Player Rankings: Point Guards (16-31)
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16. Mike James - Minnesota Timberwolves
Stuck in time-sharing situations for most of his career, Mike James broke out in a big way as a starter for the Toronto Raptors last year. Everyone knew James could be a fantasy force if he could ever find a way to get consistent minutes, but no one expected the 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 2.1 threes per game he averaged during his first year as a full-time starter. Signing an off-season deal with the Timberwolves becomes a double-edged sword for James’ fantasy prospects. On the one hand, he’s guaranteed a starting spot and will see plenty of minutes. However, with more legitimate scorers like Kevin Garnett, Ricky Davis and even rookie Randy Foye, James won’t be able to duplicate his career-high 20.3 points per game or his 2.1 threes. He will, however, keep those numbers respectable as Garnett and Davis will kick it out to him on the perimeter. On the same token, we should expect James to post a career high in assists in his new city.
Bottom Line: Interestingly, despite the increase of minutes, James’ steal totals stayed constant with his career average of 0.9 per game. If he can up his steals - and his history suggests that he can - he has the potential to move up on this list.
17. Jameer Nelson - Orlando Magic
Bursting onto the fantasy scene after a spectacular second half during his rookie season, Jameer Nelson turned heads by posting 14.6 points, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 threes per game during his sophomore campaign. Nelson’s not the biggest or strongest point guard of the lot but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for with quickness and a gritty style of play. A high-energy player in the mold of Bobby Jackson, Nelson may be better suited as a sixth man, but nevertheless, he has the talent to succeed in a starter’s role. Look for Nelson to see the bulk of playing time at the point in Orlando. Also you can expect a stat line of 15-17 points and six assists with around 1.3 steals and 1.3 threes per game and solid percentages.
Bottom Line: Nelson won’t be as highly touted as Speedy Claxton or Raymond Felton but has the potential to outperform either or both this season. Scoop him up in the mid-rounds and enjoy the production.
Update: Nelson’s stock is rising on the strength of his leadership qualities and determination to succeed. He's been going in the fourth or fifth rounds thus far, so you’ll need to pony up to get your hands on the young stud.
18. Rafer Alston - Houston Rockets
Many had high hopes for Skip after his impressive yet problematic 2004-05 season. Initially, though, Alston looked like the bust of the year with less than pedestrian stats and a fractured fibula that caused him to miss 19 games early in the season. Despite his problems, Rafer came back with a vengeance winding up with solid end of the year stats. Alston’s best month, assist-wise, came in February, with both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in the lineup. Once T-Mac and Yao went down with injuries, Alston took a bigger role in the scoring department while his assists took only a minor hit. If steals and threes are your concern, Rafer is your man. Last year, he was one of only eight players to average 1.5 steals and 1.5 threes per game. He’ll keep it respectable in the points scored category and should add around six or seven assists per game. The only non-prototypical point guard characteristic he has is his inability to shoot from the free throw line with any consistency.
Bottom Line: Alston doesn’t come without risk - his year-long feud with Sam Mitchell in 2004-05 comes to mind - but has the potential to post return a nice investment.
19. T.J. Ford - Toronto Raptors
It’s hard not to root for Ford, who missed a full year due to a severe neck injury he sustained in the 2003-04 season. Out to prove a full recovery, Ford did just that with 12.2 points, 4.4 boards, 6.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.5 threes per game. Inconsistency on a night-to-night basis frustrated fantasy owners, but his contributions in nearly all the typical point guard categories - plus a few ten-plus assist nights - were enough to keep his owners happy for most of the season. An off-season trade to the Raptors for Charlie Villanueva gives Ford slightly more value. Jose Calderon is a serviceable backup, but he’s no Mo Williams so Ford should benefit with increased minutes. Expect a few more points, assists and steals with his new team.
Bottom Line: High turnovers and a low shooting percentage from the floor will depress Ford’s value but there’s more good than bad here, especially his high steal and assist totals.
