Fantasy Focus: Shooting Guards
It’s hard to believe over one month of NBA games are already in the books. Using this partial sampling size, today we examine the shooting guard position in fantasy play. We’ll break it down in three distinct categories in this position: notable standouts, shooting guards who have lived up to their Draft Day hype, and SG’s who have proven to be clear disappointments to those general managers that secured them on their roster.
Here is HOOPSWORLD’s preseason ranking for all guards, which we will use as a starting point. As always, we assume a nine-category league (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage) when talking fantasy basketball. Please note that we considered players with eligibility in the shooting guard position in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
(Note – All stats represent games played through 2/2/12)
Exceeding (Even Extreme) Expectations:
Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
With a refreshed right knee and messed-up wrist, Bryant is still the top shooting guard in the league. His fantasy numbers this season are out of control. In 38.0 average minutes, he’s posted 30.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 threes, 45.5% in field goal shooting and 84.1% in free throw efficiency. If we must point to anything negative, it’s his turnovers (3.8) reaching the highest number in seven years and 28.0% in three-point shooting. Back to the positives: Bryant, now in his 16th year, is leading the league in points per game at 33 years of age. He hasn’t logged this type of scoring since the 2006-07 season. Even his assists and boards haven’t been at this level in years. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 26.3 –ranked fourth in the league – is the highest since 2005-06. His Usage Percentage leads the league at 38.6%. Best of all, Bryant plays through anything. Bank on it.
James Harden – Oklahoma City Thunder
Talk about a third-year jump for a player who seems destined to capture the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season. He took advantage of the increased minutes awarded to him following the Jeff Green trade in early 2011, and the trend has carried over to this season. In 30.4 average minutes so far, he’s averaging 16.1 points, 3.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 threes. He excels at getting to the foul line (5.5 per game at 85.3%), has a surprisingly good turnover rate for one who touches the ball so much (1.8 pg) and a nice field goal shooting percentage (45.9%). Harden simply rewards fantasy owners across the board. He just needs to figure out how to remain consistent on the road.
MarShon Brooks – New Jersey Nets
Even though Brooks is currently sidelined with a fractured toe, his impressive efforts cannot go unnoticed on this list. The 23-year-old rookie has logged 14.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 three-pointers and 45.9% field goal percentage in 17 games. He takes care of the ball (1.4 turnovers) and averages 1.1 steals per game. He’s started in nine of his last eleven games and averages 29.4 minutes. Picked 25th in the 2011 draft, Brooks’ NBA stats are remarkably similar to his four-year career average at Providence. An exact timetable has not been disclosed for his return, but he may be cleared to shoot next week. He previously missed three games with an Achilles injury; both injuries appear to be more a case of bad luck rather than a worrisome pattern.
Tony Allen – Memphis Grizzlies
The defensive specialist has evolved into an offensive contributor as well. Still starting over O.J. Mayo, Allen has seen a real increase in production since the Zach Randolph injury. In fact, in the past five outings, he’s logged 13.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.0 blocks and has connected on 23-of-27 free throw shots.
Living Up to the Hype / Par for the Course Thus Far:
Dwyane Wade – Miami HEAT
Wade has to be inserted in this category even though some of his numbers are down this year; however his downs are representative of many players’ career highs. A disappointing-to-owners ankle injury has limited him to appearing in just 13 of 22 games played. And while certain season averages have fallen (20.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 44.6% FG this season vs. 25.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 50.0% FG last season), his assists, steals, blocks and free-throw shooting percentage are up, while turnovers have decreased. Also noteworthy, his 33.8 minutes per game is a career low.
Monta Ellis – Golden State Warriors
While Ellis’ points are down from last season (24.1 ppg to 21.5 ppg thus far), he’s ranked second among shooting guards in this category. His assists have jumped to a career-high 6.7 per game (leading the leagues’ shooting guards) over 5.6 last season. Owners must live with his 3.6 turnovers and decreasing field goal/three-point percentages as well as lowered board and steals. Keep in mind he adds more to the stat line when Stephen Curry is out. With Curry’s injury history, Ellis proves a very valuable commodity.
Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs / Eric Gordon – New Orleans Hornets
The two make our list together since they have played in only seven games, in total, due to injury. And in those seven games, they’ve showed why they belong on any fantasy team. Ginobili logged career-high shooting percentages in field goals (59.2%), free throws (93.8%) and three-pointers (51.9%). We’re not just talking slightly higher numbers here. Check those same percentages last year, respectively: 43.3%, 87.1%, 34.9%. Before the broken hand occurred, he had recorded his highest three-pointers per game (2.8) ever; his average points were equal to last season’s (17.4). Ginobili is expected to return sometime this month to the delight of those fantasy owners who stashed him.
