Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Point Guards
As fantasy basketball players formulate strategies and review what went wrong (or right, if you were so lucky) last season, we want to help you out for the upcoming season. We are proceeding as if the 2011-12 NBA season will commence as usual. Perhaps all 82 games are in jeopardy, or perhaps not…but we’ll side with the theory that gives us a viable fantasy basketball season.
HOOPSWORLD kicks off a new fantasy series highlighting players per position who could impact the fantasy world in the upcoming season. Today we look at the point guard position. We’ll bypass the obvious mainstays that occupy the draft wish list of all fantasy owners in that position (Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, et al.) and instead concentrate on those new-to-fantasy players who are becoming – or should become – relevant movers and shakers in the wonderful world of fantasy basketball.
Ricky Rubio – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves’ patience should pay off as Rubio, the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft, finally makes his way to America this season. Jonny Flynn was shipped to Houston to prepare for his arrival, so only 30-year-old Luke Ridnour will compete against 20-year-old Rubio for minutes at point guard. Look for Rubio to send Ridnour to a reserve role in short order.
While the previous hoopla surrounding Rubio has dulled during the waiting period, expectations remain high. What should fantasy owners expect from Rubio as he joins a team with last season’s league-worst record (17-65) and an unnamed head coach?
First we must determine how his European game might translate to the NBA.
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus has a nifty way of predicting how Euroleague players should pan out in the NBA. Using his method (which assumes 30.4 average minutes), Rubio is projected to have this stat line: 8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 7.3 apg and 1.8 spg. Another thing to consider is the fact he’s a pretty good free-throw shooter and his turnovers have improved.
Rubio has taken a beating for his disappointing season with Barcelona last season; truth be told, he hasn’t hit his 2008-09 numbers (10.0 ppg/6.1 apg, 2.2 spg/.423 three-pointer percentage) in the past two seasons. Rubio is more of a distributor than a scorer, which can hurt owners in a nine-category league.
He makes our list because of the enticing potential he presents this season. The Wolves are sure to showcase him early and often throughout the year; in other words, he will get every opportunity to develop into the floor general of this team’s future.
John Wall – Washington Wizards
Though Blake Griffin ran away with 2011 Rookie of the Year honors, Wall (last years’ number one draft pick) put up rookie numbers worthy of the honor. Few can forget the triple-double he recorded in his sixth NBA game.
What the average fan may not know is that Wall possesses that certain attribute fantasy owners crave: the ability to contribute in multiple categories. Not only did his scoring (16.4 ppg) and dishing (8.3 apg – league-ranked 7th) turn heads last season, he can steal (1.8 spg), rebound (4.6 rpg) and shoot free throws (4.4 per game at .766 percentage). He gets minutes, too (37.8 mpg). What’s more, Wall estimates he played at 85% following an early foot injury that limited him to 69 games.
The question begs: now healthy and another year older, what kind of numbers will he log next season?
He wants to improve his game every year and told Michael Lee of the Washington Post this: “‘Like Derrick (Rose), he got better every year. Like (Russell) Westbrook, he got better every year. Those type of guys, I want to be in a category with those types of guys in the next two or three years.”
“Everything I didn’t do good this year, you’re going to see me get better at next season,” he added.
That attitude is refreshing; fortunately, Wall knows the areas that need improvement. Last season, he averaged .409 in field-goal percentage, .296 in three-point percentage and committed 3.8 turnovers per game. He indicated his summer would be devoted to working on his jumper and ball-handling, as well as his confidence which he admits contributed to some of the afore-mentioned issues last season.
Kyle Lowry – Houston Rockets
It would be a fascinating study to see how many fantasy owners had back-up point guard Lowry on their team at the start of last season compared to how many owned him around, say, mid-November.
Of the 237 games Lowry appeared in prior to last season, he started in 30 of them. Further, he averaged 22.2 minutes in those 237 games, posting 3.7 average assists, 7.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and .4 three-pointers. Respectable numbers to be sure, but things changed when he got his chance following the Aaron Brooks injury. Lowry proceeded to prove he was the real deal, pushing through an injury to eventually supplant Brooks. His ownership of the position was solidified with the mid-season trade of Brooks. That trade yielded the Suns’ Goran Dragic, who now backs up Lowry.
Lowry finished the season with 13.5 points, 6.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 three-pointers – all career-highs (except he tied with his rookie year in steals). He started in 71 of 75 games played. His best work came after the All-Star break which should flow nicely into the upcoming season.
Jrue Holiday – Philadelphia 76ers
Holiday continues to fly under the radar, but that’s undoubtedly going to change. Picked 17th in the 2009 NBA Draft (just a couple weeks after turning 20 years old), his rookie year wasn’t exactly stellar in the fantasy world (8.0 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.6 rpg, .756 free throw percentage in 24.2 minutes).
However, his game grew tremendously last season under new coach Doug Collins; he was given the starting role in all 82 games. He began slowly, and ended the year at 14.0 ppg, 6.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 4.0 rpg and .823 free throw percentage in 35.4 minutes.
His composure wowed everyone in his first-ever playoffs against the Miami HEAT. In five games, his average scoring shot up to 14.2, steals rose to 2.0 and he averaged 2.2 three-pointers at .524 shooting.
Everything is in place for Holiday to make a third-year jump.
J.J. Barea – Dallas Mavericks
The 27-year-old made a name for himself last year in Dallas, especially in the postseason run that led to a championship title. Barea is an unrestricted free agent, and it’s no secret Dallas wants him back, and it appears mutual. He’s next in line after a 38-year-old Jason Kidd (7.9 ppg, 8.2 apg), who’s missed only five games over the past three years. One would think he’s ready to starting easing up on the minutes.
That’s where Barea may come in. Though he averaged only 20.6 minutes last year, he logged 9.5 points, 3.9 assists, .847 free throw percentage and .439 field goal percentage. He’s tough (remember the clothesline incident?) and such a pesky-type player, teams have trouble stopping him. Expect his soaring confidence and new-earned respect to translate to better fantasy numbers.
Other point guards that have the potential to impact fantasy basketball include new rookies Kemba Walker (Charlotte), Brandon Knight (Detroit) and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland). It all depends on the guys in front of them and if they take advantage when opportunities are presented. Norris Cole (Miami) is one to watch as well.
Be sure to check out our next installment soon on Fantasy Movers & Shakers: Shooting Guards.