Who says it’s too early to draft for fantasy basketball? Recently, I gathered eleven well respected fantasy hoops writers to join me in an early off-season mock draft. It’s always interesting to see how player values change from the middle of the off-season to closer to the season’s start. Here you’re not only going to get to view the mock draft results but also get in-depth analysis from each of the twelve experts. So, if you’re a hardcore fantasy hoops player and are starved for drafts and info, even early in the off-season, I hope you brought a bib because we’ve got a smorgasbord of fantasy goodness for you today.
This draft was conducted as an eight category (points, rebounds, assists, 3-pointers made, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage) rotisserie league. We had 12-teams and went 15 rounds knowing that our roster settings were: PG – SG – SF – PF – C – G – G – F – F – Util – Util and four bench spots.
The mock participants:
Now, without further delay, let’s get to the main course: the mock draft results.
I hope you all saved room for dessert because we’re not done here. Following the mock, I asked each analyst two questions about their draft, whether it be what they’re expecting from a certain player they drafted this season or delving into their draft strategy. Here are the questions and answers:
Adam Ganeles – The Fantasy Fix
1) You took Brook Lopez last pick of the fourth round. Do you feel confident he will have a healthy 2014-15 or did you feel his upside if healthy was just too great to pass up at pick 48? What do you expect of him this season?
“It’s difficult to feel to secure in the health of “Fragile Brook”, but at that spot (pick 48) the upside was too significant to pass on. The Nets offense needs to run through Lopez first and foremost, with Joe Johnson the second option. Am I concerned about his softness on the glass? Absolutely. But he could grab nine boards per game by accident if he just applied himself — although he hasn’t been above 6.9 since 2010. Lopez’s shot blocking is kind of an underrated commodity, and he shoots high % from everywhere.”
2) How do you feel about your draft? Are you a fan of drafting on the end — besides the obvious perk of being gifted Kevin Durant — of the draft where you pick back-to-back but having long waits until it gets back to you or do you prefer to be more in the middle without that big of a distance between turns?
“The answer is going to bore you. Honestly, I’m up for the challenge of drafting anywhere. My assessment on personnel talent is usual vastly different than that of other owners, so I can usually get my man regardless. Sometimes I reach, sometimes I make bizarre choices on the surface… but drafting guys you believe in is essential, or you’ll kick yourself all year long. While I’m overall content with my roster, the Fighting Ganeles’ need an unsuspecting member to step up on the glass. Maybe Tobias?”
Matt Smith – Fantasy Hoops Insider
1) You shook the draft early, taking Anthony Davis number two overall ahead of LeBron James despite AD’s well known injury history. Do you feel AD is just THAT good when healthy or simply hoping this is the season he plays 80 games? Make a brief case for Davis at 2nd overall.
“Davis has only played 64 and 67 games respectively through his first two seasons. However, I don’t have the ‘injury prone’ label on him and believe Davis will play 75+ games this season for two significant reasons: Davis is reportedly bigger and stronger than last season, already putting on around 15 pounds of muscle; and the signing of Omer Asik will allow Davis to play power forward, as opposed to center, where he doesn’t have to play as much of a physical game against the big boys night after night, thus increasing his durability.
There is no doubt in my mind that Anthony Davis will be one of the great fantasy players over the next decade. In fact, I see him putting up similar numbers to what Kevin Garnett did between 1998-2007 – with more blocks, possibly higher percentages but slightly less assists.
Coming into his third season, Davis will again improve and could easily average 22 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 steals, 3 blocks whilst shooting 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line. If he can do that he will be the consenus number 2 fantasy player in the game.”
2) A player I am sure everyone was curious to see taken, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo selected by you 71st overall with a lot of more proven options still on the board. What from last season makes you believe the breakout is coming for the sophomore player despite mostly the same roster with rookie phenom Jabari Parker stepping in as well?
“There are a lot of unknowns around the Bucks coming into the season: their starting five, style of play and how quickly Jason Kidd can develop this young, exciting roster. One thing is certain though, I want Giannis Antetokounmpo on my fantasy teams this season – so much so, I seriously considered drafting him with my previous selection at pick 50.
The talk about him handling some of the point guard duties and running the offense is a great sign for his fantasy value. I can see him averaging 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists while flirting with a three, steal and block per game – a Nicolas Batum-esque type line. If my predictions are correct he should finish the season a top 50 player making him a steal at pick 71.
If that’s not enough, he will likely be SG, SF and PF eligible in most formats with the realistic chance to add PG eligiblitity to that during the season.”
Ricky Sanders – Roto Experts
1) You popped the draft’s rookie cherry in selecting Jabari Parker 51st overall. The next round you took another rook in Andrew Wiggins. You’re obviously not one who shies away from the unknowns. Are you always a fan of drafting rookies hoping for nice upside or is this a case that you just feel Jabari will be a stud from day one, worthy of being drafted ahead of Thaddeus Young, Klay Thompson and the like?
“This rookie class is one of the better ones in recent memory. Last year’s rookie class was so disappointing that Fantasy owners may tend to stray away this season. Let me be the one to tell you: “DON’T!” Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins were both dubbed “the next LeBron James” at one point, and although that may not be true for either, it gives you an idea of how highly regarded they were as prospects. Parker and Wiggins both not only score but add in the defensive statistics. Each averaged over 1.0 BLK and 1.0 STL in their one year in college to go along with their offensive potential.
Parker eventually strikes me as a Carmelo-esque player and that’s someone I’m willing to take a shot on…….even as a rookie. Heck, Damian Lillard scored 19 as a rook and I think Parker (and maybe even Wiggins) could be better scorers. These are legitimate Fantasy options and should be ranked as such even in year number one.”
