The NBA free agency period begins in less than 24 hours, and I'm rushing to finish line to get out a Top 100. Writing a comprehensive ranking has never been more complicated. Normally, there's like a two-month buffer from when the last major free agent signs to when the season begins, but this year, that same gap might only be a couple of days. Preparation is at a minimum. Not only that, but there's no telling who'll be affected by the lockout, who'll come into camp out of shape, and who'll run out of gas before the season's over.
If I have one generic piece of advice for you fantasy owners, it's this: invest in rebounders. If you don't think the level of play will be affected by the cancellation of the first two months, and the subsequent rescheduling that has teams playing as many games as possible, you're certifiably insane. Expect more bricks and clunkers than ever before, and that spells great things for the Love's, Howard's and Ibaka's of the world.
For your reading consumption, the advice below has been compacted to Tweet-size proportions, so that you're not overloaded with information that could potentially become obsolete within a matter of hours. After all, there's no telling what will happen after December 9th. Dwight Howard could get abducted by aliens. John Wall could be traded to outer space, which while infinitely improving his leaping ability would make dives for loose balls somewhat treacherous. A zombified George Mikan could rise from the grave and become the starting center of the Charlotte Bobcats. Kris Humphries could get bitten by a vampire bat, which would no doubt cause a controversy when his image fails to appear in instant replays. I have more of these, but none of them are funny so I'll stop.
The order of these players is completely subjective, although it took an aneurism-inducing amount of time to put together. If any of you would like to correct the error of my ways, particularly if you're a fan of Rajon Rondo, or if you think I'm too high or low on someone, you're welcome to do so in the comments section.
1. Kevin Durant:
The league's leading scorer, awesome percentages, contributes in every single category. Still isn't even at his peak. The most trustworthy elite player by far. Should never go lower than second overall.
2. LeBron James:
Is still the only player capable of getting a 25-7-and-7 average. Not as polished as Durant statistically, but triple-double threat makes him nearly as valuable. No one has better 30-point games.
3. Kevin Love:
Should continue to put up jaw-dropping rebound numbers, and points could increase depending on Ricky Rubio's progress. Needs only to work on steals and blocks to become living fantasy deity.
4. Dwight Howard:
Trade rumors will plague season, but with J-Rich going out, should put up monstrous numbers for however long he's in Orlando. Will be elite option no matter where he could be traded, well worth abandoning FT% category.
5. Derrick Rose:
League MVP, still not enough around him to think he won't score 25 per again. Averaged 10 more points than CP3 last year, and assists could rise if teammates finally stay healthy. There's no better guard to invest in.
6. Dwyane Wade:
He's LeBron James at a discount. Numbers very similar, is one of the only guards in the league averaging a steal and a block a game. Can seriously give you just about anything. Only chink of late is foul-shooting.
7. Russell Westbrook:
Could conceivably emerge as 25-point scorer beside Durant, gets a ton of rebounds for a point guard. Could learn to dish it to Durant more, offers little in three-point shooting. Still, one of the fastest developing players out there.
8. Chris Paul:
Considered best point guard in real life, sweet percentages, rarely turns it over. Knee a concern though, and could couch his play DeSean Jackson-style if he remains in New Orleans for long. Not as sure a pick as before.
9. Deron Williams:
Has a chance to put up some wonderfully inflated numbers on lousy Nets team. Had health concerns of his own last year, but should be more than reliable in a contract year.
10. Amar'e Stoudemire:
Tremendous center for those unwilling to live with Superman's foul-shooting. Blocks shots, scores a lot, has nice percentages, will even hit a three once in a while. Rebounding could be better, but he's a beast anyway.
11. Al Jefferson:
Put up enormous averages after D-Will was shipped to Jersey, stayed healthy for a full season. Even magically improved his foul-shooting. Utah is DEEP at center this year, but Big Al should still be the alpha dog.
12. Pau Gasol:
Rock solid in every category. Has proven that he can still put up numbers alongside Bynum and Kobe. Trade rumors slightly concerning though. Bringing in Howard would dip his stats significantly, if he stays at all that is.
