Fantasy basketball season is nearly one month away, and it is time to fine-tune your dynasty rosters and gear up for the new year. To help with that process, I am going to be delivering top-ten lists broken down by position; hopefully to assist with valuing your assets and determining the direction of your squad.
These top-ten lists are to provide insight on my personal rankings of each position in order to give some perspective on each player mentioned. My personal philosophy is to strike a balance between the two dynasty league extremes (“win-now” vs. building for the future), and these rankings will reflect that.
Redraft rankings (Today’s Fastbreak’s own Bryan Toporek handles these) are best to follow for a team going title-or-bust, while accumulating young talent and picks should be your focus if you’re strictly rebuilding.Finding the middle ground between the two is my preferred method, and I typically use a three-to-five year window of future production when evaluating my veterans.
We’ll start off with a look at the deepest position in fantasy basketball: point guard.
Listed age is how old a player will be January 1st, 2017.
1. Russell Westbrook, OKC (Age 28): What a time to have Russell Westbrook on your fantasy basketball squad. With Kevin Durant changing addresses this offseason, Westbrook will be the only show in town, much like the 2014-15 season that had him as a cult-favorite for MVP honors and a nightly must-watch on League Pass.
The impending statistical explosion, understandably, has fantasy owners frothing at the mouth. However, it’s something of a mixed bag when trying to figure out exactly what Russ will do statistically post-KD. His scoring numbers could go up out of pure necessity, but it’s worth noting that his field goal percentage in ’14-’15 was a not-so-great 42.6-percent en route to a career-high 28 points per game.
Furthermore, it’s tough to see Westbrook’s other numbers going up by all that much considering he’s coming off of a career-high assists per game (10.4) and rebounds per game (7.8) in what amounts to a season played with a largely healthy Durant. The opportunity, of course, is immense, and there should be unlimited potential for usage, which could render any of my concerns moot.
But, even if Russ doesn’t morph into a supercharged version of Oscar Robertson circa 1961, he is primed to offer fantasy owners major production over the next three-plus seasons. He is number-one on my list, even if it isn’t clear cut.
2. Stephen Curry, GS (Age 28): In redraft leagues, Curry is being downgraded somewhat due to the Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant this offseason. Volume reduction is a foregone conclusion for the two-time MVP, but after scoring 30 points per game last season on 20 field goal attempts per game, he can afford to slip a bit in that department while retaining elite value.
The biggest thing to watch will be Curry’s three-pointers and overall field goal percentage. With Durant — the guy most likely to challenge Curry as the most unguardable scoring force in the league — on board, there should be more open looks for him on the perimeter than ever before. That should directly translate to his overall field goal percentage and give him an opportunity to knock in eve more three-pointers. The big question: is there a limit for how much better he can be in those areas? He already supplied 5.1 three-pointers per game last season, while shooting a cool 50.2-percent from the field.
If Curry can somehow improve on those numbers while staying near his career averages elsewhere, his case as number-one overall in dynasty will be as strong as ever.
3. John Wall, WAS (Age 26): It’s tough to believe that Wall will be still just 26 years old next season. Washington’s dynamic point guard has never averaged less than 7.6 assists per game, and he has put together back-to-back 10-assist per game campaigns. Wall also remains an excellent source of steals with a 1.7 per game career average, and he rebounds well for a point guard at a career 4.5 per game.
His biggest detriment is his field goal percentage which is low at 42.9-percent for his career (44.5-percent career-high, established in ’14-’15). Considering he’s added three-pointers to his offerings (1.5 per game last season), less-than-ideal field goal percentage is a small price to pay for an extremely productive point guard just entering his prime.
4. Chris Paul, LAC (Age 31): You’ll see Paul slip farther than he should in dynasty startups because of his age, but he’s the type of player I’m not all that concerned about in his early 30’s. As an elite passer who has shown no sign of decline in that category, Paul is set up to be a fantasy asset going forward. Looking at the top assist guys of all-time (John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, etc.) the passing numbers typically remain consistent deep into their 30’s. Health will always be a concern with an aging player, but it shouldn’t move the needle yet for Paul especially with a skill set positioned to age well.
