Finding diamonds in the rough can be essential to success in fantasy basketball. Drafters identify breakout candidates ahead of every season in hopes that they can exceed expectations set by their ADPs. Point guards are often among the top performers, and player movement could result in new faces in the top 30 at the position. I've identified three sleepers worth keeping an eye on ahead of opening night, as well as three potential busts.
Dinwiddie became an afterthought with the Nets after James Harden came to town and completed their new big three, but he has a chance to be an impact player with the Washington Wizards in 2021-22. The combo guard is appears poised to have a big year following his return from the ACL tear that sidelined him three games in 2020-21. Russell Westbrook finished as the NBA's top fantasy point guard last year while playing alongside Bradley Beal. Dinwiddie might not average a triple-double like The Brodie, but he has proven that he can produce at a high level when provided enough opportunity. Dinwiddie averaged 20.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in 2019-20. Those numbers are almost identical to the 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists that DeMar DeRozan averaged last year. DeRozan finished 2020-21 as a top-30 fantasy player. You shouldn't reach too much for Dinwidder, but getting him after the fifth round could return plenty of value.
Graham was a top-15 fantasy point guard and one of the NBA's Most Improved Player frontrunners just two seasons ago but is viewed as a fringe top-30 prospect among point guards ahead of the 2021-22 season. He barely finished outside the top 30 at his position last year while splitting time with rookie sensation LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier in the Charlotte Hornets' backcourt rotation. Now he'll return to starting status for a team Lonzo Ball thrived with last campaign. Despite being the third scoring option, Lonzo flirted with the top 20, behind Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Despite Ball's recently improved shooting touch, Graham has been a better scorer and a comparable passer over the past two seasons. Graham ranked fifth overall in three-pointers made in 2019-20. He should feats open looks thanks to the attention Williamson commands in the paint and is a 37.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc in his career. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is more of a score-first guard than Graham, so the latter's playmaking should trend upward in 2021-22. He's averaged seven assists per game per 36 since entering the league.
Kevin Porter Jr., Rockets
KPJ skeptics might not believe in the young point guard's production last year in what was essentially a throwaway season. However, the Rockets' rebuild could be very kind to the left in the coming years. Houston has agreed to find a new home for John Wall, so there's a clear path for Porter to average more than 30 minutes per game in 2020-21. Porter averaged just 12.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game on just over 30 minutes per game in 10 games, with Wall in the lineup last year. Porter averaged 19 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game on 33.2 minutes per contest in the 16 games he appeared in without Wall available. Jalen Green will compete with Porter for touches in the backcourt after going second overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. Still, the third-year guard's averages of 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per 36 minutes from last season are encouraging on a team where D.J. Augustin is his primary backup.
White played 36 games last year because of injuries but set career highs in points per game (15.4) as Dejounte Murray's backcourt partner. Both guards could improve now that DeMar DeRozan has joined the Chicago Bulls, but Murray seems more likely to make a giant leap. Murray became a top-10 fantasy point guard and could become the Spurs' top scorer and playmaker in 2021-22. He also excels as a rebounder and anchors San Antonio's defense. That doesn't leave much for his partner to do. White has never finished as a top-100 fantasy player and is more likely to be spelled by Lonnie Walker. White is projected to be a late fifth-round or early sixth-round pick, but that seems like a reach.
Cade Cunningham, Pistons
Let me start by saying I don't think Cunningham will have a bad year. The top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft has a high ceiling, but expectations might be too high for the rookie. While he's 6'8" with the ability to score and create for others, the Pistons have many moving pieces to think about. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee were the only Pistons who cracked the top 100 in fantasy production last season. While the latter has departed, other young players will offer Cunningham plenty of completion. Killian Hayes is set to split ball-handling responsibilities with Cunningham after playing in just 26 games as a rookie because of injuries. Then there's Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, who made an All-Rookie team last year are bound to get more involved in their sophomore seasons. The Pistons could improve significantly in 2021-22, but it's hard to expect last season's 27th ranked offense to produce a top 30 point guard without substantially enhancing the roster elsewhere. Cunningham is bound to have some big games, but he's better off as a player to stash after the first seven rounds in 12-man leagues.
The Knicks' rotation
The Knicks' backcourt rotation has managed to get even more complicated. After an injury-riddled final season with the Boston Celtics, Kemba Walker is returning home to join Rose and Immanuel Quickley. Each trio member was a top-50 point guard last season. Walker was the only one who made the top 40 despite playing just 43 games. Walker's five-season streak of averaging at least 20 points per game ended last season, but he could get back if he holds off his lingering knee problems. If you're going to use a dart throw on a Knicks point guard, use it on Walker. Predicting which option will lead the pack is impossible at this point, though.