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Fantasy Basketball Busts: Point Guards


Point guard is the deepest position in fantasy basketball. It’s so deep that you can find a high-upside guy like JA Morant in the middle rounds and reliable guys like Jeff Teague or Derrick Rose in the later rounds of drafts.

It’s so deep that you can find yourself ending up with a stud like De’Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell or Devin Booker after ten or 15 PG-eligible players have already gone off the board.

All of that is to say this: Don’t reach in drafts for point guards unless there's someone you love there. And don't reach for the guys below. While they could all end up having adequate seasons that help your team, they are all due for negative regression seasons and shouldn’t be banked on to justify what it will cost you to draft them.

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Jrue Holiday - New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday had a career-best season in many regards last year, a rare thing to see from someone in their 10th season. He averaged career highs in points per game (21.2), rebounds per game (5.0) and threes per game (1.8), while adding 7.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game. However, the Pelicans went through a roster overhaul this offseason and it’s likely going to result in a significantly lower usage rate for Holiday.

While the headline offseason acquisition of first overall pick Zion Williamson should help Holiday in the assist column, the additions of former Lakers Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram will complicate the ball-handling situation greatly. Ball does his best work when he’s handling the rock and Ingram is most effective when he’s creating on his own.

Holiday should still manage decent numbers on the year, probably something close to his career average of 15.6 points per game and 6.4 assists per game, but he figures to be drafted amongst the top-20 or top-25 players and that’s just too high of a price. Plus, there’s always a built-in injury risk for Holiday, who has reached 70 games just once in the past six seasons.

 

Russell Westbrook - Houston Rockets

This one might be the obvious one to many. If you draft Russell Westbrook expecting him to reach his season-average triple-double for a fourth straight season, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Westbrook’s been a fantasy monster for about a decade, but his days as being one of the top-5 or even top-10 overall players in fantasy are about to come to an end.

Houston is the most fantasy-friendly system in the league, but spearheading that system is fellow star guard James Harden. At best, Westbrook will be the 1B to Harden’s 1A. At worst, he’ll be the clear No. 2. And we’ve yet to see what Westbrook looks like, how he functions, in an offense that doesn’t exclusively run through him. Even during Kevin Durant’s tenure in Oklahoma City, Westbrook still dominated the ball before finding KD.

There’s also been a discouraging trend in Westbrook’s scoring the past three years. He averaged a career-best 31.6 points per game in 2016-17, then followed it up with 25.4 the next year and then 22.9 last year. That’s a drop of about nine points per game in just two years. Factor that in with diminished role alongside Harden, and you’ve got to hope for around 20 points per game this year at best. As for the other primary Westbrook stats, he could very well improve on his 1.6 threes per game last year in Houston’s system, but expect significant drop-offs in rebounds and assists, which were at 11.1 and 10.7 per game, respectively, last year. 20 points per game with about five rebounds and five assists per game is about the best you can hope for. Still great numbers, but they don’t justify drafting Westbrook as high as you’d need to in order to get him.

 

Trae Young - Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young took both the NBA world and fantasy world by storm as a rookie last year, far outperforming preseason expectations by averaging 19.1 points per game, 8.1 assists per game and 1.9 threes per game. As a result, his draft stock is skyrocketing heading into 2019-20. The big question, however, is how the league is going to respond now that the word is out on Young and a year’s worth of game tape on the rookie’s success is available for coaching staffs to dissect.

Young’s usage rate should again be through-the-roof this year, and that gives him a relatively comfortable floor in counting stats like points, assists and threes, but it’s also a scary thing for field goal percentage and turnovers. Young shot 41.8 percent from the field and averaged 3.8 turnovers per game last year, two extremely concerning numbers. And this year, he could very well end up hurting you in those stats even more. For any owners who are willing to sacrifice those two stats, he’s a fine target on draft day, but for anyone looking for balance or efficiency, he should be avoided.

 

Mike Conley - Utah Jazz

The veteran guard was a fantastic offseason addition for the Jazz, but the fantasy fit couldn’t have been much worse for the soon-to-be 32-year-old. Mike Conley was the standalone primary ball-handler for the Grizzlies for over a decade, but now he’ll be greatly sharing those duties with star guard Donovan Mitchell. Certainly it’ll be a nice change of pace for Conley to have Mitchell to take a load off his shoulders, but the situation is an unfortunate turn in fantasy terms.

Conley averaged a career-high 21.1 points per game last year while adding 6.4 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game and 2.2 threes per game. While those latter two stats could stay around the same clips this year, you have to expect the first two (points and assists) to go down somewhat significantly, especially points. Conley’s scoring outburst last year and in his previous healthy year (2016-17) were out of character compared to his career average of 14.9 points per game. Expect him to be closer to that career clip this year. He’ll help you with free throws and provide around five assists per game, but he isn’t worthy of a top-50 pick and that’s what it could cost to draft him.

 

Chris Paul - Oklahoma City Thunder

There’s no shortage of worrisome signs for the new Thunder guard. Chris Paul turned 34 in May and he’s coming off a year where he averaged the fewest points per game in his career (15.6), had the lowest field goal percentage in his career (41.9 percent) and struggled to stay on the court due to injuries (58 games played). Additionally, he’s going to be surrounded by the weakest supporting cast he’s had since his time in New Orleans, nearly a decade ago.

While the weak supporting cast should allow for Paul to have a high usage this year, the question that remains is simply this: What does 34-year-old Chris Paul look like with high usage? As long as Paul stays healthy – which is a big question in and of itself – then there’s good reason to believe he should put up adequate numbers in the range of about 17 points per game, 6.5 assists per game, two threes per game and 1.5 steals per game. But those aren’t numbers you should be reaching for on draft day, especially when those are essentially best case scenario projections. Don't spend a top-50 pick on Paul. Go another way with that selection and cover your point guard needs in later rounds.

 

Kyle Lowry - Toronto Raptors

To stick with the trend of aging star point guards, the newly-minted NBA champion Kyle Lowry is another star with a significant risk of not performing to his draft-day value. Lowry’s 14.2 points per game and 41.1% field goal percentage last year were his lowest clips since his first year with the Raptors, 2012-13. He made up for it with his stellar 8.7 assists per game, but with a Finals MVP-sized hole in the middle of the team’s roster this next year, assists are going to be quite a bit harder to come by.

Lowry’s a gamer and a fierce competitor who will give everything he’s got until he’s no longer wanted in this league, but his fantasy upside going forward is limited, especially considering his draft day price. With Kawhi Leonard gone, expect Lowry to get his points per game back up to around 16, but his assists will probably drop to around six per game and his field goal percentage could continue trending downward to around 40 percent as well.

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