Culture of Hoops

Fantasy Basketball 2012: Point Guard rankings by tier

Instead of being a “good little writer” jumping on this top 20 Point Guard list I’ve been putting it off while telling myself that all these mock drafts I’m doing is research. Not one hundred percent true, but not necessarily a lie since it did help nail home the fact the PG spot is loaded coming into this season.

With the NBA entering what seems to be a “golden era” of point guards, long gone are the days of having to draft an Alvin Williams or Smush Parker when you whiff on all the other studs you were targeting. Which is a good thing if you like playing fantasy basketball and I would assume you do if you’re reading this.

While I do enjoy the benefits of said depth, it does make it all the more taxing to put together a top 20 list without feeling like I’m leaving off a deserving player. Alright, enough with the procrastination lets just get to it.

Tier One

All of the players in this tier are obviously elite-level point guards and should be off the board by the seventh pick of the draft. As mentioned, the position is loaded so don’t panic if you miss out as this is one season you can wait on drafting a PG and still win your league.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

When healthy, Paul is the best point guard in the world, hands down. Paul has every tool imaginable at his disposal to run an NBA offense. I do worry that he has never played a full 82 games before, but after a relatively healthy last couple of seasons maybe the injury prone tag doesn’t fit anymore. I personally shy away from any player that has had any kind of major injury, but that speaks to my pessimistic draft style of trying to minimize risk. With that said it’s hard to pass up drafting a guy that can lead the NBA in assists (9.1) and steals (2.5) single-handedly. We may see CP3’s draft spot slide a bit this season to the five to six range, but that has more to do with the level of talent at his position then any decline in his ability.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook is my favorite point guard pick coming into this season. Yeah he doesn’t hit a ton of threes (0.9) and he could cut down on the turnovers (3.6), but his talent and athleticism are off the charts. Last season, Russell shot the ball more then any other point guard per game to net 23.6 points and still managed to dish out 5.5 assists. This should be the year Westbrook’s name starts to enter the conversation of being the best point guard in the league and possibly fantasy circles too. If you’re drafting in the fourth spot and he is still available, don’t hesitate to grab him.

Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

Williams is as steady as it gets. While he did lead all point guards in turnovers per game last season (4.0), D-Will counteracted that with 21.0 points, 8.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. To be fair, Deron was forced to carry the team on many nights due to team injuries and just plain lack of talent on the roster. How quickly things can change in one offseason as the new and improved Brooklyn “Nyets” have reloaded and it looks to be the perfect situation for D-Will to return to his prior elite level of assists per game. Williams seems to have a strong lock on the sixth draft spot this upcoming season.

Tier Two

In this tier we see a slight drop in overall production with a flaw in a player’s game here and there, but overall brings a high level of play all around. Don’t expect to see any of these guys still on the board past the the early twenties.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

I never really doubted Irving would excel in the NBA, but the stat line he dropped his rookie season showed what a monster game this kid has. How’s 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.4 threes per game while maintaining a true shooting percentage of .566 sound. Not bad for a guy who jumped straight to the NBA spotlight after playing in just 11 college basketball games due to a foot injury. Possessing the type of pedigree Irving has I wouldn’t worry about a “sophomore slump,” as he will surely improve in his second season with his seemingly limitless energy and talent. Don’t let him slide past the 15th spot as he could easily return first tier type value in the upcoming season.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

With Rondo we tend to hear about the negatives in his game first, as his three-point (non-existent) and free throw shooting (pretty bad) leave much to be desired. So, we know he isn’t the best shooter, but let’s not forget he did lead the league in assists with 11.7 per game. Not to mention he is a nightly triple-double threat with his scoring (11.9) and rebounding (4.8) prowess. As with all players you have to take the good with the bad, so if you draft Rondo just make sure you surround him with high volume/high percentage free-throw shooters. Unless you of course want to punt the category, then just go all-out and grab Dwight Howard while you’re at it. Going into his seventh season, Rajon is only 25-years-old, already the Celtics best player, and is just entering his prime. Expect another solid season from Rondo and feel confident taking him in the late teens.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

Forever an NBA underdog standing at only 5’11”, Lawson had a breakout year last season, firmly stamping his name on the list of best young point guards in the league. Using his speed to slice up opposing offenses, Ty saw career highs in scoring (16.4), assists (6.6), and steals (1.3). With the Nuggets being a young team, Lawson will be relied on heavily now that he is the clear-cut starter (Andre Miller who?), so expect those numbers to increase slightly. The addition of Andre Igoudala to the Nuggets may take some of the ball-handling away from Lawson, but not to worry as any drop in his assists should be offset by an increase in scoring. Lawson is a great pick up in the 20 to 23 range.

