Fantasy All-Decade: Lillard, Gasol Lead Third-Team

Fantasy All-Decade: Lillard, Gasol Lead Third-Team

As the year 2019 nears its close, it's time to reflect back on the decade that was in the NBA. In More than anything, the 2010s were defined by unprecedented player movement, dynastic runs, and superteams taking over the league.

In many ways, the world of fantasy basketball mirrored what actually happened on the floor. As superteams rose and fell, the league's brightest stars dominated the top of the rankings, with players like James Harden and Stephen Curry reaching new heights for productivity. 

We're revealing RotoWire's All-Decade teams, which, of course, were compiled with a fantasy spin. A few items to consider before diving in:

  • The teams take into account the 2009-10 season through the 2018-19 season. Nothing that happened before or after that 10-season period was considered.
  • Only players' fantasy production was considered. Team success, individual awards, championships and controversies were not weighed.
  • We assumed 12-team, 8-category, roto leagues. As such, all references to rankings refer to a player's finish in total production – as opposed to per-game – in eight-category leagues.
  • These teams are rooted in statistics but are also subjective. Since not all players were completely healthy – let alone in the league – for the entire decade, we had to make some difficult calls between the value of peak production versus longevity.

You can find the First Team here and the Second Team here.

Now, on to the Third Team.

Third Team

Guard: Damian Lillard, POR

Seasons: 7

Best finish: 6

Average finish: 13.0

With seven top-20 seasons to begin his career, Lillard landing on the Third Team doesn't seem fair, but it speaks to just how productive the four guards ahead of him have been. Lillard is coming off of another fantastic fantasy season in 2018-19, when he finished seventh overall behind 25.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 3.0 made threes per game. In terms of production it was his best year to date, but he ranked higher overall (6th) in 2014-15.

Like many players, his worst fantasy finish came as a rookie, but even then, Lillard managed to be the 19th-most-valuable player in the league, as he hit the ground running with 19.0 points and 6.5 assists per game as a 22-year-old. Tethered closely to his fantasy success is Lillard's durability. He's never missed more than nine games, and he's played at least 75 games in six of seven seasons. 

That level of consistency placed him near the top of several categories for the decade. Lillard ranked 11th in total points, 16th in assists, and seventh in made threes, despite not entering the league until 2012-13. He also ranked fourth in free throw percentage (88.9%), behind only Stephen Curry, JJ Redick and Dirk Nowitzki. 

Guard: Kemba Walker, CHA

Seasons: 8

Best finish: 11

Average finish: 38.8

Walker held off some bigger names who peaked early in the decade for the final guard spot on our team. While he didn't get off to a blazing-fast start to his career like many players on this list, Walker's rookie season was still decent, as he played in all 66 games and finished just outside of the top 100, despite shooting just 36.6 percent from the field. A year later, he jumped all the way up into the top-20, improving dramatically across the board and again playing in every game.

Outside of an injury-shortened 2014-15 season in which he missed 20 games and finished 82nd, Walker has essentially been an ultra-reliable second-round value year in and year out. Over the last four seasons, he's finished 15th, 20th, 16th and 11th, missing just six total games in that span. The knock on Walker has always been his poor field goal percentage, relative to other elite guards, but to his credit, that became much less of an issue later in the decade.

Playing in eight of 10 seasons, Walker closed the decade ranking in the top-25 in points, assists, steals, made threes and free throw percentage.

Forward: Paul Millsap, UTA/ATL/DEN

Seasons: 10

Best finish: 6

Average finish: 55.1

A slow finish to the decade has perhaps jaded just how rock-solid of a fantasy asset Millsap was for the better part of the last 10 years.

He's certainly not the most exciting name on the list, but Millsap has four top-20 finishes to his name, highlighted by a sixth overall ranking in 2011-12. He fell off a bit the following year (40th) but bounced back upon arriving in Atlanta, posting finishes of 21st, 15th and seventh overall in his first three years with the Hawks. An All-Star in each of those seasons, Millsap averaged 17.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals. 1.3 blocks and 1.0 made threes over that three-year run.

