The responsibilities levied on Jimmy Butler increase with each passing season.
Selected with the final first round pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, he was initially projected to just compete for a roster spot.
His emergence as a defensive stopper carved out Butler a significant place in the rotation during his sophomore season and two years later, he emerged as a potential franchise player.
The unfortunate health issues plaguing Derrick Rose forced Butler to become the primary scoring option for the Bulls, a role in which he excelled.
By elevating his scoring average seven points per game while maintaining his role as an elite perimeter defender earned Butler a place on the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season and made him one of the most intriguing prospects in all of fantasy basketball.
Chicago kept Butler on the floor 38.7 minutes a night, the highest average of any player in the league, and seemingly each second he spent on the floor, Butler managed to produce.
The 26-year-old guard averaged 20 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and buried a career-high 73 shots form 3-point range last season.
Butler has improved drastically each of his first four seasons in the league, already establishing himself as one of the most complete players in the league, the best shooting guard in the Eastern Conference.
Bulls fans and fantasy basketball players are eagerly awaiting what he can do for an encore.
30. Nik Stauskas– Philadelphia 76ers
The Kings chose Stauskas with the eighth overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft based on the fact that he was an elite shooter in college. In his first season, he converted just 48 shots from beyond the arc and made just 32.2 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. His inability to defend forced Sacramento to play just 15.2 minutes a night and made him expendable last summer. As part of a salary dump, the 76ers acquired Stauskas, hoping he is a low cost solution for a team in desperate need of a reliable long range shooter.
29. Courtney Lee– Memphis Grizzlies
Aside from decent 3-point shooting, as Lee made 40.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, Lee offers little in fantasy basketball. During his first full season in Memphis, Lee averaged 10.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.o assists and 1.0 steals per game. As the final option for the Grizzlies on the offensive end of the floor, Lee doesn’t generate enough looks at the rim, or provide elite production in any single fantasy basketball category to merit a draft selection.
28. Randy Foye– Denver Nuggets
Foye has managed to shoot over 40 percent just once in the past five years. As his long range shooting has become unreliable, as he shot just 35.7 from 3-point range last season, Foye’s fantasy value has drastically declined. Last season he was limited to just 50 appearances and made a total of just 94 shots from beyond the arc. If Foye’s prolific long range shooting doesn’t return, expect sophomore Gary Harris to have an increased role with the team.
27. Dion Waiters– Oklahoma City Thunder
The fit of Waiters in Oklahoma City will be intriguing. For years, the team has employed a defensive presence at shooting guard, often a non-factor on the offensive end. Waiters is the complete opposite, a player that looks for his own shot all the time. In his final two appearances, Waiters launched a total of 44 shots, but scored a total of just 46 points. Efficiency has been an issue for the 6-foot-4 guard ever since he entered the league and on a team seeking a role player alongside its superstar combination, Waiters has to find a way to blend in with the team.
26. Alec Burks– Utah Jazz
A shoulder injury forced Burks to miss the final 55 games of the regular season, but his return has the Jazz believing it can compete for a playoff spot next season. Utah is in need of a playmaker and the team will likely rely on Burks to alleviate some of the pressure placed on Gordon Hayward. Although he played just 27 games last season, Burks managed to produce three assists per game, the highest figure of his career.
25. Iman Shumpert– Cleveland Cavaliers
The objective for Shumpert is simple, he needed to spend his summer working on his corner 3-point shooting. Opposing defenses are keyed in on the superstar talent employed by Cleveland, often leading to open looks for Shumpert as his defender crashes the paint to prevent an easy look. Shumpert launched 130 shots from beyond the arc in his 38 appearances since being dealt from New York at the trade deadline, but managed to sink just 33.8 percent of those looks. If Shumpert develops into a reliable long range shooter, his value will skyrocket.
24. Gerald Henderson– Portland Trail Blazers
It’s no coincidence that Henderson’s scoring productivity decreased last season as his free throw attempts declined drastically. Henderson poured in 12.1 points per game last season, his fewest since becoming a full time starter in the NBA, as his free throw attempts dropped to just 2.7 per game, nearly two below his career-high. Portland will have to establish an offensive identity next season and Henderson’s ability to attack the basket will be a key factor in its success.
23. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope– Detroit Pistons
Playing at home is what suited Caldwell-Pope the best. During his 41 appearances at the Palace at Auburn Hills, the former Georgia star posted 15.5 points and connected on 39.5 percent of his 3-point field goals, but on the road, his averages dropped to 9.9 points per game and made just 29 percent of his long range shots. The 2015-16 season will be a make-or-break campaign for Caldwell-Pope, as the eighth overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft has to prove he is part of the longterm plan in Detroit.
