Apologies to those who owned point guard Chris Paul last season. As the number one pick in most fantasy drafts, Paul was expected to lead the Hornets to the playoffs for a third straight season while filling up the box score on a nightly basis. And then the season began.
Paul’s disastrous season began when the Hornets fired head coach Byron Scott after a 3-6 start, and the next night Paul sprained an ankle that caused him to miss eight games.
Things began to look up over the next few months as Paul averaged 17 points and 12 assists in December and 21 points and 12 assists in January, all while leading the league in steals. But a knee injury suffered at the end of January required surgery and caused him to miss 25 games, and after returning for seven games late in the season, the Hornets shut down Paul for the final four games when fantasy owners needed him most.
But even after an uneventful 2009 that saw him play just 45 games and an apparent desire to be traded this offseason, Paul is now healthy and ready to take back his title as the top fantasy point guard in the game.
Despite the lack of games Paul played in, his numbers (18.7 points, 10.7 assists, 2.1 steals) proved the ankle and knee injuries didn’t hinder him on the court. When he was able to play, he was the CP3 of old, but there was little urgency to get Paul back on the field as the Hornets struggled to stay above .500.
Rookie Darren Collison stole the show in Paul’s absence and was another reason why Paul was able to take an extra game or two off. Being able to show off Collison in 2009 proved valuable, as the point guard was traded to the Pacers earlier last week. That same deal, which involved four teams and five players, involved James Posey heading to the Pacers as well in exchange for Houston’s Trevor Ariza.
With Ariza on board and no true backup, the Hornets brass is serious about showing their dedication to Paul, and that should yield excellent fantasy returns for the veteran point guard.
Just as it is for Kevin Durant, Paul is dominant in seven categories (all but blocks and rebounds) and can do something only a few fantasy players can: win you two categories outright.
OK, so you don’t automatically win the categories, but your team should be in excellent shape to win both assists and steals with Paul on your roster.
Let’s start with assists, where Paul has been a model of consistency. He has finished no worse than 7th in the league (his rookie year), and has led the league two of the last three years, while finishing second last year to Steve Nash. 2010 should be no different, with second year shooter Marcus Thornton, the recently acquired Ariza, David West, and Peja Stojakovic on board. Look for those assist numbers to easily reach double-digit figures again, with a real chance to take back the top spot in the league from Nash.
No one in the NBA plays as hard-nosed defense as Paul, and it shows with his steals numbers year in and year out. Before his injury-riddled 2009 season, Paul had led the league in steals the last two years by a wide margin, including a steal in 106 consecutive games from 2006-2008. Many fantasy owners take steals to be a toss-up category, but not if you own Paul.
His points per game numbers won’t blow anyone away, but 18-20 points per game is a solid number when considering his assists. Of the top-5 leaders in assists, no one averaged more points than Paul (18.7). Your drafting strategy might have to include a few scorers down the road, but Paul is far from a liability in points, especially when plugged in at point guard.
Another reason Paul’s points per game is manageable is the manner in which he scores, shooting 48 percent or better from the field, 84 percent or better from the free throw line, making more than a three pointer per game, all in 38 minutes per contest. He’s as efficient as they come for guards in the scoring department, and these numbers show why.
If you STILL need another reason to consider Paul as one of the fantasy game’s best, here’s a telling stat: Paul was second in assists in 2009 but led the league in assist-t0-turnover ratio and has averaged over 3.0 turnovers or more in a season ONCE. To be able to put such a dominant point guard on your roster and not have to deal with turnovers is huge, and the tipping point for Paul as the top point guard in the game.
You can’t really go wrong by drafting Paul first overall in fantasy leagues, but you know what you are going to get with the Hornets point guard. That’s not neccesarily a bad thing, but the potential of Durant moves him in front of Paul. That being said, Paul comes in at No. 2 on our fantasy basketball player rankings and should be in line for huge numbers in 2010.