NBA: Pre-Season Point Guard Rankings

Ryan Newell
10/23/15

Here is the first installment of our NBA Positional Preview, where we rank each positional group according to tiers. (This group includes the team’s primary point guard; combo guards with dual elgibility at shooting guard, such as Victor Oladipo or Brandon Knight, will be included in the shooting guard group.) Our introductory group is the NBA’s deepest pool of players, point guards:

Also Receiving Votes:

  • Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics
  • Patrick Beverly – Houston Rockets
  • Jordan Clarkson – Los Angeles Lakers
  • Tony Wroten, Pierre Jackson – Philadelphia 76ers

None of the aforementioned players will be starting (or in Smart’s case, getting the most minutes at the 1) come opening tip. In Beverly’s case, there’s a glimmer of hope he can take away minutes from Ty Lawson, should the former Tar Heel slip into his former bad habits. The offensive minded Wroten and Jackson, meanwhile, have a chance to eventually usurp the inefficient Isaiah Canaan as starter.

  • Raul Neto – Utah Jazz

Tier #7: “The Warm Bodies”

If the point guard position in the NBA were not the deepest position group in the league, a couple of these players would be higher. This group is either a mix of inefficient, inconsistent, or old.

30.) Trey Burke – Utah Jazz

29.) Jose Calderon – New York Knicks

28.) Jarrett Jack – Brooklyn Nets

27.) Isaiah Canaan – Philadelphia 76ers 

For now, Canaan is the best pick of this tier almost by default. As the starting PG on the moribund 76ers, Canaan will have plenty of opportunities to rack up points in Brett Brown’s run and gun offense. While Canaan is not a particularly effective shooter, he fits in well with Brown’s system, which is similar to that in Houston; high volume 3-pointers and layups. Canaan is only a 38% shooter from the floor but makes his 3’s at a 37% clip, which helps make up for his dismal FG%.
Tier #6: “The Young Guns”

These talented former lottery picks have tremendous potential but still need more development.

26.) D’Angelo Russell – Los Angeles Lakers

25.) Elfrid Payton – Orlando Magic

24.) Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets 

While Russell has the best shooting touch of the three and Payton has one full season under his belt, Mudiay has the highest upside as he has the keys to drive the Nuggets’ offense. Mudiay, one of the top recruits in his high school class and a possible #1 overall pick heading into last season, saw his draft stock tumble after deciding to forego the NCAA to play in China. In his lone season in the Chinese Basketball Association, Mudiay averaged 18.0 PPG, 5.9 APG, and 6.3 RPG, albeit it was against very inferior competition compared to the NBA. Mudiay’s weaknesses in his rookie season will be his shooting percentages and turnovers; however, his upside, athleticism, and high usage in Denver’s up tempo offense should make him worth a late round flier.

 

Tier #5: “The Non-Shooters Division”

A group of tremendous passers who are not perfect fits for the pace n’ space era of the NBA.

23.) Ricky Rubio – Minnesota Timberwolves

22.) Rajon Rondo – Sacramento Kings

21.) Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets

20.) Reggie Jackson – Detroit Pistons

19.) Michael Carter-Williams – Milwaukee Bucks 

MCW would be higher on this list if he were still a Sixer, where he had the opportunity to put up great stats on a bad team. This year’s version is a slightly more efficient (42.9 FG% and 78.0 FT%) but lower usage player. Carter-Williams has the highest upside out of this tier of players. Walker’s Hornets play at a painfully slow pace and just lost their best wing player (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) for the season. Jackson has yet to demonstrate an ability to get to the line or shoot from distance and may disappoint after a massive new contract. Rubio is a pass first point guard who has been one of the worst shooters in the league while Rondo is a massive question mark and is entering a possibly toxic situation with similarly bullheaded George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins. Carter-Williams will improve this year under the tutelage of Milwaukee head coach Jason Kidd, who had a similar skillset during his Hall of Fame career.

 

Tier #4: “The Question Marks”  

This group of point guards includes dynamic playmakers who have been slowed by injury, fit, or age. There is some upside with this group based off past returns, but only at the right value.

18.) Deron Williams – Dallas Mavericks 

It is easy to forget now, but there was once debate in NBA circles around who is the better point guard: “Chris Paul or Deron Williams?” That debate has long been settled, but it is not hard to envision a bounce back for Williams. While injury has been the main deterrent to Williams returning to All-Star form, Williams has been quoted lately as wanting to return back to a heavily structured system similar to that under Jerry Sloan. Rick Carlisle is a top 5 tactician in the NBA and could be breath of fresh air for Williams, who will also receive a boost from returning home and lower expectations. A great buy-low candidate.

17.) Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs

16.) Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans

15.) Ty Lawson – Houston Rockets

14.) Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls

13.) Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers 

Irving would normally be a Top 5 Point Guard. However, there were rumblings this summer that Kyrie could be out until January. Expect Irving to be out until December, at the earliest.

 

Tier #3: “The Middle Class”

A group of consistent floor generals who will give you good numbers across the board with limited durability questions.

12.) George Hill – Indiana Pacers

11.) Jeff Teague – Atlanta Hawks

10.) Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics 

Isaiah Thomas, while not the starting point guard for the C’s, is an unrepentant gunner who may have found a home after a tumultuous single season as part of the three-headed point guard monster in Phoenix. Thomas will likely play close to 30 minutes a game and average nearly 20 points per, while also average 36% from 3 for his career. Thomas’ value increases greatly if he gets bumped into the starting role above Marcus Smart, as he averages 23 PPG, 6 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per 36 minutes.

9.) Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors

8.) Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies

 

Tier #2: “The Second Tier”

This tier of point guards put up star caliber numbers but are a step below elite status. Some may be a year away from superstar status or may be in an expanding offensive role this season.

7.) Goran Dragic – Miami Heat

6.) Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns

5.) John Wall – Washington Wizards

4.) Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers 

With the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, Big Game Dame is now the man in the Rose City. The new responsibility for Lillard is more than just symbolic, as Lillard will be needed for higher usage and a greater scoring burden to help replace Aldridge’s 23.4 PPG last season. Aldridge is not the only departed piece from last year’s playoff team, as Portland also let go Nic Batum, Arron Afflalo, and Wesley Matthews. Expect Lillard’s percentages to go down and his points per game and attempts to go up, paving the way for a breakout fantasy season.

 

Tier #1 “The Point Gods”

This tier is reserved for the best of the best, the elite superstars of NBA Point Guards.

3.) Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers

2.) Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder

1.) Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors 

At this point, with three players who are *this good*, you are basically nitpicking. Chris Paul has been the preeminent point guard of his generation, but is now on the wrong side of 30 and has bouts with injuries in previous seasons.

Russell Westbrook put up an Iversonian usage rate of 38.2 last season without running mate Kevin Durant while coming in second in the league in PER (29.12). It is doubtful that Westbrook continues his absurd numbers and streak of triple doubles due to Durant’s return, but expect much of that to be mitigated under Billy Donovan’s innovative offensive system. 

Stephen Curry is a no doubt fantasy stud and is locked in to be your overall fantasy #1 pick. The reigning MVP has left his early career injury concerns behind and should be a safe bet to play 75 plus games. Curry was 5th in the league in True Shooting Percentage (.638) and 3rd in PER (28.06) and flirted with the 50/40/90 club. Curry has also continued to improve his defense, improving his steal rate to 2.0 per game. Expect Curry’s numbers to improve slightly across the board. With a more competitive West, the Warriors will give Curry more minutes per game instead of benching him during 4th quarter blow outs.

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