22. Ben McLemore– Sacramento Kings
As one of just two shooting guards to start all 82 regular season — along with Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — the sophomore campaign of McLemore showed the necessary improvements. McLemore’s shooting percentage increased by more than six percent, his scoring average jumped nearly 3.5 points per game and he connected on 140 shots from 3-point range, 61 more than any other player on the Kings.
21. Kevin Martin– Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are in an interesting situation. After winning just 16 games and landing the first overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the team has an interesting blend of young talent and veteran leadership. Only if the team once again begins to slip in the standings, players such as Martin could be on the move to a championship contender. Martin is a potent outside shooter and provides the type of instant offense any team in the league seeks.
20. Avery Bradley– Boston Celtics
Defense will always be the calling card of Bradley’s game, only it hasn’t translated into fantasy success. Bradley finished 12th in Defensive Player of the Year voting two seasons ago, but his contributions don’t result in a high number of steals, as he managed 82 steals in 77 appearances last season. During his five years with the Celtics, Bradley has steadily improved his offensive contributions, knocking down a career-high 124 shots from 3-point range last season and has generated plenty of interest in the trade market.
19. Arron Afflalo– New York Knicks
New York marks the fourth stop for Afflalo in the past three years. After improving his scoring average each of his first seven years in the league, just one shy of Derek Harper’s all-time record, Afflalo’s scoring numbers submarined during his time back in Denver. Just two years ago, he was flirting with an All-Star appearance, averaging 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game with the Magic and a prominent role in the Knicks triangle offense could revitalize his averages.
18. Nicolas Batum– Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte is hoping a change of scenery was all Batum needs to return as one of the most promising all-around players in the game. A wrist injury last season destroyed his shooting average and dropped his scoring figures nearly four points from the previous season. The Hornets are hoping Batum can be a secondary ball-handler alongside point guard Kemba Walker, garnering him more value if he can increase his assist total.
17. Joe Johnson– Brooklyn Nets
The scoring figure for Johnson has declined each of the past four years, but he has been able to supplement his fantasy value by contributing in other areas. Johnson averaged 4.8 rebounds per game, the highest of his career since his final season in Phoenix and posted 3.7 assists per game, one more than he averaged the previous season. The seven-time All-Star may be slowing down, but is still capable of producing points when necessary, as he totaled 19 performances with at least 20 points.
16. J.J. Redick– Los Angeles Clippers
Not many players submit the best effort of their career nine seasons after being drafted. Redick’s efficiency makes him a perfect option as a second shooting guard, as he scored 16.4 points on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and connected 200 times from 3-point range. The Clippers scored just under 107 points per game, so adding a key component in the middle rounds could prove to be a wise selection.
15. DeMar DeRozan– Toronto Raptors
A torn tendon in his left leg forced DeRozan to miss 17 games in the middle of the season, but when he came back, he proved to be one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. Since the 6-foot-7 guard isn’t a threat from the perimeter, most of his damage comes off drives to the basket. DeRozan converted over 65 percent of his attempts at the rim and the treat of an easy bucket earned him 7.2 trips to the foul line each game, fifth most in the NBA last season.
14. Bradley Beal– Washington Wizards
For Beal to evolve into the player Washington envisioned when selecting him with the third overall pick during the 2012 NBA Draft, he has to perform in crunch time. Once the fourth quarter hit, Beal’s shooting percentage dipped to 37.1 percent (after converting 44.4 percent of his attempts during the first three quarters) and his 3-point shooting dropped all the way down to 26.2 percent. In overtime sessions, his shooting was even worse, just 13.3 percent (he made 2-of-15 attempts). Beal is a potent offensive force, but needs to elevate his game once the fourth quarter begins.
13. Khris Middleton– Milwaukee Bucks
The signing of Middleton ignited the bidding frenzy of the 2015 NBA free agent market. The 6-foot-7 guard signed a five-year, $70 million deal after posting career-highs across the board. Middleton averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and converted 40.7 percent of his attempts from 3-point range, the second year in a row he made at least 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
12. Tyreke Evans– New Orleans Pelicans
Initial projections indicate Eric Gordon is in line to start at shooting guard in New Orleans, but the outstanding play of Evans last season proves he deserves more time on the floor. Evans slid over to the point guard position for a majority of the season, posting 16.6 points, a career-high 6.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. Evans managed to dish out 10 or more assists on 16 occasions and five performances with at least 10 rebounds last season.
