Skip to main content

Fantasy Basketball Rankings: Positional Tiers (2019)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Oct 16, 2019

Jokic was a complete fantasy superstar last year

The NBA season tips off in less than two weeks! After a busy free agent period and an exciting draft, we’ve almost made it. The season kicks off in grandiose fashion with the defending-champion Raptors taking on the Zion Williams-era Pelicans and a no love loss matchup between the re-tooled Lakers and Clippers in a Battle of Los Angeles on Oct. 22. With the NBA season so close, fantasy basketball leagues are drafting, and it’s time we take a look at some positional tiers. Today, I’ll go position-by-position to outline the best guards, forwards and centers available in fantasy basketball.

Guard

Tier 1 – Best of the Best

James Harden (HOU)
Stephen Curry (GSW)

The pair of former MVPs belong in a tier of their own. Harden is coming off a career-best 36.1 points per game and a second-place finish in MVP voting after winning the award two seasons ago. Curry — the three-time champ and three-point virtuoso — will be without Kevin Durant for the first time in three seasons. With Klay Thompson rehabbing a torn ACL, Curry will handle a heavy workload until Thompson is able to return — likely not until after the All-Star Break. Both of these guys are top-five picks, with Curry holding the advantage in ceiling because of his role on the depleted Warriors.

Tier 2 – Elite Talent

Damian Lillard (POR)
Russell Westbrook (HOU)
Bradley Beal (WAS)
Kyrie Irving (BKN)
Luka Doncic (DAL)
Devin Booker (PHO)
Kemba Walker (BOS)
Ben Simmons (PHI)
Jrue Holiday (NOP)
Trae Young (ATL)
Donovan Mitchell (UTA)

The next tier represents elite talent that just missed on landing the first tier, though every player in this range has a ton of upside. Young guns make up a surprising portion of the tier, with second-year phenoms Luka Doncic and Trae Young (the top vote getters for Rookie of the Year) landing here. Devin Booker, Ben Simmons, and Donovan Mitchell are still on the rise, and we’ve likely not seen the best of that bunch. Russell Westbrook may take a step back in his first year sharing the backcourt with James Harden in Houston, but he’s averaged a triple-double for three straight seasons. Damian Lillard looks poised to continue his strong play, with the Blazers re-shuffling the roster in the offseason. Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker find themselves on new teams, though it’s Irving who will likely command a higher usage rate sans Kevin Durant. Coming off a career-high 25.6 points per game, Beal will be the focal point of the offense in Washington, while Jrue Holiday will look to be a veteran leader in a young and talented Pelicans locker room, while continuing his superb play on both ends of the court.

Tier 3 – High Floor Options

De’Aaron Fox (SAC)
Buddy Hield (SAC)
Kyle Lowry (TOR)
DeMar DeRozan (SAS)
Chris Paul (OKC)

Sure, Chris Paul has the potential to be a Tier 2 guy. I get it, but the guy has averaged just 59 games over the past three seasons. I’m not investing a ton of draft capital into a player who might only take the court 60 percent of the year. Paul will lead the Thunder and likely play more on-ball than he did with James Harden in Houston, allowing him to play the role he’s most accustomed to as the traditional point guard. A pair of Kings lead off the tier, as both Fox and Hield were much improved last season thanks to Fox’s searing athleticism and Hield’s deadly range as a three-point specialist. DeRozan and Lowry, the former teammates, will each play a significant role on their respective teams. DeRozan posted career highs in assists (6.2) and rebounds (6.0) in his first season with the Spurs, and Lowry dished a career-best 8.7 assists per game last season.