Working in Millsap's favor is the fact that his prime years overlapped with most of the decade, but his last two seasons are what ultimately prevented him from challenging Giannis Antetokounmpo for a forward spot on the Second Team. Millsap missed more than half of 2017-18 due to injury, and his production fell off significantly in 2018-19, when he finished 92nd overall.

Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, POR/SAN

Seasons: 10

Best finish: 14

Average finish: 31.5

Even more so than Millsap, Aldridge was the decade's ultimate model of consistency. While he never returned first-round value, he also never ranked lower than 61st overall, and he managed eight top-40 finishes in 10 seasons. Yet, the lack of a truly elite peak is what prevents Aldridge from supplanting George or Antetokounmpo on the Second Team.

A seven-time All-Star during the decade, Aldridge entered his prime in 2010-11, finishing a career-best 14th overall on the back of 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. He provided similar production for the next four years before his value took a hit upon arriving in San Antonio. After finishing 39th and 61st, respectively, in his first two years with the Spurs, Aldridge rebounded to finish 21st in 2017-18 and 18th last season. For the decade, he ranked sixth in total points, fifth in rebounds, 17th in blocks, and third in minutes played, while hitting 81.7 percent of his free throws.

At the end of the day, longevity and dependability are key factors, but was Aldridge ever a player you felt like you had to get? The type of player who could ascend a tier or two and put you over the top? I never felt that way, and I don't think many fantasy owners did. 

Center: Marc Gasol, MEM

Seasons: 10

Best finish: 9

Average finish: 41.6

I fought for Gasol to land on the Second Team, but in fairness, his peaks were never as high as those of Towns, who was a top-10 player as soon as he entered the league. Regardless, Gasol was the most consistent true center of the decade, finishing all 10 seasons as a top-100 player -- even the two in which he missed more than 20 games.

Sandwiched around the first of those (2013-14) were a pair of top-12 finishes, headlined by a career-best ninth overall in 2012-13. Gasol didn't make the All-Star team that season, but he averaged 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals and was named Defensive Player of the Year.

As the decade wore on, Gasol's defensive contributions gradually waned, but he reinvented himself as a stretch five and ended the decade with finishes of 27th, 29th and 34th overall.

Honorable Mentions

Kyrie Irving: It was down to Irving and Walker for the final guard spot, and Walker's durability ended up breaking the tie. Irving is the better player when healthy, but he missed at least 10 games in all but one season this decade.

Klay Thompson: An incredibly steady player with a top-10 finish to his name, Thompson was a tough omission, but he missed the cut due to the fact that he's somewhat of a specialist whose defensive abilities don't translate to elite fantasy stats.

Monta Ellis: Had a surprisingly reasonable case for the Third Team. A top-10 ranking in 2010-11 as part of seven consecutive top-40 finishes this decade.

Kawhi Leonard: An elite, first-round value when healthy, Leonard simply missed too many games. Plus, he wasn't anything close to the Kawhi we know today until at least halfway through the decade.

Kyle Lowry: Lowry has a similar case to that of Millsap or Aldridge. Never a top-10 player, but he had three top-20 finishes and neveral ranked lower than 69th.

Serge Ibaka: Finished 24th, 12th and 13th in three consecutive seasons but faded toward the 50s and 60s for the second half of the decade.

John Wall: Was easily on pace for a Third Team spot prior to missing significant time in each of the last two seasons. Wall ranked eighth, seventh, 13th, and seventh in consecutive seasons from 2013-14 through 2016-17.

Dwyane Wade: His prime simply ran out too early in the decade for serious consideration. Wade finished fourth in 2009-10 and eighth in 2010-11, but after that he failed to crack the top-60 in six of the next eight seasons.

Kevin Love: Had two top-five seasons early on, but Love battled durability issues and fell off dramatically since the moment he arrived in Cleveland.

Dirk Nowitzki: Put up four top-20 seasons but, like Wade, Nowitzki fell off hard late in the decade.

MORE: RotoWire NBA Roundtable: All-Decade Edition

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alex Barutha
Alex is RotoWire's Chief NBA Editor. He writes articles about daily fantasy, year-long fantasy and sports betting. You can hear him on the RotoWire NBA Podcast, Sirius XM, VSiN and other platforms. He firmly believes Robert Covington is the most underrated fantasy player of the past decade.
Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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