As the oldest guy on this list, some dynasty owners will be looking to move him and get younger. It may not be a bad idea to check in with a buy-low offer, as Paul should remain a top-10 fantasy option at point guard for the next 3-5 years at least.
5. Damian Lillard, POR (Age 26): Like John Wall, Lillard is 26 and entering the prime years of his career. We saw last year that Dame can be effective leading his very own team, and for fantasy he can be a Stephen Curry-lite of sorts. He won’t boast the unreal shooting percentage that Curry can provide, but Lillard is an elite source of three-pointers (2.6 made per game in his career), points (career-high 25.1 points per game last year), and he is a solid contributor in assists with an expectation in the 6 per game range.
6. Kyrie Irving, CLE (Age 24): While the jury is still out on if Kyrie is the type of player that can lead a real-life team to the playoffs as the centerpiece, I would feel pretty good as having him as one of the foundational pieces of my fantasy basketball team. He’s still somehow just 24-years-old and is already established as one of the most deadly offensive forces in the NBA. He’ll continue to provide elite scoring to go along with solid three-pointers, assists, and steals. There’s upside here too due to his age, and the fact that he may take on a bigger workload as LeBron James slides deeper into “chill mode” during the regular season going forward.
7. Kemba Walker, CHA (Age 26): Walker enjoyed a breakout 2015-16, playing on easily his most talented team offensively. At age 26, and with the core of that team returning, there’s reason to expect more of the same as Walker’s career moves on. Kemba broke through with a career-high in field goal percentage (.427%), three-pointers per game (2.2), and points per game (20.9). With the team moving on from Al Jefferson and dedicating themselves to the more spread out attack they had last year, I am confident that Walker can keep within the range of last season’s efficiency, ultimately maintaining his breakout fantasy value.
8. Eric Bledsoe, PHX (Age 27): Bledsoe is pretty firmly in my top-ten, but this will be a make-or-break year for the Suns’ franchise player. After playing in 81 games in 2014-15, injuries limited Bledsoe to 31 games in 2015-16 due to a torn meniscus, his second in three years and third significant knee issue over his professional career.
Bledsoe’s status is trending towards the ever-terrifying “injury prone” label, but he lands as a top-ten point guard asset for me because of the upside. Since arriving in Phoenix, Bledsoe has been one of the better all-around contributors in fantasy. Drawing from his 2014-15 stat line, a baseline of 17 points, 5.5 assists, four rebounds, one three-pointer, and 1.5 steals per game seems reasonable heading into his prime years. His stock is dropping due to injury, but the reward could be top-five upside if you’re inclined to invest now.
9. Kyle Lowry, TOR (Age 30): Lowry is 30, and while I am still bullish on the other elder statesman of this list — Chris Paul — I am cautiously holding the Raptors floor general as a top-ten point guard asset in dynasty leagues. He is coming off of a career season, and a big reason why lies in the 37 minutes per game he played during the 2015-16 campaign. He appeared to wear down a bit after a monster February, and the team should look to keep him fresher for the playoffs by lowering his regular season workload a bit. Lowry should still return big value over the next few years, but there’s a chance the last go-around was his peak in terms of raw production.
10. Isaiah Thomas, BOS (Age 27): I’m not particularly high on Thomas over the long-term relative to the other elite fantasy point guards, but he’s in his prime and has delivered All-Star caliber numbers as a Celtic. In fact, if you look at his stats from last season, he delivered very closely to the package that Kemba Walker offered. The reason I pull back on Thomas is due to the fact that his team added a new centerpiece (Al Horford) and is actively looking for another. I am not sure if Thomas will be able to maintain his value if he’s pushed towards being the third option for the Celtics, but if he can, 10 is low for him on this list.