Tier 4 – On the Cusp

D’Angelo Russell (GSW)
Ja Morant (MEM)
Khris Middleton (MIL)
Zach LaVine (CHI)
Mike Conley (UTA)
Malcolm Brogdon (IND)
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)
Lonzo Ball (NOP)
Jamal Murray (DEN)
C.J. McCollum (POR)
Jeremy Lamb (IND)
Josh Richardson (PHI)

Tier 4 includes plenty of high-upside plays who have underwhelmed in the past and some guys whose production is not assured. De’Angelo Russell was a legitimate contender for Most Improved Player last season as he led the Nets to the playoffs. His overall impact in Steve Kerr’s system in the Bay area is uncertain. Lonzo Ball is set up in a beautiful situation in the Big Easy, but injuries and off-the-court family drama have hampered a two-year stint in which the UCLA product has displayed tremendous court vision and athleticism. Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Josh Richardson, and Mike Conley are playing for new teams, though Brogdon and Lamb figure to have the most prominent roles on an Indiana team missing Victor Oladipo (knee) at least for the first month or two of the season.

Tier 5 – Best of the Rest

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC)
Terry Rozier (CHA)
Ricky Rubio (PHO)
Jeff Teague (MIN)
Fred VanVleet (TOR)
Caris LeVert (BKN)
Delon Wright (DAL)
Joe Harris (BKN)
Derrick White (SAS)
Lou Williams (LAC)
Marcus Smart (BOS)
Tomas Satoransky (CHI)
Tyler Herro (MIA)
R.J. Barrett (NYK)
Dejounte Murray (SAS)
Seth Curry (DAL)
Victor Oladipo (IND)
Kevin Huerter (ATL)
J.J. Redick (NOP)
Goran Dragic (MIA)
Collin Sexton (CLE)
Andrew Wiggins (MIN)

This tier features some volatile players who all come with some level of risk, but al of these guys have the potential to be quality fantasy contributors. Seven players in this tier will be on a new roster this season, with Gilgeous-Alexander, Rozier, Rubio, Wright, Satoransky, Curry, and Redick taking their talents to a new team in 2019-20. Rozier figures to be the focal point of a rebuilding Hornets team that threatens to achieve “Trust the Process 76ers” levels of infamy. Rubio will look to get back to his Minnesota days as a high-level facilitator and defender as he joins a young Suns team. Two rookies in Herro and Barrett are included in this tier, and both are natural scorers who could make immediate impacts on their respective teams. Oladipo is a risky proposition given his recovery from a knee injury, and guys like VanVleet, Smart, and Teague will all likely see bumps in usage and production thanks to the flurry of free agent moves that took place in the offseason.

Tier 6 – Late Rounders

Danny Green (LAL)
Joe Harris (BKN)
D.J. Augustin (ORL)
Spencer Dinwiddie (BKN)
Evan Fournier (ORL)
Coby White (CHI)
Eric Gordon (HOU)
Darius Garland (CLE)
Reggie Jackson (DET)
Dennis Smith (NYK)
Jaylen Brown (BOS)
Ish Smith (WAS)

These guards are all worth grabbing in the later rounds of drafts. Green, Gordon, and Harris are best looked at as one-trick ponies as three-point specialists, though Green offers some appeal as a defender. The rookie Garland has a ton of upside, but his usage in the Cleveland backcourt next to Collin Sexton is questionable. Ish Smith is a deep sleeper, though he’ll walk into a starting role for Washington with minutes in the mid-20s at minimum.

Forward

Tier 1 – Best of the Best

Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
Anthony Davis (LAL)
LeBron James (LAL)

There’s no comparison to the top forward tier for fantasy purposes, as Giannis and AD both make legitimate cases for the No. 1 overall selection in drafts this year. Last year’s MVP, Antetokounmpo took big strides across the board, providing new career highs with 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. He’s an elite option at both ends of the court who could certainly take another step forward for an even bigger year with Milwaukee. New teammates James and Davis have been consistently elite fantasy players for years. James is coming off a season in which he averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists and has been largely undervalued thanks to his groin injury which caused him to miss a career-worst 27 games and his pairing with Davis. Davis, who has averaged 27.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks over the last three seasons, could be in for a monster campaign in his first season with the Lakers.

