by Ray Lin
All three of the expected top fantasy point guards are coming off legitimate injuries — not the kind of security you’d want from a first-round pick. And yet, that’s where we find ourselves at the “one” going into the 2013-2014 season. Despite missing 12 games with a knee ailment last year, Chris Paul returns to his perennial throne atop most point guard rankings and a consensus Top-3 overall pick.
After CP3, though, things get a little hairy. Kyrie Irving is not far behind, but for the time being the debate remains one between Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. Both are coming off of not-so-minor injuries. Curry and his cranky ankle never seem to get along — after a red-hot start to the playoffs, it eventually knocked him out and subsequently dashed the Warriors’ chances against the Spurs.
Westbrook, meanwhile, tore the meniscus in his right knee against the Rockets in April and missed the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Here are the arguments for each of them as the runner-up point guard in fantasy hoops.
The Case for Stephen Curry
Call him what you will — the Darren McFadden or Troy Tulowitzki of fantasy basketball. If Curry’s health (read: his ankle) could be guaranteed over the course of a full season, it’s not insane to imagine him finishing as the #1 overall player in fantasy. The Mario half of the “Splash Brothers” is arguably the best pure shooter in the game who can single-handedly win 3PT and FT% categories for owners. What becomes frustrating for owners is his balky ankle, which seems to be the bane of his and his owners’ existence every single year. Luckily, despite injuring his ankle yet again in the playoffs, it wasn’t a significant injury requiring extensive offseason rehab as he has in recent years past.
He recently told the San Jose Mercury News that not having to rehab this offseason will allow him to come to camp in “top physical shape”. It’s hard to believe it 100%, but owners who aren’t afraid to take a slight chance on Curry could reap some huge rewards. After putting up a monster fantasy line of 22.9 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 3PM and 1.6 spg, expectations of a healthy Curry are very high to match that production this year
The dimes probably aren’t sustainable since GM Bob Myers added “point forward” Andre Iguodala, who’s expected to be a key playmaker, but he should be able to put up similar numbers in all of the other categories. Assuming David Lee and Andrew Bogut are over the hump with their own injuries, expect the Warriors’ offensive rebounding to improve and provide even more shot opportunities for Curry.
The Case for Russell Westbrook
Westbrook was in the middle of putting together another stellar campaign (including career highs in threes and rebounds) before it was cut short in a knee collision with Houston guard Patrick Beverley that knocked him out through the playoffs. It probably would have sounded ridiculous to say prior to the 2012-2013 season, but Westbrook has more serious injury concerns approaching Opening Day than Curry does. The most recent news conference from OKC GM Sam Presti were not very reassuring, in which he said there was no timetable for Westbrook’s full recovery and that he was extremely questionable for the first game in Utah.
He’s had no setbacks during his rehab, but fantasy owners would still be taking on considerable risk in selecting Westbrook (whose ADP is still in the mid-late first round). When he’s standing on two strong knees, Westbrook is a fantasy force at the PG position. He’s been the top-scoring point guard the past two seasons, and finished only behind 2011 MVP Derrick Rose the year prior to that. On the other side of the ball, he’s also been the best rebounder at his position for four straight years (averaging a career-best mark of 5.2 rpg before tearing the meniscus).
The bottom line is if you believe his rehab will continue to go smoothly, Westbrook will definitely warrant the #2 point guard pick for his elite scoring and rebounding production at PG along with a burgeoning long range shot (1.2 3PM last year) and above-average contributions in free throws (80%+), assists (7.0+ per game) and roughly two steals a contest.
With news of Westbrook’s second knee surgery due to swelling during rehab, Curry immediately becomes the clear #2 PG. Westbrook is tentatively expected to miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season and Curry’s health arrow is pointing up going into the year. Look for Kyrie Irving to be the one to join the trio of elite point guards in 2013-2014.