Welcome to the first installment of the “Positional Risers” series.
Over the next five weeks, I’ll look at each position and examine a handful of candidates projected to shatter their average draft position (known as ADP from here on out) next season.
The first edition will focus on point guards, where we have two veteran names who take a major leap this season, and we also have two first-year players poised to shake up the ranks next season.
Here are links to all of the positional risers:
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
2014 ADP: 59.1 overall, Round 5.7
Key Stats: 15.9 points, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 3’s, 46% shooting.
Ricky Rubio (48.5) and Jrue Holiday (52.8) had a higher ADP than Jeff Teague in 2014. Regardless of the outcome of the first-round postseason series between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets, that’s not going to be an outcome that we see again in 2015. After Teague’s emphatic season as the quarterback in Mike Budenholzer’s read-and-react offense, there’s no doubt that he’ll be viewed as a No. 1 point guard option for many during the selection process.
Dennis Schroder is a fascinating talent, but he’s not supplanting Teague or his responsibilities next season. With Teague’s ability to facilitate as well as create offense for himself when necessary, he could take on an even larger role depending on what happens during the free-agent process. With both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll heading into the water, there could be some added pressure (and expectations) on Teague as he becomes more comfortable in his role as San Antonio East’s Tony Parker.
George Hill, Indiana Pacers
2014 ADP: 79.2, Round 7.5
Key Stats: 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.6 3’s, 47.7% shooting.
After Hill struggled with injuries during the earlier portion of the season (just 15 games before the All-Star break), the point guard delivered with an exclamation point in the second half, averaging 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 triples on 48.1 percent shooting over the final 28 games of the regular season. With the Pacers losing Lance Stephenson and being forced to play most of the year without Paul George, Hill rose to the occasion when tasked with a bigger role and more responsibilities.
Considering both Larry Bird and Frank Vogel have already discussed building a new identity for this Pacers team that emphasizes speed and quickness, Hill’s role only stands to grow in a backcourt that needs absolutely everything he can give it.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
2014 ADP: 117.2, Round 10.9
Key Stats: 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 42.5% shooting.
Before the All-Star break, Payton’s averages were ordinary for a rookie: 7.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.6 steals. After the All-Star break, the Ragin’ Cajun exploded with averages of 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 2.1 steals on 42.9% shooting. And while the overall field goal percentage still leaves something to be desired, Payton brought up his three-point percentage from an embarrassing 19% to 33.3% in the second half, a very encouraging sign for his future.
Honing in more specifically on Payton’s late-season breakout, Payton played like his (incredible) hair was on fire over the season’s final two months. In 14 March games, Payton put up 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.8 steals on 45.8 percent shooting, by far his most productive month in his rookie season. And while April saw him predictably cool off a touch (length of season), Payton was still able to muster up an impressive 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 8.4 assists and an unbelievable 3.3 steals over his final eight games.
If Payton is able to improve his shot and shoot it in the mid-40 percent range, which doesn’t seem like a stretch of a projection, we are looking at a player who is a nightly double-double threat capable of swiping two-plus steals in every contest. Even if he doesn’t learn to shoot the rock better, that’s still a heck of a player.
Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
2014 ADP: Undrafted
Key Stats: 11.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 44.8% shooting.
Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle make the Los Angeles Lakers’ future interesting if not exciting. And that’s something that’s in desperate need out in Tinseltown, where there has been nothing but doom and gloom surrounding this franchise since the failed Steve Nash-Dwight Howard experiment under Mike D’Antoni.
After Clarkson was an afterthought during most of the first half of the season, his second-half breakout had him universally owned in every fantasy format. Over his final 28 games, Clarkson averaged a strong 16.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 triples on a rock-solid 47.9% shooting. The most impressive thing about Clarkson’s improvement is that he was able to sustain his performance even when his minutes increased, going from an average of 27.5 in February to just north of 36 in April, something that a lot of rookies have a difficult time managing when that happens.
Even if the Lakers and Rajon Rondo come together in a shotgun marriage this offseason, Clarkson is going to be a big part of this team’s plans. After pilfering him with the No. 46 overall pick of the 2014 draft class, the Lakers will prioritize both Clarkson’s role and development moving forward. And that’s music to the ears of fantasy owners everywhere.
Considering Kobe Bryant is entering what is presumably his final season and the Lakers having absolutely nothing tangible on the wing or backcourt entering the offseason behind him, I’m buying Clarkson’s stock at Costco where it comes in bulk.