Paul George entrenched himself as a bonafide superstar during his sixth season in the NBA.
As the Pacers offense cratered anytime he was on the bench, dropping by 1.4 points per 100 possessions when he sat against a 3.2 points improvement when he played, the team relied on him to create in a variety of ways
The result was an entry into one of the most exclusive clubs in the NBA last season.
The 26-year-old forward was one of just six players, joining Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin as the only players in the league to tally at least 20 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists a night.
George earned a selection to the All-NBA Third Team as he posted 23.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
The 329 assists George dished out were the most of his career, as he developed an immediate connection with Monta Ellis, a guard in his first season with the Pacers.
The guard caught 9.2 passes a night from George, leading to just under .5 assists a game.
Indiana retooled this offseason with one purpose, to score more points, an area where George already excels.
George ranked seventh in the NBA with 1,874 points last season, as he registered 51 performances with at least 20 points and submitted two games with at least 45 points.
Even with all of the players the team added, the offense will still flow through George and the fantasy points should steadily climb.
30. Kyle Singler– Oklahoma City Thunder
Replacing Kevin Durant as the starting small forward in Oklahoma City is an impossible task. It’s clear Singler is not the long term solution for the Thunder, as he posted 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in 14.4 minutes a game as Durant’s backup. The dismal numbers aren’t limited to just his averages, as Singler struggled shooting the ball, connecting on just 38.9 percent of his attempts from the field and 30.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Coach Billy Donovan will have to experiment with his lineup, possibly moving Ersan Ilyasova to the small forward position and staring Enes Kanter at power forward to stabilize the starting lineup if a move isn’t made this season.
29. Luc Mbah a Moute– Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers truly aren’t looking for offensive contributions from Mbah a Moute, as he started 61 times but only attempted 2.8 shots a night. Last season, Mbah a Moute was one of just four players to log over 1,000 minutes on the floor and attempt less than 250 shots, joining Tayshaun Prince, Nemanja Bjelica and Omer Asik. Los Angeles brought in Paul Pierce to provide the firepower at the small forward position, but opt to start Mbah a Moute to provide a defensive impact, one that simply doesn’t translate to fantasy basketball.
28. Dante Cunningham– New Orleans Pelicans
A starting job simply isn’t enough to merit a selection in the fantasy draft. Cunningham started over half the season — a total of 46 games — and spent 30.2 minutes on the floor, but only offered a limited impact. As a starter, Cunningham tallied averages of 8.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. New Orleans will likely have Cunningham enter into a timeshare with Solomon Hill, a forward it spent $48 million over four years to acquire. The starting job remains uncertain and Cunningham is worth stashing on the waiver wire until he proves otherwise.
27. Luol Deng– Los Angeles Lakers
Deng is going to serve as a placeholder in the starting lineup until the Lakers are convinced Brandon Ingram — the second overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft — is ready to take the lion-share of minutes at the small forward position. Los Angeles paid Deng a fortune, signing him to a four-year, $72 million deal, to bring a much needed veteran presence to the locker room. Deng was effective, while serving at a similar capacity in Miami as it developed Justise Winslow, as he registered 12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists a night, but with Ingram waiting to take over, selecting Deng is a risky proposition.
26. Evan Turner– Portland Trail Blazers
Turner is a perfect solution for a fantasy owner looking to cover an array of of issues on their roster in the late rounds of the draft. Last season in Boston, as he started just 12 games, Turner averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, one of just 27 players to average at least 10 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists a night. Despite splitting time with Jae Crowder for a majority of the season, Turner spent over 28 minutes on the floor each night, displaying he can be effective, even if the Trail Blazers want to keep Maurice Harkless prominent in the rotation.
25. Bojan Bogdanovic– Brooklyn Nets
At every level, Bogdanovic has proven to be an explosive scorer. His 33 point performance for Croatia against Brazil was the highest individual scoring effort at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The 6-foot-8 forward poured in 44 points, the highest scoring total of any player in the Atlantic Division last season, as he converted 17-of-27 attempts against Philadelphia. As the Nets have overhauled its roster, Bogdanovic is the second highest scorer returning to the team, but his limited upside in other statistical categories makes him only worth a late round flier.