New Hornet Gordon appeared in just two games before an apparent knee contusion sidelined him, and his numbers were impressive. Unfortunately he may not return for another three to six weeks. With the exception of assists (2.0), Gordon was putting up similar numbers as posted with the Clippers. Obviously, we have especially small sample sizes with which to assess these players, but their histories speak volumes.
Jason Terry – Dallas Mavericks
Terry, now in his thirteenth year, is having another remarkable season. Who doesn’t feel certain every time he hoists the ball, it’s going in the hole? The 6’2” 34-year-old guard, at 176 pounds, still wreaks serious havoc with a basketball in his hands. To fantasy owners, he’s reliable with his numbers and rarely misses a game. In addition to consistency in points (15.3 ppg) this season, he gives you assists (3.6), steals (1.3) and nice three-point shooting (2.1 pg at 38.1%); it’s been a few years since he hit those type of long-distance numbers.
Joe Johnson – Atlanta Hawks
Johnson has reward the fantasy game with solid offensive numbers. When Al Horford was sidelined, his numbers markedly improved. In the first eleven games with Horford in the game, he posted 16.7 ppg, and in the twelve games without him, Johnson has logged 20.6 ppg. Overall, he’s also averaged 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 three-pointers.
Gerald Henderson – Charlotte Bobcats
Another third year jump – though it’s traced to increased playing time – appears to be revealing itself. Henderson leads Charlotte in scoring (15.0 ppg) and minutes per game (33.8). Last year he posted 9.6 ppg in 24.4 minutes. Naturally, one would expect a jump in production commiserate with increased time on the court. The Bobcats are presently ranked dead last in the entire NBA league (3-20); but this hardly matters in fantasy games. What does matter is Henderson’s ability to keep healthy. He has dealt with back troubles, and now a hamstring issue is expected to sideline him for two to four weeks.
Danilo Gallinari – Denver Nuggets: Gallinari has increased from 14.7 ppg last season to a team-high 17.5 ppg. His three-point efficiency could be better (33.3%), but he’s solid in boards (5.4), career-high assists (2.7) and free throw shooting (89.1% – another team high). (writer’s note – Gallinari primarily plays SF)
Kevin Martin – Houston Rockets: The dreaded plantar fasciitis has been attached to his name, but he’s posting career-high three-point shots (2.5) and contributes nicely across the board.
Anthony Morrow – New Jersey Nets: Although he’s playing over three minutes less than last year, his numbers remain consistent.
Ray Allen – Boston Celtics: How does the veteran, now in his 16th year, still shoot so well? Don’t question it, just be thankful for his shooting percentages (51.2% FG, 2.6 three-pointers at 56.4% and 90.0% in free throws).
Nick Young – Washington Wizards: He’s mostly a scorer (16.8 ppg), and remarkably consistent in other categories.
Jason Richardson – Orlando Magic
His minutes have decreased over five minutes per game from last year, but a drop in points (15.6 last season, combining both Phoenix and Orlando, to 9.9 this season) is disappointing. His 1.1 three-pointers is the lowest since the 2003-04 season. Another startling fall is in free throw shooting (a sad 57.1%) along with decreases across the board.
Stephen Jackson – Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee experiment has not gone well. Amid league and team suspensions and evidently falling out of favor with coach Scott Skiles, talented-yet-frustrated Jackson is not posting numbers we’ve come to expect. In 18 games, he’s averaged 12.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.1 apg and a career-low 36.2% in field goal shooting. Compare that to 18.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.6 apg and 41.1% FG last year in Charlotte. The unpredictability with his situation spells madness for whoever owns him. Trade speculations are definitely heating up; keep a watchful eye around March 15th.
John Salmons – Sacramento Kings
Salmons, in his Sacramento return, should be posting better numbers than this: 7.6 ppg, 1.8 assists, 37.1% in field goals (career low), 75.5% free throw shooting (lowest in ten years). Despite the teams’ crowded backcourt, he’s playing a healthy 28.8 minutes. In an encouraging turn, he did just post a season-high 19 points and eight rebounds in the Kings recent win over Portland. We’ll need to see more of this from the starter to move him out of the “disappointing” category.
It will be interesting for fantasy owners to monitor these players through the coming months and compare to this initial assessment.
Which shooting guards have surprised you so far this season?