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16. Rajon Rondo - BOS [PG]
Point: Rajon Rondo has tons of talent, but nothing even resembling a reliable jump shot. Counterpoint: Neither does Tony Parker, and he was last season’s Finals MVP. Point: Last season, Rondo’s deficiencies as a shooter made it hard for Doc Rivers to give him extended run. Defenses had so little respect for Rondo’s jumper, they’d use his man to double the Celtics’ other threats. Counterpoint: The Celtics have too many threats now for that tactic to work. Point: There’s a good chance that Rondo will be the most improved guard in the NBA this season. Counterpoint: So long as the Celtics don’t bring in a veteran guard to run the show.
17. T.J. Ford - TOR [PG]
Toronto management took a ton of abuse last year for dealing a big man with tons of potential – Charlie Villanueva – for a little point guard with a spinal condition. In year one, at least, things worked out just fine, as the speedy Ford helped pace the surprising Raptors to an Atlantic Division title. (Meanwhile, Villanueva played in just 39 games due to injuries.) We’d expect more of the same from Ford, with one reservation: Jose Calderon. The unheralded Calderon played so well in Toronto’s Euroball-flavored offense as Ford’s backup, many think he’ll take over the starting job sooner rather than later. A sound strategy might be to draft both of Toronto’s points – like drafting an elite running back and his backup in an NFL fantasy league – to make sure your bases are covered.
18. Stephon Marbury - NYK [PG]
Many observers thought the 2006-07 season was the best all-around performance of Marbury’s long and illustrious career. Marbury really committed to playing within the offense, feeding Eddy Curry in the post. As is the way of such things, his best overall season was his worst fantasy one, as he scored a mere 16.4 ppg with 5.4 assists. With Curry clogging up the middle, Marbury was forced to rely on outside shooting more than in previous years. His 123 threes easily topped his career high. Look for more of the same this season. With Zach Randolph on board along with Curry, Marbury will have even more reason to pass and less space to create off the dribble.
19. Jameer Nelson - ORL [PG]
Orlando management went on record recently to confirm the notion that Nelson might not be the Magic’s point of the future. “It depends on how we play. If we continue to play the style we've been playing, maybe not," GM Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel. "But if we increase the tempo a little bit -- which we're talking about -- I think he can be.” Here’s the problem: the Magic tried to hire an up-tempo coach in University of Florida head man Billy Donovan. However, Donovan’s tenure with the Magic lasted only slightly longer than Bill Belichick’s as head coach of the New York Jets. Orlando’s second choice, Stan Van Gundy, is much more of a “win with defense, play-the-half-court” kind of guy. It will be interesting to see if the Magic alter their philosophy to suit the new coach’s strengths. If so, Nelson’s next move could be out of town.
20. Mike Conley Jr. - MEM [PG,SG]
If Conley lives up to his advance notices, we’ll be talking about the “big three” players from the 2007 NBA Draft a few years from now – and seriously questioning the Hawks’ decision to take Al Horford with the number three pick. Conley has all the traits you want in the guy running your team. He’s lightning-quick, has excellent court vision, and perhaps most importantly, has leadership ability. One word of caution, though: most rookie point guards take at least half a season in the pros before really showing what they can do. Don’t expect big numbers until after the New Year.
21. Chucky Atkins - DEN [PG]
The veteran Atkins had a very nice season for Memphis, ably filling in after injuries sidelined Damon Stoudamire and Kyle Lowry. He’ll be in a position to do even more damage as part of Denver’s high-powered attack this season. Bear in mind that Denver’s offense actually made Steve Blake look good last season. Atkins is a much better shooter than Blake.
Harris has tremendous potential, but heading into the last year of his rookie contract, he really hasn’t established himself as the player Dallas thought they’d be getting with the fifth overall pick in 2004. Harris averaged a career-high 10.2 ppg last season, which is a reasonably nice number for a point guard that tallies a lot of assists. The problem is he netted only 3.7 assists per game, which is a number you’d expect from a reasonably skilled small forward, not a point guard. He shoots a nice percentage from the floor – 49.2 percent last season – but that number is due in part to the fact that he doesn’t have a long-range game (just 14 made threes on the year).
