Fall is here, and that means the NBA season is right around the corner. In any fantasy sport, the draft is the most important part of building a winning team. If you’re not prepared, you’re going to be scrambling for the next five months to try to fix your team and make the playoffs.
In today’s NBA, guards are running wild like they never have before. Three-pointers are at an all-time high, and that seems to be said each passing season. Grabbing a couple of elite guards isn’t just recommended, it’s a viable part of building a successful fantasy basketball roster.
I’ve ranked the top 60 guards for the 2017-18 fantasy season below with analysis on select players.
Also, make sure to check out the 3 and D Podcast on Fantrax Radio and SoundCloud every Tuesday.
|26||Dennis Smith Jr.||DAL|
|33||Tim Hardaway Jr.||NY|
Basketball Rankings and Player Analysis
#1 Russell Westbrook – Westbrook put up a season for the ages last year. He landed his first MVP award and was the first player since Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season to average a triple-double for the entire season. With Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on board, it’s certainly going to ease the enormous load he had to carry last season. His points, rebounds, and assists will probably go down (only slightly), but with more help around him, his turnovers should drop and his shooting percentages should rise. He was already a monster last year, but now he should be a more efficient fantasy monster. He should be the first player off the board in drafts and shouldn’t fall any lower than third overall.
#2 James Harden – If it weren’t for Westbrook going postal on the rest of the NBA last season, Harden would’ve been the MVP. On top of that, he registered his best fantasy season to date. Harden finished with 29.1 PPG. 8.1 RBG, 11.2 APG, and 3.2 3PG. Like Westbrook, he had to shoulder the load on offense, so the turnovers were high and the shooting percentage wasn’t anything to write home about. Now with Chris Paul in town, Harden will have some help running the offense, which in turn, should make Harden a more efficient fantasy player. He’s a top-five pick in all formats.
#3 Stephen Curry – Well, it might not have been 30 points and five 3s per game, but 25 and four still made Curry a top-five fantasy performer last season. You know what you’re getting with Curry. He’s going to once again lead the NBA in makes from downtown and be one of the top 5-6 scorers in the league along with teammate Kevin Durant. His field goal percentage is relatively high for a high-volume shooter, and it’s incredibly rare for him to miss a free throw. Having Durant in town might drop Curry from the top overall pick discussion, but he should still go off the board in the middle of the first round.
#4 John Wall – Over the last three seasons, John Wall has gone from a really good point guard to one of the best in the NBA. His assists per game have risen in each of the last four seasons, and his 23.1 PPG last year was the highest of his career. He just seems to keep getting better and better. In addition to all of that, Wall is always near the top of the league in steals and his percentages are solid for a guard. The only two things we can really gripe about are his low output in 3s and his propensity to turn the ball over a lot. If you can live with those two things, though, then Wall is a guy you should consider in the back end of the first round or beginning of the second.
#5 Kyrie Irving – If you thought Irving was good in Cleveland, just wait until you see what he can do as the top dog in Boston. He was able to score over 25 PPG while playing second fiddle to LeBron the last few years, and now he’s playing 2nd fiddle to no one. That scoring should rise to around 27-28 PPG as a result of his probable higher usage rate in Boston this season. It wouldn’t be surprising if he eclipsed three 3s per game, either, after hitting 2.5 per game last season. This is going to be Irving’s best fantasy season to date. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
#6 Chris Paul – It’s hard to believe that this is going to be Chris Paul’s 13th season in the NBA. After splitting the last 12 seasons between New Orleans and Los Angeles, Paul now finds himself playing alongside James Harden in Houston’s backcourt. You can say all you want about Harden as a passer, but Houston needs him to be the primary scorer, so the ball will still be in Paul’s hands a lot to set up and run the offense. Due to that, I don’t expect his assists to drop at all. In fact, I think they’re going to rise back above 10 this season due to the presence of Harden. Pencil Paul in for around 18 points, 4-5 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and two 3s per game to go along with solid percentages and not too many turnovers. He’s a great selection in the second round.
#7 Damian Lillard – Although he doesn’t get quite as much pub as Irving, Damian Lillard is basically the Irving of the west when it comes to fantasy basketball. Their statistical performance and upside are very similar, but Irving gets the nod over Lillard due to his expected rise in usage rate and higher field goal percentage. Lillard had arguably his best fantasy season yet in 16-17 and looks poised for another strong season next to C.J. McCollum. He’s one of the best points and 3s asset in the game and chips in around five rebounds and six assists per game. The only knock on Lillard is his lack of defensive stats, but don’t let that stop you from selecting him in the second round.
