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Fantasy basketball: Finding value in overlooked point guards

Now on the Suns, Ricky Rubio remains a steady source of assists and steals. Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

You had a draft strategy. You stuck to it. Don't fold after one dud.

If you want to get active early, look at who's bringing up the ball in your imaginary backcourt.

One strategy I tried in a couple of drafts: pump the brakes on point guards. The market on early-round point guards is decidedly unstable. Even the mid-round guys are tough to trust.

Once I get past Harden-Curry-Simmons-Lillard, I see question marks.

What kind of Usage will Russell Westbrook and Kemba Walker command? Can Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday stay healthy? Do De'Aaron Fox and Trae Young take The Leap™? Do Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell carpe diem in their new situations? Will Jamal Murray stage a high-altitude bounce-back?

Once I get into the seventh round, I see exclamation marks.

Lonzo Ball is free of Lakers Exceptionalism! Chris Paul is saddled up for his OKC Vendetta Ride! Kyle Lowry is going to convert Kawhi Leonard's vacated Usage into roto poutine! Ricky Rubio is the steady hand Phoenix craved! Mike Conley is the steady hand Utah craved! Eric Bledsoe is the show in Milwaukee's post-Malcolm Brogdon backcourt! Ja Morant is a darkhorse ROY! Jeff Teague is ambulatory! Gregg Popovich can find a way for Derrick White, Bryn Forbes and Dejounte Murray to peacefully co-exist! Fred VanVleet wasn't just a playoff mirage! Markelle Fultz is post-Process!

Most importantly: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to make enough of a fantasy impact that I can reduce my carpal tunnel by exclusively referring to him as SGA! (Let's make this happen! It would be the biggest typographical mercy mission since the establishment of "Greek Freak!")

So I waited on filling my PG slot. Stocked assists via other positions (LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Bradley Beal, Draymond Green).

But after the sixth round? I went all in on the floor generals.

There's a post-60 ADP cornucopia at the one. My rosters are overflowing with Paul. Ball. Conley. Bledsoe. SGA. Morant. VanVleet. Tomas Satoransky. Spurs (White, Forbes, Murray).

The early-season market on point guard is an area of opportunity. Be ready to jump on some of these early risers in shallow leagues. Try to get a handle on which late-round PGs are translating opportunity into production, and grab a couple before it's too late.

Let's take a heat check on some late-round PG names.

Chris Paul (ADP: 65.0)

Night one, Paul turned in stretch-four numbers: 22 points, eight rebounds, four 3s, three assists. Even more important: Paul didn't pull anything. Nice little intro for that seventh-round ADP. But we drafted Paul to help us sneak up in assists.

Kyle Lowry (ADP: 69.5)

Got some overtime out of the gate. The extra minutes spackled some volume-based stats (22 points, six assists, five rebounds) over the clunky shooting (4-15 FG, 3-11 3PT). Like Paul, Lowry is getting a late-career shot at being an Alpha. If they can log 70-plus games, they'll outperform those middling ADPs by at least two rounds.

Ricky Rubio (ADP: 69.7)

We got Peak Rubio on Wednesday night. Double-double (11 points, 11 assists), six boards, four steals. Got to the line four times. If he can just throw in a 3 here and there, Rubio will be a draft-day theft.

Eric Bledsoe (ADP: 70.9)

Stats: TBD. Mike Budenholzer says Bledsoe will be in Thursday night's starting lineup. And as he showed in last year's playoffs, Bledsoe can still fill it up on occasion.

Lonzo Ball (ADP: 73.8)

It's gonna take a second to see how the minutes shake out in the Pelicans' backcourt. In game one, Ball sat in the second half and barely cracked the 25 MPG barrier. He still filled in an efficient if understated line (eight points, five assists, five rebounds, two 3s).

The shooting has improved. Ball is a centerpiece in the return on a trade of a franchise player. The opportunities will come.

Mike Conley (ADP: 74.0)

Look at it this way: at least Conley attempted 14 shots. In a month, it won't matter that he made only one of them.

Ja Morant (ADP 78.9)

Like most 20-year-olds, Morant was all over the map: 14 points, four assists, four rebounds, one steal, one block, six turnovers. Morant is going to get all kinds of volume this season. He'll gain steam as the campaign unfolds. But you're going to have to ride out the rookie inefficiency.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (ADP: 101.2)

Kaboom. 26 points on 23 attempts. But we need some secondary stats to elevate Gilgeous-Alexander to SGA status. As of this writing, he's still just Colin Sexton after a matcha latte.

Jeff Teague (ADP: 103.7)

Teague is reliable fantasy narcolepsy. He'll lull you to sleep, but the stats will be there. Teague was Teaguing all over his first box score: 14 points, four assists. That's one point and one assist shy of my very reasonable expectation.

Spencer Dinwiddie (ADP: 120.6)

Methinks Dinwiddie might get Kyried. 14 points: good. 19 minutes: bad. So maybe the minutes won't be there. The question: Can Dinwiddie remain roster-worthy as a reserve?

Derrick White/Dejounte Murray/Bryn Forbes (ADP: 121.5/126.4/140.0)

It's a sobering commentary on my life choices that after Kurt Suzuki's home run, the second most exciting part of my Wednesday night was seeing that Bryn Forbes played 33 minutes. (And unlike most Angelenos, my Nationals fandom began well before last week.)

Popovich is going to squeeze some fantasy goodness out of this backcourt. Forbes proved it with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting (3-6 3PT). Murray positively threw down with 18 points, six assists, eight rebounds and three steals. White? Not so hot. Nine points and three dimes.

Still, two out of three box scores ain't bad. I'm expecting at least one of these three to post a genuine fantasy breakout in 2019-20.

Colin Sexton (ADP: 124.6)

It's tough when two rebounds and two assists feel like an improvement.

Goran Dragic (ADP: 129.4)

Dragic vs. Tyler Herro. A timeshare to watch. Herro's a SG, but his early performance is going to govern Dragic's role in Miami's amorphous backcourt. It's Dragic's veteran steady versus Herro's young upside. For one (Jimmy Butler-less) night, both guards produced, but Justise Winslow led the Heat with seven assists.

Derrick Rose/Reggie Jackson (ADP 129.8/138.2)

Another bingeworthy MPG battle: Rose vs. Reggie Jackson. Game one, Jackson was banged up, and Rose took advantage off the bench.

Dennis Smith Jr./Elfrid Payton (ADP 131.4/140.0)

Last time I checked, David Fizdale was still their coach. Avert your eyes. Keep moving.

Fred VanVleet (ADP: 136.6)

This Nats-in-the-World-Series-and-shocking-the-world thing is wreaking havoc on my opening week. Did I mention I nodded off and forgot to start VanVleet in my ESPN expert league?

Yes, the box score was overtime-boosted. But that was one helluva Kawhi imitation: 34 points, seven assists, five rebounds, five steals, five 3s.

Markelle Fultz (ADP: 139.9)

Our projection tells no lies. Fultz is an "enigma." His opening box score was... enigmatic. 12 points and six dimes in 23 under-the-radar minutes.

I won't predict which way this goes. But there's major upside to mine in Fultz. And Orlando was the perfect expectation-free landing spot. Fultz is a special case. A mercurial talent in need of a rebuild above the shoulders.

As I advise anyone who's recently spent time in Philadelphia: you just have to put it out of your mind and move on with your life.