24. Otto Porter– Washington Wizards
The third overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft continues to increase his contributions in Washington. For the third consecutive season, Porter increased his shooting average as he converted 47.3 percent of his attempts from the field, the second highest mark on the Wizards of any player attempting more than seven shots a night. The former Georgetown star continues to round out his game, as he was one of just 31 players to register at least 100 steals last season and he increased his rebounding to 5.2 per game, nearly doubling his total from the previous season.
23. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist– Charlotte Hornets
The 2015-16 campaign was essentially nonexistent for Kidd-Gilchrist. A torn labrum in his right shoulder sidelined him for the first 46 regular season contests then he lasted just seven games after reaggravating the injury just before the All-Star break. During his limited time on the court, Kidd-Gilchrist was effective, shooting 54.1 percent from the field as he averaged 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. The 23-year-old displayed he can thrive in Charlotte’s offense, he just needs to remain healthy for a long enough time to capitalize on his opportunity.
22. Kent Bazemore– Atlanta Hawks
The 6-foot-5 guard out of Old Dominion had to claw his way into the NBA. Bazemore was passed over 60 times at the 2012 NBA Draft but earned a free agent deal from Golden State the following day. Bazemore survived training camp, but earning a place with the Warriors proved to be a challenge, as the team assigned him to its Developmental Leauge affiliate 14 times before trading him to the Lakers. Following a 23 game stint in Los Angeles, Bazemore earned signed as a free agent with Atlanta and cashed in this summer, inking a deal worth $70 million over four years after logging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists for the Hawks last season.
21. Marcus Morris– Detroit Pistons
Resting wasn’t much of an option for Morris during his first season in Detroit. The 27-year-old forward spent 2,856 minutes on the floor, the fifth most in the NBA last season and for the first time in his career, he was a permanent starter. Morris thrived as he bounced between both forward positions, posting up smaller defenders and taking larger opponents out to the 3-point line. The result was the best season of Morris’ career, as he averaged 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and knocked down 1.4 shots a night from beyond the arc at a 36.2 percent clip.
20. Justise Winslow– Miami Heat
Miami employed Winslow in a variety of ways during his rookie campaign last season, at times lining him up at center during the post season and routinely asking the 6-foot-7 forward to defend point guards. The versatility of Winslow enabled the Heat to keep him on the floor for 2,232 minutes, the third most among all rookies. As his sophomore season approaches, his fantasy stock is expected to skyrocket, especially if the reports about a much improved jumper are true. Winslow has spent a majority of his summer in the gym refining his shooting technique and Miami is anticipating him scoring much more frequently than the 6.4 points per game he averaged a year ago.
19. Aaron Gordon– Orlando Magic
The ability of Gordon to defend five positions keeps him on the floor, the raw athleticism he displays makes him an intriguing fantasy option, as he would have averaged 9.8 rebounds a night, with three coming on the offensive end if he played 36 minutes a game. Gordon stole the show at the 2016 Slam Dunk contest at All-Star weekend and continued to punish the rim throughout the year, slamming the ball home 72 times. The small forward position will continue to be a work in progress for Gordon, as he continues to develop his 3-point shot, but a necessity for him to significantly increase his minutes, as the 20-year-old spent just the fifth most minutes on the floor for the Magic last season.
18. DeMarre Carroll– Toronto Raptors
The move to Toronto brought along a slew of problems for Carroll. The 6-foot-8 forward provided fantasy production across the board during his final season in Atlanta, and his efforts were enough to earn a four-year, $60 million deal. Only his time with the Raptors was derailed by a knee injury, one that ultimately required arthroscopic surgery in January, resulting in disappointing numbers for fantasy owners and a drastic drop off in his shooting percentages. Carroll will undoubtedly slip on draft day because of his poor production last season but may turnout to be a value pick after the 10th round.
17. Trevor Ariza– Houston Rockets
The figures Ariza posted for each of the past two seasons have been nearly identical. The 43rd overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft has quietly emerged as one of the most ferocious defenders in the league, as he was one of just three players, joining point guards Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, as the only ones to record more than 150 steals in each of the past two years. The 160 steals Ariza posted were the fourth most in the league last season, as he was held without a steal in just 14 of his 81 regular season appearances.
