Player Rankings: Shooting Guards (1-19)
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1. Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
In his first season back with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant put up one of his best statistical seasons ever, and that’s pretty impressive given his brilliant nine-year career. As the only legit scoring option for the Lakers, Kobe posted career highs in points (35.4) and three-pointers (2.3) while continuing to put up dominant numbers in almost every other fantasy category. The big fantasy attraction to Bryant isn’t his ability to score at will; it’s his free throw shooting. With 10.2 attempts per game and connecting at an 85 percent clip, there is no one that can control the free throw percentage category better than Kobe. Other than adding Vladimir Radmanovic, who will help spread the court, the Lakers haven’t changed their personnel much and will continue to rely heavily on all facets of Bryant’s game.
Bottom Line: Kobe is a sure fire top-five pick and should put up another tremendous season under Phil Jackson.
2. Dwyane Wade - Miami Heat
Simply put, Dwyane Wade is the best in the business. LeBron James may have the superior stats and fantasy status, but Wade has the ring and the stats to boot. LeBron and Wade were the only two players in the league to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last season. If that’s not enough, Wade also added two steals, 0.8 blocks and a ridiculous 49.5 field goal percentage. That 49.5 percent is even more impressive when you factor in his 18.8 shots from the floor per game, a number that may go up this season. Those that watched the 2006 NBA Playoffs know Wade has an uncanny ability to get himself to the free throw line. Last year, he attempted a whopping 10.7 shots from the line and shot an above-average 78.3 percent. In a fantasy sense, only two categories should worry you: turnovers and three-pointers. Turnovers are a lost cause, but Wade greatly improved his three-point shooting during the 2006 NBA Playoffs. While he probably won’t be a big time three-point shooter, his 37.8 percent from beyond the arc during the playoffs shows potential to improve in his worst statistical category.
Bottom Line: Forget about threes and turnovers, Wade’s dominance in nearly every category is more than enough to make up for his so-called deficiencies. He should be a top five pick in your draft but will likely go towards the end of the first round.
Update: A mysterious hand injury has Wade taking it easy during training camp. An MRI revealed no damage – just inflammation – so he should be OK to start the season.
3. Paul Pierce - Boston Celtics
Paul Pierce is the total package. As one of the most consistent fantasy performers in the game, Pierce always puts up big time stats and never misses time due to injury. What more can you ask for in a first round pick? As a player, Pierce is a multi-category producer that will score, rebound, dish, steal and drill three pointers. A proven scorer, Pierce can score in a variety of ways, whether by draining the outside shot, driving to the basket or drawing a foul. He’ll get to the line about 10 times per game where he’ll help your FT percentage immensely by shooting around 78-80 percent. The biggest, most surprising addition to his game has been his improving field goal percentage. A career 44 percent shooter, Pierce shot 47.1 percent from the floor last season. He’s unlikely to duplicate that feat again this year but should be able to keep it in the 45-46 percent range.
Bottom Line: Pierce is as close to a sure thing as anyone else in the league. He’s never missed considerable time due to injury, and he’s always posted tremendous stats in almost every fantasy category. Somewhat underrated in fantasy leagues, he’ll go towards the end of the first round but produces like a mid-first round selection.
4. Ray Allen - Seattle Supersonics
Allen makes the game look easy with his flawless jump shot and great instincts on the court. If you are looking to finish high in the standings in three pointers, there’s no one better in the league to have than Allen, who has hit on at least 2.5 threes a game in each of his last seven seasons. In fact, last year, Allen led the league by 70 three pointers! As one of the best free throw shooters in the league, Allen gets to the line about five times per game and can make a huge difference hitting on at least 88 percent of his shots from the charity stripe. Allen doesn’t rebound or pass as well as Pierce or Kobe but keeps it respectable with consistent boards and assists per game, all while creating more than a steal per game.
Bottom Line: A solid second round pick, Allen will put up big-time points and threes while offering little risk to those who draft him.
5. Joe Johnson - Atlanta Hawks
Johnson went through some early growing pains with his new team but came on strong after the first month to live up to his preseason hype. Acting as the main playmaker, JJ turned himself into a dominant assist man, averaging 7.2 assists after the All-Star break. With the addition of Speedy Claxton, Johnson won’t have to be the main playmaker on the Hawks anymore. That, in turn, will decrease his assists, but he won’t turn the ball over as much and will increase his scoring, rebounding and three pointers. As the “man” in Atlanta, JJ should be a 20/5/5 guy while adding a bunch of threes and more than a steal per game.
