NBA preview: shooting guards

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(If you're looking for more about Kobe everything you need to know about the fantasy season ahead, check out the 2008 NBA Fantasy Draft Kit.)

Kobe continues to put up stellar numbers across the board, making him a top 5 pick in every single league. He bumped his steals up from 1.4 in 2006-07 to 1.8 last season, which was a huge boost for his fantasy value. He's dished out 5-plus assists seven times in the past eight years, and he also averages a block every two games, which is very good for a shooting guard. He can also be a free-throw percentage anchor, because the career 84 percent FT shooter gets to the line nearly 10 times per game. However, Kobe's minutes, points, and rebounds may decline this season as the Lakers give him more rest and use a more balanced scoring attack. Of course, he could set a career-high in field-goal shooting as a result.

If you watched the Olympics, Wade likely answered any questions you had about his health. He looked as dominating as he did in the '06 playoffs, which means he's primed for a bounceback season. Since Miami relies on him for so much of their offense, his assist numbers look like a point guard's, but he's also capable of blocking a shot per game, which is something very few guards can do. His only negatives? You can't expect 82 games out of him, and if your league counts turnovers you have to be very careful (average of 4.05 turnovers per game over the last four years). However, when healthy, he's the only shooting guard on the planet with the potential to be more valuable than Kobe.

Without a doubt, Martin is the third-best shooting guard out there. He quietly finished sixth in scoring last year, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he cracked the top 3 in '08-09. He knocks down treys and gets his fair share of steals, but his real value lies in his free-throw shooting. He led the league in free throws made per game last season, and has shot over 84 percent from the line three years in a row. With both Mike Bibby and Ron Artest gone, Martin will get all the shots he can handle in Sacramento. His body is somewhat frail and he's played 75-plus games just once in his career, but if he can stay healthy, I'm predicting a career year for Kev-Mart.

At 27 years old, Johnson is in his prime. He played much better after Mike Bibby came over in the trade, improving his stats in nearly every single category. He's capable of dropping 7-plus dimes on any given night, and when his tjhree-point shot is falling, he's a top 20 fantasy player. Of course, he goes through shooting slumps every now and then, but as Josh Smith and Al Horford improve offensively, that will open up things even more for Johnson.

Richardson will have a tough time matching his career-year from last season, but he's still just 27, so there's a chance he could even get better. After the All-Star break, he averaged an impressive 24.8 points, 3.2 threes, 1.9 steals and .7 blocks per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line. However, he shot under 70 percent from the line in the four seasons prior, so he could hurt you quite a bit in that category. It remains to be seen what kind of impact new coach Larry Brown will have on his game, but if it's a positive one, J-Rich will be a top 5 shooting guard in '08-09.

Some people are going to avoid Carter on draft day because he's one year older (31) and he doesn't always seem motivated. However, he played much better after Kidd was sent packing because he wanted to prove that he could win without him. Since the Nets lost Richard Jefferson and several other scorers over the summer, they are in serious need of more offense. VC is capable of putting up big-time numbers across the board, so if you think he can stay healthy and motivated, you could be rewarded nicely.

Durant had a fine rookie season and surprisingly, showed no signs of hitting the "rookie wall." After the All-Star break, he cut down on his 3-point attempts, which had a very positive effect on his field-goal shooting (it went up from 40.2 percent to 47.6 percent and resulted in more points per game. He's a very gifted offensive player, but his excellent length (nearly 7-foot-5 wingspan) allows him to rack up lots of blocks and steals. He just turned 20 in September, so the skies the limit for this kid. Just be careful in nine-category leagues, because he's going to turn the ball over a lot.

Last year was a disaster for the Knicks, and Crawford still put up excellent numbers. He averaged a career-high 20.6 points per game in '07-08, and that could go up even further as Mike D'Antoni's main man. The biggest knock on Crawford is his poor shot selection, which is why he's a career 40.3 percent shooter from the field. However, D'Antoni's "7 Seconds or Less" offense helps guys get more open looks, and I think Crawford will embrace the system and shoot better than ever before. He's a superb free-throw shooter, he makes a lot of threes, and I'm predicting a career-year for him this season.

Roy averaged just 1.8 turnovers in 37.7 minutes per game, which is outstanding for a guy who handles the rock as much as he does. This makes him an excellent 9-cat player, but he's somewhat overrated in 8-cat leagues, because he doesn't get many threes or steals. However, his mediocre shooting percentages from last season are bound to improve, and he's going to dish out a lot of assists on a young Portland team with several offensive weapons. Health is a concern, because he's already missed 33 games in his two-year career.

Redd's stats were down in nearly every single category last season, so he could be a good value pick this year. Since he doesn't get many steals, his fantasy value is closely tied to his shooting percentages, which were just 44 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line, as opposed to 46 percent and 86 percent, respectively, in years past. Some people are going to avoid him because Richard Jefferson could take some shots away, but I think R-Jeff is going to help him, because he'll get more open shots and have less pressure to create for himself. He's not flashy, but Redd is a solid No. 1 shooting guard for your fantasy team.

Dunleavy was phenomenal in '07-08, but I'm projecting his stats to fall this season. For starters, he handled the rock a lot last year due to the Pacers' shaky point guard play, but with T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack now in town, Dunleavy's assists are going to decline. His excellent shooting percentages from last season are also likely to fall, so don't draft him too early this year. That being said, he's found a home in Indiana and is still a solid No. 1 shooting guard.

With Baron Davis out of town and Monta Ellis likely out for most of the season, Jackson will have to be a big-time leader and playmaker this season. As a result, he should easily set a career-high in assists (and turnovers), but his points and threes may decline a bit. He gets his share of steals and blocks and his free-throw shooting is rock solid, but you need to be careful of his field-goal shooting, because it could hurt quite a bit.