With the 2015-16 NBA season about a month away (!!!), it’s time to start preparing for fantasy basketball drafts. To help you out, we here at Today’s Fastbreak will be publishing top 10 rankings for every position over the next few weeks, giving you a sense of which studs to target in the early rounds.
We’ll start at point guard, where, thanks to the recent infusion of young, talented prospects, the league is stacked. Two of the past five regular-season MVPs were floor generals — and the other three were named LeBron James, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, respectively — while a number of up-and-coming studs are rapidly approaching their athletic primes.
How should you navigate the point-guard landscape when preparing your fantasy big board? The following 10 players will all help lead your squad to the promised land if you obtain them with an early-round pick.
- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
This one’s a no-brainer. In eight-category leagues, Curry finished as the second-best player in all of fantasy last year, trailing only Houston Rockets 2-guard James Harden. Two years after setting the single-season record for made three-pointers, the Davidson product proceeded to top his own feat, drilling 286 triples in 80 games. As if that weren’t enough to convince you as is, he also led all players in free throw percentage (.914) and swiped a league-high 163 steals.
Curry won’t routinely deliver double-digit assists like the next few players featured here, but his proficiency from three-point range more than makes up for the slight deficit in dimes. He’s capable of single-handedly winning the three-point category for your squad, particularly in head-to-head formats, and he’ll give you a major advantage in free throw percentage, points and steals, too. He should be a top three pick in all formats this year — roto, head-to-head, keeper or dynasty.
- Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
While Curry finished second in fantasy value last year, Paul wasn’t far behind, ranking third overall. Unsurprisingly, his league-high 10.2 assists primarily fueled his value to fantasy owners — only two players, John Wall and CP3, finished with at least five points in the assists category last season. With only Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni backing him up, Paul figures to be in line for double-digit assists this coming season for the sixth time in his illustrious career.
CP3 doesn’t shoulder as much of the scoring burden for his team as Curry, but he’s still typically good for 18 to 20 points a night. Coupled with 10-plus assists, upwards of two steals and at least one trey, the “Point God” will give your squad a healthy advantage at multiple categories while not hurting you anywhere outside of blocks. If he’s able to replicate his career-high 90.0 percent free throw shooting from last season, Paul will be a steal anywhere outside of the top five in both roto or head-to-head formats.
- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
There are few feelings in fantasy basketball better than having Westbrook on your team. The walking triple-double threat isn’t going to put up the preposterous numbers he did last season — a league-high 28.1 points, 8.6 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game — but Kevin Durant’s impending return to the lineup isn’t necessarily a huge blow to Westbrook’s fantasy value, either. Since opponents won’t be able to ignore the Durantula, Oklahoma City’s star point guard should face less resistance defensively, opening the door to monster fantasy production.
The Thunder may endure some early-season struggles as they adapt to new head coach Billy Donovan, which could temporarily hurt Westbrook’s fantasy value. With Durant and Serge Ibaka both back in the fold following an injury-plagued 2014-15 campaign, though, Westbrook will have too much talent surrounding him not to post huge numbers this year. He’s worth a mid- to late first-round pick in all formats this season, as he’ll give your team a significant advantage in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
- John Wall, Washington Wizards
If the 2015 playoffs were any indication, Wall could be on the precipice of a monster fantasy season. Wizards head coach Randy Wittman was reluctant to rely upon stretch 4s for much of the regular season, but he unveiled some new offensive wrinkles during Washington’s playoff run that helped Wall average 17.4 points, 11.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. His 39.1 field goal percentage left much to be desired, but few players pose the nightly 20-10 points-assists threat that Wall does this coming season.
The former Kentucky Wildcat doesn’t knock down free throws at an elite clip — he’s only a 78.9 percent career shooter from the charity stripe — so you’ll have to balance your roster with a sharpshooting 2-guard to help make up for his deficiencies there. Owners in nine-category leagues also must be mindful of his propensity to turn the ball over, as he averaged 3.8 cough-ups last season. Still, the points-assists-steals trifecta makes him worth drafting with a late first- or early second-round pick, depending how large your league is.
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Of all the floor generals in the top five this coming season, Damian Lillard has the greatest degree of variance. The Trail Blazers underwent a significant overhaul this offseason, losing their other four starters in either trades or free agency, leaving the Weber State product to lead a new group of younger players brimming with upside. While that approach looks promising over the long haul, the Blazers are likely to experience significant growing pains this season, particularly in the early going.
