Ethan Norof

Risers and Fallers

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Risers & Fallers: Guards

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Welcome to Risers & Fallers!


For those returning readers, it’s humbling to have you back. For those new to the column, thank you for investing your time in my thoughts, advice, and perspective.


This is a three-pronged preseason series that is true to its name.


I’ll identify a rundown of names at each position and break them down into two categories: Risers and Fallers.


The risers group will be composed of names to target in drafts as well as those players that will require a premium investment in order to ensure ownership. The fallers group will include those who could either be drafted at a discount for a potential draft-day deal and those “name-value only” players that savvy fantasy GM’s should allow another team to acquire.


We’ll run through guards, forwards and then centers in order to give everyone a look before the 2017-18 campaign gets underway. Without further logorrhea... let’s get it started.


Editor’s Note: Win a FREE trip to the World Series plus cash prizes!

 

Risers


Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks


Atlanta is going to struggle to put points on the board, and that means Schroder is going to have more room to run. Don’t be surprised if Schroder pushes the 20-point per game barrier this season.


Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics


I’m making no secret of the fact that I love Irving’s fantasy outlook this season, and I’m willing to invest an early-second round pick in his services in order to ensure he’s on my roster.


Dennis Smith, Jr., Dallas Mavericks


The hype train rolled out of the station as soon as summer league got started, and it’s going to take one giant leap for mankind in order to land DSJ on your team with how many people have him in their sights. With so many options in the Dallas backcourt nothing is guaranteed, but everything about Smith from the organization has been so incredibly positive since the club drafted him that one has to think that he’s going to be near the front of the line for opportunities.


Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets


In his nine games as a starter during his rookie season, Murray averaged 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.6 triples (2.4 turnovers) on 42.1% shooting. Look for him to build on those numbers in year two, especially since Murray should enter the preseason with a leg up on the starting point guard job despite Mike Malone calling it an open competition.  


Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets


Harris has top-50 potential written all over him, and I won’t hesitate to draft him as early as the fifth round in 12-team (nine-cat) formats. If your only question about the Michigan State product is health, roll those dice and don’t look back.


Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers


If you’re trying to build your team by ballin’ on a budget, then the Big Baller Brand is simply not for you. I really trust Ball’s ability to lead a team and believe he will make a sizable difference for the young Lakers, but there are players capable of yielding a better return on investment than Lonzo for where you’ll have to target him.


Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies


What, exactly, can the Grizzlies really rely upon beyond Marc Gasol and Conley? If Memphis opens the season with the roster as it sits today, Conley is going to be doing some incredibly heavy lifting every night he’s out there. Perhaps this is finally the season when MC Money stops getting overlooked in fantasy drafts. *Jordan Shrug*


Goran Dragic, Miami Heat


Dragic will come into the preseason in tip-top shape after competing for Slovenia this summer, and there should be no hesitation in plucking him off the pile as soon as the top 40 come off the board.


Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks


Following an impressive Rookie of the Year campaign, Brogdon should again be very involved in the offense alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton with Jabari Parker (knee) sidelined.


Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves


It’s going to be an adjustment for Wiggins to have Jimmy Butler by his side, but that shouldn’t be stopping you from spending a premium pick to invest in his services. If Wiggins can boost his peripheral stats—which has been an area of focus—it will elevate his fantasy stock considerably.   


Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks


Contract jokes aside, THJ—who looked like a much-improved player in Atlanta down the stretch last season—is going to get a lot of room to operate alongside Kristaps Porzingis now that the Carmelo Anthony era is over. This is a team that could struggle to score and is going to need Hardaway’s scoring ability, so he should get plenty of opportunities to let it fly.


Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns


This thing is being built around Booker, and it’s hard to believe so many were disappointed with his play after he averaged 22.1 points, 3.2 boards, 3.4 assists and 1.9 3-pointers as a 20-year-old in what was just his second season. Yes, Booker absolutely has to improve his efficiency (42.3% FGs, 3.1 TO), but being in his third year and having a more experienced team around him will both be beneficial in the pursuit of that goal. And if Booker does improve his efficiency while growing his game even further, many are going to be left wondering why they weren’t the one to snatch him up at a bargain price on draft day.


C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers


After averaging 23.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.3 3-pointers on 48.0% shooting last season—including 42.1% from deep and 91% on free throws—McCollum could push to join the 50/40/90 club while going 25/5/5 in his fifth professional season.


Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz


The Jazz has publicly challenged the Duke product to grow into his potential now that Gordon Hayward has moved on, but I’m going to need to see a lot more consistency before I drop a top-80 pick into this Hood.



Fallers


D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets


Russell’s ADP got out of control before his second and final season with the Lakers, and that serves as an important reminder about the dangers preseason influence can bring along. That being said, Russell is actually shaping up to be an interesting post-hype sleeper now that he’s in Brooklyn so long as he can improve his efficiency, but that’s only going to happen if he stops settling so often.


Isaiah Thomas, Cleveland Cavaliers


We just don’t know enough about where Thomas is in the recovery process to get an accurate assessment of how to value him accordingly, so anyone trying to lay claim to the idea of a proper evaluation is simply throwing a dart. Even in the fifth or sixth round, I’m still passing on IT this time around.


Yogi Ferrell, Dallas Mavericks


Ferrell was a nice story last season, but he could very well be an afterthought for 2017-18. In addition to drafting Dennis Smith, Jr., the Mavs still employ J.J. Barea, Seth Curry, Wesley Matthews and Devin Harris. Even if Harris isn’t a part of the plans, I just don’t see how Ferrell gets minutes over the other four guys in the backcourt.


Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons


Jackson is a bit of a forgotten man after he registered a forgettable season, but he’s a gamble worth taking in the right situation given he can be had in the seventh or eighth round in 12-team leagues.


Chris Paul, Houston Rockets


Despite the fact that CP3 has posted top-10 value in eight and nine-cat leagues over the last decade, he’s falling into the second round now that he’s alongside James Harden in Houston. Don’t even think twice about this.


Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers


Oladipo was someone who was targeted as a top-30 selection last season who can be had with a top-75 pick this time around. The Pacers are unlikely to be a competitive group, but Oladipo should be far more involved than he was during his one-and-done trial run with the Thunder.


Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers


Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each figure to see big minutes—not to mention some lineups where Brandon Ingram could slide in at the two—and that leaves Clarkson in an interesting spot. Although he’s again expected to serve as the sixth man, JC is going to need a lot of three-guard lineups in order to play the 29 minutes per game he averaged last year. With a plethora of versatile frontcourt options that need to get onto the court, it’s hard to project a role for Clarkson that translates into consistent, sustainable fantasy value.


Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder


You could’ve argued Westbrook as a top-three selection with Paul George on the roster, but I’m looking to invest elsewhere at the front of the draft now that Carmelo Anthony has entered the fold.


Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs


Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me. I’m not looking for a return to the 2014-15 season here.



Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.
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