Tier Three

Here we have some aging stars still getting it done, guys just on the cusp of greatness, and some that had an “off” season. The latter have been bumped down accordingly. All the players in this tier have the ability to far exceed their draft position, but you just want to make sure to not take them too early and maximize draft positioning and minimize risk. Tier three players should all be off the board by the 40th pick.

Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

For much of his young career Dragic was coming off the bench behind two-time MVP Steve Nash, which left little playing time for the enigmatic Slovenian guard to get his shine on. When you look at his numbers from last season, they don’t jump out and scream “big time” NBA player. However, dig a little deeper and it sure looks like Goran was paying close attention to what his mentor was doing with all that time he spent on the Suns bench his first go-round with the team. Dragic didn’t get a chance to start last season with the Houston Rockets until Kyle Lowry went down with injury and in those 28 games he went off, scoring 18.0 points, dropping 8.4 assists, pulling down 3.5 rebounds, while sprinkling in 1.8 steals and three pointers per game. Dragic signed with the Suns in the offseason and it looks like the starting PG spot is his to run, garnering him the chance to secure his status as an upper-echelon fantasy point guard. I don’t see him falling past the late 20’s in standard leagues.

John Wall, Washington Wizards

All signs pointed to Wall having a breakthrough sophomore season, but he didn’t. Let’s be honest, the Wizards had a train wreck of a season, but after cleaning house of all the knuckleheads on the roster, there is reason to be hopeful. Last year Wall couldn’t hit the side of a barn from 23’9″ out and while he led the league in total turnovers, I’m chalking up his lost season as the anomaly until I see different. The guy is just too talented to not improve in these areas and with the Wizards revamped roster, Wall doesn’t have to put the team on his back every night either. Odds are John steps his game up and shows why he was the first overall pick in 2010, and by drafting him in the mid to late twenties, you should reap the benefits of his bounce back season.

Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks

As a rookie, Jennings came out firing, blowing up for 55 points and breaking LeBron James’ record as the youngest player to score the most points in one game. This happened in only just his seventh NBA game. It seems his success of scoring that early on in his career might have turned Jennings into a shoot first PG (or a “Chucker”), which was detrimental to his shooting percentage. Well, the player once known as a guy that killed you in percentage categories turned things around last season. It’s rare to see a player shoot the ball more while improving scoring and field goal percentages, but Jennings pulled it off. The numbers don’t lie – 19.5 points per game while shooting .418% from the field, with 2.0 threes per game on .332% shooting. With his shooting across the board improving, Jennings could move into elite guard territory by upping his assists (5.5) this coming season. Jennings is a “sneaky” pick this year as he should be in line for great stalines all year long, offering far more value than his overall average 30th draft positioning.

Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

Old faithful. Every year we expect Nash’s game to decline and he just keeps going out and racking up assists and shooting the lights out. You can talk all you want about his poor defense, but in fantasy basketball it just doesn’t matter. At 38-years-old, we would fully expect Nash to be on his way out of fantasy relevance, but with him being traded to the Lakers it’s highly unlikely. Steve is now surrounded by the best supporting cast he’s played with in years. You know Nashty has to be giddy thinking about all the easy assists he’s going to get just tossing the ball up in the air in Dwights Howard’s general direaction. Oh, and lets not forget about Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol! I would not be surprised in the least if Nash leads the league in assists once again. My only issue is with advanced age does come injury concerns, but Nash always keeps himself in superior shape, so the risk is minimal. Nashty is a great value pick coming into the season around the mid-thirties.

