Cheat sheet for NBA fantasy beginners

Published October 6, 2021, 3:15 PMMiguel Flores, Isaac Go

NBA.com Philippines All-Star Analyst Isaac Go and writer Migs Flores provide a simple guide for first-time NBA fantasy players.

NBA fantasy season is in full swing with everyone tucking into or preparing for their drafts. The absolute worst mistake in fantasy basketball is going on auto-draft and leaving your season in the hands of the rest of your league. No matter what your supposedly lucky friend tells you, auto-draft is not a viable strategy.

Research is key. Devising a draft strategy contingent on your draft position will make or break your early mornings for the next few months.

If you don't have the time to research, we've got the next best thing. NBA.com Philippines’ resident fantasy nerds Isaac Go and Migs Flores break down the players of each position into different tiers. This is designed to aid your decision-making at pivotal points in the draft. Each NBA player is put into a tier with their overall value and impact on a fantasy team in mind.

This guide is recommended for nine-category leagues with 10-14 teams and should work well for either Head-to-Head or Roto format.

Point Guards

  • Tier 1 - Steph Curry, Trae Young

  • Tier 2 -  Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard

  • Tier 3 - Russell Westbrook

  • Tier 4 - Kyrie Irving, Fred VanVleet, Chris Paul

  • Tier 5 - Ja Morant, Lamelo Ball, Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday 

  • Tier 6 - Dejounte Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Malcolm Brogdon

  • Tier 7 - De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Lowry, Marcus Smart, Ben Simmons

  • Tier 8 - D’Angelo Russell, Darius Garland, Kemba Walker

  • Tier 9 - Spencer Dinwiddie, Mike Conley, TJ McConnell, Dennis Schroder

  • Tier 10 - Jalen Suggs, Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe

Isaac Go: I honestly ranked Kyrie a tier lower than I normally would. He’s a superstar caliber player and arguably a late-first to mid-second round player but it's quite tough to rank him higher if we expect him to miss half of the season. Getting stats per game is one thing, but you must also have the volume of games to back it up, especially if you’re going to use a top two or three pick to get him. And if ever he does clear health and safety protocols, Brooklyn is expected to finish as one of the top 3 seeds in the East so expect him to sit a lot of games towards the end of the regular season to get him ready for the NBA playoffs (and not fantasy playoffs). 

Russell Westbrook is a fantasy player that I'm intrigued about. Westbrook is one of those players who can fill up the stat sheet — he’ll get you points, rebounds, assists, and steals with an improving FG% especially with the volume. But when you draft Westbrook, you're sacrificing your FT% and turnovers.  He also doesn’t provide the 3-point makes expected from a point guard, but that can be easily covered. Will playing LeBron James and Anthony Davis make him a more conscious and effective player? He now has a team of veterans who can help him and he won’t be asked to carry the majority of the load on most nights. Then, he’ll have those nights where he’ll post these godly stat lines when James and Davis sit. I expect his numbers to take a dip, but his efficiency will improve.

I have high hopes and expectations for Ja Morant. People have ranked him lower than guys like Tyrese Haliburton, Lonzo Ball, and Jrue Holiday. No disrespect to these three players, but they aren’t borderline All-Star like Morant. I expect him to take control of a young Grizzlies squad. He is clearly their number one option and Ja is looking to bounce back after a lackluster season riddled with injuries, especially with the possibility of him signing an extension this year.

Shooting Guards

  • Tier 1 -  James Harden, Bradley Beal, Jayden Brown

  • Tier 2 - Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Zach Lavine

  • Tier 3 -  CJ McCollum, Anthony Edwards

  • Tier 4 - Terry Rozier, Colin Sexton, Cade Cunningham, Derrick White

  • Tier 5 - Kevin Porter Jr., Norman Powell

  • Tier 6 - Jordan Clarkson, Buddy Hield, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Jalen Green

  • Tier 7 - Caris LeVert, Malik Beasley, Nickie Alexander-Walker

  • Tier 8 - Dillon Brooks, Gary Trent, Joe Harris, Duncan Robinson

  • Tier 9 - Victor Oladipo, Seth Curry, Danny Green

Isaac Go: The Houston pairing of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green should be quite intriguing. I don’t expect Houston to contend in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. This means that these two players will be given longer minutes to play. How they gel is the big question, but with the imminent departure of John Wall and Houston looking to tank, both of these guys will be able to put up big numbers.

