NBA Fantasy Forecast: Chris Paul and the Top 10 Fantasy Point Guards Next Season
With the 2011 NBA Draft under wraps, the casual fan now has nothing to look forward to for the next few months—that is, if a season is actually going to happen.
But for the rest of us diehard NBA fans, it is time to start gearing up for the offseason. We will follow our respective favorite teams closely while we vehemently over-analyze every impending decision our favorite GMs make in regards to our favorite lineups, contracts and our prospective free agents.
The offseason is just as exciting as the regular season because anybody who has a competitive nature wants to see their favorite teams succeed during both occasions.
Now, some diehard fans have more of a competitive nature than others, myself included. For these fans, this is not just the offseason for the cool, respected side of the NBA, but also for the geekier, more judgmental side.
Yes, I'm talking about fantasy basketball, where diehard fans and geeky statisticians unite to compete against each other in a relentless 18-week season, and where only the smartest and bravest self-made GMs make it out alive.
And with the NBA becoming a more point guard-dominated league, this was not an easy list. Here are some honorable mentions:
Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Jrue Holiday, Devon Harris, Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker.
Without further ado, here are next season's projected top point guards.
10. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
As long as Steve Nash is in the league, there is no doubt he will be a top-value fantasy point guard.
ESPN writer Brian McKitish currently has Nash ranked as his seventh-best point guard in his top-150, and I think that may be a little high.
While Nash continues to be a great source of assists and percentages, his scoring has gradually slipped, and that could be due to the lack of low-post presence he had without Amar'e in town.
Nash rarely gets injured, and his consistency is treasured among the fantasy world. He would be higher on my list, but I think it's about time for the two-time MVP to start fading.
With Aaron Brooks, who is a more than capable back-up point guard looming in his shadows, a lack of a low-post presence and a team that's very much in rebuilding mode, Nash could quickly see his fantasy prowess take a hit.
9. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
As far as "reaches" go when ranking players for fantasy basketball, Conley may be the biggest "reach" on the list.
While Conley's last season's averages were, well, average, the growth, leadership and maturity he showed in the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder were a hopeful sign of things to come.
Conley's average averages last season happened to be the best of his career with 13.5 points per game and 6.5 assists per game.
With Zach Randolph establishing himself as one of the best power forwards in the league, Conley has been lucky enough to be surrounded by impact players at every position.
Rudy Gay's return next season will only leave the door more open for Conley to improve his stats, and the leadership he showed in the playoffs will come in handy as he will try to march the Grizzlies right back to where they left off.
Conley is going to be a "sleeper" in this year's fantasy draft.
8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry has had an exceptional first two seasons in regards to both the NBA and the fantasy world.
Last season Curry was one of the highest selected point guards in every fantasy draft, and he didn't disappoint. He averaged 18.6 points per game, 5.8 assists per game and 3.9 rebounds per game in his second season at Golden State.
His shooting percentages went up, including his free-throw percentage, a remarkable 93 percent.
So, why is Curry not higher on this list? He certainly plays in the right system to be a fantasy all-star.
That is, until the hiring of Mark Jackson.
With Jackson being awarded his first head coaching job, he is likely going to want to make some changes.
First, he wants to make the team more defensive-minded, which is the correct thing to do in regards to winning basketball games.
However, a more defensive-minded Warriors team doesn't bode well for Curry's fantasy stats.
Secondly, by drafting shooting guard Klay Thompson, many believe this means Monta Ellis is definitely out of Golden State.
Normally, having your team's leading scorer leave town would mean good things for the team's second-leading scorer, but not in this case.
The dynamic Curry and Ellis had will not be able to be matched by Curry and Thompson. Ellis' refined scoring ability gave Curry a plethora of open jump shots, as well as easier access to create his own shot.
Thompson is primarily a shooter with nowhere near the offensive game Ellis has. Curry will be hounded more by defenses, and while his stats may remain decent, his fantasy line is sure to suffer.
7. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Last year, the Big Three in Boston immediately became the Big Four, with the inclusion of budding star point guard Rajon Rondo.
Rondo is a pretty mysterious player. He is one of the best passers in the league, and while he continues to get grief for his lack of a jump shot, Rondo has a career 49 percent shooting percentage.
While he absolutely needs to work on his three-point shooting, Rondo happens to provide a lot more than most to the fantasy court.
He is a great defensive point guard, as he averaged 2.3 steals per game the last two seasons. Also, when I said he was one of the best passers in the league, that also doesn't go unnoticed, as he was second in the league last season in assists, averaging 11.2 per game.
Rondo showed his toughness in the playoffs by playing through a dislocated elbow. The guy couldn't even straighten his arm, and he still averaged a near double-double throughout the postseason!
Rondo will have to continue to develop his jump shot though if he wants to remain a fantasy star. With the former Big Three continually aging, Rondo has to step up, as the torch will be directly passed down to him.
6. Raymond Felton, Portland Trail Blazers
Having Felton this high may be a bit of a reach as well, but I really like him running the show in Portland.
With Patrick Mills as his backup, Felton is sure to see the bulk of the minutes at point guard, something he had to share with Ty Lawson while in Denver.
Can you remember Felton getting the bulk of the minutes while playing in New York last season? The guy was a fantasy All-Star and one of the biggest actual All-Star snubs the league had to offer.