Tier 2 – Elite Talent

Paul George (LAC)
Jimmy Butler (MIA)
Kawhi Leonard (LAC)
Pascal Siakam (TOR)
Blake Griffin (DET)

These guys just missed the cut for the first tier, and they should all be regarded as top-40 selections. George and Butler will appear on new teams, with Butler in line to take on a massive increase in usage with Miami and George on tap for more of his signature two-way play. Leonard — now teammates with George — is likely to take a step back with the Clippers after a championship run with Toronto, though he offers enough on both ends of the court to be an easy top-20 fantasy pick. Griffin was a consistent contributor of points and rebounds last season, with the ability to hit a three and pass to teammates. Last year’s Most Improved Player, Siakam, may have his biggest season yet, with Leonard south of the border.

Tier 3 – High Floor Options

John Collins (ATL)
Zion Williamson (NOP)
Kristaps Porzingis (DAL)
LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS)

Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM)
Kevin Love (CLE)
Draymond Green (GSW)
Tobias Harris (PHI)

There’s an argument to be made that college phenom Williamson deserves to be in Tier 2, but the guys ahead of him have all been huge fantasy contributors for years and deserve to be listed there. Porzingis carries the most risk, as he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Green could be in for an uptick in scoring on a Warriors team suddenly needing some offense. Collins will look for his first 20/10 season after nearly accomplishing the feat in 2018-19, while Jackson will try to build on an impressive rookie year. Love has sneaky value thanks to missing so much of last season due to injury, and he’s got a lot of upside as Cleveland’s top option on offense.

Tier 4 – On the Cusp

Otto Porter (CHI)
Danilo Gallinari (OKC)
Robert Covington (MIN)
Kelly Oubre (PHO)
Lauri Markkanen (CHI)
Al Horford (PHI)
Domantas Sabonis (IND)

Jayson Tatum (BOS)
Larry Nance (CLE)
Julius Randle (NYK)
Marvin Bagley III (SAC)
Aaron Gordon (ORL)

This tier features plenty of up-and-coming talent. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, the former Wizards, will be back with Chicago and Phoenix respectively, where each had great runs in limited action last season. Gallinari, Horford, and Randle all had big years in 2018-19, though all three will have to start over with a new team this season. Bagley looked excellent last season and could be in for a breakout in Sacramento. Tatum, Markkanen, Nance, and Sabonis are all young talents who will look to further develop their games, while Covington could enjoy a large usage rate opposite Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

Tier 5 – Best of the Rest

Gordon Hayward (BOS)
Miles Bridges (CHA)
Jonathan Isaac (ORL)
Zach Collins (POR)
Kyle Kuzma (LAL)
T.J. Warren (IND)
Paul Millsap (DEN)
Rui Hachimura (WAS)
Bojan Bogdanovic (UTA)

There’s plenty of risk associated with this group. Hayward didn’t look himself last season after returning from a gruesome leg injury that sidelined him for all but one game of the 2017-18 campaign. Neither Bridges nor Isaac have proven himself, and Kuzma will have to share time with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Hachimura, the talented Gonzaga rookie, has a lot of potential, but it’s hard to say how many minutes he’ll receive in Washington. Collins looked like a great fantasy value for the upcoming season, but there’s a possibility he doesn’t start for the Blazers this season and comes off the bench again.

Tier 6 – Late Rounders

Joe Ingles (BKN)
Rudy Gay (SAS)
Taurean Prince (BKN)
Mikal Bridges (PHO)
Kent Bazemore (POR)
Kyle Anderson (MEM)
Nicolas Batum (CHA)
Cedi Osman (CLE)
Thaddeus Young (CHI)
Justise Winslow (MIA)
Brandon Clarke (MEM)
Harrison Barnes (SAC)
Jerami Grant (DEN)
Brandon Ingram (NOP)
Bogdan Bogdanovic (SAC) 
OG Anunoby (TOR)
P.J. Tucker (HOU)
De’Andre Hunter (ATL)

This group features the players you’ll want to add to round out your roster, though not all of these guys will get playing time in your starting lineup. Osman, Winslow, and Ingram all have a legitimate shot at exceeding their ADP, and they are the most likely sleepers of the bunch. Barnes can still score the ball, and Prince may have a path to a healthy dose of minutes in Brooklyn’s frontcourt. Batum has some appeal on a Hornets team that will be desperate for playmakers, while rookies Brandon Clarke and De’Andre Hunter could thrive if given enough playing time.