20. Sam Cassell - Los Angeles Clippers
Defying old age and holding off a top-notch prospect, Sam Cassell turned in yet another fantastic fantasy season in 2005-06. Undoubtedly helped by the emergence of Elton Brand, Cassell turned in a performance comparable to years past. After struggling mightily with injuries a year ago, Cassell put the injury concerns behind him by playing in 78 games. When on the court, Cassell is one of the best point guards in the percentages. In his 13-year career, he owns a 45.6 percentage from the floor and a 85.9 percentage from the free throw line. He can score and dish and grab about a steal a game, so he is adequate in almost every category. Brought in by the Clippers to be a mentor to their young stud Shaun Livingston, Cassell was able to fend off the youngster and should do so again this season so long as he stays healthy.
Bottom Line: Cassell’s fantasy value relies on his health and Shaun Livingston’s growth as a player. Livingston is probably still a year away from being ready, and the Clips admitted as much when they signed Cassell to a two-year, $13 million contract in the off-season.
21. Luke Ridnour - Seattle Supersonics
With a two full years as a starter under his belt, Luke Ridnour is primed to improve in his fourth season as a pro. A modest increase in playing time combined with some added maturity led to improvements across the board for the solid but not flashy point guard. Ridnour set career highs in points (11.5), assists (7.0) and steals and ranked fifth in the NBA with a 3.40 assist-to-turnover ration. With Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis draining threes from downtown, Ridnour isn’t needed as a scorer but is proficient at running an offense and getting the ball to open teammates. Though the midseason addition of Earl Watson was expected to cut into Ridnour’s stats, no noticeable difference could be seen in his production. Since he doesn’t turn the ball over much (2.1) and connects on 87 percent of his free throws, Ridnour can help fantasy teams in many of the underrated categories.
Bottom Line: As the starting PG for the Sonics, Ridnour has plenty of options to convert his crisp passes. What point guard wouldn’t want sharpshooters like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis on their side? Earl Watson will cut into his playing time a bit, but Ridnour has already proved that he can contribute with just 32-34 minutes per game.
Update: Earl Watson is giving Ridnour a serious run early in training camp, and his starting job may be in jeopardy for the time being. Expect the two to split time – with “Cool Hand” earning slightly more minutes. He’ll still be a solid fantasy PG, so don’t drop him off your list completely, but it may be time to start considering guys like Deron Williams, Mo Williams and Smush Parker before Ridnour.
22. Maurice Williams - Milwaukee Bucks
The T.J. Ford for Charlie Villanueva trade opens the door for Mo Williams to step in as the starting point guard for the Bucks. He’ll have to win the job from the surprising Charlie Bell, but regardless, Williams will prove to be a solid contributor in limited minutes. In 2004-05, he started 80 games for the Bucks but saw just 28.2 minutes per game. In those minutes, he posted 10.2 points, 6.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.4 threes per game. Last year, Williams came on strong as a sixth man in the Bucks lineup, posting 14.7 points, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 threes per game before the All-Star break. Hurt by various ankle and foot injuries, Williams’ season came to a screeching halt from February through April. Still, his ridiculous first half numbers tell a story of a player just waiting to bust loose. All reports suggest that Williams is now 100 percent and will come into the season ready to take over as the floor general in Milwaukee.
Bottom Line: Take great interest in the position battle between Williams and Bell, as whoever wins will have considerable value for the season. That said, the two will probably split time, thus limiting each other’s fantasy value.
23. Deron Williams - Utah Jazz
Expected to challenge for Rookie of the Year honors, Deron Williams disappointed as he spent half of the season in head coach Jerry Sloan’s doghouse. Sloan’s reluctance to rely on the rookie hurt Williams from December through January, but the kid returned with a bang after the All-Star break averaging 13.2 points, 5.5 assists and 1.7 threes per game. A heady player with good decision-making skills, Williams’ stat line this season should look fairly similar to the aforementioned post All-Star splits. Impressively, Williams was deadly from downtown, hitting on 41.6 percent of his three-point attempts and connecting on 1.1 threes per game on the season. He’d be ranked much higher on this list if he could improve his ability to shoot free throws (70.3 percent) and create steals (0.7 SPG).
