI ($7)
128. Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, HOU ($6)
129. Emeka Okafor, PF/C, WAS ($5)
130. Vince Carter, SG/SF, DAL ($6)
131. Carl Landry, PF, GS ($2)
132. Luol Deng, SF, CHI ($7)
133. Arron Afflalo, SG/SF, ORL ($8)
134. Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, OKC ($7)
135. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, DEN ($8)
136. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI ($8)
137. Raymond Felton, PG, NY ($10)
138. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM ($9)
139. Jared Dudley, SG/SF, PHO ($3)
Iguodala is a free agent. If he goes for the money, he could end up with a bigger role on a lesser team, which might help his value. Ditto for Kirilenko, who showed what a solid veteran can do with big minutes on a middle-of-the-road franchise.
Tier 13: The Future, Part 3
140. Tiago Splitter, PF/C, SA ($2)
141. Derrick Williams, PF, MIN ($3)
142. Evan Fournier, SG, DEN ($2)
143. Patrick Patterson, PF, SAC ($3)
144. Shabazz Muhammad, SF, SAC ($1)
145. Ed Davis, PF/C, MEM ($3)
146. DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC ($4)
147. Earl Clark, SF/PF, LAL ($3)
I'm rooting for Ed Davis to claw his way to 25 to 28 minutes per game next year. He was cruising in Toronto before the Rudy Gay trade.
Tier 14: The All-You-Can-Eat Fantasy Buffet
148. Darren Collison, PG, DAL ($2)
149. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, BKN ($5)
150. Nate Robinson, PG, CHI ($1)
151. Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C, NYK ($6)
152. Kyle Korver, SG/SF. ATL ($7)
153. Andre Miller, PG, DEN ($2)
154. Luis Scola, PF, PHO ($2)
155. Matt Barnes, SF, LAC, ($2)
156. Shawn Marion, PF, DAL ($2)
157. Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA ($1)
158. Jason Thompson, PF/C, SAC ($1)
159. Andray Blatche, SF/PF, BKN ($4)
160. Byron Mullens, PF/C, CHA ($3)
161. Luke Ridnour, PG/SG, MIN ($2)
162. Ray Allen, SG, MIA ($1)
163. Metta World Peace, SF, LAL ($2)
164. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO ($2)
Tier 15: The Future, Part 4
165. Andrew Nicholson, PF, ORL ($1)
166. Wesley Johnson, SG/SF, PHO ($1)
167. Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, NOR ($2)
168. Kosta Koufos, C, DEN ($2)
169. JaVale McGee, C, DEN ($2)
170. Tyler Zeller, PF/C, CLE ($2)
171. Alex Len, C, WAS ($1)
172. Anthony Bennett, PF, WAS ($1)
173. Mitch McGarry, PF, POR ($1)
174. Evan Turner, SG/SF, PHI ($2)
Tier 16: Endgame Grabs
175. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL ($1)
176. Beno Udrih, PG/SG, ORL ($1)
177. Devin Harris, PG/SG, ATL ($1)
178. Dorell Wright, SF, PHI ($1)
179. Jason Kidd, PG/SG, NYK ($1)
180. Kris Humphries, PF, BKN ($1)
181. Brandan Wright, PF/C, DAL ($1)
182. Chris Kaman, PF/C, DAL ($1)
183. Alexey Shved, PG/SG, MIN ($1)
184. Jason Richardson, SG/SF, PHI ($1)
185. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, BKN ($1)
186. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, PHO ($1)
187. Randy Foye, PG/SG, UTA ($1)
188. Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, CHI ($1)
189. Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, MEM ($1)
190. Tayshaun Prince, SF, MEM ($1)
191. Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, MIL ($1)
192. Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, CHA ($1)
193. Marvin Williams, SF, UTA ($1)
194. Trevor Ariza, SF, WAS, ($1)
195. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET ($1)
196. Alonzo Gee, SF, CLE ($1)
197. Elton Brand, PF/C, DAL ($1)
198. Donatas Motiejunas, PF, HOU ($1)
199. John Salmons, SG/SF, SAC ($1)
200. Courtney Lee, SG, BOS ($1)