RJ Barrett's ranking feels quite low on this list after a solid season last year, mostly because of the additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. Add Derrick Rose and Julius Randle, it's tough to see Barrett produce consistent fantasy numbers. He’ll be able to provide defense and intangibles but in fantasy, sadly, those don’t really matter. It’s tough to believe that he will be able to replicate the level of production he had last season.

If you’re looking to take a gamble on some low-risk, high-reward players, take a look at Victor Oladipo and Caris LeVert.  Both players have been struggling with injuries these last two years, but when healthy, they can both produce at a high level. Oladipo was a two-time All-Star just two years ago. LeVert went on a tear late in the season when he returned. Taking a flier in the last rounds to see if they can stay healthy may not be a bad idea. 

Small Forwards

  • Tier 1 - Kevin Durant

  • Tier 2 - Jayson Tatum

  • Tier 3 - Paul George, Jimmy Butler

  • Tier 4 - Michael Porter Jr., LeBron James

  • Tier 5 - Khris Middleton, Brandon Ingram, OG Anunoby

  • Tier 6 - Demar DeRozan, Mikal Bridges, Gordon Hayward

  • Tier 7 - TJ Warren, Robert Covington, Kyle Anderson

  • Tier 8 - Miles Bridges, Andrew Wiggins

  • Tier 9 - Bojan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, De'Andre Hunter, Saddiq Bey

  • Tier 10 - Joe Ingles, Keldon Johnson, Jae'Sean Tate, Nicholas Batum, Kelly Oubre, Jae Crowder, Reggie Bullock

  • Tier 11 - Otto Porter Jr., Royce O'Neale, Danilo Gallinari

Migs Flores: Drafting KD with a first-rounder is definitely not for the faint-hearted. When he plays, he's undoubtedly the best fantasy player in the league. But he has been dealing with significant injuries over the past two years. However, he did play a ton of minutes in the playoffs then went straight to duty for Team USA in the Olympics. It's always hard to predict health but if KD plays around 70 games this season, he should be a fantasy beast.

Michael Porter Jr. is the most interesting player on the Nuggets. He's shown he can be a solid second option for the Nuggets. With Jamal Murray out for most, if not all, of this season, Porter is going to get a ton of touches. He should be a steady provider of 3s, points, and rebounds with good efficiency and defensive stats.

Demar DeRozan is in an interesting spot with the Chicago Bulls. Last season with the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan was one of the best value players in fantasy because of his playmaking, averaging a career-best 6.9 assists per game to go with 21.6 points on 49.5 percent shooting from the field and 88 percent from the stripe. On the Bulls, DeRozan probably won't get as many playmaking opportunities to rack up assists. The Bulls have Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic to play through. DeRozan could still be a solid top 80 player in fantasy off efficient scoring alone.

Other interesting players to watch out for are TJ Warren, Reggie Bullock, and Danilo Gallinari. With Warren, health is going to be the main issue. He won't be ready for the start of the season as he continues to recover from a foot injury. Keep an eye on his injury status as a healthy Warren is definitely a solid pick-up. Bullock should be a key rotation piece in Dallas with his shooting. As a late draft option, Bullock provides solid value as a 3s specialist. Gallinari's main hurdle will be the depth of the Hawks frontcourt. If guys like De'Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Cam Reddish are healthy, Gallinari probably won't get enough minutes to impact your fantasy roster like he usually does with his scoring and playmaking.