Bottom Line: The Jazz brought in veteran Derek Fisher to help with the maturation process, but Fisher is expected to be used in a backup role at both the point and the two spots. Williams should continue to grow in his second season and will be a solid second guard in fantasy leagues.
24. Sebastian Telfair - Boston Celtics
After a draft day trade, Sebastian Telfair is expected to come in and start at the point for the Boston Celtics. He will, however, face stiff competition in the form of Delonte West, who put up solid stats across the board in 71 starts for the Celtics last year. Head coach Doc Rivers has even suggested that the two might spend some time on the court together. Either way, Telfair is in line for a big increase in minutes this season. In 30 games as a starter in Portland, Telfair averaged 11.0 points, 4.2 assists, 1.0 threes and 1.0 steals in 28 minutes of action. His quickness and passing abilities are his greatest strengths, and Rivers is ecstatic about his abilities in the open court and on the fast break. Reportedly, he fit in well with the team in Summer League action. The Celtics are looking to employ an up-tempo offense to utilize his speed and quickness. He is still very young so inconsistency is to be expected, but his numbers should rise across the board.
Bottom Line: Telfair has major upside, but he’s still a few years away from being a top point guard option in fantasy leagues. If he falters, the Celtics have a dependable backup in Delonte West, and fantasy owners should keep that in the back of their minds before selecting Telfair.
25. Smush Parker - Los Angeles Lakers
Coming out of nowhere, Smush Parker took over as the starting point guard for the Lakers and responded with a solid but inconsistent season. Most known for his quickness and long distance shooting, Parker was a dominating fantasy force in threes (1.5) and steals (1.7). Though he frustrated fantasy owners with inconsistencies on a nightly basis, his contributions in steals and threes along with his ability to take care of the basketball (1.8 turnovers) made him an undervalued resource in fantasy leagues. Since Kobe Bryant acts as the primary ball-handler in the Lakers offense, Smush won’t dish out as many assists (3.7) as some of his counterparts, and this year will be more or less the same for the former Fordham product.
Bottom Line: For steals and threes, there aren’t many better options than Smush. Parker makes for fine selection in the mid-to-late rounds for his ability to dominate those two categories.
26. Delonte West - Boston Celtics
West was truly one of last year’s most underrated fantasy performers. Taking advantage of Boston’s lack of true point guards, West responded with 11.8 points, 4.1 boards, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.3 threes and even 0.6 blocks per game. Even better, he shot 48 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the line while averaging only 1.9 turnovers per game. West has the ability to contribute in every single relevant fantasy category. Unfortunately, when the Celts brought Sebastian Telfair over from the Blazers, West’s value took a minor hit. He’ll still see plenty of time on the court, but his minutes should drop slightly from the 34.1 he averaged last season. Expect head coach Doc Rivers to find a way to get West’s versatility in the lineup and don’t downgrade him too much based on the addition of Telfair to the lineup.
Bottom Line: Doc Rivers likes what West brings to the table so it’s likely that he’ll put both Telfair and West in the lineup at the same time. He’s likely to be undervalued with all the hype surrounding Telfair’s arrival. Don’t dismiss this multi-category producer in your fantasy draft.
27. Jarrett Jack - Portland Trail Blazers
Benefiting from the draft day trade that sent Sebastian Telfair to the Boston Celtics, Jarrett Jack is expected to take over as the starting court general for the Blazers. With Dan Dickau as their only other “true” point guard, Jack won’t have much competition for the job during the preseason. A backup for much of his rookie season, he showed flashes of solid play late in the season with increased playing time. In eight April games, Jack put up a respectable 11.9 points and 5.3 assists per game in 25.6 minutes. Though he averaged 1.8 steals per game at Georgia Tech, Jack didn’t prove to be much of a thief in his rookie season. He did play the entire season on a bad ankle (which was cleaned up with off-season surgery) so there is optimism that he could create around a steal per game with his increased minutes this season.
