2018-19 Fantasy Basketball Positional Tiers Series: Point Guards
Heading towards the start of NBA preseason, Alex Barutha breaks the players into tiers for Fantasy.
NBA training camps open in a matter of weeks. Here's how players are tiered now:
Tier 1: MVP Candidates
James Harden, Rockets
Steph Curry, Warriors
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Point guard has emerged as the league's deepest and most talented position, and the three players in Tier 1 have accounted for the last four MVP awards.
While there's a case to be made for all three, depending on scoring settings, Harden sits at the top, with a high turnover rate as his only true flaw. The reigning MVP has been a top-two scorer in each of the last four years, and he's among the league's best at keeping his teammates involved, while simultaneously dominating as an iso scorer. While he did miss 10 games last season, Harden missed just two total contests over the previous three years and is one of the most durable high-usage players in the league.
Curry's place on a team with five All-Stars means he's inherently not going to have the usage of Harden or Westbrook, but the lack of a significant flaw in his game makes him an elite Fantasy target every year. Curry has led the league in three-pointers made per game for six straight seasons, and he's shooting a ridiculous 43.5 percent from downtown in that span. In leagues that placer higher value on made threes, Curry is a top-three player.
Of the three premier point guards, Westbrook is easily the hardest to project, as his value can swing rather drastically depending on league scoring formats. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, but he turns the ball over at an alarming rate (4.8 per game last season) and isn't nearly the three-point shooter Curry and Harden are. Westbrook knocked down just 1.2 threes per game last season at a brutal 29.8 percent clip.
Tier 2: All-Star-Caliber
Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Chris Paul, Rockets
Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Kemba Walker, Hornets
Ben Simmons, 76ers
Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Jrue Holiday, Pelicans
John Wall, Wizards
If you miss out on one of the elite point guards, the good news is you'll still have a great chance to snatch a potential All-Star with your next pick.
Lillard is the closest of the group to joining that upper echelon of stars. He's a score-first guard who finished fourth in the league in scoring last season, though he doesn't quite have the rebounding and assist numbers of the Tier 1 stars.
Tier 2 also includes a couple of players returning from significant injuries, as both Irving and Wall missed more than 20 games last season. Irving's situation is particularly interesting, considering he's going to be playing on one of the deepest rosters of all-time and will essentially be playing alongside Gordon Hayward for the first time. Still, Irving will be the lead playmaker, and he's coming off of the most efficient season of his career. Despite playing three fewer minutes per game, Irving's counting stats remained nearly unchanged, and he hit a career-high 2.8 threes per game.
Paul demonstrated that partnering up with another high-usage player in Harden did not detract from his Fantasy value. While his passing numbers took an expected dip, Paul still finished seventh in the league in assists per game, and he knocked down a career-high 2.5 three-pointers, while upping his scoring.
Lowry will have to adjust to the Raptors swapping out DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, and he he averaged a five-year-low of 16.2 points per game in 2017-18, the addition of Leonard could mean even more open looks for Lowry, who ranked third in the league in made threes (238) a year ago.
Simmons is the most volatile player in Tier 2. His value changes, based on scoring format, even more drastically than Westbrook's. In leagues that devalue three point volume and/or free throw shooting, Simmons is a top-10 player. But in most leagues that value threes and free throws, he'll likely fall outside the top 20.
Tier 3: Very Good Starters
Mike Conley, Grizzlies
Jamal Murray, Nuggets
Eric Bledsoe, Bucks
Jeff Teague, Timberwolves
Goran Dragic, Heat
Lonzo Ball, Lakers
Tier 3 is headlined by a mix of young talent and veterans who continue to churn out useful numbers. Conley is coming off a 2017-18 campaign in which he played in just 12 total games, but he's just one season removed from averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The 32-year-old Dragic doesn't have huge upside on a night-to-night basis, his high floor makes him an extremely reliable Fantasy option.
