Welcome to the 2015-16 fantasy basketball season. Over the next five weeks I will be releasing my positional tiers to lead you straight into your fantasy drafts.
Rankings form a guide to base a player's value when drafting, but don't discount the importance of positional tiers when searching for a particular need. It is crucial to know how many players in a certain position are still available.
Using tiers can highlight what type of player you may need to reach for and what stats you can find later in your drafts.
Positional tiers will also prevent stress come draft day. Preparation is key. Once those middle rounds come and you need to choose between Mike Conley or Goran Dragic, Chandler Parson or Nicolas Batum, having done your research prior and knowing who you have ranked higher or which player suits your team better, is going to make your decision fairly easy.
To prevent confusion, the players in my tiers are listed in the position which they appear in Rotowire's depth charts. Underneath each tier you will find a paragraph with my thoughts and comments on those particular players.
If you have any fantasy basketball questions or comments follow me on twitter at SmanSports.
Today, we begin with Point Guards.
- Stephen CurryGolden State Warriors
- Russell WestbrookOklahoma City Thunder
- Chis PaulLos Angeles Clippers
- John WallWashington Wizards
These four players enter the season as the best point guards in the game.
Steph Curry should not fall out of the top 3 in any format and will aim to replicate his MVP season.
Russell Westbrook will go back to his 2012-2013/2013-2014 production if Kevin Durant is healthy, but will still remain the second best point guard. If Durant does miss games then Westbrook takes over, like he did over the second half of last season. Either way, it is a win-win situation.
Chris Paul played a full season for the first time in his career last season and has a clean bill of health coming into this season. He still has a couple of elite seasons left in him.
John Wall could very well lead the league in the two hardest categories to find in fantasy basketball - assists and steals - and I don’t understand why he would fall outside the first round in any draft.
- Kyrie IrvingCleveland Cavaliers
- Damian LillardPortland Trail Blazers
- Eric BledsoePhoenix Suns
- Kyle LowryToronto Raptors
- Jeff TeagueAtlanta Hawks
If you miss out on a Tier 1 guy then make sure you select one of these players in the next two rounds.
Kyrie Irving comes with injury risk and there are already reports he could miss the start of the season. Until we get official word out of the Cavalier's camp though, he belongs in this group. He finished a top 10 player last season and should be around that mark again if he can play 70 games this season.
Damian Lillard is the last man standing in Portland which is a serious concern for his field goal percentage. I wrote about his outlook for this season without LaMarcus Aldridge and co. over the off-season here.
Eric Bledsoe was one of only four player last season to average at least five assists, five rebounds, 1.5 steals and one three pointer per game (James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James were the others). Further solidifying his value, Bledsoe did not miss a game due to injury giving potential owner’s confidence when drafting him.
Kyle Lowry has the best assists/steals/threes combo of this group, but like Irving comes with some injury concern. Lowry offers very good value in the third round and should put up similar numbers to last season.
Jeff Teague is the safest pick in this tier and will have another strong season. It wouldn't surprise me to see an uptick in points and three-pointers with DeMarre Carroll now in Toronto, and Kyle Korver coming off ankle and elbow surgery this offseason.
- Reggie JacksonDetroit Pistons
- Mike ConleyMemphis Grizzlies
- Goran DragicMiami Heat
The Pistons did not give Reggie Jackson an $80 million dollar contract to come off the bench (insert Tristan Thompson joke here - if/when he signs). Brandon Jennings is rehabilitating from an Achilles injury and is out of contract at the end of the season, so I expect to see Jackson retain the starters’ role and play a minimum of 30 minutes per game. In 27 games with the Pistons last season Jackson averaged 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 9.2 assists and a three per game in 32 minutes. Expect something similar this season.
Goran Dragic and Mike Conley were both disappointing last season and will likely slide down draft boards because of it. Both have playoff bound teams around them and provide solid assists, threes and steals with quality percentages. They can, and should, make their way back into the tier above and look good value in rounds four or five.
- Kemba WalkerCharlotte Hornets
- Isaiah ThomasBoston Celtics
- Michael Carter-WilliamsMilwaukee Bucks
- Jrue HolidayNew Orleans Pelicans
- Ricky RubioMinnesota Timberwolves
- Derrick RoseChicago Bulls
- Deron WilliamsDallas Mavericks
Kemba Walker tempts owners every season with his potential, then breaks their hearts (mine included). Averaging five assists per game while shooting 38 percent from the field isn't going to cut it for a guy that should be a genuine second option point guard. I am not investing until I see those categories significantly improving.
Isaiah Thomas is the standout in this tier and if he can see more playing time, just 26 minutes last season under Brad Stevens, he will definitely out play his average draft position. Right now it sounds like he will come off the bench in Boston, but do not let that deter you.
Jason Kidd should challenge Carter-Williams to lead the league in assists (and forget about shooting). The Bucks will be the Atlanta Hawks from last season with their starting five all having great value. Carter-Williams has a copious amount of young talent around him and a quality big man to feed which should see him put up career high assist numbers with his usual counting stats.