13. Carmelo Anthony:
Is basically LeBron minus the assists, plus better three-point shooting and foul-shooting. Takes a ton more outside shots than in Denver, which is bad for FG%, but assures he'll finish as one of the league's top scorers.
14. Stephen Curry:
Ankle made of paperclips and chewing gum, will never get as many assists as he should as a "point guard." Phenomenal collective roto numbers though. Expect a much bigger role with Mark Jackson as his coach.
15. Monta Ellis:
Shooting not as sublime as Curry's, but he scores more, steals a lot, and even hits three's now. A more even offense could subtract from his scoring average, but might improve his FG%, if less outside shots are taken.
16. Kobe Bryant:
Has got some serious miles under his belt, and has been slowing for years. Still, he should be able to walk all over Mike Brown like LeBron did and come away with close to another 25-5-5 season.
17. Blake Griffin:
After an extraordinary rookie campaign, almost impossible to buy high on him. He has almost limitless potential, even averaging 3.8 assists last year to go with 22-and-12. Get him, and have fun watching the highlights.
18. Dirk Nowitzki:
The only bigman out there who can drain a three and shoot close to 90% from the foul line. Health is never an issue. Is hitting less three's than ever though, and rebounding numbers will continue to drop as age increases.
19. Josh Smith:
The ultimate "glue guy," Smith contributes in every category without really excelling in anything. He's good for a few block explosions a year, but hasn't developed his offense much at all. Tends to be overpriced in auctions.
20. John Wall:
Is the only constant on an otherwise dreadful Wizards team, should rack up formidable numbers playing big minutes. Field-goal percentage should go up, and should be top five in assists. Turnovers a problem though.
21. LaMarcus Aldridge:
He's a poor man's Amar'e Stoudemire, contributing blocks, steals and good percentages to go with a 20-and-10 arsenal. Only question is if he can repeat last year's magic in a constantly fluctuating Blazers lineup.
22. Eric Gordon:
Gordon was a beast when healthy, scoring over 22 a game and hitting multiple three's per contest. He's a good passer too, and could easily post 23-and-5 season. An excellent bargain source of scoring.
23. Rudy Gay:
Was having a career year before an untimely season-ending injury. Maybe the only shooting guard who can get 6 rebounds, a block, a steal and a three per game, plus a 20-point average. Terrific rotisserie player.
24. Steve Nash:
Age at last crept into his game, though he still had an awesome year statistically, leading the league in assists. His percentages for a guard are second to none. Still has some great games left in him, even at 37.
25. David Lee:
A huge bust in the first half of last year, Lee was a fantasy hero in the second half. Mark Jackson has made a note of implementing him more. We could see a 20-and-10 year from him, like he last had in New York.
26. Zach Randolph:
Showing consistent play for the first time in his life. He can single-handedly win you rebounding, while scoring over 20. He does very little besides that however, not even averaging half a block a game.
27. Al Horford:
Good, but not spectacular. Solid, but not great. Horford fills out most categories well for a center, especially his shooting numbers. But he's undersized and incapable of blocking many shots. He's safe, but that's about it.
28. Danny Granger:
Scoring plummeted big time in 2011, and could drop some more in '12; his numbers were inflated to begin with. Should still provide a commendable combo of blocks, three's, scoring and rebounding for awful Pacers.
29. Andre Iguodala:
When healthy, he's the only player besides LeBron capable of averaging 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Health has been a problem of late though. Bad shooter and inconsistent, but very valuable as a point forward.
30. Kevin Martin:
Does what he does extremely well, and little else besides that. Offers almost no assists, steals, blocks or rebounds, but you'll take it with a 23-point average, a ton of three's and tremendous foul-shooting.
31. Gerald Wallace:
Numbers harder to come by on quality Blazers roster. Knee problems are contagious in Portland. When fresh, is a tremendous source of stats rarely seen at the small forward position.