Center

Tier 1 – Best of the Best

Nikola Jokic (DEN)
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)
Joel Embiid (PHI)

These guys are the best of the best for a reason. All of them are easily top-10 picks in any format, and they could all be league-winners. Jokic put together an incredible 2018-19 season, establishing himself as arguably the best passing big man in basketball, though he struggled as a defender. Embiid developed a three-point shot and continued to play as one of the most dominant rim-protectors, scorers, and rebounders in the game. Towns has stuffed the stat sheet in nearly every category since entering the league, and there’s no reason to believe that will change in 2019-20.

Tier 2 – Elite Talent

Andre Drummond (DET)
Nikola Vucevic (ORL)
Rudy Gobert (UTA)
Mitchell Robinson (NYK)
Clint Capela (HOU)
Deandre Ayton (PHO)
Myles Turner (IND)

The theme of this tier is undoubtedly defense. Drummond paced the NBA in rebounds last season with 15.6 after leading the NBA with 16.0 in 2017-18. He’s likely to be the top player in that category once again. Gobert won the DPOY award in 2018, with Turner (the league-leader in blocks) receiving some votes for the award. Ayton and Robinson were consensus All-Rookie First Team selections last year, displaying immense potential. Robinson was huge on defense in his first season, and Ayton averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. Vucevic broke out for his first All-Star selection, while Capela came up big for Houston while trying to live up to his massive contract.

Tier 3 – High Floor Options

Jonas Valanciunas (MEM)
Thomas Bryant (WAS)
Brook Lopez (MIL)
Bam Adebayo (MIA)
Hassan Whiteside (POR)
Derrick Favors (NOP)
Dewayne Dedmon (SAC)
Wendell Carter Jr. (CHI)
Enes Kanter (BOS)
Steven Adams (OKC)

These guys are all top-100 players, with some of them poised for huge efforts. Valanciunas had a monster stretch of games with Memphis to close out the season, though he’ll have a healthy Jaren Jackson to compete with in the frontcourt. Bryant was big on a per-minute basis last season, displaying his elite two-way abilities. Lopez had a breakout season with the Bucks in 2018, while Steven Adams continued his steady and reliable production. The rest of this group all have the chance to see a bump in production thanks to more prominent roles. Dedmon, Kanter, Favors, and Whiteside will all take the court for new teams this season. Whiteside has the most upside, while Kanter is the riskiest bet, as he’s rumored to be coming off the bench for the Celtics in his first year with the team. Carter will be fully healthy for his second season, and Adebayo should be Miami’s top frontcourt option now that Whiteside is in Portland.

Tier 4 – On the Cusp

JaVale McGee (LAL) 
Montrezl Harrell (LAC)
Willie Cauley-Stein (GSW)
DeAndre Jordan (BKN)
Marc Gasol (TOR)

McGee will get the chance to compete for the starting job once again, with DeMarcus Cousins (ACL) out, after a huge resurgence last season. Harrell — a 2018 Sixth Man of the Year candidate — will look to build upon last year’s big campaign, though he’ll have competition for usage in the form of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Cauley-Stein and Jordan will be playing on new teams this year. Jordan’s role isn’t concrete with Jarrett Allen in the mix, and WCS has to contend with a Warriors’ scheme that doesn’t typically feature the center. Gasol still has plenty of value thanks to his ability to shoot an outside shot and pass the ball.

Tier 5 – Best of the Rest

Serge Ibaka (TOR)
Jarrett Allen (BKN)
Kelly Olynyk (MIA)
Alex Len (ATL)
Cody Zeller (CHA)

Dwight Powell (DAL)

These are the players who are worth late-round fliers. Ibaka could see an increased role thanks to the loss of Kawhi Leonard, though he’ll still have Marc Gasol to compete with for minutes. Allen and Olynyk have frontcourt competition on their respective teams, making them risky plays. Len is a solid sleeper play thanks to his big-time efforts to close out the year, and Dwight Powell will look to make an impact while playing alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