23. Sam Cassell - LAC [PG]
Cassell is one of the greatest floor generals of this generation, and with Shaun Livingston’s return from that grisly knee injury still in doubt, the Clippers still need him to run the show. The only question is how much running Cassell’s 37-year-old body will be able to manage.
24. Jamaal Tinsley - IND [PG]
The coaching change from Rick Carlisle to Jim O’Brien should make Tinsley very happy. Carlisle is notoriously controlling, calling set plays on nearly every offensive possession. O’Brien is a graduate of the Rick Pitino school, allowing his players great freedom on offense so long as they give max effort on D. On the other hand, O’Brien also stresses the importance of the three-point shot, which isn’t Tinsley’s strength but is the strength of newly acquired Travis Diener.
25. Brevin Knight - LAC [PG]
Knight, who signed with the Clippers just before press time, should find himself backing up Sam Cassell at the point. As a result, he could see decent minutes if the aging Cassell succumbs to his usual litany of ailments. If Knight does get the minutes, he can be a great source of steals and assists, but he’s not getting any younger (31 years old) and not known for his durability. Moreover, he’s the rare player who can hurt your field goal percentage despite not attempting many threes.
26. Rafer Alston - HOU [PG]
The Rockets now have Mike James, Steve Francis, draft pick Aaron Brooks, Alston, Luther Head and John Lucas III to man the point. A word of advice, Skip-to-my-Lou. Rent. Don’t buy. One of the reasons the Rockets are able to experiment with so many different options at the point is that their offense tends to run through Tracy McGrady on the wing. In this set, the point guard’s main responsibility is to float out on the arc and hit open threes. If Alston stays in Houston, look for a general decrease in his numbers from last year; his minutes will almost certainly be squeezed to make room for Francis, James and the rest.
27. Jarrett Jack - POR [PG,SG]
Jack has performed reasonably well as the floor leader of the Trail Blazers during the last two seasons, distributing the ball well and keeping defenses honest with a solid and accurate jumper. But it seems clear that the Blazers are looking to go in a different direction. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy, has logged some minutes at the point, and Portland management really likes the potential of Sergio Rodriguez. Plus, they signed free agent Steve Blake away from Denver to add yet another option. Jack could be dangled as trade bait – Miami and Boston are said to be interested – or allowed to walk away when his contract expires after this season.
28. Derek Fisher - LAL [PG,SG]
Fisher was granted a release from his contract with the Utah Jazz so he could seek employment in a city with medical facilities available to treat his daughter’s cancer. He landed in familiar territory, signing a three-year contract with the Lakers. A capable defender and three-point shooter, we expect Fisher to win the bulk of the Lakers’ point guard minutes over second-year man Jordan Farmar and rookie Javaris Crittenton.
29. Acie Law - ATL [PG,SG]
One of the real stars of the 2006-07 NCAA season, Law was generally regarded as the second-best point guard in the draft. But the gap between Law and Mike Conley is thought to be pretty substantial; many expressed concerns that Law doesn’t do any one thing well enough to become an elite NBA guard. Will he be the guy who solidifies the point guard position for Atlanta? Or will he be the latest in a long list of college point guards – the name Mateen Cleaves springs to mind – who never made a mark at the game’s highest level?
30. Jason Williams - MIA [PG]
Williams doesn’t get enough credit for re-inventing himself – for changing from “J-Dub” or “White Chocolate” to a solid, veteran floor leader on a championship team. But Williams hasn’t been able to overcome a long list of nagging injuries that caused him to miss 22 games last season. As a result, Pat Riley has looked to other options at the point for next season. Right now it appears that Williams will be in competition with Smush Parker for the starting job.