Projecting the Top 30 point guards for 2018-19

Projecting the Top 30 point guards for 2018-19

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Projecting the Top 30 point guards for 2018-19

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25. fred vanvleet, toronto raptors

Fred VanVleet has started just one game in his entire Toronto Raptors career, and that number likely won’t grow much next season with Kyle Lowry still in the fold. Even so, he’s one of the most effective point guards in basketball. VanVleet put up “just” 8.6 points and 3.2 assists per game last year, but his impact went beyond the box score. The Wichita State product converted on 41.4 percent of his threes, grading out as one of the NBA’s best spot-up sharpshooters according to Synergy Sports, and helped Toronto outscore opponents by a whopping 7.5 points per 100 possessions during his time on the floor.

He’s an adept ball-handler who can create out of the pick-and-roll, and who thrives playing off the ball, as well. Couple that with his defensive toughness and overall leadership qualities, and you can understand why the Raptors were thrilled to re-sign him this summer. He may not be a box-score darling, but VanVleet is one of the top complementary pieces the league has to offer.

24. D’angelo russell, Brooklyn Nets

Through 12 games in 2017-18, it looked like D’Angelo Russell was on his way to a breakout campaign. To that point, the Ohio State product was averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.5 triples per outing. Then the third-year guard picked up a knee injury that required surgery, and once he returned two months later, his form dropped severely. Over his final 36 contests, Russell averaged 13.7 points and 5.0 assists on 39.2 percent shooting. Even with Brooklyn smartly bringing him back slowly, the 22-year-old’s play late in the year can only be defined as ugly.

As far as projecting Russell’s upcoming season, we basically have three seasons’ worth of sample size that show us he’s an inefficient (career 51.1 true shooting percentage), low-assist, high-turnover, shoot-first point guard, who may not be that easy to build around. Nevertheless, Russell’s still pretty young, and he’s in a great spot with the Nets, playing for a guard-whisperer of a head coach in Kenny Atkinson, who, at least early last season, proved he was able to unlock the point guard who was so ballyhooed as a prospect coming out of college.

And to be fair, those 12 games early in the year were awfully impressive. What’s more, Russell will be in a contract year, which, as is only natural, will motivate him to put up the best season of his career.

23. Isaiah thomas, denver nuggets

A former All-Star coming off an injury-plagued year, Isaiah Thomas could easily outperform his place on this list just by getting fully healthy again.

In 2017-18, returning from a serious hip injury, the diminutive floor general put up meager 15.2-point and 4.8-assist averages on paltry 37.3/29.3/90.9 shooting splits. The season prior, however, Thomas had one of the most ridiculous high-volume scoring seasons in NBA history when he averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 helpers nightly – on fiery 46.3/37.9/90.9 shooting splits. According to offensive box plus/minus (OBPM), it was the eighth-most efficiently productive season by a guard, ever.

Now reunited with his former head coach from his time with the Sacramento Kings, Michael Malone, and playing with one of the highest point-producing teams in the league, Thomas may be up for a major bounce-back campaign. The fact he was forced to sign for the minimum and is playing for his next long-term deal shouldn’t hurt his motivation, either.

If the Denver Nuggets get the healthy version of the 5-foot-8 point guard, they’ll undoubtedly have their best year since Carmelo Anthony’s departure, and be an outright lock for the playoffs. But if they get the slowed-down version, things could get dicey, as they did for the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of Thomas’ former teams, last season.

22. de’aaron fox, sacramento kings

The Sacramento Kings selected De’Aaron Fox fifth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, and the Kentucky product came in with high expectations. In Year-1, when Fox averaged 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per contest with ugly 41.2/30.7/72.3 shooting splits, he didn’t quite live up to them.

Still, he’s not even 21 yet, and flashed an uncanny ability to come up big in clutch situations as a rookie:

If he can improve his three-point shot and get stronger to help his finishing in the paint, he could make a big jump as a sophomore, as his intangibles and speed are fantastic.

21. dennis smith jr, dallas mavericks

Fox wasn’t the only point guard taken early in the 2017 draft who came in with high expectations. Dennis Smith also fits the bill – and he had just a slightly better rookie campaign, giving him the bump in our ranking.

Smith posted solid raw numbers in his first year, averaging 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 triples per contest for the Dallas Mavericks. The only other players to put up similar averages as rookies – at least 15.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 three-pointers – are Stephen CurryAllen Iverson and Damon Stoudamire.

Not bad company for the North Carolina native, and if he continues to improve his efficiency (he shot a paltry 39.5 percent from the field last season), he has the upside to turn into one of the NBA’s best floor generals.

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