For more draft prep, check out our other fantasy basketball articles:

Top 150 Rankings with Notes
8 Players to Target in Drafts
12 Fantasy Basketball Sleepers
6 Overvalued Players 

Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

What's your take? Leave a comment

1Christian McCaffrey (CAR)RB
2Dalvin Cook (MIN)RB
3Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)RB
4Josh Jacobs (OAK)RB
5Leonard Fournette (JAC)RB
6Melvin Gordon (LAC)RB
7Nick Chubb (CLE)RB
8Tyreek Hill (KC)WR
9Alvin Kamara (NO)RB
10Michael Thomas (NO)WR
 View all Flex Rankings 
11James Conner (PIT)RB
12Mike Evans (TB)WR
13Marlon Mack (IND)RB
14Le'Veon Bell (NYJ)RB
15Tevin Coleman (SF)RB
16Julio Jones (ATL)WR
17DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)WR
18Damien Williams (KC)RB
19Brian Hill (ATL)RB
20Devin Singletary (BUF)RB
21Mark Ingram (BAL)RB
22Amari Cooper (DAL)WR
23Joe Mixon (CIN)RB
24Chris Godwin (TB)WR
25Todd Gurley (LAR)RB
26Cooper Kupp (LAR)WR
27Julian Edelman (NE)WR
28D.J. Moore (CAR)WR
29Keenan Allen (LAC)WR
30Travis Kelce (KC)TE
1Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL)LF,CF
2Nolan Arenado (COL)3B
3Mookie Betts (BOS)CF,RF
4J.D. Martinez (BOS)LF,RF
5Trevor Story (COL)SS
6Justin Verlander (HOU)SP
7Cody Bellinger (LAD)1B,CF
8Trea Turner (WSH)SS
9Alex Bregman (HOU)3B,SS
10Jacob deGrom (NYM)SP
 View All Rankings 
11Max Scherzer (WSH)SP
12Francisco Lindor (CLE)SS
13Gerrit Cole (FA)SP
14Freddie Freeman (ATL)1B
15Javier Baez (CHC)2B,3B
16Charlie Blackmon (COL)CF
17Aaron Judge (NYY)RF,DH
18Juan Soto (WSH)LF
19Anthony Rendon (FA)3B
20Bryce Harper (PHI)CF,RF
21Jose Altuve (HOU)2B
22Xander Bogaerts (BOS)SS
23Starling Marte (PIT)CF
24Walker Buehler (LAD)SP
25Manny Machado (SD)3B,SS
26Anthony Rizzo (CHC)1B
27Kris Bryant (CHC)3B,RF
28Whit Merrifield (KC)1B,2B
29George Springer (HOU)CF,RF
30Paul Goldschmidt (STL)1B
1Anthony Davis (LAL)PF,C
2James Harden (HOU)PG,SG
3Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)SF,PF
4Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)C
5Kevin Durant (BKN)SF,PF
6LeBron James (LAL)SF,PF
7Stephen Curry (GSW)PG,SG
8Nikola Jokic (DEN)PF,C
9Damian Lillard (POR)PG
10Russell Westbrook (HOU)PG
 View All Rankings 
11Victor Oladipo (IND)PG,SG
12Paul George (LAC)SF,PF
13Joel Embiid (PHI)PF,C
14Kawhi Leonard (LAC)SG,SF
15Chris Paul (OKC)PG
16Jimmy Butler (MIA)SG,SF
17Kemba Walker (BOS)PG
18Ben Simmons (PHI)PG,SF
19Kyrie Irving (BKN)PG,SG
20Jrue Holiday (NOR)PG,SG
21Rudy Gobert (UTH)C
22Andre Drummond (DET)PF,C
23John Wall (WAS)PG
24Kyle Lowry (TOR)PG
25Donovan Mitchell (UTH)PG,SG
26Khris Middleton (MIL)SG,SF
27Bradley Beal (WAS)SG
28Kevin Love (CLE)PF,C
29Draymond Green (GSW)PF,C
30LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS)PF,C
Follow the Pros!

Follow us on Twitter @FantasyPros for exclusive advice and contests