Injury concerns and poor shooting percentages hurt Ball's value heading into Year 2. He played just 52 games as a rookie and shot a horrific 36 percent from the field, 30.5 percent from three, and an even-more-horrific 45.1 percent from the charity stripe. However, Ball was an elite rebounder (6.9 RPG) for the position and added 10.2 points and 7.2 assists per game. With the addition of LeBron James, it's unlikely Ball will take much of a step forward as a scorer, but the hope is that James' presence will help him become a more efficient spot-up shooter.
Murray, on the other hand, has missed only one game through his first two professional seasons, and he tallied career-highs across the board in 2017-18 with 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steal and 2.0 three-pointers per game. The 21-year-old will once again have the green light in an offense that ranked in the top-half of the league in pace of play last season.
Tier 4: Productive Starters
Ricky Rubio, Jazz
Darren Collison, Pacers
Kris Dunn, Bulls
Dennis Smith, Jr., Mavericks
Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks
Dejounte Murray, Spurs
Trae Young, Hawks
D'Angelo Russell, Nets
Tier 4 is comprised mostly of young players but features a pair of veterans at the top. Rubio is coming off of a bizarre 2017-18 season in which his hallmark assists numbers plummeted, but his three-point shooting and rebounding improved. Given the context of his previous six seasons, Rubio's assists figure to climb back up, to some degree, and the hope is that his perimeter improvement is more than just a one-year anomaly. Collison is a low-risk, low-ceiling Fantasy asset, but he's shot at least 40 percent from three in each of the last three seasons, topping out at a league-best 46.8 percent in 2017-18.
Dunn and Brogdon are similar Fantasy commodities in that they're no higher than the third or fourth-best options on their own team. Smith, Jr. showed flashes as a rookie but struggled from the floor, while Murray, a poore three-point shooter, is much more valuable in points formats.
Young is one of the more polarizing rookies in recent memory, and while he projects to provide volume three-point shooting and decent assists production, he'll likely be prone to wildly inefficient stretches that could irreparably harm his percentages.
Tier 5: Low-End Starters
Elfrid Payton, Pelicans
Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets
Dennis Schroder, Thunder
Reggie Jackson, Pistons
Fred VanVleet, Raptors
Markelle Fultz, 76ers
Now come the players with significant question marks. Schroder is shifting to a reserve role on a playoff team after leading one of the worst teams in the league last season. He'll still be productive, but a reduction in playing time is inevitable.
Dinwiddie is also slated for smaller role with D'Angelo Russell back from injury. Jackson played fewer than 55 games for a second straight season, and he barely cracked 30 percent from beyond the arc last year.
VanVleet could be slated for more minutes in the backcourt with DeMar DeRozan out of the picture, but he still sits firmly behind Kyle Lowry and will split time with Delon Wright.
Fultz has the highest upside, by far, of any player in Tier 5. If he figures out his jumpshot, he could easily jump into Tier 4, but until we see any concrete evidence of that, Fultz is too risky to trust. On a more positive note, Fultz was still able to be an impact player without a jumper when he returned at the end of last season. Over a 10-game sample, Fultz put up 15.4 points, 9.4 assists, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per 36 minutes/
Tier 6: Bargain Bin
Tyler Johnson, Heat
Terry Rozier, Celtics
Patty Mills, Spurs
Rajon Rondo, Lakers
De'Aaron Fox , Kings
Isaiah Thomas, Nuggets
Patrick Beverley, Clippers
Brandon Knight, Rockets
George Hill, Cavaliers
Collin Sexton, Cavaliers
D.J. Augustin, Magic
Marcus Smart, Celtics
A handful of starting point guards fall into Tier 6, highlighting again just how deep the position runs. Fox is the name that jumps out, and he could emerge from this group if he improves his three-point efficiency. Sexton is essentially the 2018 version of Fox, while Rozier and Smart will need an injury or two to be relevant in most leagues.
Thomas is only two years removed from a top-five MVP season, but he looked like a shell of himself last season and has been beyond exposed on the defensive end. While he may be able to provide points and threes off the bench, he'll be a fringe player so long as Jamal Murray stays healthy.
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