Bottom Line: Johnson put up some huge numbers in his first season with the Hawks and is on his way to being mentioned in the same breath as Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and the rest of the dominant shooting guards.
6. Tracy McGrady - Houston Rockets
It’s hard to believe that in just one year Tracy McGrady could be considered injury prone. That’s what happens when you miss 37 games with a lingering back injury. Reportedly, T-Mac is feeling great and is ready to go after taking nearly three months off from basketball related activities. Still, when the words “chronic” and “back” are mentioned in the same sentence, one has to be worried about his ability to come back pain-free. Despite the injury concerns, T-Mac is way too talented to be overlooked in fantasy leagues. Even in a down year, he still averaged 24.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.6 threes and even tossed in 0.9 blocks for good measure. When healthy, T-Mac is as good as anyone in the game and can post Kobe Bryant-like stats for fantasy owners.
Bottom Line: High risk, high reward. The sting of last season won’t wear off too quickly for fantasy owners, and T-Mac could drop to the second round in 2006-07. If he does and can stay healthy, he’ll be a major steal.
Update: T-Mac is reportedly looking great and explosive during the first few days of training camp. If that puts to rest your concerns about his back, you may want to consider gambling on him in the second round. You might move him up a few notches on your cheat sheet and am hope to grab him at the end of the second or early third round.
7. Vince Carter - New Jersey Nets
When he’s motivated, Vince Carter is easily one of the best players in the NBA. Many will question his durability, toughness and leadership, but even his detractors wouldn’t dare question his game. With the Nets, Carter put up Tracy McGrady-esque numbers, scoring 24 points with nearly six boards, four assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 threes a game. He’ll even throw in some blocks for good measure, as he has averaged 0.9 blocks per game in his eight year career. It’s no coincidence that playing with Jason Kidd has helped Carter regain his status as one of the NBA’s top players. With the Nets lineup virtually unchanged, Carter will take on the same offensive responsibilities in New Jersey again this season.
Bottom Line: Once considered a major injury risk, Carter has missed just eight games during the last two seasons. The injury prone label is now behind him and even though he’s a no-brainer as a second round pick, he could fall into the third round. If he does, consider yourself lucky.
8. Jason Richardson - Golden State Warriors
A flashy player with great athleticism and the ability to jump out of the building, Jason Richardson has all the tools to be a superstar in the NBA. His style of play is reminiscent of a young Vince Carter with his high-flying dunks and ability to contribute in multiple categories. Now entering his 6th season as a pro, Richardson has matured and improved his game every year. J-Rich is a great option for points (23.2), rebounds (5.8), assists (3.1), steals (1.3) and threes (2.4). Most valuable for his improving three-point shooting, he’s also done a much better job in shot selection, culminating with a 44.6 percent from the floor last season. If there’s anything holding him back from becoming a fantasy superstar, it’s his dismal free throw percentage that stood at 67.3 percent last season.
Bottom Line: Don’t worry if you can’t land one of the elite shooting guards, Richardson is a great option after all the big names are off the board.
9. Michael Redd - Milwaukee Bucks
Like Ray Allen, Michael Redd has one of the game’s smoothest shots. Most valuable for his ability to score at will and drill the three, Redd had his best season as a pro, posting career highs in points (25.4), assists (2.9), steals (1.2) and free throw percentage (87.7 percent). With his all-around game coming into shape, Redd can no longer be considered just a two-category stud. The improvement didn’t come out of nowhere; his improved supporting cast certainly helped in the process. There aren’t many that can match Redd from the charity stripe. His 87.7 percent shooting percentage from the line ranked ninth in the NBA, and his 7.1 attempts per game makes him one of the most dominant free throw shooters in the fantasy game. Though T.J. Ford’s departure may hurt Redd a little, the addition of Charlie Villanueva will help, as opposing defenses will be forced to cover the versatile big man instead of doubling up on Redd.
Bottom Line: Redd’s reputation as a two-category specialist might push him into the fourth round in fantasy leagues. He’s a third round value, especially with his contributions in points, threes and free throw percentage.
10. Manu Ginobili - San Antonio Spurs
If only the playoffs counted in fantasy. Manu’s penchant for big-game heroics means little-to-nothing in the fantasy world, but the potential is truly salivating. Manu isn’t just clutch, though…his production in the playoffs can be traced back to an increase in minutes.