16. Jae Crowder– Boston Celtics
The best possible endorsement for Crowder’s play was New York President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson revealing that his biggest regret in his time with the Knicks was passing on the opportunity to acquire the 6-foot-6 forward. In his first full season with the Celtics, Crowder nearly doubled his scoring average from the previous season, going from 7.7 points per game to 14.2 last season. Along with his jump in scoring, Crowder posted 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
15. Danilo Gallinari– Denver Nuggets
Remaining healthy has been the largest obstacle for Gallinari to clear. An ankle injury in February ended his season after 53 games. Denver has been without Gallinari for 134 games in the last three seasons. The mid-tier ranking among small forwards is only attributed to the risk of losing him for an extended period of time. Gallinari will be the focal point of the Nuggets offensive attack, a role he clearly relishes as he rejected an opportunity to be dealt at the trade deadline last year. Gallinari is a welcome addition to any roster, as he is coming off a season that featured averages of 19.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.8 steals per game.
14. Harrison Barnes– Dallas Mavericks
Barnes was the seldom used player for Team USA during its gold medal run in Brazil. Dallas clearly envisions a much larger role for the 6-foot-8 forward next season after signing him to a four-year, $95 million deal. The move to the Mavericks could clearly benefit fantasy owners next season, as he will no longer be the fourth option in the offense, as he was during his time in Golden State. Even in a reduced role, Barnes has been able to convert 37.6 percent of his attempts from 3-point range throughout his four-year career, giving Dallas four legitimate long range threats in its starting lineup.
13. Chandler Parsons– Memphis Grizzlies
Each of the past two campaigns for Parsons have been cut short due to knee injuries. Last season, the former Florida star underwent surgery to correct a relatively minor meniscus injury, but the frequency of his knee issues it beginning to cause concern. The scoring numbers may have declined for the third straight year for Parsons, but his efficiency had increased dramatically. Parsons shot 49.2 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from 3-point range, both percentages were the highest of his five-year career.
12. Rudy Gay– Sacramento Kings
No player in the league is more involved in trade rumors than Gay. The 30-year-old forward has drawn interest from several teams around the league, including Houston, Miami and Denver, but a deal has yet to be reached. Gay’s scoring average fell nearly four points per game last season, but he maintained his fantasy basketball value by increasing his production elsewhere. The former Connecticut star pulled down a career-high 6.5 rebounds a night to go along with 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals a night.
11. Devin Booker– Phoenix Suns
The youngest player in the league last season quickly emerged as the most promising guard prospect of the 2015 NBA Draft class. Booker ranked second among all rookies in 3-point field goals made (99) and fourth in scoring (13.8 points per game) even though he played just the seventh most minutes among his classmates. Numerous injuries forced the Suns to rely heavily on Booker after the All-Star break and he delivered by averaging 19.2 points per game in the second half of the season. The three best players in Phoenix all play the guard position, so first year coach Earl Watson will have to use some creativity to maximize their time on the floor, likely by moving Booker to small forward in a three guard starting lineup.
10. Ben Simmons– Philadelphia 76ers
The first overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft is likely going to be employed as a point guard next season, despite his 6-foot-10 frame. Philadelphia is hoping to run its entire offense through Simmons, empowering him to have the ball in his hands on every possession and moving the ball as he sees fit. The role is exactly what Simmons played during his lone season at LSU, resulting in 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Simmons proved he could replicate his success during his first stint against professional players, being named to the All-Las Vegas Summer League First team, averaging 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists in six appearances.
9. Andrew Wiggins– Minnesota Timberwolves
Players are always looking for different forms of motivation. For Wiggins any dig won’t go unnoticed, even if it comes from a video game. NBA 2K17 assigned a rating of 82 wasn’t high enough for Wiggins, as he tweeted out he would rather play Call of Duty. Many of his opponents wish the would only have to face Wiggins in a digital form, as he became just the 10th player in league history to average more than 20 points per game before turning 21. Wiggins led Minnesota in scoring at 20.7 points a night to go along with 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals.