Power Forwards

  • Tier 1 - Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • Tier 2 - Anthony Davis

  • Tier 3 - Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis

  • Tier 4 - Zion Willamson, Draymond Green, Pascal Siakam, Kristaps Porzingis

  • Tier 5 - Tobias Harris, Christian Wood

  • Tier 6 - John Collins, Jonathan Isaac

  • Tier 7 - Jerami Grant, PJ Washington, Chris Boucher

  • Tier 8 - Thad Young, Jaden McDaniels

  • Tier 9 - Larry Nance Jr., Chuma Okeke, Patrick Williams, Dorian Finney-Smith

  • Tier 10 - Marcus Morris, Isaiah Roby, Bobby Portis, Rui Hachimura, Aaron Gordon, Cam Johnson

Migs Flores: This power forward list seems a bit thin, but that's because it's a secondary position for most centers. Still, Giannis Antetokounmpo remains one of the best build-around pieces in fantasy, if you know how to draft players around punting one or two categories. Zion Williamson should be higher on this list, maybe right next to Anthony Davis, if not for his injury. He's heading into the season coming off a foot procedure so don't expect him to play a lot of games, especially early.

There are a few players here whose value wildly fluctuates, depending on your opinion on them. Kristaps Porzingis, for example, should be a stellar fantasy option with the potential to be around top 20 value. However, you would be right to be concerned with his injury history and overall mindset after a few not very smooth seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. Jonathan Isaac is another favorite for risk-friendly fantasy owners. Before his ACL injury, Isaac was one the best players in fantasy, piling up steals, blocks, and 3s with solid contributions in other categories. Now, given the stricter health protocols for non-vaccinated players coupled with this being his first season back from injury, Isaac believers could be in for a rough season.

In the late rounds, watch out for Marcus Morris, Thad Young, and Isaiah Roby. Morris should eat up a lot of minutes with Kawhi Leonard possibly out for most of this season for the Los Angeles Clippers. Draft Thad Young with plenty of caution as he is reportedly being shopped around by the San Antonio Spurs. Roby is one of the Oklahoma City Thunder's intriguing young prospects. He should get a brunt of the center and power forward minutes for the Thunder so there is going to be a lot of room for the athletic big man to put up some numbers. 


  • Tier 1 - Nikola Jokic

  • Tier 2 - Joel Embiid, Karl Anthony Towns

  • Tier 3 - Bam Adebayo, Nikola Vucevic

  • Tier 4 - Rudy Gobert

  • Tier 5 - Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes

  • Tier 6 - Robert Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr., J8nas Valanciunas

  • Tier 7 - Clint Capela, Jusuf Nurkic, Myles Turner, Isaiah Stewart

  • Tier 8 - Jakob Poeltl

  • Tier 9 - Jarrett Allen, Derrick Favors, Evan Mobley, Brook Lopez, Mitchell Robinson, Daniel Gafford, Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Derrick Favors

  • Tier 10 - Nerlens Noel, Al Horford, Wendell Carter Jr., Khem Birch

Migs Flores: Karl Towns and Joel Embiid are both solid first-round options with similar concerns. With Towns, you have to wonder how many games he'll play this year following a rough personal and health experience last year. Still, Towns doesn't have the injury history that Embiid has. On a per-game basis, Embiid has much more potential to go off for monster lines (he was a top three MVP candidate last year). Towns is still one of the most versatile centers in the league that will provide stats across the board. I'd be a touch more comfortable drafting Towns over Embiid.

Tier 5 also has a pair of intriguing young players. Ayton was up-and-down last year in the regular as he adjusted to playing alongside Chris Paul. If he can carry over his playoff performance (15.2 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 46.7 FG%) with better efficiency, he's going to have the beastly fantasy season his believers have been waiting for. Richaun Holmes has been one of fantasy's best-kept secrets over the past two years, but now his value has gone up thanks to early drafts. As a mid- to late-round pick, Holmes was a comfy pick-up in past drafts. Now with his value slotting him around the early mid rounds, you're risking a lot of stability with Holmes, given that he plays for one of the most unpredictable teams in the Sacramento Kings.

After Jakob Poeltl, the center field is much more wide open with murky picks for the late rounds. For upside, look at players like Mitchell Robinson, Daniel Gafford, and Jarrett Allen. Still, the old reliables like Brook Lopez and Al Horford always end up providing a lot of fantasy value when they play for winning teams.