2018 Outlook: If you took his worst season for each statistical category since The Decision, you're looking at 25.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 6.2 APG and 1.2 steals per game. Other than LeBron, only James Harden and Russell Westbrook reached all of those thresholds in 2016-17. We repeat: That would have been the stat line had you simply taken James' worst metrics over the past seven seasons. Do the minutes decline a little in his age 32 season? In theory, yes, but there are no signs to suggest that he is done being the best player on planet Earth, and you can feel safe putting your fantasy fate in his hands.
2018 Outlook: The Greek Freak was the only player in the NBA to average 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in 2016, not bad for a player who has seen his scoring average increase by more than four points per game every season of his career. In fact, the production across the board has been on the rise since we first got to know Antetokounmpo in 2013, and there is little reason to think that stops in 2017-18. He shot just 32.1 percent from outside of 8 feet last season, something that could be viewed as a flaw … or room for significant growth for a player who doesn't turn 23 until December.
2018 Outlook: His scoring fell by 3.1 points per game from 2015-16, but so what? KD is still an elite bucket-getter, and given the talent around him in Golden State, the spike in efficiency is likely here to stay. The career-high assist-to-turnover rate and defensive numbers are simply icing on the cake at this point, as he is just as valuable to fantasy owners as he is to the Warriors. Pay for a repeat of 2016-17 and understand that there is room for growth should an increased level of comfort result in a few more shots per game.
2018 Outlook: As expected, the addition of Kevin Durant last season cut into Green's numbers a bit (his points per game dropped by 27.1 percent and his rebounds by 16.8 percent), but he continued to be the type of well-rounded contributor who should be taken off the board early due to the ease of constructing a fantasy roster around him. Interested in a big who doesn't rebound (Brook Lopez/Marc Gasol) or a score-first point guard who lacks high-level assist numbers (Kyrie Irving/Goran Dragic)? Take Green and feel good about your ability to compete across the board.
2018 Outlook: Leonard has improved his scoring average each season of his career without sacrificing the elite defensive tenacity that earned him playing time as a rookie in 2011-12. We are on the fringe of entering Leonard's prime, a scary thought considering how impactful he was last season. His skill set is unquestioned, but fantasy owners tend to tread lightly around Gregg Popovich's players. Don't be. When San Antonio was busy winning three titles in a five-year span (2003-07), Popovich tied his wagon to Tim Duncan and played him 35.6 minutes per game. Leonard is a safe first-round pick who gives you solid production across the board.
2018 Outlook: How the George/Russell Westbrook tandem functions will be one of the top story lines of the 2017-18 season, and it should be fun to watch. George could look very much like Kevin Durant did in his final two Oklahoma City seasons, and that would represent the best season of George's already impressive career. Yes, Westbrook's usage limits George's potential to some extent, but that should be more than offset by the increase in quality of looks that comes from playing alongside Mr. Triple-Double. Need proof? Andre Roberson shot 60.9 percent on shots inside the 3-point line last season. George is a proven marksman, so if you assume that his number of "easy" buckets increases, it's not crazy to think he will lead this team in scoring.
2018 Outlook: RoCo entered the NBA as a menacing defender, but he has quietly turned into a fantasy asset whom you can count on. The defensive tenacity is still there, and when you blend his offensive game into that, you've essentially got Otto Porter Jr. at a discount. Consider that the list of players who averaged at least 1.5 3PPG, 1.0 BPG and 1.0 SPG was made up of Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Covington. Of course, Covington doesn't belong in that elite tier, but bake in more than six rebounds and the potential for playmaking (both points and assists) growth -- given the young talent on this roster -- and you've got yourself a rock-solid option who is likely to come at a very reasonable price.
