Chris Paul remains the king of point guards.
The 2012-13 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit starts in earnest today with the release of our first cheat sheet. So while you wonder how serious the NBA is about cracking down on flopping, let’s take a look at the top 40 point guards in Fantasy basketball.
There is plenty of depth at the point guard position, but there is no debate about the king of the position – it’s Chris Paul by a landslide. If you don’t land him with your first pick, don’t fret; you’ll have tons of chances of landing a young stud like Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving or John Wall. Or perhaps you’ll go with an old standby vet such as Deron Williams, Tony Parker or Steve Nash.
Update (10/01): Since we published this cheat sheet, it was revealed that a stress injury to John Wall’s left knee cap will cost him the first 12 games or so of the season, so adjust him down the rankings accordingly.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (1): Paul was dealt to the Clippers last season and combined with Blake Griffin to form probably the most electrifying duo in the NBA. Lob City was born when CP3 came to town, and the Clippers immediately went from also-ran to the playoffs. Paul missed some time with some minor injuries, but he enjoyed a big bounce-back effort. He used his outside game more than ever, but also managed to get to the charity stripe more often. Paul continues to be an excellent source of steals as well as points, assists and treys. He’s dealing with a thumb injury that will cost him some preseason games, but when the regular season kicks off, expect Paul to be good to go, so don’t downgrade him at all unless the injury lingers well into October.
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (4): Westbrook, who helped lead Team USA to Olympic Gold this summer, wasn’t able to build off his breakout 2010-11 season in 2011-12, but he was still pretty damn good. After dabbling with the 3-pointer his first few seasons, he started hoisting way more, while his work on the glass remained consistent. Westbrook’s scoring continued to improve, but he has his lowest assist numbers since he was a rookie, and that was a disappointment for those hoping to see him rack up elite dime numbers. Few point guards can attack the rim and slam with the authority Westbrook can, but we’d trade a few highlight reel dunks for more helpers, thank you very much.
3. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets (5): D-Will was also a big part of Team USA’s Gold at the Olympics. While Dallas had hoped to bring Williams to town, he’ll remain with the Nets after signing a five-year, $100-million deal this summer. Last season was a bit of a disappointment for Williams, as calf injuries cost him a couple of weeks. He definitely looked for his own shot more than ever, but struggled with his touch and didn’t do as good a job getting to the line as he had with the Jazz. While Williams’ scoring remained steady, he set a new career high by averaging four turnovers per game, resulting in his worst assist-to-turnover ratio ever. Utah still misses the best PG it had since John Stockton, but now Williams will turn his attention fully towards turning the Nets into winners again.
4. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers (23): With Irving getting a new SG in rookie Dion Waiters, Cleveland could have one of the most exciting young backcourts in the game. A rookie himself last season, Irving is clearly on the cusp of superstardom. It took a while before the Cavs started giving him the PT he deserved, but that shouldn’t be an issue at all this season. We’re talking about a player who should easily morph into a 20 PPG dude this season and we’re expecting him to emerge as a top 25 player. In fact, this could be the last season before Irving becomes a perennial first round Fantasy option.
5. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets (16): When we ranked Lawson 16th among PGs heading into last season, we said he needed to continue to improve his A/TO ratio to take the next step. Well, he took a very slight step back in that regard, but overall he made great strides in his game. Unfortunately, Lawson’s outside shooting touch continues to decline, but he’s made up for that by getting to the line more each season. He also did a better job staying out of foul trouble, avoiding a single DQ last season. Entering his fourth season, Lawson has seen a spike in his points, assists and steals every year. He should become a top 50 player this season, and in time could develop into an All-Star.
6. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (6): Rondo put on a real show in the playoffs – particularly in the Eastern Conference Finals when he almost led Boston to an upset over the Heat. He’s tried to take a larger leadership role this summer in the wake of rumours of a rift with Ray Allen that led to Jesus taking his talents to South Beach. After a slight regression two seasons ago, Rondo bounced back to near career-best levels last season, earning more points from the line and continuing to improve an assist rate that has risen every season he’s been in the league.
7. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks (11): Jennings was a disappointment in 2010-11, failing to progress much in his sophomore effort and earning considering as the RotoRob Fantasy Basketball Dud of the Year as a result. Last season, Jennings broke through with his best season ever, becoming a bigger part of the Buck offense and sinking more treys. His assist rate bounced back, but has still not progressed from his rookie season. Jennings also made strides in his assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s a big of an enigma – a player who looks like a top 20 dude at times, but one who can also disappear too often. Split the difference and consider Jennings as someone capable of sixth round value. Jennings teams with Monta Ellis to give Milwaukee a seriously explosive backcourt, but in their first full season together will the pair be able to put up numbers on the same night? That’s the key to Jennings’ ability to continue towards elite PG status.
8. John Wall, Washington Wizards (8): Wall is another young PG who will have a new rookie running mate in the backcourt in Bradley Beal. Last season was a shit show in Washington, but that didn’t stop Wall from developing to an extent. While he didn’t look for his shot as often as a sophomore and his rebounding and assist number were stagnant, considering he just turned 22 earlier this month reminds us how much upside there is here. He’ll soon be the face of the Washington sports scene, along with Robert Griffin III, Alex Ovechkin and Stephen Strasburg, and we expect that to happen this season.
9. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns (NR): We recommended Dragic as a spot starter in mid-March when Kyle Lowry got hurt, but the role quickly expanded when Lowry’s injury proved serious. Dragic shone as a starter over the final few weeks, proving he’s ready to take over as a starting PG, which he’ll now get the chance to do in Phoenix, where he replaces Steve Nash. Given more PT than ever last season, Dragic easily posted his finest season, upping his trifecta numbers, doing a better job at the line than ever, improving his rebounding and racking up more points and dimes than we’ve ever seen out of him. There’s a ton of pressure on him replacing a two-time MVP, but one look at his March and especially April numbers, and there’s little doubt he’s up for the challenge.
10. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (3): Keeping Curry healthy has been a real problem for the Warriors, but it’s the key for them developing another young potential star in rookie Harrison Barnes. The good news is that Curry recently received medical clearance to begin basketball activities after undergoing ankle surgery in late-April – his second such procedure of 2011. Last season was Curry’s worst since entering the NBA out of Davidson three years ago. He shot the ball very well – especially from downtown – but struggled to stay in the lineup long enough to make any progress. Curry wasn’t his usual automatic self from the line, and the lack of explosiveness limited his opportunities from the stripe. After getting shut down last season, Curry is an easy player to overlook. But do not sleep on this talented PG; while you’re at it, though, you might want to pray that he can overcome the ankle issues that cost him 40 games last season. It a question of durability that keeps him this low; it is a full season of health that will send him way up this list.
11. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs (15): Parker dealt with some minor injury issues last season, but Coach Gregg Popovich cut his minutes a smidgeon to try to keep the 30-year-old fresh. While Parker’s shooting touch was his worst since 2003-04 (and never worse from beyond the arc), his scoring was up and he enjoyed a career year in terms of dishing dimes helping make last season one of his finest yet. He’s become the best player on the Spurs after turning in an MVP worthy performance last season.
12. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers (10): One of five NBA players to ever shoot 50 per cent or better from the field, 40 per cent or better from 3-point range and 90 per cent or better from the line in one season while qualifying at every category, Nash wound up in LaLa land this summer in a sign-and-trade deal. Clearly, he’s in decline. He put up less shot attempts last season than at any time since 1999-00 and while he shot superbly from inside the arc, his work beyond the 3-point line slipped a tad. Nash’s points on freebies also dropped to their lowest level in over a decade as his overall scoring output continues to slide. Still, he’s probably one of if not the most valuable Laker to own even on such a star-studded team as they have.
13. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies (14): Heading into last season when we ranked Conley 14th among PGs, we discussed how he was improving his ability to get to the line, which was helping him develop into a better offensive player. Unfortunately, he took a step back in that regard last season. He didn’t look for his shot quite as much, and while he shot a bit better from beyond the arc, he didn’t use that weapon quite as often. As mentioned, Conley didn’t get to the line as often, but at least when he did get there, he sunk them, crushing his previous FT percentage high. His assists remained the same, but he reduced his turnover rate, and that’s the main reason he rises slightly in our rankings this season. The former Ohio State really turned it on come playoff time, averaging 7.1 dimes per contest and draining half his shots from downtown.
14. Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers (7): Back in mid-January, we heralded the arrival of Holiday as a top 10 PG. Unfortunately, he never really built on that in the second half, rendering his 2011-12 a bit of a disappointment to those expecting him to take the next step. Holiday has been durable, and his outside game bounced back last season, but the drop in dimes is too dramatic not to drop him down the rankings. Hopefully the departure of point forward Andre Iguodala helps reserve that this season. The fact that Holiday’s scoring dipped as well while his A/TO ratio also slid is further reason to consider him somewhat of a bust last season. However, don’t you dare write him off. Holiday is extremely athletic and is only 22 – so there’s plenty of reason to gamble on a big recovery.
15. Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets (NR): There was talk that the Knicks might go after Jason Kidd to help with Lin’s development, but neither did they go after the vet or keep the youngster, allowing him to leave to Houston when they didn’t match the Rockets’ offer sheet. Lin’s rise from obscurity to media frenzy last season (the well-documented Linsanity) was among the biggest stories to emerge from the world of sports in years. He saw his most action ever, and became a starter for the first time in his career, flashing a better touch from downtown, improving his rebounding numbers and enjoying a serious breakout. There’s still work to do: his A/TO ratio is a blight and he’s going to sink a lot of Fantasy owners this season who will massively overrate him. Lin is a solid No. 2 PG, but if you’re counting on him being your No. 1 man, you’re going to be in trouble. Yes, when the Knicks started this undrafted Harvard player in February, it kicked off a truly dynamic run. But until he learns to finish at the rim better, he’ll remain far away from elite PG status.
16. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors (9): Back in June, we speculated about Lowry’s availability, and sure enough he wound up being dealt to Toronto, where he’ll push Jose Calderon to the bench barring a major upset in training camp. Lowry has gotten better and better the past few seasons, although his shooting touch declined in 2011-12. He also didn’t attempt quite as many treys, but that was mitigated by improved rebounding numbers – especially impressive for a dude who’s only six-foot nothing. We would have liked Lowry a lot more for Fantasy purposes had the Raps managed to trade away Calderon, but the fact that the Spanish Fly remains in Toronto makes us wonder if a job share could emerge at some point. However, Lowry is still young enough to have upside and athletic enough to emerge as No. 1 PG again this season should everything break right.
17. Mo Williams, Utah Jazz (NR): We weren’t expecting much out of Williams last season given that he was part of a stacked backcourt on the Clippers. Not surprisingly, he endured his worst overall season since he was a rookie it Utah. Now, Williams is back where it all began, ready to take over as the Jazz PG from the departed (and underwhelming) Devin Harris. Williams didn’t get to the line much last season, but he was money when he did get freebies. His rebounding work – especially under his own basket – suffered, but he did do a better job of staying out of foul trouble and avoided a DQ for the first time since 2005-06. Utah has added some vets this offseason in Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye, so it will interesting to see how that affects the Jazz, but Mo Williams is definitely poised for a recovery now that he’s a starter again, so don’t overlook him on draft day.
18. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (35): Rubio took over as the starting PG in Minny fairly early in the season, pushing Luke Ridnour to the off guard slot. And while he turned in an impressive rookie effort, getting plenty involved in the offense, showing a decent touch from outside and putting up nice rebounding numbers for a one, when Rubio’s season ended early because of a knee injury, any chance Minnesota had at the playoffs was gone. Yes, he had become that important to the T-Wolves even as a rookie. Assuming the knee holds up this season, we’re looking at a potential top 50 player, so don’t sleep on the talented Spaniard.
19. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (NR): In mid-March, we recommended Thomas as a Wire Troll pickup and it turned out to be a great call as the diminutive PG just got better and better as his rookie season progressed. He proved durable and wound up seeing more PT than expected when the Kings finally realized that Tyreke Evans isn’t a real PG and shifted him to the three. Thomas’ rebounding numbers weren’t awful for such a short dude (5’9”) and he showed potential as a scorer. That tiny frame will also make people question his status as a starter – and certainly the addition of Aaron Brooks could prove problematic — but don’t be shocked if he enjoys a breakout campaign and silences his doubters once and for all.
20. Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks (30): Last year, we only ranked Teague 30th among PGs, but after a big breakout season, he’s snuck into the top 20 and earned the right to have a profile. We really like the fact that his A/TO rate bounced back last season as he set career highs across the board. Expect another jump in production this season, possibly to as high as 16 points and 6.5 dimes per game. Yes, he’ll have Harris to deal with, but as long as Teague can maintain the starting gig, he should be in line for another season of improvement.