Of course, his inflated production was a product of the D'Antoni system, something many fantasy All-Stars are akin to.
But I really like what's around him in Portland. Surely, without Andre Miller running the point, Portland will regain some of their run-and-gun style. This would certainly bode will for Felton's production, both in points and assists.
Felton has a plethora of shooters to pass to in Portland, and one of the most improved power forwards in the league in LaMarcus Aldridge.
Felton is bound to turn some heads this season, just like he was doing in New York.
5. John Wall, Washington Wizards
As the ROY runner-up, Wall definitely put up the statistics to prove he is in fact the real deal.
In his rookie campaign, Wall averaged 16.4 points per game, 8.3 assists per game and 4.6 rebounds per game. Not to mention, he did all this playing for a very young, inexperienced team.
With the Wizards having one of the best drafts of 2011, Wall has the chance to improve on all of his already-great stats.
Nick Young and Jordan Crawford proved to be two emerging scorers who will be around the league for quite some time, and Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee provide Wall a great low-post tandem to play through.
One thing Wall definitely needs to work on are his percentages. He barely shot 30 percent from deep last season and only 41 percent from the floor. He also could use a bump to his free-throw percentage, as he shot only 77 percent from the line last season.
Wall will be ready to take the next step in his career, and his sophomore season should prove to be on the fantasy all-star level.
4. Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets
Can you tell that the NBA has become more point guard dominated when Deron Williams is only the fourth-best option as your fantasy point guard?
I just don't think he'll have the same fantasy output in New Jersey that he had in Utah. He has good posts to work with in Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez, plus some good shooters to kick out to in Anthony Morrow and newly-drafted Marshon Brooks, but something tells me it's not going to be enough.
Williams only played 12 games for New Jersey before getting injured, but in that time, he saw his point production slip by three points per game and his shooting percentage decrease by 11 percent! And for as much as Williams enjoys shooting three-pointers, he only shot 27 percent from deep while playing for the Nets.
The offense relies too much on him. It's just not a great situation to be in for a fantasy season. Don't get me wrong, though, he's still valuable enough to be taken in the first two rounds.
There is absolutely no denying Deron's great overall game. He can shoot, he can pass, he can slash, he can board, he can play defense—but it's not enough to get him by the next three candidates.
3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook faced a lot of scrutiny during the playoffs for taking too many shots, but where were these critics during the regular season?
Westbrook averaged 17 shots per game during the regular season, while shooting a respectable 44 percent from the field. In the postseason, where the Thunder needed him the most, Westbrook averaged 20 shots per game.
That's only three more per game than in the regular season, and they were the most important games of the season! The critics need to realize that the Thunder's offense runs directly through Kevin Durant, and if Durant can't get open, then it usually falls on Russ to create his own shot.
That's just bad half-court offense, not bad decision-making on Russ' part.
Now, after that semi-rant, we can get down to business. Russ averaged career highs in both points and assists last season with 21.9 points per game and 8.2 assists per game. He is only getting better.
With James Harden (hopefully) moving into the starting lineup, Westbrook will finally have another offensive-minded player on the floor with him and Durant during most of the game. This will benefit every statistic fantasy basketball has to offer.
Westbrook has a great opportunity to heighten his percentages while averaging a double-double next season.
2. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
So how can the league's reigning MVP not be the best candidate for your fantasy point guard?
The guy ahead of him happens to be the best point guard in the league.
In fact, during Rose's MVP season, he actually averaged the same shooting percentages as Russell Westbrook, while averaging fewer rebounds and assists per game.
But his 25 points per game average and his ability to put the Bulls on his back for most of the season became an instant attraction for all MVP voters.
His ability to score is unmatched by almost all other point guards in the league. Westbrook, Williams and the No. 1 point guard on this list are the only ones who come close.
What Rose has going for him that Westbrook doesn't, though, is he is his team's No. 1 option.
Rose averaged 20 shots per game during the regular season and 24 shots per game in the postseason with the exact same averages as Russ, but the MVP garnered zero scrutiny, solely because he was his team's most attractive scoring option.
All that aside, Rose is still a first-round pick—likely a top five pick—and the second-best point guard available in the draft.
1. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
This may be Paul's last season in a Hornets jersey, and that has the potential to mean a few different things in terms of both the NBA and the fantasy world.
Paul has been the best point guard option in fantasy basketball over the last few years. His percentages are always great, and he, like Rose, is usually his team's best available scoring option.
While Paul has had a great sidekick in David West, he has yet to be surrounded by as many options as other point guards are—again, Derrick Rose comes to mind.
But Paul is of the Steve Nash mold, where all the little things he does on the court seems to make the players around him a lot better than they should be.
He made Tyson Chandler a household name by throwing him oop after oop. He gave Marcus Thornton a chance to shine as a shooting guard, and he has made an undersized Emeka Okafor a threat to score under the basket every time down the court.
Even with the lack of support, Paul makes his team a contender, as evidenced when he almost beat the Lakers single-handedly in the playoffs.
If Paul were to be traded to a "real" contender with more options, there's no telling what his stats would look like.
He has averaged a double-double the last four years in the league, and he is the best point guard available.