8. Gordon Hayward– Utah Jazz
Both the Jazz and Hayward have a lot riding on his performance during the 2016-17 season. If Hayward decides to decline a $16.7 million player option for next season, he could become a free agent next summer. Plenty of teams from around the league will be interested, as the 26-year-old forward showed he can contribute in every possible way, posting 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 80 appearances. A similar type season will force Utah to decide if the organization see Hayward as a cornerstone. If so, it will likely lead to the richest offer the Jazz has ever made to a player.
7. Carmelo Anthony– New York Knicks
Thirteen years into his career, Anthony is morphing into a playmaker. While the 6-foot-9 forward will never compete for an NBA assist crown — as he has dished out 10 or more assists just five times in 902 career games — he was more apt to distribute the ball last season as Kristaps Porzingis emerged as a viable offensive weapon. As the scoring average of Anthony dipped for the fourth consecutive season, down to 21.8 points per game, he was able to supplement his fantasy value by dishing out a career-high 4.2 assists per game, with nearly one going to Porzingis each night.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo– Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd ended his career as one of the greatest point guards ever to step onto the court, dishing out 12,091 assists (second most in NBA history) and his 107 career triple-doubles stands as the third most the league has ever seen, behind only Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. As the Bucks prepare for the 2016-17 season, Kidd is molding Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-11 forward, as his point guard. Only three players: Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Pau Gasol averaged at least 15 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per game last season. The shift to point guard is an intriguing one and may ultimately payoff for anyone selecting him in the fantasy draft.
5. Jimmy Butler– Chicago Bulls
Butler followed up his initial All-Star campaign by becoming even more efficient, securing his place as one of the elite players in the league. As one of just six players that managed to score 20 or more points per game while attempting fewer than 16 shots a night (joining Brook Lopez, Kawhi Leonard, Eric Bledsoe, Kyle Lowry and Andrew Wiggins) limited opportunities should no longer handcuff Butler. The Bulls dealt Derrick Rose to New York and let Pau Gasol walk in free agency, leaving a void of more than 2,000 shot attempts that Butler will have the first priority to take next season, meaning he could be in line to score more than 25 points a night.
4. Paul George– Indiana Pacers
George eliminated any concerns about the lingering effects from a brutal leg injury suffered at a Team USA scrimmage two summers ago. Back in the lineup for the entire season, the 10th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft posted career-highs in scoring average (23.1 points per game), 3-point field goals (210), true shooting percentage (55.7 percent) and assist rate (20.3 percent). Indiana has reconfigured its entire roster, including making a coaching change, to better suit George as he enters his seventh season in the NBA.
3. Kawhi Leonard– San Antonio Spurs
The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year added an impressive offensive arsenal to his game last season. Leonard was one of just 26 players to convert over 50 percent of his attempts from the field, ranked fourth in 3-point field goal percentage at 44.3 percent and he was just one of 15 player to chip in more than 21 points a night. The only knock on his fantasy performance was the infrequency of his double-doubles. The 6-foot-7 forward posted 6.8 rebounds a night, but just 2.6 assists, a low number for a first round selection in fantasy basketball. If Leonard can significantly improve upon the 12 double-doubles he posted last season, he could be in the fantasy basketball MVP conversation.
2. LeBron James– Cleveland Cavaleirs
Even as James conserves himself for the final seven games of the year, as he has averaged 32.5 points, 12.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game over his past 13 NBA Finals appearances, he still dominates the rest of the league. For the 12th season in a row, the 31-year-old forward averaged 25 points per game, matching Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone for the most in NBA history. James was reluctant to shoot from beyond the arc last season, as his 87 conversions were the third lowest of his career and his 30.9 percent shooting was his worst since his rookie season.
1. Kevin Durant– Golden State Warriors
A return to a role that helped the United States capture the FIBA World Championship — the first time the United State won the event since 1994 — would help Warriors coach Steve Kerr overcome the only weakness he believes remains on his team. Durant served as the rim protector for an undersized team and will be asked to do the same during his first season in Golden State. The 6-foot-10 forward has only rejected 100 or more shots just once in his nine-year career, a figure that will have to improve to keep Kerr at ease.
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