The NBA season is on its way, which means that fantasy basketball season is also on its way. Our friends at 10Ten Media who publish the annual Pro Basketball Preview & Fantasy Guide are helping with SLAM’s fantasy hoops coverage this fall, and here’s Part 2: a comprehensive look at anything and everything having to do with point guards and shooting guards. Some you’ll need on your squad, others you’ll want to avoid at all costs. —Ed.
The move to L.A. did nothing to dull the shine on Chris Paul. The Clippers’ floor general is the No. 1 guard and in the conversation for the second overall pick in roto leagues. After that, it’s Deron Williams and Stephen Curry trying to bounce back from injuries, and a lot of old faces in new places, including Steve Nash cast as Paul’s in-town rival and Houston in the grip of Linsanity.
Five Burning Questions:
1. Can anyone besides Chris Paul be the first guard off the board?
Zachary Cohen, PBP&FG Writer: A case could be made for Russell Westbrook. He hasn’t missed a game in his career and has improved his shooting every year. His assists took a hit last year, but he makes up for it in other areas. Paul is likely the first guard off the board, but Westbrook is a close second for me.
Dave Schoenholt, PBP&FG Writer: Paul is as safe as it gets and the no-brainer top guard, even coming off his “worst” statistical year since he was a rookie. His assists will return to the rarefied air of 10-plus per-game; his numbers grew in March and April due to increased familiarity with his teammates.
Frank Woodworth, PBP&FG Writer: No one should be drafted ahead of him, but there are a couple of guards who could have a bigger year than Paul, including a rejuvenated Deron Williams in Brooklyn. Kyrie Irving puts up numbers in all categories and will only get better as his supporting cast improves.
2. Your favorite sleeper is…
Zachary: I’m extremely high on Mo Williams. He performed admirably in a bench role with the Clippers and this year gets to run his own team in Utah. Williams hits threes often while shooting a good FG percentage. He’ll also play a lot of minutes due to the lack of a quality backup.
Dave: I’m buying on Evan Turner. The former No. 2 pick doesn’t make a lot of threes, but guys who can muster 29-13-6 games are hard to find. Look for a year-three breakthrough.
Frank: Lou Williams is only 25 years old and joins a Hawks squad that lost its star shooting guard. Sweet Lou has played virtually his entire career off the bench, averaging double figures each of the past five years with per-36 minute averages of 19 points and 5 assists. Starters minutes should make him a star.
3. Are you Linsane in the Membrane?
Zazhary: I’m not sold. He struggled when teams pressured him and now he’ll be the focus of defenses as the best player in Houston. Lin will get points and assists, but it will come at the cost of bad shooting percentages and tons of turnovers. Durability is also a concern considering his style of play.
Dave: I’m definitely Linsane in the brain: It’s pretty simple and even Kevin McHale can’t screw this up: 1) The Rockets are (apologies to Kevin Martin) bereft of NBA talent on offense; and 2) Lin did his best work last year working with no-name guys, creating for himself and others. Lin’s a surefire second-rounder.
Frank: Lin himself has compared his game to Goran Dragic, and that makes this fairly easy. Dragic, another reckless scoring point guard, averaged 18 PPG and 8 APG once he became a starter in Houston. These are Lin’s exact averages in New York last year. Seems like a safe bet to expect that out of Lin this year.
4. Who wins the battle for numbers and touches in L.A.: Kobe or Nash?
Zachary: Although Kobe is the better player and will score more points, Nash will be a far more efficient fantasy option. Nash averaged 10.7 assists per game last year and that was with an abysmal supporting cast, so I expect that number to rise. He also shoots with tremendous accuracy and will continue to do so as opponents double-up on his teammates.
Dave: Nobody is cutting into Kobe’s insanely high usage rate, especially with Mike Brown on the sidelines. That means Steve Nash—who probably doesn’t care about numbers at this point in his career—will be the one who has to adjust his style of play from concert conductor to second washtub bass in the Lakers’ orchestra.
Frank: During Nash’s MVP seasons he averaged 2 points and 6 assists in All-Star Games. Kobe scored at least 27 in each of his last four All-Star appearances. Can you call it a battle if one participant doesn’t try to win?
5. Who emerges as the top fantasy rookie?
Zachary: Damian Lillard looks as if he’ll be the best rookie guard. Lillard will enter the season as Portland’s starter and his explosive athleticism, along with sharp three-point shooting skills, should make him a fantasy stud immediately.
Dave: Agreed. A makeshift point guard—drafted surprisingly high in the Lottery due to a dearth of talent there—Lillard looks more the part of the next Russell Westbrook than the next Antonio Daniels. Don’t expect Westbrook-esque production this year, but Lillard should give you fine mid-round value.
Frank: It’s unanimous. There is a history of great point guards coming out of small schools—Stockton, Nash, Tim Hardaway—and Lillard seems poised to join that group with averages of 26 PPG and 5 APG in summer league action. Those are similar to his college numbers, and you can’t chalk it up to inferior Big Sky competition. This is a player who can fill up the stat sheet.
Hit page 2 for keepers, sleepers and busts.