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

Parker had somewhat of a revival last year as the Spurs relied more heavily on him due to the lockout-shortened season. He responded by bringing his scoring average back up (18.3) and set a career a high with 7.7 assists per game, and at 29 years of age, is still in his prime years as an a NBA player. We know with Parker we get a PG who scores in the paint at a high percentage (.480) and turns the ball over very little (2.4). The only detractions to his fantasy game are the lack of three-point shooting and his slightly below-average production in the steals (1.0) department. All signs point to Tony having another very fine season for the Spurs and should be selected in the late 30s.

Tier Four

By tier four we’re getting to the high risk/high reward part of the show. Everyone, with the exception of Mike Conley, is coming off a down season or injury, but could easily bounce back and lead your team to the fantasy promised land. I’m higher on some of these guys than their average draft position (ADP), but that’s because they have elite level talent.

Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

Conley is probaly one of the most underated players in the game as he puts up solid numbers and doesn’t miss games. He just plain shows up with his blue collar work ethic and gets the job done. Conley is a guy I’ve been drafting on a regular basis for the last three years, far from flashy, but puts up numbers across the board and wont hurt you in any categories. Mike wont blow you away with his 12.7 points and 6.5 assists per game, but he does excel in stealing the ball at 2.2 per game. For the record I have won leagues before with Conley as my lead PG, so make no mistake he is a more than solid addition in the early 40s.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Coming into last season, Curry was every fantasy basketball geeks “golden child” (including this guy’s), but after an injury-plagued season all of those happy thoughts have gone out the window. This is a critical season for Curry to prove that he is a potential top player or a fragile player with ankles made of paper mache? If healthy, Curry offers knockdown shooting from anywhere on the floor and doesn’t hurt you in percentage categories. When on the court, Curry is good for 17 points, two threes, five assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game. If Stephen’s ankle holds up he could end up being the steal of the fantasy season. If not, don’t say you weren’t warned. In all, don’t be afraid to draft Curry, just don’t put all your team’s hopes on him and draft him too early; the 45 spot seems to be about right.

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

At the begining of last season Kyle Lowry was having a monster season and was well on his way to being one of the best fantasy point guards in the game until an abdominal injury compounded by illness struck. Now Lowry has been traded to the Raptors and with this fresh start, hopefully, he can return to the fantasy freak we saw the glimpse of last year. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Kyle being a Villanova product, so I’m more invested than I should be, but the numbers do speak for themselves. In 38 starts, Lowry put up 14.6 points, 6.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.7 threes with solid shooting percentages all around. I’ve seen Lowry ranked as low as the 75th draft pick, which seems way too low for the possible return of drafting him. I think you can safely grab Kyle in the late 40s to mid 50s range.

Tier Five

This is the tier of the unknown – one guard we’re still waiting on his big breakout season and the other two took the league by storm, but flamed out with injuries. Can they reproduce those strong starts and catch lightning in a bottle once again or fall flat-faced on the court?

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

I freely admit that Rubio caught me completely off guard. I never expected him to live up to the hype surronding him, but all those talking heads that said his game was more suited to the NBA were right. Unfortunately, those who also said his shooting needed a little work greatly understated the issue. Ricky started 31 games and shot .330% (not good) from the floor and (an abysmal).312% from behind the three-point arc. While it’s not all doom and gloom, those kind of numbers can end up killing you in the percentage categories. What we don’t know though is whether he could have turned his percentages around in a full 82 game season? He may never be a knock-down shooter, but he does his best to make up for it with 8.3 assists, 10.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and elite level steals (2.4) every game out. As it stands, Rubio is a safe bet to draft in the late 60s and if he can up his shooting percentages all the better for his draft status going into the 2013-14 season. *Rubio will be out untill mid December.

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

Ever since coming into the league, Holiday has been a highly-touted point guard protege that never quite reached the expectations he has been branded with. Now that the 76ers have shaken up the roster and moved Andre Igoudala to the Denver Nuggets, this may very well be the breakout year we have been waiting for. With Iggy gone the ball is firmly placed in Holiday’s capable playmaking hands to run the Sixers offense as coach Doug Collins sees fit. As in most fantasy sports, more touches leads to better statistics, so it won’t be a big surprise if Holiday reaches career-highs in several categories this season. I do also have to mention that Jrue now has one of the best bigs in the game to throw the ball to down low in Andrew Bynum. That alone should get him two to three easy assists per game. Holiday’s ADP is in the early 70s and if he can make the jump as expected should be a great later round pick.