32. Paul Pierce:
One of the few players to exceed league average in all standard categories last year. Has life in him, but be warned: could frequently sit as the crammed 66-game schedule takes it toll, not excluding the fantasy playoffs.
33. Dorell Wright:
Crazy-good season came out of nowhere; led the league in three-pointers made. Prototypical stat sheet stuffer, but can't create his own shot. Scoring load could decrease if Warriors sign notable free agent, such as...
34. Nene (FREE AGENT):
Will improve on 14-and-7 averages wherever he winds up. At last is healthy, shot an absurd 61% from the field last season. If he can land a 35-minute per game gig, could become scorer in the high teens.
35. Chris Bosh:
Should find points easier to come by than in his first go-around in Miami. Not in the class of James and Wade. Still a terrific player however, and could be an overlooked, cheap source of scoring.
36. Rajon Rondo:
Gets a ton of assists, steals and rebounds for a point guard, but is just a dreadful shooter. His owners will sacrifice both three's and foul-shooting for him, a rare concession to make for a guard.
37. Tyreke Evans:
His sophomore season was nothing short of a disaster, with a dipped average and a putrid FG%. There are more mouths to feed in Sac-town, and those points might never return, but he's still a balanced producer worth a shot.
38. Kyle Lowry:
Became an immediate triple-double threat the second he moved into the starting lineup. A potent three-point shooter as well. Dragic no slouch at backup, but Lowry could average 16-8-4 as full-time starter.
39. Serge Ibaka:
Led the league in shot-blocking in merely 27 minutes per game. Good shooting percentages for a big man. Will get consistent playing time at last, could block close to 3 shots per game. Maybe the biggest sleeper out there.
40. Jrue Holiday:
Steadily-improving numbers impressive. Above average rebounder. With inconsistency and injuries from Iggy and Brand, could potentially be face of Philly franchise. Savvy buy-low pick for anyone needing a point guard.
41. Joakim Noah:
Had a great year before untimely thumb injury. Tremendous rebounding, blocking specialist, makes up for offensive deficiencies. Has to stay healthy in order to improve with a 14-12-2 statline.
42. Brook Lopez:
In a good scoring situation, assuming he remains in Jersey. 20-point scorer, gets a lot of blocks, good percentages. Would be ranked higher if rebounding average wasn't pitiful enough to make him almost avoidable.
43. Raymond Felton:
Got out of treacherous timeshare in Denver with trade to Portland. Is practically their only point guard. Less scoring chances even with minutes, but is young enough and a great enough shooter that it matters little.
44. Joe Johnson:
Scoring average declining swiftly, maybe from injuries more than age. Diverse player, capable of having a 25-5-5 night with a few three's. Will never be the go-to player envisioned when signed by Atlanta however.
45. Paul Millsap:
Had fantastic first half of the season, and dropped off as Al Jefferson took over. Quality performer, in tricky situation on a team with a million bigmen. Could easily get traded or have his minutes reduced, so watch closely.
46. Chauncey Billups:
Was awesome in post-New York deal, poised to do so again as forgotten member of Big Three. With Paul trade on the horizon however, Billups, at 35, isn't the safest investment, especially with a plummeting assist average.
47. Ty Lawson:
Sensational potential, incredibly quick. Backup Andre Miller is a minutes roadblock, but with so many other Nuggets marooned in China, could put up some tremendously-inflated stats on high-octane Denver team.
48. Manu Ginobili:
Great player coming off yet another great season. Lockout casts a shadow over him. Was getting precautionary benchings last year, and unrelenting schedule could keep him out of lineups a lot. Not to be counted on in April.
49. David West (FREE AGENT):
Steady player in New Orleans offense. Likely to re-sign. Last year's ACL tear nothing to shrug off, and unknown what life without CP3 would do to his production. Is a question mark in spite of recent consistency.
50. Marcin Gortat:
Got huge playing time the second he arrived, gelled perfectly with Steve Nash. In starting role, 16-8-2 numbers not out of the range of possibility, but like West is ultimately tied to the status of his point guard.
Expect rankings 51-100 in the near future.