After a long offseason of “The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals” jokes, the 2016-17 NBA season is finally almost upon us. As preseason action begins anew, it’s time for fantasy basketball owners to start beefing up on draft prep for the next few weeks.
To aid with that process, we here at Today’s Fastbreak will be breaking down the top 10 players at each position, along with some honorable mentions to target in the middle rounds. We’ll also roll out an overall Top 250 and some sleepers, breakouts and busts over the coming days.
My colleague Jackson Sanders has already begun rolling out rankings for owners in dynasty leagues, so those in need of help outside of redraft formats should keep an eye out for his work in the coming days. Otherwise, get started with your draft research with a look at the top 10 point guards in redraft leagues for 2016-17, all of which are ranked based on nine-category head-to-head formats.
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
With Kevin Durant now a Golden State Warrior, Russell Westbrook is about to transform into a one-man wrecking ball, intent on inflicting pain upon anyone who dares cross his path. Even with Durant in the fold, the UCLA product finished as the fifth-best player in fantasy last year, averaging 23.5 points on 45.4 percent shooting, a career-best 10.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.3 treys. Westbrook will likely flirt with a triple-double more often than not this season, making him a consensus top-two pick alongside Houston 2-guard James Harden.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Had Durant not joined the Warriors, Stephen Curry would be the no-brainer No. 1 overall pick. He blew all challengers out of the water last year, averaging a league-high 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 treys and 2.1 steals while compiling a slash line of .504/.454/.908. Durant’s arrival, however, complicates matters for the back-to-back league MVP, as does the Warriors’ insistence they won’t chase any regular-season win records this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see head coach Steve Kerr dial back Curry’s minutes slightly to keep him fresh for the playoffs, but he’s still the No. 3-ranked overall player on my big board.
3. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
In fantasy basketball, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes and Chris Paul finishing as a top-15 overall player. Despite a slow start to the 2015-16 campaign, CP3 caught fire once Blake Griffin went down after Christmas, finishing as the seventh-ranked player while averaging 19.5 points, 10.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.6 treys in a career-low 32.7 minutes per night. Paul won’t drain threes like Curry or Damian Lillard, but he’s a veritable lock to rank among the league leaders in assists. Griffin’s return will slightly lower CP3’s output, but owners should still confidently invest an early to mid-second round pick in him.
4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Being the face of the Trail Blazers franchise sure seems to suit Damian Lillard, huh? In his first season sans LaMarcus Aldridge, the Weber State product erupted for a career-best 25.1 points on 41.9 percent shooting, 6.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.1 triples, finishing the year as the 21st-ranked player. With a minor uptick in his field-goal percentage—having an additional ball-handler in the newly signed Evan Turner should only help on that front—Lillard has top-10 potential written all over him, making him well worth a second-round pick if you’re willing to build a roster around his relatively limited assist output.
5. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on John Wall throughout the preseason as he works his way back from two offseason knee surgeries. During a charity event in August, he told reporters that he was in “no rush” and was “hopeful that I’m ready for the opening of the season,” and he’s been limited throughout the Wizards’ training camp to date. If he does receive clearance by opening night, he’ll be a tantalizing risk-reward second-round pick, as he’s one of only three players this season (along with Westbrook and Paul) capable of averaging upwards of 20 points and 10 assists.
6. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
When a noticeably slimmed-down Kyle Lowry started turning heads during the preseason last year, he began shooting up draft boards, and rightfully so. The Raptors floor general wound up averaging a career-best 21.2 points on 42.7 percent shooting, 6.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 triples and 2.1 steals in 37.0 minutes per night, finishing as the 13th-ranked player last year. Though Toronto head coach Dwane Casey may reduce Lowry’s playing time slightly to keep him fresher for the postseason, he’s still a clear-cut second-round pick based on his well-rounded contributions.
7. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Like Wall, health is the biggest concern with Kemba Walker, as he underwent surgery on his left knee in May to repair a torn meniscus. He participated in a full-contact practice Saturday, according to the team’s PR department, so there’s no reason to believe as of now that he’s in danger of missing the season opener. Assuming that’s the case, fantasy owners should be eager to see whether Walker can build upon his breakout 2015-16 campaign in which he averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 triples and 1.6 steals to finish as the 15th-ranked player. He’s someone to target at the end of the second or beginning of the third round.
8. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
If Wall and Walker enter the 2016-17 season with health concerns, Eric Bledsoe is a walking injury red flag. Mini-LeBron made it only 31 games last year before tearing the meniscus in his left knee, ending his season prematurely. Prior to his injury, however, he was the 22nd-ranked player overall, having averaged a career-high 20.4 points on 45.3 percent shooting, 6.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.5 triples in 34.2 minutes. Head coach Earl Watson announced Monday that Bledsoe would be Phoenix’s starting point guard on opening night, making him a high-upside risk-reward pick to target toward the middle of the third round.
9. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
If the Kyrie Irving who showed up during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2016 NBA championship makes an appearance this season, he’ll be ranked about three spots too low here. The Duke product averaged 25.2 points, 4.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 treys and 1.7 steals in 21 playoff games last year, a marked improvement over his regular-season production. Irving missed the first month-and-a-half of the 2015-16 campaign while recovering from the broken kneecap he suffered during the 2015 Finals, but even on a per-game basis, he finished as just the 55th-ranked player. Since the Cavaliers are likely to limit his minutes with an eye on the postseason, particularly late in the year (in the midst of the fantasy playoffs), Irving’s floor isn’t as safe as the likes of Walker or Lowry, and Bledsoe’s ceiling is slightly higher.
10. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
In five years’ time, Isaiah Thomas went from “Mr. Irrelevant” to full-fledged fantasy stud. The No. 60 pick from the 2011 NBA draft averaged a career-best 22.2 points, 6.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 triples and 1.1 steals in just 32.2 minutes with the Celtics last year, finishing as the 23rd-ranked player overall. With Al Horford now in Boston, Thomas shouldn’t have to shoulder as much of a scoring load, but he could be in line for a career-best mark in assists. Terry Rozier has been earning some buzz during training camp, which could cut into Thomas’ minutes slightly, but he’s still a safe pick toward the end of the third or beginning of the fourth round.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jeff Teague, Indiana Pacers
Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks
Other positional rankings
All 2015-16 rankings via Basketball Monster.