With LaMarcus Aldridge no longer around to soak up 25-plus percent of the team’s possessions, Lillard’s usage rate figures to plow past the 30 percent range, which should give him additional value based on volume alone. He’s a near-lock to score more points than ever before, but his field goal percentage and assist totals could dip slightly, particularly early in the year, as he acclimates to his new teammates. Lillard has the upside to finish the season as a top three point guard, particularly since he’s yet to miss a single game over his first three years, but his fantasy floor is far more ominous than it is for Curry, Paul, Westbrook or Wall.
- Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The man formerly known as “Baby LeBron” should instead earn the moniker “Baby Westbrook” in fantasy circles. Bledsoe is a do-it-all stat-stuffer who averaged 17.0 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals last season despite his Suns being ensnared in point-guard-related turmoil for much of the season. Now, rather than fighting off Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas for touches, Bledsoe will only need to worry about Brandon Knight siphoning possessions from him.
Beyond that, though, the table is set for Bledsoe to explode for a career-best season. He should have little trouble racking up easy assists by tossing lobs to newly signed center Tyson Chandler, while the ongoing drama with Markieff Morris could ultimately incentivize Phoenix to trade him, placing more of the scoring burden on Bledsoe’s shoulders. The Kentucky product also figures to have dual position eligibility, making him that much more valuable to fantasy owners looking to round out their rosters in the third or fourth round.
- Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
If talent were the only factor under consideration here, Irving would be pushing for a top five ranking. However, given the uncertain timetable regarding his return from the kneecap fracture he suffered during the NBA Finals — Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported Irving “could very well be unavailable up until January” — it’s tough to recommend selecting him before Wall, Lillard or Bledsoe (although the hope is Irving will be back much earlier).
Irving finished as the 13th-ranked player in eight-category leagues last season, but a career-high 36.4 minutes per game played a large part in that. Even after the Duke product returns to the court, Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova figure to give him a bit more of a breather. Still, given his scoring upside — he chipped in 21.7 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting last season, and only figures to grow more comfortable alongside LeBron James and Kevin Love this go-round — Irving could be a midseason breath of fresh air for fantasy owners, particularly those in head-to-head leagues.
- Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
Teague won’t be the flashiest player on your fantasy team, but he’d be a welcome addition nevertheless. What he lacks in sex appeal, he makes up for in reliable, across-the-board contributions, as he won’t do significant damage to your team in any one category. He’s likely to once again top out at somewhere around 16 points and seven assists per game, particularly with Dennis Schroder looming large as a backup, but he’ll chip in at least one trey and a steal, too.
Better yet, unlike many of his volume-shooting counterparts at the point, Teague is an efficient scorer, having knocked down 46 percent of his looks last season. Throw in his 86.2 percent shooting from the charity stripe in 2014-15 and you have the makings of a reliable top point guard who will help round out a number of categories for your squad. He might not single-handedly win you weeks like Curry, Wall or Westbrook, but he’s still worth a late third- or early fourth-round pick, regardless.
- Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
Jackson is the biggest wild card among the top 10 point guards this season. The Pistons clearly believe in him as their floor general of the future, having handed him a five-year, $80 million deal over the summer, and his brief stint as the team’s starting point guard went rather well. During his 27 games as a starter in Detroit, Jackson averaged 17.6 points on 43.6 shooting, 9.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 treys and 0.7 steals, particularly hitting his stride while Greg Monroe was sidelined in March with a knee strain.
With Monroe now taking up residence in Milwaukee, the Jackson-Andre Drummond duo could become a fantasy goldmine this season. Jackson will have a crowded backcourt to overcome, however, particularly once Brandon Jennings returns from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in January. While Jackson has considerable upside this season, his floor is far lower than anyone else featured here, which makes him an undeniable gamble in the top 10. I’d feel comfortable grabbing him with a late fourth- or early fifth-round pick, though, depending on the size of your league.
- Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Fun fact about Lowry: Through nine NBA seasons, he’s yet to shoot better than 43.5 percent from the field. So, while his scoring upside remains high — he averaged 17.8 points in 34.5 minutes per game last season — he’s not going to do your fantasy squad any favors in the field goal percentage category. Despite that limitation, however, Lowry finished as the 27th-ranked player across all positions last season, making him an enticing target for owners who miss out on a top-tier floor general.
Lowry rebounds well for a point guard, having secured at least four boards per game in each of the past five seasons, and he’ll top out somewhere around seven dimes a night, too. Throw in somewhere around 1.5 steals and upwards of two treys a game — he averaged 1.9 last season and 2.4 the year before — and he’s going to help your squad in just about every category aside from field goal percentage. The presence of newly signed free agent Cory Joseph and rookie Delon Wright could lead to a slight downtick in minutes, though, which would do his fantasy value no favors.
Honorable Mentions (sorted in order of preference)
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
Ty Lawson, Houston Rockets