#8 Jimmy Butler – This Minnesota team is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and Butler is going to be one of the biggest reasons why. He’s blossomed into one of the 20 best players in the game, and the arrow is still pointing up. In 2016-17, Butler posted career highs in many statistical categories. His end-of-season line was 23.9-6.2-5.5 with 1.9 steals and 1.2 3s to go along with strong percentages. His scoring shouldn’t be affected by the move to Minnesota, as he will still be one of the two go-to guys on this offense.
#9 Kyle Lowry – Lowry is another player that seems to get better each year and has really flourished these last few years in Toronto. Last season, Lowry ended with 22.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 7.0 APG, and 3.2 3s per game. All of those, except the assists, were career highs for Lowry. If he can keep the field goal percentage in the mid-40s and continue to shoot 3s at a high clip, Lowry will certainly return value on his third-round price tag.
#10 Kemba Walker – When you look at Walker’s stats, he’s basically Irving and Lillard but with less scoring. There’s no facet of Walker’s game that you can point at as a glaring weakness. He’s simply a well-rounded guard that is going to help you across the board (minus blocks) and won’t turn the ball over as much as most elite ballhandlers will. Pencil him in for 20-4-5 and two 3s with room for more.
#11 Gordon Hayward – We’re seven seasons into Gordon Hayward’s career, and his scoring has gone up each year. And guess what. It will probably go up again this season, too. He might not be the top option on offense, but Boston is going to rely on him to score a lot and provide some outside shooting as well. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if he scores around 24 per game with close to three 3s. Those, along with his usual five rebounds and four assists, make Hayward a great selection in the latter half of the second round or early part of the third.
#14 DeMar DeRozan – If he could manage to develop some sort of an outside game, DeRozan would be about four to five spots higher on this list at least. He was amongst the top five in the NBA last season in both scoring and usage. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, that didn’t translate into many makes from beyond the arc. At this point in his career, it’s unlikely that part of his game will develop much, and it really doesn’t need to. DeRozan is one of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the league and has been for a few years now. Pay for what he can give you and look for your 3s elsewhere.
#21 Devin Booker – If you’re looking for a guard that can score and rack up the 3ss, then Booker is your guy. He’s the top scoring option on a young Phoenix team and should continue to improve this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if he put up Klay Thompson numbers, and he can be had a few rounds later.
#22 Lonzo Ball – Trust me, I can’t stand the Ball family as much as the next guy, but don’t let the drama deter you from drafting Ball this season. This is a talented kid that is going to stuff the stat sheet on most nights. Expect the percentages to be a little low this season, but a stat line of 15 points, five rebounds, and seven assists per game is well within reach. That, plus the ability to add 1-1.5 steals and three-pointers per game, makes Ball an intriguing mid-round selection.
#24 Isaiah Thomas – A healthy Isaiah Thomas would be about 10 spots higher on this list, but a hip injury has made his Cavaliers debut an uncertainty. Even when healthy, his overall stat line is going to take a hit, as he’ll have LeBron James and Kevin Love taking away some of his shots on offense. A lower scoring Thomas is still a good fantasy asset, but it’s certainly going to be a step back for him this season. Expect around 22-24 PPG to go along with six assists and 2-3 3s per night. Just monitor his recovery closely before drafting him.
#26 Dennis Smith Jr. – A couple weeks ago on the 3 and D Podcast on Fantrax Radio, Jon Sauber and I unanimously selected Dennis Smith Jr. as our Rookie of the Year prediction. And all the reasons why we picked him are reasons why I’m ranking him this highly for fantasy. The kid is athletically gifted and can get into the paint with ease. The ball is going to be in his hands a lot this season, which will give a nice boost to his overall stat line. He might start a little slow and have a lower field goal percentage overall, but it wouldn’t surprise me if his final stat line was around 18-5-7 with around 1.5 3s and steals. Those numbers play very nicely in the middle rounds.
#32 Avery Bradley – After being mostly a defensive presence early in his career, Avery Bradley has developed his offensive game to the point where he’s a decent mid-round fantasy option. He’ll be one of the top offensive options in Detroit and could very well be the top option when it’s all said and done. Expect Bradley to improve across the board statistically and put up his best fantasy season to date. He’s one of my favorite guards to target in the middle rounds.
#47 Jeremy Lin – My favorite person each year in drafts is the one that drafts Jeremy Lin way higher than Lin should be drafted. Lin is a bench fantasy player or a utility starter at best. He doesn’t excel in any category, and his field goal percentage is usually on the lower end of the spectrum. Let someone else take Lin. He’s not worth it.
#50 Austin Rivers – With Chris Paul now in Houston, expect Rivers’ usage rate to rise this season as a full-time starter. He’ll start alongside Patrick Beverley, but we all know Beverley is a defense-first player. Rivers should be either the second or third scoring option on this team each game, and that should result in around 17-18 points per game with around 2.5 3s per game. Throw in a few rebounds, assists, and around 1.5 steals per game, and you have a solid late-round option.
I hope you can use these rankings to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.