Bottom Line: A solid sleeper candidate because of the expected increase in minutes, Jack makes for a solid second or third point guard in fantasy leagues.
28. Damon Stoudamire - Memphis Grizzles
A brutal knee injury in late December ruined Damon Stoudamire’s first year in Memphis as he missed the rest of the season with a ruptured patella tendon. Successful surgery and an intense rehab have Stoudamire back on track to return to the court as the starting point guard for the Grizzlies. According to various reports, Stoudamire looked “quick and confident” in summer workouts. If everything goes according to plan and Mighty Mouse is completely healthy, he’ll contribute around 12 points, five assists, a steal and 1.5 three pointers per game. His career 83.5 free throw percentage is tremendous but since he takes less than three shots from the line per game, it’s not as helpful as one might think.
Bottom Line: Health is the major concern and if Stoudamire suffers any sort of a set back, the Grizzlies have a capable backup in Chucky Atkins to take his place. If he can stay healthy, he’s a solid third guard in fantasy leagues.
29. Steve Francis - New York Knicks
Once known as the “Franchise,” Stevie Francis has done everything but live up to his nickname during the last few years. Sure, he’s put up some sick numbers along the way but saw his value fall off the table after a midseason trade to the New York Knicks. Francis still has the talent but will have a tough time getting the minutes he needs to be successful by being stuck in a crowded backcourt alongside Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford. Francis averaged just 10.8 points, 3.0 boards, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.3 threes per game after the trade, a far cry from his career averages of 19.0 points, 5.9 boards, 6.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 threes per game. It remains to be seen how new coach Isiah Thomas will handle the rotation, so keep a close eye on the preseason news coming out of New York.
Bottom Line: With the ability to put up huge stats, one would be wise not to completely ignore Francis in fantasy leagues this year. The Knicks will likely be a run-and-gun team (a tempo he can excel in), and we all know he has the upside and talent to put up huge numbers.
Update: Early word has it that Isiah is going to start Marbury and Francis in the same backcourt. Bad news for Jamal Crawford, great news for Francis. Remember, Francis put up 16.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.1 steals for the Magic before his trade to the Knicks, so he still has the talent to be a serious fantasy force. He’s going real late (tenth-eleventh rounds) in drafts right now and makes for a great sleeper pick at that point in the draft.
30. Brevin Knight - Charlotte Bobcats
Every fantasy expert thought Knight was done when the Bobcats went and drafted Raymond Felton in 2005. Unfortunately, no one told Knight. He won the starting job and responded with 12.6 points, 8.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. The points were a nice surprise to go along with his usually impressive assist and steal numbers. Despite trade rumors, Knight is expected to return to the Cats for a third season and will play a backup role to the emerging Felton. Even though he’ll technically be a backup, Knight is too good to keep off the court if he’s healthy.
Bottom Line: Injury concerns and a backup role will again depress Knight’s draft day status. Don’t sleep on him though because even in a time-share with Felton, Knight can put up huge numbers in assists and steals in limited minutes.
31. Jamaal Tinsley - Indiana Pacers
If healthy, Jamaal Tinsley is a dominating fantasy force in the assists and steals categories. Sadly, that’s a big “if.” Tinsley hasn’t played in more than 52 games in three years and is becoming a Baron Davis-like risk in fantasy leagues. In a season marred by injuries and inconsistency, Tinsley posted career lows in assists (5.0), steals (1.2) and threes (0.4) and lost his starting spot to the surprising Anthony Johnson. With Johnson shipped out to Dallas, Tinsley is the only “true” point guard option left on the Pacers and is the frontrunner for the bulk of playing time at the point. With plenty of offensive options, Tinsley will be able distribute the ball to Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson and Danny Granger and should see a rise in assists as a result. Aside from the assists, Tinsley has always been able to pick off passes and can even knock down a few threes.
Bottom Line: With major injury concerns, Tinsley shouldn’t be drafted until the later rounds in fantasy drafts. If he falters out of the gate, the Pacers may turn to Marquis Daniels or Sarunas Jasikevicius to play the one
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