Fantasy Basketball PF Exit Interview: Is drafting Zion Williamson in 2023-24 worth the risk?
With the NBA playoffs underway, it is time to take one last look back on how each position has stacked up against each other across the 2022-2023 regular season. The point guard, shooting guard and small forward exit interviews are complete — now it’s time to assess the power forwards.
It was a big year for power forwards, with half of the top 12 players holding PF eligibility and 11 in the top 25 overall. Since so many players have multi-position eligibility, I’ll highlight the power forwards who logged the most minutes at the PF spot.
Let’s dive in!
Tier 1: Elite Power Forwards
Kevin Durant tops this list because he’s one of the most efficient scorers ever. Sure, he missed a handful of games, but he averaged 29/7/5 with a ridiculous 56/40/92 shooting split. And now he’s on the Suns? Scary hours.
Jayson Tatum led the league in total points while also dropping career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3PM. He’s a top-5 pick for me next year. LeBron James is still playing at a high level despite the injuries; he finished the season 25th. Not bad for the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, but don’t overdraft him in 2023-24, because Father Time is creeping up.
Tier 2: All-Star Power Forwards
I doubt the Timberwolves will survive their first-round matchup against the top-seeded Nuggets, and they’ll have some soul-searching to do this offseason. Clearly, the Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert frontcourt experiment is not a good fit, and as such, I’ll be avoiding both players in 2023-24 should the Wolves front office decide to run it back.
Towns’ had an uptick in assists per game and free-throw percentage but was down in almost every other category from a year ago. His ADP will fall in the second round, and I can’t get behind that if he’s in a Minnesota uniform.
The Raptors are another team that could look different next season, but I doubt they’ll move Pascal Siakam. He was featured prominently at PF when Toronto traded for Jakob Poeltl mid-season, and Pascal remains a cheat code for his PF/C eligibility. His assists and scoring slightly dipped when paired with Poeltl in the frontcourt, but he’s still worthy of being an early-round pick.
Tier 3: Reliable Power Forwards
Evan Mobley ranked 54th after playing in 79 games this season. He improved his rebounding and efficiency from the field, but his production was otherwise on par with his rookie campaign, dropping 16/9/3 with over 2 stocks. I’m expecting him to make a sizable leap in his third NBA season with another offseason to prepare with his young core of All-Stars.
New York is buzzing, and Julius Randle played a significant role in the Knicks success this season. The acquisition of Jalen Brunson helped mask the deficiencies that plagued him in the past; inefficiency and turnovers. Randle has more talent around him to rely on, and just doing less helped improve his fantasy value.
He’s rarely injured (he played 70+ games in the last three seasons), plays heavy minutes (thanks, Thibs) and was one of four players to average at least 25 points with 10 rebounds. He’s a beast.
Tier 4: High-Risk, High-Reward Power Forwards
Zion Williamson is an obvious choice here after playing in only 29 games. Remember, he missed the entire 2021-2022 season. When he was actually healthy this season, he played at the All-Star caliber level we saw in the 2020-2021 season. His ceiling is through the roof, and fantasy managers would love to see his body of work over a full NBA season. He’s one of the most efficient players near the rim and is an underrated passer, too (he averaged almost five dimes per game).
But he has no three-ball, lacks blocks and is a 69% free-throw shooter. All areas for improvement, but I can speak for everyone when I say his health is his biggest obstacle to being a reliable fantasy asset.
Christian Wood flamed out in Dallas because he’s a cone on defense. Despite that reality, he’s an unrestricted free agent who will join his eighth team in seven years this summer. He played under 30 minutes a night for the first time in three seasons and still produced a respectable 17/7/2 with 2 stocks and 55/37/77 shooting splits in only 25 minutes. He fell just inside the top 100 (99th) this year, but in the right situation, there’s a possibility he can get back to a double-double.
Tier 5: Breakout Power Forwards
Much like his teammate Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson‘s change of scenery provides far more upside than if he had stayed in Phoenix. As a member of the Nets, his numbers improved across five categories: Points, rebounds, assists, steals and FT percentage. The Nets lack offensive weapons, and he closed out the season 56th in per-game value. I expect his role to expand next season as one of the core elements of Brooklyn‘s imminent rebuild.
The Magic are in good hands with soon-to-be Rookie of the Year, Paolo Banchero. He’s one of 12 players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in his first NBA season, and though his output didn’t translate to his fantasy ranking this year (he finished 211th), he’ll be more efficient in Year 2. On Ryen Russillo’s podcast, Banchero admitted to dealing with a nerve issue mid-season that impacted his shooting form (as evidenced by shooting 1-for-33 from three in February). He carried one of the lowest true-shooting percentages in the league (180 out of 198 qualifiers).
So what makes me think he’ll become a better shooter?
He shot 30% on threes and 47% on two-point FGs, which tells me he needs to be more selective with his shots, get to his spots and continue to work on his three-ball. Given his work ethic, I think he can get there as soon as next season.
Tier 6: Value Power Forwards
Tobias Harris will be a value pick because of his efficiency, but I probably won’t draft him because he’s otherwise uninspiring; same with Harrison Barnes. And Scottie Barnes may come cheaper after failing to build off his Rookie of the Year honors a year ago. Jerami Grant carried a sixth-round ADP in the preseason and finished 67th in per-game value. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer but is often overlooked on draft day relative to his production.
Bojan Bogdanovic had a career year in Detroit but was shut down early for tanking purposes. He was drafted well outside the top 120, but he was a top-80 player for most of the season. Aaron Gordon slightly outperformed his ADP of 135 (finished 122) but had several moments throughout the season where he played at an All-Star-caliber level. Bobby Portis was better than his 111th ranking suggests and is the best Antetokounmpo insurance.
Kyle Kuzma‘s future with the Wizards is TBD, but his 136th finish was lower than expected. He put up a solid 21/7/4 line, but his 44% shooting and 3 turnovers per game lowered his value. He’s entering his prime, and he’s a bucket that will likely come at an affordable draft price next season.
Tier 7: Fading Power Forwards
Draymond Green has to decide on his player option by late June, and the Warriors’ tax bill is out of control. Given his Twitter handle is @Money23Green, I’m pretty sure he’ll opt for getting the bag in free agency. This begs the question: What will Green look like outside of the Warriors system? Eight points, seven boards and six dimes with 2 stocks seems like a reasonable expectation for the 11-year pro and future Hall of Famer.
I don’t know what’s up with John Collins because his offensive output has declined in four consecutive seasons. Maybe he’s just checked out after all of the trade rumors? I struggle to see him returning to the top 60.
Tier 8: Bench Power Forwards
Jabari Smith Jr, Kyle Anderson, PJ Washington, Chris Boucher, Marcus Morris, Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke, Dorian Finney-Smith, Moritz Wagner, Keita Bates-Diop, Jalen Smith, Santi Aldama, Marvin Bagley III and Larry Nance Jr.
Tier 9: Developmental Power Forwards
Tari Eason has the profile of a solid fantasy player, so I’m excited to see how new Rockets head coach Ime Udoka decides to deploy him. Eason also has an opportunity to get minutes at SF, but his activity on the glass and menacing defense should get him more than 22 minutes a game heading into next season.
Source: Yahoo Sports