After proving himself on the game’s biggest stage, Manu Ginobili is ready to make the jump from solid fantasy performer to elite status. Most impressive about his playoff run was his playmaking ability. At times, he absolutely took over games, using his blazing speed to blow by defenders and create scoring opportunities. Although he only averaged 16 points, four rebounds and nearly four assists during the regular season, those numbers were weighed down by the fact that he played in less than 30 minutes a game. In the playoffs, he received 33.6 minutes and responded by scoring 20.8 points with 5.8 boards, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 threes while shooting more than 50 percent from the floor and near 80 percent from the line. Part of the statistical increase can be attributed to the fact that Ginobili is a clutch player, but the increase in minutes also played a large part in Manu’s dominance during the playoffs. It will be hard for San Antonio to keep Manu off the floor this year so expect to see his minutes climb to the 33-35 range.
Bottom Line: Manu has the ability to be an 18/5/5 player in this league, and he’ll be a dominant force in threes (1.3) and steals (1.6) while shooting great percentages. This is the year he breaks out in the fantasy world, and you’ll want him on your team when he does.
11. Raja Bell - Phoenix Suns
Filling the void left by the departure of Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, Raja Bell stepped in and became the beneficiary of increased playing time and Steve Nash's amazing talent for finding the open shooter. In Phoenix, Bell became one of Nash’s favorite targets and posted career highs in nearly every fantasy relevant category. With 14.7 points, 1.0 steals and 2.5 threes per game on 45.7 percent shooting from the floor, Bell turned in a highly efficient season. It wasn’t all Nash, though. Bell showed signs of breaking out in previous seasons; he just didn’t receive the minutes he needed to be productive. Though he won’t create his own shot, Bell has turned into a great spot-up shooter and will take advantage of Nash’s playmaking abilities again in 2006-07.
Bottom Line: With only 1.1 turnovers per game, Bell gets extra points in leagues that count turnovers. He won’t hurt you anywhere and will contribute favorably in points, threes and steals.
12. Larry Hughes - Cleveland Cavaliers
After a career year in Washington, Larry Hughes took his game to the Cleveland Cavaliers and struggled through an injury-plagued season. Missing games is familiar territory for Hughes as he’s reached 70-plus games just once in his eight-year career. Even when on the court last season, Hughes wasn’t his usual self, posting just 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 threes per game. Those numbers aren’t bad, but they’re not what his fantasy owners were expecting, either. He still has the talent, though. Remember, Hughes is just one year removed from a season in which he averaged 22.0 points, 6.3 boards, 4.7 assists, 1.0 threes and 2.8 steals for the Washington Wizards. Keep in mind that Hughes posted those numbers with both Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison taking shots away from him, so he has the potential to put up numbers even with Lebron James and Zydrunus Ilgauskus in the mix. When healthy, he’ll be a solid contributor across the board especially in steals, where he will challenge for the league lead.
Bottom Line: A huge injury risk, Hughes should be drafted with caution. That said, his potential is salivating if he’s healthy, making him worth the investment.
13. Stephen Jackson - Indiana Pacers
Jackson is always a quality option for points, steals and threes as he averaged 16.4 points, 3.9 boards, 1.3 steals and 1.4 threes per game for the Pacers in 2005-06. Despite that, his percentage from the floor stands at a paltry .411 and while his free throw percentage is solid (78.1 percent), he turns the ball over way too much for a shooting guard (2.5). This is not to mention he doesn’t offer much in terms assists. Regardless, Jackson is a prototypical SG for fantasy leaguers and his ability to put up at least a steal and three-pointer per game will prove valuable for your squad. The Pacers have thought about moving Jackson, but he still resides in Indiana as of press time and should post similar or better stats than last season with Peja Stojakovic in New Orleans/Oklahoma City.
Bottom Line: Keep an eye on how the Pacers use Marquis Daniels during preseason action. Daniels’ presence could reduce Jackson’s playing time, although it’s more likely he’ll be used as a point guard if Jamaal Tinsley struggles. Draft Jackson in the mid-rounds for his points, threes and steals but mark him down a tick in leagues that count turnovers.
Update: Uh, oh, another public relations nightmare for the Pacers. A recent run in with the law may have Jackson on the outs with Pacers upper management – particularly Larry Bird. Even if he did act out of self-defense and did nothing wrong at all, Jackson doesn’t have the luxury of getting the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this (given his inclusion in the melee at the Palace). Keep a close eye on how the Pacers react, and be ready to give Marquis Daniels a bump in value (even though Daniels was at the scene as well).
14. Cuttino Mobley - Los Angeles Clippers
Mobley, who averaged 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 threes per game for the Clips last year, will again help spread the court with his sharp-shooting abilities from downtown. Unfortunately, in an offense that focuses on Elton Brand and mid-range jumpers, Mobley hit on a career-low 1.1 three pointers per game. Still, Mobley is a fine option at shooting guard for his ability to excel in threes, points and steals and near 83 shooting percent from the free throw line. His rebounding is decent for a guard and he’ll probably pull in around 4 a game. He’ll fit in well on the Clippers and should be primed for another solid season.