11. Kobe Bryant– Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers intended to impose a 32 minute limitation on Bryant last season, but failed to enforce it. In 24 of his 35 appearances, Bryant played at least 32 minutes. Rumors have circulated about the 37-year-old sitting out the second game of back-to-backs, but fantasy owners can expect Bryant to shoot about 20 times a night as Bryant tries to close the gap on Karl Malone for the second most points in NBA history.
10. Dwyane Wade– Miami Heat
Wade has missed 48 games over the past two seasons as the Heat strategically sat him out in an attempt to avoid fatigue and injury. As he enters his 13th season in the NBA, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has issued a decree saying he will not impose a minutes, or game, limitation on Wade. Miami has plenty of depth, especially after signing Gerald Green, so the team may attempt to preserve Wade for a playoff run next season.
9. Kyle Korver– Atlanta Hawks
Last season Korver led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, converting 49.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. The figure was so high, it was even better than the 47 percent he shot from inside of the arc. Kover became just the fifth player in league history to convert at least 220 shots from 3-point range twice in their career, joining Stephen Curry, Antoine Walker, Ray Allen and Peja Stojakovic.
8. Monta Ellis– Indiana Pacers
In each of the past three years, Ellis scored at least 1,500 points and he was signed by the Pacers to invigorate one of the most stale offenses in the league. Along with his ability to score in bunches, Ellis also has been one of the most reliable players in the league, playing in 80 or more games each of the past three seasons. The Pacers already have an elite perimeter defender in small forward Paul George, but the addition of Ellis will help force even more turnovers. Last season, Ellis tied with Kawhi Leonard for the fifth most steals in the NBA with 148.
7. Wesley Matthews– Dallas Mavericks
Following the DeAndre Jordan fiasco in Dallas, Matthews was given the opportunity to back out of the contract he signed with the team. Instead of fleeing from the challenging situation, Matthews reconfirmed his commitment to the team and was rewarded for his loyalty. If Jordan honored his verbal commitment to the team, Matthews would have made $57 million over the course of his four year deal, but instead will make $70 million over the same period of time.
6. Danny Green– San Antonio Spurs
The totals aren’t the most impressive, as Green posted 11.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 assits per game, but he was an elite performer in numerous fantasy basketball categories. Only six players managed to total at least 85 blocks and 85 steals last season and the only back court performer to accomplish the feat was Green. Along with his elite productivity as a defender, Green was one just eight players to connect at least 190 times from 3-point range.
5. Victor Oladipo– Orlando Magic
During his sophomore season, Oladipo submitted one of the most complete individual performances in the league. As one of 13 players to average at least 17 points, four rebounds and four assists per game last year (and one of just nine to do so while playing in at least 70 games) Oladipo has propelled himself into an elite fantasy performer as he averaged 17.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
4. Eric Bledsoe– Phoenix Suns
Bledsoe hits all of the marks valued in fantasy basketball. On average in Yahoo! mock drafts, the 25-year-old is a mid-third round selection, an excellent value for someone that averaged 17 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Bledsoe is the franchise player in Phoenix and next year will have the opportunity to significantly increase his shot total, after attempting just 12.9 per game (15th in the NBA) leading to additional scoring chances.
3. Klay Thompson– Golden State Warriors
In each of his first four seasons, Thompson has been able to increase the total number of 3-point field goals he has converted. Last season, he knocked down 239 shots from beyond the arc, second to only teammate Stephen Curry. Thompson set an NBA record for points in a quarter, as he lit up the Kings for 37 third quarter points, proving at any time, he can morph into the most unstoppable scorer in the league.
2. Jimmy Butler– Chicago Bulls
The 6-foot-7 guard is one of the most complete players in the game. Butler led all shooting guards in offensive rebounds (1.8 per game) and rebounding (5.8 per game) while scoring 20 points, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. The question looming over Butler entering next season is if he will again lead the league in minutes per game, as Tom Thibodeau, the former coach, often relied on his starters to perform, perhaps Fred Hoiberg will be forced to use the rotation more in his first year.
1. James Harden– Houston Rockets
The scoring crown may have gone to his former teammate in Oklahoma City, but Harden did lead the league in total points scored (2,217), minutes played (2,981), free throws attempted (824) and free throws made (715) while ranking high in several other fantasy categories. Harden was an elite performer in 3-point shooting, steals and assists, making him a top-3 selection in any fantasy basketball league.