21. Raymond Felton, New York Knicks (17): Heading into last season, we had Felton inside the top 20, thinking that he’d get another shot to be the main PG in Portland after falling into a job share with Ty Lawson in Denver. Well, start he did (when he wasn’t sidelined by a minor Achilles’ issue), but that didn’t help him rebound. In fact, he turned in his worst effort since he was a rookie. Felton shot poorly from downtown, his rebounding numbers really dropped and his assists plummeted after spiking with the Knicks. The good news is Felton has been dealt back to the Knicks, who opted not to match Houston’s offer sheet for Lin. Let’s hope a return to New York will spark a recovery for him.
22. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (2): Last month we speculated whether Rose could be the next superstar that decides he wants out of his current situation. Of course, much of that depends on what the Bulls are able to do to bring him closer to a championship. That will be no easy task this season, as Rose will miss as much as half the season while recovering from a knee injury. Even so, as a stash, he has to rank this high. Last season, Rose was unable to build on his 2010-11 MVP campaign. His shooting slipped for the second straight season and he didn’t accumulate the same number of points from the line. Yes, he set a new career high in assists per game, but the rest of D-Rose’s game backslid. Think the fortunes of the Windy City don’t live and die with Rose’s knee? Think again.
23. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats (NR): We projected Walker as a leader heading into the 2011 NBA Draft, and he certainly learned a lot from Coach Jim Calhoun at UConn. Walker spent almost half his rookie season starting, and he stayed fully healthy for the whole campaign. He flashed a decent touch from downtown and did a nice job sinking his freebies from the charity stripe. His rebounding work was solid for a 6’1” guard and overall, it was a fine first season. Walker has quickly established himself at the heart of the Bobcats’ rebuilding program, which includes youngsters Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo and 2012 second overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Cats have brought in Ramon Sessions this season, so there’s a chance that Walker may be sent back to the bench, but considering the team expended a lottery pick on him two years ago, he remains the future of this team, so there’s no way he’s not given tons of burn.
24. Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic (25): Last season, when we ranked Nelson 25th, we talked about how he had put up a solid, if unspectacular career. Well, things went a bit downhill last season as he had his worst effort since 2006-07. Nelson sunk fewer field goals and his treys dipped a tad, while he got to the line his fewest times since he was a rookie. His rebounding rose slightly, but the drop in scoring, dimes and steals really hurt his value. Sure, he once took St. Joseph’s within a hair of a Final Four, but he’s failed to bring that magic to Orlando, which in fact would love to peddle him as part of its rebuilding process.
25. Jose Calderon, Toronto Raptors (26): Last season, we thought Jerryd Bayless might steal Calderon’s job; this season, Lowry has. However, the Spanish Fly remains a top 100 player after enjoying a fine campaign last season. He looked for his shot a bit more, especially from beyond the arc and trimmed his turnovers while upping his scoring output. Calderon did lead the league in A/TO ratio at 4.5, so clearly he was doing something right. Toss John Lucas into the mix, and the Raptors have crazy depth at PG this season.
26. Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons (NR): Heading into the 2011 draft, we thought that Knight could become a player comparable to Irving. Well, that hasn’t exactly happened yet, but Detroit’s top 2011 draft choice is a huge part of the rebuilding process in Motown. He spent most of the season starting, and played in every single game, showing a decent touch from the floor and a nice accuracy from downtown. Knight’s rebounding numbers were tepid, but overall it was a very solid rookie effort, especially considering his tender age. He struggled at times adjusting to NBA life at a very difficult position, and there’s no doubt he has plenty of work ahead of him, but Knight has enough upside to be much higher on this list a year from now.
Others to Consider
27. Ramon Sessions, Charlotte Bobcats (34)
28. Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors (NR)
29. Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat (NR)
30. Darren Collison, Dallas Mavericks (18)
31. George Hill, Indiana Pacers (24)
32. Luke Ridnour, Minnesota Timberwolves (NR)
33. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (NR)
34. Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls (NR)
35. D.J. Augustin, Indiana Pacers (19)
36. Devin Harris, Atlanta Hawks (21)
37. Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks (NR)
38. Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets (NR)
39. J.J. Barea, Minnesota Timberwolves (33)
40. Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets (27)