2017 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Can C.J. McCollum and Bradley Beal break into the ranks of elite shooting guards?

Portland Trail Blazers v Washington Wizards
Ned Dishman

Shooting guards typically don't enjoy the same fantasy notoriety as their backcourt mates, but the position still boasts an impressive amount of talent at the top, headlined by one of the best pure shooters in NBA history. There's also some solid depth available here, with perhaps a higher quality of multi-category production to be found than in recent seasons.

What follows is a breakdown of the projected starting two-guards and high-usage reserves for the upcoming season by expected fantasy value. Meanwhile, the later tiers consist of players who have potential, but carry questions about consistency and playing time.

Tier I: The Elite

James Harden

Harden established career-highs last season in points (29.1), rebounds (8.1), assists (11.2), three-point attempts (9.3), free throws made (9.2) and free-throw attempts (10.9). He was also the epitome of durability and reliability, eschewing the concept of rest days to play at least 81 games for the third straight season.

Naturally, Chris Paul's arrival should equate to a reduction in assist for Harden, who transitioned to a near full-time point guard role last season. However, Harden was an above-average distributor as a two-guard prior to 2016-17, averaging between 6.1 and 7.5 dimes in the three previous seasons. Don't expect that to change much

Tier II: Proven Stars

C.J. McCollum, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal

  • McCollum is still improving even after setting career highs in points (23.0) and rebounds (3.6) per game, as well as field-goal percentage (48.0) and three-point percentage (42.1). He works seamlessly with Damian Lillard, and the offense will be designed to run through both guards once again.
  • A reunion with Tom Thibodeau should make the transition to Minnesota much easier for Butler. His overall production will likely take a slight hit given the talent around him, but Butler should still offer superb production across the board while dealing with fewer double teams.
  • Thompson got off to a bit of a slow start last season, but by the end of the year he'd set new career-highs in points (22.3), three-point attempts (8.3), field goals made (8.3) and field-goal attempts (17.6).
  • While Beal carries some durability concerns, he played in 77 games last season and didn't appear to be bothered by the lower-leg issues that plagued him earlier in his career.

Tier III: Very Good Starters

Gary Harris, Nicolas Batum, Avery Bradley, Victor Oladipo, Jrue Holiday, Devin Booker, Evan Fournier

  • Harris took a major step forward last season, shooting a hyper-efficient 50.2 percent from the floor, including 42.0 percent from three-point range.
  • A steady veteran who's had two of the most productive years of his career since joining the Hornets, Batum fills out stat sheet, providing above-average rebound and assist numbers for a two-guard.
  • Despite transitioning to a new team, Bradley will look to continue his career ascension. He averaged more than 16 points per game last season and attempted at least 5.0 three-pointers per game for the second straight season. Of course, Bradley also offers solid steals numbers as part of an excellent defensive profile, overall.
  • Back home in Indiana, Oladipo figures to see considerably more opportunity as one of the top two offensive options for the rebuilding Pacers. Oladipo was overshadowed by Russell Westbrook last season, but he quietly posted rock-solid numbers -- 15.9 points per game on career-best 44.2 percent shooting --  and demonstrated improvement as an outside shooter.
  • The argument could be made that Booker belongs in Tier 2, but he needs to do more than just score in bunches at a relatively inefficient rate. Granted, Booker took a major step forward across the board last season, though he remained a sub-43 percent shooter from the field.

Tier IV: Above-Average Starters

Kent Bazemore, Marcus Smart, Jeremy Lin, Dwyane Wade, Wesley Matthews, Austin Rivers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyreke Evans, Dion Waiters, Tim Hardaway, J.J. Redick, George Hill, Rodney Hood, Will Barton, Eric Gordon, Lou Williams

  • Bazemore has proven to be durable (70-plus games in three straight seasons), and he offers multi-category production, but he's limited offensively and will suit up for perhaps the NBA's least-talented roster.
  • Meanwhile, Wade had a solid statistical season in Chicago, but durability is a major concern, and he could end up in a lesser role elsewhere if he's eventually bought out.
  • Rivers enjoyed a career season in 2017-18, but it remains to be seen how he'll fit into rotation after the Clippers essentially swapped out Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford for Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley.
  • Both Waiters and Hardaway now have big-money contracts to live up to, and will need to prove their impressive 2016-17 campaigns were more than one-year flukes. Hardaway, in particular, should have the opportunity to be a volume scorer, particularly if the Knicks move on from Carmelo Anthony at some point.
  • As dependable as they come at the two-guard spot, Redick has averaged no fewer than 14.1 points per game in any of the last five seasons. He should once again be an above-average source of efficient three-point production, though the dramatic change of scenery could entail an adjustment period.
  • Hill is a solid veteran who proved he had plenty left in tank last season in Utah, but a projected move to shooting guard, injury concerns, and the presence of Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson could cap his upside.

Tier V: Decent Role Players

J.R. Smith, Tony Snell, Seth Curry, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Jamal Crawford

  • Smith looked downright lost at times last season, shooting a career-worst 34.6 percent from the field and missing half the season with a thumb injury. A bounce back could be in the cards, but at this point in his career the soon-to-be-32-year-old is essentially a three-point specialist.
  • Crawford played all 82 games in his age-36 season and continued to show few  signs of decline. He'll enter a new situation in Minnesota but should still be a lock to score in double-figures, though he won't do it efficiently.

Tier VI: Late-Round Fliers

Marco Belinelli, Jaylen Brown, Sean Kilpatrick, Allen Crabbe, Matthew Dellavedova, E'Twaun Moore, Courtney Lee, Nik Stauskas, Buddy Hield, Jodie Meeks, Andre Roberson, Danny Green

For the most part, these are just role players and specialists who will help out with 3-pointers. However, Hield in particularly has some upside as a young guy with further development coming. 

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