- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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When scoping for shooting guards, we're typically looking for scorers who can hit the 3-pointer and create some steals. Think of a Jason Terry or Jamal Crawford type. These are your prototypical shooting guards, but if you really want value out of your shooting guard spot, you'll need to get more statistical diversity than just points, steals and 3s.
"Multicategoricalicity" is the new hit word here at ESPN, used to describe players who can contribute in multiple fantasy categories, and to be an elite shooting guard candidate, you'll need to bring some multicategoricalicity to the table in today's fantasy game. These are players who can give you the points, 3s, steals and free throw percentage we typically covet in a shooting guard, but can add rebounds or assists (or both).
It's these type of do-it-all guards and swingmen we should be targeting early in our drafts. In the middle rounds, we can fill out our rosters with prototypes like Crawford, Terry, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, John Salmons and Marcus Thornton depending on need. Lucky for us, there are quite a few athletic shooting guards (many of whom also qualify at small forward) in the first three tiers who can contribute across the board. Let's take a look at this season's crop of shooting guard candidates:
McKitish's shooting guard tiers
Entering his 15th professional season, Kobe Bryant has a lot of mileage on his 32-year-old body, but he has shown no signs of slowing down at this point in his career and doesn't figure to do so in 2010-11. I always like to grab players who don't just contribute but dominate multiple categories in the first round, and Bryant gets it done in nearly every fantasy category (other than blocks), making him a perfect first-round building block to anchor your squad. Given his consistency and dominance, I wouldn't hesitate to take him anywhere from fourth to sixth overall in this season's drafts. You might have heard that some guy named LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade in Miami during the offseason, but that likely won't drop Wade from elite status. History (the Big Three in Boston) tells us we should expect to see Wade's numbers suffer slightly, but he was operating at such a high level that a modest decrease in stats won't be enough to derail him from the list of elites. My favorite aspect of Wade's fantasy game is his ability to block shots (1.1 per game) from the shooting guard slot, and it's that type of unexpected production that makes Wade such a valuable fantasy commodity. Stephen Curry is discussed in the point guard positional preview, but I should note that his position eligibility at both PG and SG is a big plus.
Set back by a few nagging injuries, Brandon Roy did not live up to the lofty expectations set for him at the start of the 2009-10 season, but he enters camp healthy this year and should be on his way to a bounce-back season in 2010-11. When healthy, Roy has 20-point/5-rebound/5-assist potential, and provides more than a steal and 3-pointer per game while adding brilliant percentages. Andre Iguodala is one of my favorite fantasy players thanks to his durability and consistency. He has missed just six games in six seasons and hasn't averaged less than 17 points, 5 boards, 5 assists and 1.7 steals in any of his past four seasons. If you want to know the definition of "multicategoricalicity," I'm almost certain there's a picture of Iggy next to it in the ESPN.com dictionary. So many of us form our opinions about players in the postseason, and this is exactly why Joe Johnson can be found at a discounted price in fantasy drafts this season. All right, so JJ had a rough series against the Magic in the playoffs last season. So what? This guy has been fantasy gold for the past five seasons, so don't make the mistake of underrating him based on four bad games against a tough defensive unit. Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson are oh-so-close to Tier 2 that I almost included them, but Pierce is starting to show signs of slowing down and S-Jax doesn't do enough for me in field goal percentage or assists to warrant inclusion.
Manu Ginobili will see only about 27 to 30 minutes per night, but that won't stop him from putting up big-time fantasy numbers. Coach Gregg Popovich limits his minutes in an effort to keep him healthy, a strategy that allowed Ginobili to suit up for 75 games last season. I'm fine with that as long as it keeps him on the court, but only because he's so productive on a per-minute basis. It's a shame that Kevin Martin has played an average of just 52.7 games during his past three seasons, because he is dominant in points, 3-pointers and free throw percentage when he's on the court. If he suits up for 70 games or more, he's a Tier 2 type of player, so if you're feeling risky in the middle rounds, feel free to take the gamble. One injury-plagued season does not make a player injury-prone, but I get the feeling Eric Gordon is undervalued after missing 20 games with a few nagging injuries last season. He looked healthy for Team USA this summer and is a sneaky sleeper pick for the Clippers this season. It couldn't have been any worse for Ben Gordon in his first season as a Piston, but keep in mind that he was limited with groin and hamstring injuries for much of the 2009-10 season. Gordon, if healthy, could get back to averaging 20 points and 2-plus 3-pointers this season but is far from a lock from doing so. Risk versus reward, folks.
Terrence Williams stands to benefit the most from Courtney Lee's departure, and after he averaged 14.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game in April, it's easy to see why so many folks are high on him this season. With Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu gone, the Toronto Raptors will be looking for some offensive firepower and just might find it in newcomer Leandro Barbosa. Aptly named the "Brazilian Blur" due to his quickness, Barbosa will have plenty of opportunities in Toronto this season. Do not be surprised if he puts up 15 to 16 points with 1.5 3-pointers and a steal per game as a starter. I'd like to label second-year guard Marcus Thornton a sleeper, but I think the word is already out on him. Just be aware that his numbers after the All-Star break last season (20.3 points, 2.0 3-pointers and a steal) are likely his ceiling and the addition of Trevor Ariza could limit his upside.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
38mMichael C. Wright