Fantasy All-Decade: Second Team Presents Tough Choices

Fantasy All-Decade: Second Team Presents Tough Choices

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. Now on to the Second Team.

Guard: Russell Westbrook, OKC

Seasons: 10

Best finish: 2

Average finish: 17.2

With their combined four No. 1 overall seasons, Harden and Curry are no-brainers on the First Team, but Westbrook isn't far behind. Though he never reached the top spot, he finished second overall in his MVP 2016-17 season and spent half of the decade as a top-five player.

In the first season we're considering (2009-10) -- Westbrook's second in the NBA -- he solidified himself as a top-50 player, and for the rest of the decade, he was a first-round lock. The major blemish on his resume is an overall rank of 86 in 2013-14, but injuries limited Westbrook to just 46 games that year. On a per-game basis, Westbrook was on pace to finish the season as a top-10 player. 

For the decade, Westbrook ranked fifth in minutes played (25,662), fourth in total points (17,603), first in assists (6,462), second in steals (1,332), third in made free throws (4,336), and 17th in rebounds (5,361). And, of course, Westbrook is the only member of the decade's prestigious 3,000-Turnover Club.

Guard: Chris Paul, NOR/LAC/HOU

Seasons: 10

Best finish: 3

Average finish: 20.2

Like Westbrook, Paul's highs -- at least in this decade -- never quite reached the level of Curry's or Harden's, but he has a trio of top-three finishes to his name and two more top-10 seasons. Paul's peak years fell just before our cut-off, when he was the No. 1 overall player in both 2007-08 and 2008-09, but he remained an elite fantasy player for more than half of the decade.

An injury-shorted 2009-10 campaign, in which he finished 66th overall, drags down Paul's average ranking, but he placed third overall in per-game value that season. He went on to stay relatively healthy for the next six years, logging five top-10 seasons and one 11th-place finish during that span. The steals leader for the decade, Paul topped out with the best fantasy season of his career in 2014-15, averaging 19.1 points, 10.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game, while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from three and 90.0 percent at the line.

More injuries began to hit Paul late in the decade, but he still managed to rank 24th in 2016-17 and 28th in 2017-18, despite missing 20-plus games in each season. Only last season did Paul truly begin to fall off. As his partnership with Harden began to fray, Paul again suffered through injuries, missing 24 games and finishing 48th overall. With a per-game rank of 21, it marked the first time in his 14-year career that Paul failed to be a top-20 player on a per-game basis.

Forward: Paul George, IND/OKC

Seasons: 9

Best finish: 2

Average finish: 77.6

As a player with two sub-190 seasons in the decade, George's case for the Second Time isn't unassailable. Ultimately, though, his peak seasons were enough to pull him ahead of more consistent options like LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap. The major outlier is George's 2014-15 season, when he appeared in just six games after fracturing his leg during a Team USA scrimmage the previous summer. Time missed due to injury is something we considered for all players, but in George's case, the injury happened in August -- well before most fantasy drafts. As such, we counted it as more of a lost season altogether than one in which he finished significantly lower than expected. If you drafted George that year, that was on you.

Prior to the injury, George was coming off of a pair of top-10 finishes, including a then-career-best seventh overall in 2013-14. The next year was a wash, but George came back as an even better player in 2015-16, appearing in 81 games and again cruising to a top-10 rank. He slipped just outside of first-round value in his final year with the Pacers but finished the decade on a high note, ranking 11th in 2017-18 and climbing all the way up to No. 2 overall last season. 

Technically, both Aldridge and Millsap may have finished the decade with a higher average rank, but if you throw out George's lost season, his average rises to 29.9 -- and that's including a rookie season in which he averaged 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game en route to a 192nd-place finish.

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL

Seasons: 6

Best finish: 4

Average finish: 42.0

Antetokounmpo's rookie year wasn't until the 2013-14 season, mid-way through the decade. And while he wasn't a top-20 fantasy player until 2015-16, he quickly established himself as an All-Star-caliber player. Shortly thereafter, he won MVP. He's been ranked top-6 over the past three seasons, hitting a rank of No. 4 twice. Over the past three years, he's averaged 28.0 points on 55.4 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals. His lack of threes and his poor free-throw shooting hurt his case, but he's been dominant regardless.

Antetokounmpo doesn't have the longevity throughout the decade of LaMarcus Aldridge or Paul Millsap, for example, but firmly establishing yourself in the best player in the league debate weighs heavily. That said, just because Antetokounmpo has only been in the league for half the decade doesn't mean he didn't climb up the leaderboards. Of all players over the past 10 years, despite getting off to a late start, Antetokounmpo ranked 24th in blocks (626), 32nd in defensive rebounds (3,096), 30th in made free throws (2,149) and 38th in made two-pointers (2,968).

Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN

Seasons: 4

Best finish: 3

Average finish: 5.5

Towns probably would have been disqualified for this discussion had he not gotten off to such an incredible start in his career. During his 2015-16 rookie campaign, he was the NBA's 10th-best fantasy player and won Rookie of the Year on the back of 18.3 points (shooting 54/34/81), 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 blocks. He's improved his fantasy rank every year since then, never ranking worse than No. 5 across the past three seasons, partially fueled by an amazing streak of health. Towns missed just five total games across his first four seasons.

While he catches flak for being a poor defender, leading to him making just one All-NBA team, he's on pace to be one of the best offensive centers to ever play. His career true-shooting percentage (61.9) ranked seventh in the decade -- Steph Curry, Kyle Korver and Kevin Durant are the only three-point shooters above him. Towns also ranked 57th in made threes (393) and 48th in total rebounds (3,831) this decade despite only playing in four years of it.

MORE: RotoWire Fantasy All-Decade Third Team

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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