1. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns: You may have heard of this guy: the league’s best pure passer, shoots the lights out from the field and charity stripe, nails a few three-pointers every game, stays relatively healthy, and is the safest bet as the top fantasy hoops PG. Yes, He of the Countless Nicknames, just below, fills up the box score with more chutzpah, but the insane 53.2% FG, 90% FT, and 11.6 assists/per will go a long, long way towards helping you win categories that many of your fellow combatants overlook on draft day. Okay, these are all lies–he’s only here because he’s white. Rrrrrrraaaacial.
2. Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards: The field-goal percentage and the fact he’s coming of major knee surgery are the only things that keep him out of the top spot. He’s in a contract year, which could mean two things: he’ll be very motivated to perform on a level deserving of the max contract he so desires and he will likely not jeopardize his health if/when complications flare up from the surgery. You know we’re not fans of drafting guys with potential injury problems that could nag them all season (see Chris Bosh), but it’s hard to pass up Arenas after he averaged 28.4 points, 6.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals last year—even if he shot 41.8% on 20.9 field goal attempts.
3. Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets: Every year we expect the stats to fall off a cliff, and every year we’re wrong. It’s time to accept that he’s a basketball cyborg and move on. The lower back pain will probably bother him all year, but he’s played through these kinds of ailments before. You have to love having a PG who averaged damn near a triple-double in 06/07 with 13 points, 8.2 boards (!), and 9.2 assists. The field-goal percentage isn’t so hot (40%), but you can live with it. The return of a healthy Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic could help push him back over 10 feeds/per.
4. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz: He’s for real, and he has the potential to be a more athletic John Stockton in Sloan’s offense (if less tenacious and clutch). There’s some differing views out there on the third-year player’s fantasy prospects, but we’re buying. For him to truly warrant this preseason rank, however, he’ll need to bump up his below-average 74.7% free-throw average, toss in another three-pointer to push him to about 2 per, and maintain, if not add to, his 80 overall steals in 06/07. Great talent around him, especially if Okur and Boozer stay healthy, AK-47 keeps his head in it, and Ronnie Brewer takes the next step.
5. Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons: Mr. Big Shot experienced somewhat of a down year in 06/07, most notably in his three-point shooting percentage (down almost 10 points to 34.5% compared to 05/06), assists (1.4 decrease) and points (1.5 drop). You’ll struggle to find a more consistent, heady fantasy player at his position over the past four or five years, however, and we think he’ll rebound with a nice overall effort in his sixth season with the Pistons. Preseason comments from him indicate he’ll be more aggressive in going to the hole, which should mean more free throws for this 88.2% career shooter.
6. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets: Man, the talent is tantalizing and if he plays a full season Paul has the potential to finish among the top 15 players in fantasy hoops, but do you want to be the guy who bets on him playing a full season? Unless he’s significantly sliding, the answer for us is probably not. He’ll probably never be much of a three-point shooter (something you like from your PG1), but the 8.9 assists, 1.8 steals, and 84% FT are pretty swell. He needs Peja on the court.
7. Baron Davis, Golden State Warriors: Davis put up the best overall numbers of his eight-year NBA run thanks to the magic of Don Nelson’s high-falootin’ offense last season. He averaged a career-best 43.9% FG, upped his FT percentage by 7 points compared to 05/06 (still a sub-par 74.5%), and put up 20 points and 8 assists. The turnovers are still a major cancer though, and he hasn’t played a full season since 01/02, missing 19 games last year. We admit we have a soft spot for ol’ Baron, and are pulling for him to have another big season and lead the Warriors into the postseason.
8. Allen Iverson, Denver Nuggets: With Steve Blake gone and Chucky Atkins hobbling already, AI will start the season at the point and he could be absolute dynamite in his first full season for the Nugs. He seems to be taking the team’s postseason loss to the Spurs personally and will take more control of this squad after doing his best, especially for him, to just be one of the guys and not create any kind of controversy with Carmelo. But let’s not kid ourselves: even after he joined Denver, Iverson still averaged nearly 25 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.8 steals. The high turnovers (4) are a problem, but we expect him to get that free-throw percentage back up to around 80% this season.
9. Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls: We’re personally not huge fans, but Hinrich looks to take another step up as the Bulls fashion themselves legitimate contenders in the East. His fantasy production has been pretty remarkable for a team with no legitimate scoring presence down low. Since joining the league in ’03, he’s seen his FG and FT percentages and points increase every season while maintaining about 2 three-pointers, 6.5 assists, just over 1 steal per. There’s really very few drawbacks to his game, and guys who can be solid in all categories without killing you in any are very valuable indeed.
10. Andre Miller, Philadelphia 76ers: After joining the Sixers midway through the season last year in the big Iverson deal, Miller stayed pretty consistent with his new team, experiencing slight dips in assists and shooting percentage and tiny increases in points and free-throw shooting. He’s a pure point who throws one of the best alley-oops in the NBA and is always going to be a solid source of assists. Beyond Andre Iguodala, however, his supporting cast is a very real concern and will likely limit his fantasy production.
11. Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix Suns: He’s 100% Brazilian Sex in a 6’3″ bottle, and last season owners lucky enough to scoop him up either very late in the draft or on waivers were rewarded with 18.1 points, 2.4 three-pointers, 4 assists, and 1.2 steals a night. He likely would be a few spots higher here if not for the presence of Grant Hill, who’ll take away some time at SG. Still, we all know Hill can’t hold up for an entire season, and Barbosa is one Nash injury away from becoming a very solid PG1.
12. Raymond Felton, Charlotte Bobcats: Here’s a sleeper alert: Felton has the tools to be a top-10 PG. Caveat: if he doesn’t get a jumper, the FG% will ruin you. Over his first two seasons in the league, the fifth-overall pick of the ’05 draft has shot just 38.7%, which has a lot to do with him chucking almost four 3-pointers a game. We’re hoping that with the more accomplished long-range shooter Jason Richardson now in the lineup, he’ll tone that down, pick his spots, and focus on feeding Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor. He’s talented enough to average 10 feeds/per (7 last season), and we have to think he’ll improve his FT % too.
13. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spur: Depending on your team strategy, Parker can be a great asset or a real anchor. We’re not fans of him and his rapping and his overdone wife, but his consistency over the past five seasons is pretty remarkable. Love his 52% FG on 12.2 shots/per last year, and just under 19 points is great, but the three-pointers (0.2), FT% (78.3), and even assists (5.5) are unremarkable at best.
14. Mike Bibby, Sacramento Kings: Bibby was terrible to start the year after surgery, but even when he got it going after the All-Star break he was still a shadow of his former self–and his assists actually fell to 3.8 in the second half. Bibby was disgruntled all season and finished with career-lows of 4.7 assists and 40.4% FGs and his lowest scoring average since the injury-plagued 2002-03 season, 17.1. He still managed a useful 2.1 three-pointers, 1.1 steals and 83% FTs on 4.2 attempts, but he didn’t play up to his ADP. His value would likely be higher if he was moved to Cleveland, the hot rumor last year.
15. T.J. Ford, Toronto Raptors: Ford is as quick to the basket as any player in the NBA, and that’s a good thing because his jumper leaves a lot to be desired. He’s also fighting super-sub Jose Calderon for minutes every night, but Ford is an elite source of assists (5th in the NBA) and puts up decent steal totals (24th in the league). He turns the ball over a bunch (3.1 per last season), but the FT% is strong (81.9%) and the FG% has improved every year (43.6% last year).
16. Maurice “Albion” Williams, Milwaukee Bucks: Mo is a very strong offensive player who really came into his own last season (during a contract year, mind you). He’s still just 24 years old so we should expect a modest improvement on last season’s 17.3 points, 6.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 three-pointers and 4.8 rebounds. The Bucks are slowly trying to maybe kind of sort of build a respectable, competitive team, and Williams will be a part of it if/when it happens.
17. Randy Foye, Minnesota Timberwolves: With Mike James set to resume his sulking in Houston, not Minneapolis, Foye is a prime breakout candidate who should see plenty of opportunity for a young, exciting, rebuilding and not-very-good franchise. He had flashes of brilliance in his rookie season, showing he’s not afraid to take (and make) big shots. Expect a significant increase across the stat sheet–including turnovers–and with Sebastian Telfair backing him up, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him average upwards of 34 minutes/per.
18. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics: Rondo is one of our favorite PG “sleepers” coming into the season–how can the guy not average at least 7.5 assists a game with sharp-shooters Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the wing and KG in the post? He won’t be asked to do much more than feed the Celts’ fancy Money Players, but should see overall improvements with Delonte West no longer in the mix. Assists and steals are his strengths by far, and Rondo could be among the NBA’s leading thieves.
19. Stephon Marbury, New York Knicks: Marbury has been all over the map this offseason, from bizarre interviews with local media to claiming he’s going to Europe next season. The Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown tenures have not been kind to his fantasy game, and 30-year-old Stephon is coming off two of his worst seasons as a pro. He’s still going to give you serviceable assists, but the FT%, FG%, steals and points have really fallen off.
20. Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers: Derek Fisher returns to LA as their starting point, and he should put up good-not-great numbers across the board with consistent minutes. Jordan Farmar simply isn’t ready to carry much of the load, and the veteran Fisher can still find the open man and knock down jumpers from all over. Expect something in the neighborhood of 13 points, 5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 three-pointers on solid FT% and less than stellar FG%. Not bad, though, for a guy who’ll likely be overlooked in most drafts.
21. Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic
22. Chucky Atkins, Denver Nuggets
23. Devin Harris, Dallas Mavericks
24. Luke Ridnour, Seattle Supersonics
25. Jarrett Jack, Portland Trail Blazers
26. Acie Law IV, Atlanta Hawks
27. Jose Calderon, Toronto Raptors
28. Jamaal Tinsley, Indiana Pacers
29. Steve Blake, Portland Trail Blazers
30. Sam Cassell, Los Angeles Clippers
All ETB Fantasy Hoops Rankings:
Top 150 Overall (Coming Soon)