2018 Outlook: The roster construction of the Magic did Gordon no favors, but he showed positive signs after Serge Ibaka was sent to Toronto at the All-Star break. That said, he continued to jack up 3s without much proof that he can make them at a consistent rate, and that will limit his upside across the board if it continues. Gordon is an ultra-athletic 21-year-old who has converted shots inside of 8 feet at an increasing rate during his three professional seasons, so there is reason to think that he can average 15-20 PPG. Don't overpay here, but there is upside to be had.
2018 Outlook: Butler simply can do it all, and joining the up-and-coming Timberwolves is a near perfect fit. By averaging 7.8 free throws per game over his past three seasons, Butler has displayed an ability to get to the rack, but with him connecting on more than 35 percent of his 3s over that stretch, what exactly are defenses supposed to do? Oh, and did we mention he is now playing alongside arguably the best big man in the game and an athletic force on the wing? There isn't a category he won't help you in, and a reunion with coach Tom Thibodeau should have him more than comfortable in his new city. Consider him with one of your first two picks, and feel great about your fantasy foundation.
2018 Outlook: Of the 89 players to average at least 30 minutes last season, there were only two players with a higher effective field goal percentage than Porter (60.8 percent): DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gobert. When you consider that those two led the league in dunks and that less than 27 percent of Porter's shots came within even eight feet of the bucket, his ranking among the elite is extremely impressive. Will he repeat that feat in 2017-18? Probably not. But when you add his rebounding ability to his scoring, this is a player worth investing in. It wouldn't take much growth for him to average 2.0 3PPG and 7.0 RPG, a pair of thresholds that only Kevin Love, James Harden and Russell Westbrook achieved last season.
2018 Outlook: Tatum is a reasonably well-polished prospect for this era, and we have no doubt that he will be able to put the ball in the basket from Day 1. The Carmelo Anthony comparisons are fair, but Melo was joining a 17-win team, not a 53-win one, so while the game is similar, expecting similar early career fantasy numbers is a mistake. From a talent perspective he is "safe," but the lack of upside when it comes to role is a concern for fantasy owners, as there are rookies with a much higher statistical floor/ceiling combination this year.
2018 Outlook: Evans has now played a total of just 65 games over the past two seasons, which is a major issue. Yes, the 16.1 PPG and nearly 10 rebounds-plus-assists he has averaged for his career are impressive, but you've got to bake in the risk of missed time and the risk of playing in Sacramento. How much you are willing to invest in Evans depends greatly on your view of his jump shooting; he's a 29.5 percent career 3-point shooter, but he is converting at a 36.9 percent clip over the past two seasons. There is major risk involved here (both skills and health) … at which point are you willing to roll the dice?
2018 Outlook: Your buying window on this professional bucket-getter has cracked open because a torn hamstring last season resulted in 53 missed games and some reduced fantasy numbers when he did finally return to action in February. ,So, pounce! The Bucks went back to using Middleton in a significant way in March (33 minutes and 17.3 points per game) and they promptly won 14 of 18 games. Not a coincidence. Milwaukee is a team on the come, and Middleton is going to be a major part of its growth. Take advantage this season, as the odds are good that it will be a while before you can get Middleton at this price again.
2018 Outlook: Barton has posted similar stat lines in his two full seasons in Denver, and he should continue to be a reasonable reserve option in standard fantasy leagues. His scoring/shooting numbers are reasonably safe, and he provided nice growth by averaging a career-high 3.4 assists last season. If you believe this Nuggets offense takes a step forward in 2017-18, Barton could well be one of the better values in the second half of your draft.
2018 Outlook: Fournier has seen his scoring and minutes increase each season in Orlando and figures to once again be the team's go-to scorer in 2017. While he does spend quite a bit of time on the perimeter, he has shown an increased willingness to attack the rim (he made 223 free throws in 2016-17 after attempting 238 in 2015-16), and that elevates his scoring floor. The Magic get the majority of their rebounds from their frontcourt and their assists from their point guard, so don't look for Fournier to give you more than the 6.1 rebounds-plus-assists he averaged last season. But his scoring should remain stable, making him essentially a safer version of teammate Terrence Ross.