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets

What can I say about Jeremy Lin that hasn’t already been written, tweeted, or screamed from the rafters in Madison Square Garden? Probably not much, but what I do know is that in the right system with an offensive-minded coach, he looks to be a fantasy gold mine. Albeit one that turns the ball over a lot (4.7), but a statistical treasure trove nonetheless. With everything there is always a “but,” and our “but” comes in the form of Lin’s very small sample size. In the 25 games Lin started, he went for 18.2 points, 7.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 three-pointers per game. The question still remains if he can reproduce the same magic in Houston as he had in New York, or was his production just a fluke? I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drop a 15/5/3 stat line in a full 82 game season. I don’t think he is much of a risk, as just more of an unknown, so drafting him in the late 70s early 80s sounds about right.

Tier Six

This is basically a flier pick as anyone of six guys could be taken at this point and deliver, so I went with my gut on this one and chose three.

Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings

Isaiah Thomas has to be one of the most unlikely NBA players in recent years, standing at 5’9 and weighing in at 185 pounds. Compound that with the fact he shares the same name with one of the most reviled men to ever lace em up in the league as a front office guy, it’s obvious the deck was not stacked in his favor. If that’s not enough counting against him, Thomas was the very last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, a draft position usually reserved for bench fodder if that player even makes the league. Despite the odds heavily against him, not to mention a coach (Keith “not so” Smart) that doesn’t seem to know how to set an NBA lineup, the kid proved he belongs last season. I can’t help but root for this guy and not just because of the background story because Thomas can straight up ball. In his 37 starts, Thomas shook off the doubters with his 14.8 points, 5.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.6 triples per game combined with his above average percentages and low turnover rate and you have the makings of not only a fantasy standout, but possibly an NBA star too. I will never doubt Isaiah Thomas and suggest you do the same. With his average draft position hovering in the mid-80s, you cant go wrong snagging him up. While I don’t tend to reach for players in drafts, Thomas may be the exception to my rule this year.

Mo Williams Utah Jazz

Hey Mo, I guess you can go home again? Too bad Jerry Sloan isnt there for the reunion (I blame Deron Williams). I for one am glad Williams got out of the third string role with the Los Angeles Clippers that just wastes his talent. For the record, I do tend to root for the underdog, so I have always been a proponent of Maurice. With him back in Utah without any real serious competition for the starting point guard role, Mo should deliver as always. The Jazz will be pushing for a playoff spot in a tough to crack western conference, which means they need Williams to play as much as possible. Now a starter once again, being the ultra-competitive player he is, expect Mo to bust out of the gates and play with a chip weighing heavily on his shoulder. Often overlooked, Williams is only 29 and and last time he played over 30 minutes per game was two years ago, so it seems highly plausible he could return to close the same numbers. Most projections I’ve seen have Maurice netting an average of 16 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 threes, and 1 steal per game. In standard leagues Mo-Will is getting drafted in the low 80s, don’t sleep on this under the radar player as he could bring large returns.

Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons

In his rookie season, Brandon Knight hit the hardwood running and reinforcing exactly why the Detroit Pistons made him the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft. It really should come as no surprise since the two-time Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year has been collecting accolades since being a junior in high school. The always poised Knight, stepped right in and took over the point guard duties for the Pistons and put up 12.8 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 three pointers per game. I would like to see him steal the ball a little more (0.7), but with the nice percentages he puts up (.415% from the field and .380% from three), I wont complain. With him having the starting point guard position on lock, expect Brandon to build on his rookie season and improve on his numbers across the board. Knight is getting drafted right around the 100th spot and his production should easily exceed the value of his ADP.

Honorable Mentions: Kemba Walker, Charolotte Bobcats; Darren Collison, Dallas Mavericks; Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks.

**Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls, is not rated due to injury, but could turn out to be a great end of draft stash.

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