Bottom Line: There’s little risk attached to Mobley as he’s usually healthy and consistently puts up numbers that we expect of him. If you’re looking to find a SG who will contribute in points, threes and steals, Mobley is your man.
15. Richard Hamilton - Detroit Pistons
Always a great option for points, steals and the percentages, Richard Hamilton put on a show last year, hitting on 49.1 percent of his shots from the floor and scoring a career high 20.1 points per game. His steals dropped from 1.0 per game to 0.7, but his range is subtly improving to the point where it’s within reason to see him hitting a three pointer per game. With Flip Saunders in and Larry Brown out, Rip was allowed more freedom on the offensive end and teamed with Chauncey Billups to form one of the highest scoring backcourts in the league. It’s true, he’s more valuable in real life than in the fantasy game…but he’s also a little underrated in fantasy leagues. His killer percentages set him apart from the crowd, especially considering the high volume of shots he takes from the floor every night.
Bottom Line: Not much risk here, Hamilton can be counted on as a solid fantasy producer. You’ll never have to worry about him taking a night off, as he’s one of the hardest working, most determined players in the game.
16. Ben Gordon - Chicago Bulls
A year after winning the Sixth Man award in his rookie season, Ben Gordon took his game to the next level with increased playing time. Showing the ability to score in waves and nail the three ball, Gordon thrived in the Bulls offense, scoring 16.9 points with 2.1 threes and 0.9 steals in 31 minutes per game. Gordon may increase his value if he could secure more playing time, but with the likes of Chris Duhon, Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni and Tyrus Thomas all fighting for minutes, he might not see as much playing time as we’d like. Still, he’s a great option for points, threes and steals. Like many of his counterparts, his field goal percentage is below average given the amount of shots he takes from beyond the arc, but he’ll balance that out by shooting nearly 80 percent from the free throw line.
Bottom Line: Gordon should be able to increase his scoring in his third year so expect around 17-18 points, three boards, three assists, 1.2 steals and more than two three pointers per game.
17. Bonzi Wells - Houston Rockets
Seeing a career high in minutes, Wells returned to fantasy dominance last season with the Kings. Unfortunately, various injuries allowed him to play in just 52 games on the year. In those games, however, Wells posted 13.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. He’s always been able to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He can use his size to back you down in the low post, or he can take you outside and hit a three pointer. He’s also a very good rebounder for a guard and is adept at creating steals on the defensive end. Wells will shoot a higher percentage than most of his counterparts, but his free throw shooting leaves a lot to be desired. In his eight-year career, he’s hit on just 71.2 percent of his free throws.
Bottom Line: As of press time, it is still unclear where Wells will end up this season. If he’s in a spot where he can secure playing time, he’ll be a great option for points, rebounds and steals from the shooting guard spot.
Update: And the winner is: the Houston Rockets. Signing Wells was a top priority for the Rockets, and even though he’ll start off as the sixth man, don't be surprised to see Bonzi in the starting lineup before too long. He already has a good rapport with Tracy McGrady, which can only be a good thing. He should have plenty of value on the defensive-minded Rockets.
18. Kevin Martin - Sacramento Kings
Benefiting from various injuries to Bonzi Wells, Martin came out of nowhere to be one of the top pickups in fantasy leagues last year. In 41 starts, he posted 13.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 threes and 0.9 steals per game, allowing the Kings to let Bonzi walk in the off-season. Instead, the Kings will rely on Martin and the newly acquired John Salmons to man the shooting guard position this season. Martin appears to be the frontrunner in the position battle and will have solid value in points, rebounds, steals and threes if he wins the gig.
Bottom Line: Pay close attention to the position battle between Martin and Salmons during preseason action. Martin makes for a great sleeper if he wins the job outright.
19. Brandon Roy - Portland Trail Blazers
Considered by many to be the most complete player in the 2006 NBA Draft, Brandon Roy will see a good chunk of playing time for the Portland Trailblazers this year. Roy is an exciting player that dominated the college game to the tune of 20.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 threes per game. He continued his strong play, receiving praise for his performance in the Vegas Summer League by posting 19.0 points, 3.4 boards, 3.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.8 threes in just 26.4 minutes per game. He’s showing the type of production that could make him a fantasy star in years to come.
Bottom Line: On the Blazers, Roy should see more playing time than any other rookie in the league. He’ll be the frontrunner for fantasy rookie of the year to start the season.
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