Fantasy Basketball: Bryant holds spot for NBA shooting guards

So far in the abbreviated 2011-12 NBA season, some players have stepped up in their respective positions as the top fantasy players. This five-week series will investigate the top five players at each position, what they were ranked prior to the season and how their production will change in the future.

This week, the focus is on the shooting guard position.

5. Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets (No. 6 Preseason Position Rank) –Martin’s play so far this season has slightly exceeded the hype, as he was picked to be the sixth best shooting guard this season. With an average of 20.1 points per game, he’s been especially dominant as of late, scoring 25+ in his last five games (although he missed two straight games during that time span). In his latest outing against Minnesota on Monday, Martin dropped 29 points in his return from an injured foot and had four three pointers and three steals in 34 minutes of play.  If he stays on his feet, expect his PPG numbers to jump even higher.

4. Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks (No. 17 Preseason Position Rank) –Despite the addition of Vince Carter, Jason Terry has been productive as ever. He has yet to start a single game this season, but has logged 29.8 minutes per game and been fairly efficient, with 15.0 PPG and 3.7 assists per game. Though most of his numbers are below his career averages, his free throw and steals per game numbers are slightly up, and he is turning the ball over less often. He scored a season-high 34 points on Sunday in an overtime win against the San Antonio Spurs and has been in double digits 11 of his past 12 games. Most importantly, he currently has the fourth-most three point field goals in the NBA.

3. James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 15 Preseason Position Rank) –One of the front-runners for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, “The Beard” has been a beast this season for the third highest-scoring team in the league. He is the third-highest scorer on the team (behind 2010 and 2011 scoring champion Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook), averaging 16.9 PPG off the bench, along with 4.1 RPG and 3.2 APG.  He has also made the sixth most free throws in the league, which adds to his fantasy value.

2. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks (No. 10 Preseason Position Rank) – The 10-year pro from the University of Arkansas is currently the seventh-highest scoring guard in the league, averaging 18.6 PPG in 36.4 minutes of play. He also averages 4.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He has made the fifth-most three pointers in the league this season and has played the fourth-most minutes.

1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (No. 4 Preseason Position Rank) – Kobe Bryant is in beast mode this season. He had four consecutive games with 40-plus points in mid-January, averages a league-leading 30.2 PPG and the second-most minutes per game. The last time Bryant averaged more than 30 PPG was 2006-07 when he averaged 31.6 PPG. The season prior, in 2005-06, Bryant had the best season of his career from a scoring perspective, with 35.4 PPG. It appears Bryant may well be back in classic form this season, and so far he is the third-most valuable player in the entire league, following only King James and Durant.