2017 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Stephen Curry, James Harden lead the way in point guard tiers
There aren't any surprises to come with the elite Fantasy point guards this season. What about the rest of the position?
With a hectic NBA offseason only just beginning to wind down, the landscape of the league looks considerably different than it did at this time last year.
All-Star players shifted teams and conferences in shocking numbers this offseason, both through trades and free agency. The point guard position was no exception to the madness, with notable stars like Chris Paul switching teams and Fantasy studs like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Isaiah Thomas adding big-name teammates.
Despite the eventful summer, this year's point guard rankings should look familiar to Fantasy Basketball veterans. While rosters around the NBA may have seen shake-ups, the deepest position in Fantasy basketball remains as valuable as ever.
Tier I: Elite of the Elite
Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden
The top tier of fantasy point guards should come as no surprise to returning owners. Curry, a two-time MVP and incumbent "best shooter in the world," has firmly established himself as a consistent upper-echelon fantasy option after four consecutive All-NBA seasons. With the Warriors appearing poised to maintain their dominance heading into next season, Curry's historic shooting volume and efficiency are likely here to stay. Though the presence of Kevin Durant makes it unlikely that Curry ever matches his unparalleled 2015-16 offensive onslaught again, last season proved that Curry can still maintain elite fantasy production while surrounded by three of the NBA's best players.
Last year, it wasn't Durant's new point guard who topped fantasy rankings, but his old one. Westbrook's production is likely to take a dip this season thanks to the Thunder adding another superstar in Paul George. However, the reigning MVP already has a demonstrated history of producing elite-level value while playing alongside a certain top-tier wing.
Harden is perhaps the hardest of the top three to project. He'll go from single-handedly commanding Houston's offense to sharing the ball with a fellow superstar point guard. Playing next to a walking double-double in Chris Paul is likely to diminish Harden's overall touches and, as a result, his assist production. Still, playing with Paul should, in theory at least, open up the floor for Harden and allow him to improve on his already-historic scoring efficiency.
Tier II: Not Far Behind
The other half of the Houston backcourt is near the top of the second tier of elite point guards. Chris Paul has averaged at least 16 points and 9 assists in every season since 2007-08 and has led the league in steals six times during that span.
Wall, meanwhile, seems like a lower-risk choice as he looks to build on the best statistical season of his career. The 26-year-old notched career highs in points per game (23.1) and assists per game (10.7) in 2016-17, earning him a fifth-place spot on some voters' MVP ballots. In category-based leagues, Wall may not be quite as enticing, as his turnover and three-point numbers leave something to be desired. Still, he provides assists and steals at a rate matched by only a handful of players.
The rest of the second tier consists primarily of the elite crop of score-first point guards. Lillard offers the most security of the bunch. He's not only a steady Fantasy producer but has also missed only 14 games throughout his five-year career. Lowry, on the other hand, is a great player but turns 32 in March and suffered a substantial injury that cost him more than a quarter of last season.
Perhaps the biggest gamble of the bunch is Irving. While he's among the best pure scorers at at position, Irving carries questions about durability and a thus-far unfulfilled request for a trade that could land him in a new uniform by the time October rolls around.
Tier III: The High-End Starters
Conley and Walker are often afterthoughts due to the bevy of elite point guards in the league. But with both coming off career years, the duo should be on every Fantasy owner's radar. Still just 27, Walker increased his scoring to very a respectable 23.2 points per game last season, up from 20.9 in 2015-16, and shot a career-best 39.9 percent from three.
Bledsoe and Holiday are two relatively young point guards who never fail to produce -- when healthy, that is. Each has battled multiple major injuries over the course of the past four seasons. Holiday will also have to adjust to perhaps playing off-ball next to Rajon Rondo, who the Pelicans added in free agency.
Dennis Schroeder and D'Angelo Russell are two rising stars in prime position to break out this season. While both provided decent value last season, their lackluster supporting casts heading into 2017-18 could result in ramped-up usage rates. Schroder has the clearest path to a good-team/bad-stats season, while Russell may have to earn his way to the top of the Nets' depth chart.
Tier IV: Mid-Tier Starters and Unknowns
At this point in the draft, it's unlikely you'll find a top-quality point guard option. The players who remain in this tier are either mid-level veteran starters or young players with high levels of uncertainty.
Players like Jackson and Rose will post the occasional scoring outburst, but their limited contributions in other areas make them poor options for category-based leagues.
Ditto for Rondo, who can still drop dimes at a high rate but will hit few 3-pointers and shoot poorly from the field and the free-throw line.
On the rookie front, point guard is an intriguing position. Ball commanded plenty of hype after an impressive Summer League showing and should be a consistent source of assists and rebounds, but owners will also want to keep a sharp eye on Smith, Jr. The electrifying athlete is expected to be handed the keys to the offense as the Mavericks attempt to bridge the gap between the end of the Dirk Nowitzki era and the start of a mini-rebuild. Of course, Fultz is about as safe a choice as a 19-year-old can be, but he enters a unique situation in Philadelphia as arguably the second-best rookie on his own team.
Tier V: Low-End Starters
Late-round point guard options are somewhat sparse, with rookies providing some of the best options as high-upside guys who could potentially step into impact roles. Fox could very well be one of those players, but his fantasy stock is a bit cloudier after the Kings added veteran George Hill in free agency.
Ntilinka, meanwhile, is difficult to project, as his defense-first skill set may or may not translate to immediate statistical production at the NBA level. After seeing rookie defensive savant Kris Dunn end up as a fantasy dud last year, some owners may understandably be skeptical about taking another young, defensive-minded point guard.
Collison and Beverley are two established point guards unlikely to turn heads with their statistical production. Even so, both are reliable vets who will have a good chance to start for their respective new teams.
Tier VI: Late-Round Fliers
Most of these players should go undrafted and may simply be worth targeting for a waiver pickup. Still, longtime European star Milos Teodosic, who will be stepping into the NBA for the first time, carries some intrigue after leading the EuroLeague in assists last season. As does Joseph, who will push Darren Collison for the starting job in Indiana.
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