2015-16 Fantasy Basketball Wing Player Rankings: Another Year to Fear the Beard
Though the two players that should fall off the fantasy draft board one and two this season (Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis) aren't in this category, the wing position is arguably the most star-studded position in the NBA today. We're talking about some of the most recognizable faces in the game: LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, etc.
The high-profile nature of a player will not help you in your fantasy league, but having at least one of these wings on your roster will allow you to compete for a title. Many of the players who fall in this top 10 are stat fillers night in and night out.
James Harden was sensational last season, solidifying his role as a superstar and positing the second best nERD in the league at 19.1. That means he'd have made a league-average team 19.1 wins better than .500 last year.
It is asking a lot of him to reach the bar he set from himself last season, but few would doubt he is up for the challenge. But will he be the best wing in basketball again this season? There are quite a few stars behind him, like a healthy Kevin Durant who intend to prove otherwise.
These rankings are based on our system’s projections for each player this season and his given Fantasy Score (as seen on our Remaining Year Projections page). That score represents the player's projected value based on the combination of all nine standard fantasy basketball categories (points, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and turnovers). For the purposes of this article, all players with SG, SG/SF, SF, and SF/PF as a fantasy position were considered.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
So what made "the Beard" so incredible last season? How about the fact that he was first in points scored by a landslide with over 2,200 on the year -- no other player hit the 2,000-point mark. When he wasn't scoring, he was distributing at a good rate as well finishing sixth in the league in assists. He was also third in steals, third in field goals made and fourth in three pointers made. His rebounding and shot blocking are also among the elite at his position. What makes him such a key fantasy piece is the fact that Harden constantly has the ball in his hands. Yes, that can lead to an increased amount of turnovers and there will be some nights where your team field goal percentage could take a hit, but the positives far out rule the negatives when a player possess the rock as much as Harden does. Though he is a great shooter, his ability to penetrate is what makes him such a fantasy star. His ability to get into the lane creates opportunity for a high percentage shot, an assist by drawing defenders, or what he does best: getting to the foul line.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
When people think of Kevin Durant from last season, many think of the fact that he missed 57 games last season because of a foot injury that wouldn't go away. But what they are overlooking is the fact that when he was on the floor for the Thunder, he was as good as he had ever been over his fantastic career. In 27 games played last season, he still managed to average 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists with a brilliant nERD of 5.9, given the amount of games he played. There is some risk involved when selecting a player like Durant early because of the issues he has had over the last year staying on the court. But Durant is in a contract year now with the Thunder and will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. Though he's as much a lock for a max-deal as any player can be, another injury-filled season would be less than ideal for him. When healthy, there are few better when it comes to points, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and rebounding at his position.
3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, but he finished outside the top 10 in fantasy rankings last year. We have him ninth overall entering this season. His field goal percentage is about the same as the guys ahead of him here, and he is as balanced a player there is in the NBA with what he can do with assists, rebounds and steals. His projected 24.4 points per game isn't at the top, but it's not too far off. James is a great player to have on your roster because this balance we speak of can bolster an already deep stat category and aid a possible weak one. What comes into question is the fact that he has spent an unbelievable amount of time on the basketball court having reached the Finals for what seems like every year for the last decade. He is already dealing with back issues this preseason, so his health is definitely something to be wary of.
4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard is not generally mentioned among the elite fantasy players, which is a big mistake. Sure, he doesn't consistently score over 20 points in a game or shoot lights out from three, which is expected among the elite wings, but when looking at what he brings to the table from top to bottom, there are really few better. He is a fantastic rebounder at his position, he shoots the ball well from the floor at just under 50%, and he is a main piece on offense of the well-oiled machine they call the Spurs. And let's not forget, he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and can carry your whole team on a week-to-week basis in the steals category. Plenty of later targets can produce points, but few can come close to Leonard's impact in the other categories. Leonard is the guy that makes your team better top-to-bottom and comes in at 10th in our rankings.
5. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
If it's your goal to take all the scoring categories in your league, Klay Thompson is your man. His ability to shoot and score is jaw dropping. His three point shooting is as good as there is in the league, and his field goal percentage for the amount of outside shots he takes is really amazing. Plus, he is one of the best in the NBA from the foul line. The lack of rebounds and assists are not just a product of being on the same team as Steph Curry and Draymond Green, but the role he plays for the Warriors is a big part of it. It is his job to run around the perimeter looking for shots, and he does not spend much time around the basket. His amazing ability to score the basketball has him at number 11 overall in our rankings.
6. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler is becoming a household name around the NBA. The new face of the Bulls led the Eastern Conference with a nERD of 12.7 last season. He averaged over 20 points per game, shot over 46% from the floor, and averaged just under six rebounds and just under two steals per game. There is a new regime in Chicago under Fred Hoiberg, which could bring a different look to Chicago's offensive attack. Butler should be the focal point for the Bulls as they once again have their eyes on the Finals. Butler just squeaks into our top 20 as the 19th ranked player in fantasy overall.
7. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
We are going to see a different side of Paul George in 2015-16. It is not just because he is coming off of that horrific leg injury which forced him to miss almost of all of last season. It is also because the Pacers, who are looking to get out and run this season, are looking to try George out the stretch four position. While it's a very different look for George, his game should not change too much as they will still look to have the ball in his hands to make plays and knock down shots. His field goal percentage is not great, but in this new role at the four, there could be every more opportunity for rebounds. Since we barely saw George last season, we remind you how fantastic he was in 2013-14 when he broke out averaging 21.7 points, 6.8 boards, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game. George is projected as the 20th best player in fantasy.
8. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Last season was a weird one for Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks' star only played in 40 games because of injury and was not rushed back based on the fact that New York was so poor last season. But even when he was on the floor, he didn't play his best basketball. His field goal and three point field goal percentages were the worst he's had since the 2011-12 season. He also posted his worst rebounding numbers since that same year. When Anthony is healthy, however, he has proven to be a very good fantasy asset. His points, rebounds, field goals and free throw percentages are pluses when in the mix on your roster. The Knicks will be very young again this season, and the ball will go through his hands more often than not. He is ranked 31st overall.
9. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
Going into last season, not many knew what to expect from Rudy Gay in his first full season with the Kings. He ultimately ended up being one of the best players on their team as he averaged 21.1 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while posting a 2.1 nERD. Since he came into the league out of UConn, Gay has proven he could be an among the elite in scoring. But it is how he has evolved as a player and how he has found a great fit on this Sacramento roster that has him thriving in other areas. With George Karl in as coach and pass-first Rajon Rondo quarterbacking the offense, this Kings offense should be fast and efficient. Gay provides above-average points, rebounds, field goal and free throw percentages, which is why he comes into the top 10 at his position and projects at number 32 overall.
10. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
If you could look up what a stretch four means in the game of basketball today, the definition would simply read "Draymond Green." Last season, Green worked himself into the conversation as one of the top players in the game. His on-court versatility and value to Golden State was rewarded this past offseason, and he was given a five-year, $85-million deal. Green last season put up a 7.4 nERD which was 19th overall in the NBA while averaging 11.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game. All of those were career bests -- and to think he is only 25. Green has the ability to be a double-double machine with the occasional triple-double over the course of the season.
The rest of our rankings can be found here.