Fantasy Basketball: Way-too-early 2023-2024 Top 12 rankings overall Part 1; draft picks 12-7

With the fantasy season in its final stages, those in head-to-head playoffs or roto formats are really the only ones thinking about what has been. For others, myself included, I’m already wandering down the track of what might be. Keeping with that idea, I decided to dive into some early, very early, player ranks for the 2023-24 season. Obviously, there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before we get to drafting. These early ranks are not set in stone by any means; they are more of a placeholder until we better understand who is playing where next season. Skimming over my top 12, let’s start with players 7 through 12.

Let’s dive in.

12. Kevin Durant

2023 Per-game rank: 4

2023 Total rank: 23

Going through my early projections, there might be a lot of value when drafting on the turn again next season. Someone like Durant still has clear top-5 upside, yet people will be cautious due to the risk of missed games. When healthy, Durant has been phenomenal this season, averaging 29.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.9 three-pointers. However, he will be 35 years old when the 2023-24 season begins, only adding to the risk and placing more doubt in managers’ minds. The thought process is that if you can secure him with a late first-round pick, you can pair him with a younger player, someone projected to play the majority of games. There could be a lot of interchangeable pieces when it comes to the end of the first round. Punting will, of course, be a deciding factor, as will a manager’s preference toward either risk or reward.

11. James Harden

2023 Per-game rank: 13

2023 Total rank: 25

Not unlike Durant, Harden is no stranger when it comes to missed games. He, too, is on the wrong side of 30, meaning bumps and bruises will take longer to recover from moving forward. With season averages of 21.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.9 triples, Harden appears to have embraced his role in Philadelphia, playing Robin to Joel Embiid’s Batman. While his scoring has taken a significant hit over the past two seasons, his assist numbers remain elite, which should stick without too much trouble. Managers targeting Harden will likely want to pair him with a more robust scoring option, something made easier when drafting closer to the turn. While not on this list, his former teammate, Kyrie Irving, would also be a potential target in this range. 

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2023 Per-game rank: 113

2023 Total rank: 155

Managers are quick to look past player ranks when it comes to Antetokounmpo, given that his overall value is dragged down by his continued inability to hit free throws. While this remains true, there is more to it than simply his poor free throw percentage. On the surface, his season’s numbers are mind-boggling, consisting of 31.5 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists. However, he connects on only 0.8 three-pointers per game, adding 1.5 combined steals and blocks. His on-court value cannot be overstated, although it is not translating to fantasy the way it once did. His appeal is even more reliant on team build, given that he is a negative in four of the nine categories. I’m confident he will be drafted higher than this, but his flaws remain a huge issue for me.

9. Anthony Davis

2023 Per-game rank: 5

2023 Total rank: 28

Outside of one lengthy absence, Davis has been relatively healthy this season. He was the number one player for a long stretch to open the season, reminding everyone how good he can be when healthy. LeBron James is starting to show signs that his body is struggling, meaning Davis will be saddled with more responsibility moving forward. Based on what we have seen over the past two weeks, this could be a blessing for Davis and any prospective fantasy managers. He is averaging 25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.1 blocks for the season. He has limited the three-pointers he is taking, resulting in his field goal percentage taking a massive jump compared to the past few years. Davis is always going to slide down draft boards as a result of his injury history. While that is valid, next season could be an opportunity for him to receive the torch from James, resulting in another strong season.

8. Damian Lillard

2023 Per-game rank: 7

2023 Total rank: 5

About as rock-solid as they come, Lillard has compiled another fantastic season, putting up mid-first-round value with averages of 32.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 4.2 three-pointers. Of course, his defensive contributions remain adequate at best, totaling 1.2 combined steals and blocks. Based on what he has done this season, there is a case to be made for him being a top-5 target next season. While he is a very safe option, I don’t see where he can improve moving forward, compared with a few of the names I have in the top half of my list. He is who he is at this point, and while that’s is a great player, he would likely take team success above individual production any day of the week. The Trail Blazers‘ window for success is getting smaller and smaller, meaning they need to recruit some pieces to place around Lillard sooner rather than later. If and when this happens, Lillard’s numbers could take a hit, thus limiting his upside moving forward.

7. Stephen Curry

2023 Per-game Rank: 6

2023 Total rank: 29

Already age 35, Curry is another player who seemingly misses more and more games with each passing season. While he hasn’t suffered a significant injury in quite some time, his numerous ailments of late have cost him what managers would deem substantial time. There is nothing wrong with his season numbers, averaging 29.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 5.0 triples. You could argue this has been statistically his best overall season in quite a few years. Like the Trail Blazers, the Warriors must make the most of the next couple of years, cashing in while they can. This could mean the medical staff will take a cautious approach through the regular season, ensuring Curry is ready to go come the playoffs. He should be a lock to finish inside the top 10, but again, he doesn’t have the room for improvement that a couple of others do at this point in his career.

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