Jrue Holiday, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams are a case of the walking wounded. Holiday is a clear standout and if he can ever put together a full season would leap up a tier or two. Rubio and Rose have had a terrible run of luck and the most optimistic of owners (not me) will draft them in the mid-rounds. Williams is an interesting mid-round option. He could thrive in a new environment under Rick Carlisle with shooters around him like Wes Matthews, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki. Time will tell how long his ankles last though.
- D'Angelo RussellLos Angeles Lakers
- Jarrett JackBrooklyn Nets
- George HillIndiana Pacers
- Elfrid PaytonOrlando Magic
- Emmanuel MudiayDenver Nuggets
D’Angelo Russell should begin his rookie campaign as a starter at Staples Center. He will be fighting for the ball with Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant which will limit his value. If you draft him in the 70-80 range you will probably breakeven in regards to a return on your investment.
Jarrett Jack averaged 16 points and 6.6 assists as a starter last season. Expect something similar with Deron Williams now in Dallas. Jack will be one of the better late round point guard assist options when the cupboard is usually bare.
George Hill resumes his point guard role in Indiana, but expect the majority of the offensive usage to go through newly acquired Monta Ellis, and Paul George. This may increase Hill's three-pointers, but don't expect him to average over a hand full of assists this season.
Like most rookies, Elfrid Payton did his best work in the final months of the season averaging 11 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 2.1 steals after the All-star break. New Orlando Coach, Scott Skiles (who holds the record for most assists in an NBA game at 30) should be a great fit and aid Payton's development. His very poor efficiency makes him difficult to own in Roto leagues though.
Emmanuel Mudiay should see big minutes in Denver, with Jameer Nelson his only real threat to playing time. Mudiay's counting stats will provide a positive contribution to any fantasy team, just be aware of low efficiency and a high turnover count.
- Rajon RondoSacramento Kings
- Darren CollisonSacramento Kings
- Mo WilliamsCleveland Cavaliers
- Marcus SmartBoston Celtics
- Ty LawsonHouston Rockets
- Tony WrotenPhiladelphia 76ers
- Dennis SchroderAtlanta Hawks
- Tony ParkerSan Antonio Spurs
- Jose CalderonNew York Knicks
- Patrick MillsSan Antonio Spurs
- Aaron BrooksChicago Bulls
- Patrick BeverleyHouston Rockets
- Brandon JenningsDetroit Pistons
- Isaiah CanaanPhiladelphia 76ers
- Trey BurkeUtah Jazz
Rajon Rondo brings the fuel to the George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins fire. How this plays out is anyone's guess, but one thing is for sure, it will be entertaining! Rondo has not played more than 68 games per season over the last five seasons and his only contributing factor in the fantasy world is assists. You would want to be pretty desperate to draft him.
Do not completely write off Darren Collison in Sacramento either. There is a chance Collison and Rondo can play together in the back court, or if the Rondo experiment doesn’t work then Collison will take the reins once again.
Mo Williams value is tied to Kyrie Irving's health. When Kyrie is fit, William’s should be on the waiver wire in standard leagues. However, if Irving does miss time then Williams becomes a must own in all leagues and his value jumps up a couple of tiers.
Marcus Smart had some genuine limitations in his rookie season, with his value only coming from his steals and threes. He will need to seriously improve his assists and efficiency to become a reliable option. It's also difficult to see how he plays more minutes in a Brad Steven's backcourt rotation featuring Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.
Ty Lawson has some off-court issues to deal with before we even discuss basketball. In my opinion he should come off of bench and lead the second unit, but regardless, his usage will bottom out on James Harden's team. If you draft him inside the top 80, I think you’ll be greatly disappointed.
Tony Wroten will need to show he is fully recovered from his torn ACL injury and fight off competition from Isaiah Canaan and Pierre Jackson during training camp to open the season as the starting point guard. Fully fit, he should see 30 minutes of playing time per night which was enough to put up 17 points, 6 assists and 2 steals over the early part of last season. His shooting on high volume is about and bad as they come so draft with caution.
Dennis Schroder played 23 minutes per game after the All-star break last season and averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 1.2 threes. I'd like to see the Hawks try and play Schroder and Teague together more (even if it makes for a seriously small backcourt) and it may well happen at times moving Korver to small forward. Schroder is worth a selection in your final couple of picks as he has more upside than these veterans.
Tony Parker and Jose Calderon are for you guys that like it vanilla. They won't win you fantasy leagues, but at least you know what you are going to get - including suppressed minutes and DNPs.
Trey Burke will likely start for the Jazz, as Dante Exum tore his ACL in the offseason, but Burke just isn’t worth drafting inside the top 180.
The other guys in this tier should all find themselves in limited roles. Draft them as a handcuff in deeper leagues or be prepared to pounce in standard leagues should the starter in front of them miss time.
Sleeper alert: Patrick Mills. Parker could very well drop to around 26 minutes per game this season. In 2013-2014, prior to Mills injuring his shoulder, he averaged 16 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 threes and 0.9 steals in 23 minutes during February. Best of all, he shot 48.7 percent from the field on nearly 13 attempts. Mills will be one of the better streaming options this season and will be standard league worthy come the end of the season when Greg Popovich limits his starters' minutes.