- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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If you've been reading up on our Draft Kit this year, chances are you already know that we like to place a premium on point guards here at ESPN. In the past, mock drafting with our panel of columnists was almost comical as the top point guards flew off the board early and often.
But this season might be different. You see, this season's class of point guards is incredibly deep. In fact, in our initial mock draft, players like Rodney Stuckey, Jose Calderon, Mike Conley, Jameer Nelson, Andre Miller, Beno Udrih and Jarrett Jack were all drafted after Round 9. Round 9! That's awfully late for quality point guards like these guys, no?
Now, I'm not going to change my draft strategy too much because point guards are essential in the fantasy game, but I will tweak it a bit. I'll still be looking to grab at least two point guards in the top three tiers, but I may reach earlier for quality big men knowing that I can get solid point men later in the draft.
With that said, let's check in on the 2010-11 point guard landscape:
McKitish's point guard tiers
If it weren't for last season's ankle injury, Chris Paul would easily be in a class of his own. Some might be worried about his so-called "injury history," but those same people may be forgetting that this is a guy who has averaged 75 games played in his first four seasons. Whether you are worried about injuries or not (I certainly am not), one thing is clear: When CP3 is on the court, he's easily the best fantasy point guard option. There's simply no comparison. Deron Williams isn't as flashy or as dominant as Paul, but he's as consistent as they come after three straight seasons posting at least 18 points, 10 assists, 1.1 steals and a 3-pointer with fantastic percentages. He'll likely be drafted late in the first round, but if you're the type that likes to minimize risk early in your drafts, Williams would even make for a fine mid-first-round selection thanks to his durability and consistency. Some are skeptical about Stephen Curry's ability to duplicate his spectacular rookie-season numbers, but I haven't heard a valid argument yet that has convinced me that Curry can't repeat in his sophomore campaign. In fact, Curry is so young and talented that he could even improve upon his rookie numbers, as hard as that is to believe. And no, I'm not all that worried about Don Nelson's departure, either.
The Next Generation
I could write a book about how much I love Tyreke Evans, but I'll keep it short and sweet. This is a kid who averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, added in 1.5 steals and even hit 0.5 3-pointers while blocking 0.4 shots per game in his rookie season. What's not to like? Even better, he's just 21 years old and spent the offseason working on his outside shot. Needless to say, the sky is the limit for Evans. Russell Westbrook took some big strides forward in his sophomore campaign, culminating in a brilliant postseason effort in six games against the world champion Lakers. Anyone who watched that series (or has watched him play at all) knows that he has the skills to take his game to another level, and there's no reason to think that he won't in his third professional season. Expect big things, particularly in assists, steals and points. How can you not love a guy who averaged 18.8 points, 9.1 assists, 1.4 steals and a 3-pointer in 37 starts as a rookie, and now enters the season as the unquestioned starter on a team with limited offensive options? I am, of course, speaking of Pacers point guard Darren Collison, who was the offseason's biggest fantasy winner. Collison may not be able to duplicate those kinds of numbers for a full season, but he'll for sure be a top point guard option in fantasy leagues. Houston point guard Aaron Brooks had his breakout year a season ago, but he's still awfully underrated for a guy who led the league in 3-pointers made. The fact that he's listed here in Tier 3 is a testament to the depth of the point guard position this season. I know John Wall is a rookie, but that didn't stop guys like Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans or Brandon Jennings from taking fantasy leagues by storm last season, did it? Wall is as dynamic of an athlete as you'll see and his skill set translates very well in the fantasy game. In fact, by this time next year, Wall could be considered a first- or second-tier point guard.
Oldies but Goodies
We keep waiting for Steve Nash (36) and Jason Kidd (37) to show their ages, but the ageless wonders continue to defy odds, showing few signs of slowing down. Some may be concerned about Nash's poor second-half splits last season, but he was dealing with a back injury and showed that he still has more than just a little left in the tank during the Suns' playoff run. As for Kidd, well, he's coming off one of his best fantasy seasons after finishing eighth on our Player Rater in 2009-10. Do not make the mistake of undervaluing him due to his age. Chauncey Billups (33) isn't as old as Kidd and Nash, but he's been a top-five point guard for so long that it almost feels as if he is. Durable and consistent, Chauncey is as safe of a selection as you'll find in the fantasy game.
If Mike D'Antoni could turn Chris Duhon into a viable fantasy option, he shouldn't have a problem turning a player with the talent of Raymond Felton into a borderline upper-echelon point guard in his offensive scheme. Felton has the ability to contribute in points, assists, steals and 3-pointers and should be in line for his best season yet in New York. The Philadelphia 76ers have committed to Jrue Holiday as their point guard of the future after the 20-year-old posted 11.9 points, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 3-pointers after the All-Star break last season. New head coach Doug Collins thinks that Holiday should be a top-five point guard in the NBA, and while that seems like a fairly ridiculous claim, it does show just how highly some folks think of this kid. You may not have noticed it, but Beno Udrih was a monster in Sacramento after Kevin Martin's departure. Udrih formed a great rapport with Tyreke Evans in the backcourt and averaged a cool 14.8 points, 6.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 3-pointers in 41 starts for the Kings last season. He'll get a chance to be a full-time starter from the get-go this season, making him a solid sleeper candidate in 2010-11.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.