2) Some shy away from players who are coming off of major injuries and/or have known injury histories. You drafted Derrick Rose, Danilo Gallinari, Andrew Bogut and JaVale McGee who all have major injury concerns. Is this just a “go big or go home” philosophy where you’d just assume take risks in hopes of hitting it rich and winning the league even if missing results in coming in — or close to — last?
“So I approach each of these injuries as separate entities. Derrick Rose absolutely scares me but my worry level has gone down some recently watching him play. He looks as explosive as ever, and although I wouldn’t draft him much earlier, round three seems about right for a former top five Fantasy pick. I wrote an article on Gallinari a few weeks ago explaining he has actually been healthy for a while now. Gallinari used to put up numbers comparable to Bradley Beal and Chandler Parsons and I drafted him a hell of a lot later.
As for Bogut, that pick was a mistake. I really don’t like his injury prospects moving forward and at the time I was literally drafting from a plane. Had I known Omer Asik was available, I would have passed on the injury-prone Australian. I just wanted blocks at that point. JaVale McGee supposedly has also been pain free for some time now and his fresh legs could be a fresh start in 2014-15. Although I don’t love his all-around game, he should be near the league lead in blocks if he can stay healthy. Blocks are impossible to find during the season so even if he only gives me 10 PTS, 7 REB or so, I will either find a use for him or a trade partner that can……So to answer your question, it was not go big or go home. It was finding the right values at the right times.”
Zack Rewis – The Fantasy Fix
1) You took Kobe Bryant 45th overall despite him coming off of an achilles injury that kept him out more than the first month of last season before he suffered a fracture in his left knee after just six games that sidelined him the rest of the season. No fear his legs are just too old and fragile to risk this early in a draft?
“There’s no question there is risk involved here, no denying that, but sometimes the potential upside a player has simply outweighs that risk. When I took him there were still really good names available but nobody that could even fathom putting up numbers that a fully healthy and motivated Kobe Bryant can. Kobe’s last full season he averaged 27 points, 5.5 rebounds, six assists, 1.4 steals, 1.7 treys while shooting 46% from the field on 20 shots a game and 84% from the foul-line on eight FTA per game. Those aren’t just good numbers, they’re super-elite and enough so to end him as 5th best player in this exact format that season.
I’m not saying that I expect a clone of those numbers by any means with his team’s overall talent very deflated compared to that season. Kobe’s teammates won’t demand defensive attention the way his old team did and that will make things tougher on him, but let’s face it, this is the Mamba and he welcomes doubters. As of now my Kobe projections have him at 22.5ppg – 5rpg – 5apg – 1spg – 1.5 treys – 43% FG – 80% FT and I am happy to take that on my team at 45 overall.”
2) Explain your draft strategy in this mock. Did you have a set plan from the jump or did it vary as the draft went along?
“I knew barring a shocker pick in the top three, exactly who I was going to land at pick four, Stephen Curry. I wanted to play off of his strengths — points, threes, assists, steals and both percentages — while also adding some balance in the rebound and block categories. I was confident from my rankings that I could get good point guard value later, so with my second pick I went with Chris Bosh and got a steal in Dirk Nowitzki in the third who add boards while also complimenting Curry. I took a couple of gambles on Kobe and Nerlens Noel who both come off of knee injuries, but I explained Kobe in the first question and I needed a big splash in blocks and nobody available offered it at that point like Noel.
The rest of the way I found the two starting point guards I had my sights on who I thought offered nice value for their rounds. Basically, yes, everything I did was according to plan. I started with Curry then added boards all while trying to keep my percentages up and adding balance along the way. I probably went a little overboard in treys once I added Redick, Teletovic and Hood but that makes me a good trade partner in-season. I also really like Pierce this season in Washington who can do a little of everything solidly, and I believe Rudy Gobert steals more and more of Enes Kanter‘s minutes along the way and offers big block upside late – although Gorgui Dieng may have been a safer bet. I honestly feel really good about what I did as a whole.”
Joe Polito – CBS
1) You started out the draft taking James Harden 5th overall, one of the best free throw shooters in fantasy, and followed him up in the second round with one of the worst free throw shooters in his teammate Dwight Howard. What was your scheme there?
“I’m expecting huge years out of both Harden and Howard given all the production Chandler Parsons left behind. I thought long and hard about going with Bosh, but ultimately I decided to gamble on Howard getting back to his dominant form of two-plus blocks and 20-plus points per game. The majority of teams drafted somebody who’s bringing down their free throw percentage, so why not draft the best of the bunch?
These first two picks kind of set the tone of going for volume over efficiency. Not sure we’ll see a duo with a bigger workload than Harden and Howard next season. They did bring in Ariza, but he’s a spot-up shooter and won’t play the play-making role that Parsons did. Just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lock up two ultra-high usage options on a team that ranked top five in pace last season.”
2) You didn’t draft any rookies (until you took a shot on Marcus Smart and Nik Stauskas as wildcards in the final two rounds respectively) or really any unknown commodities either. Is going with players you feel comfortable that you know what you’re getting a style you tend to stick to or was this just a coincidence?
“I’m usually all for drafting youth and upside over the old reliable types, but I felt that the young guns were all getting scooped up before I was willing to draft them. Also, rookies seem like even more of a gamble in rotisserie considering they’re usually inefficient. Only 19 rookies over the last 10 years have shot better than 45 percent from the field while scoring 10-plus points and logging 25-plus minutes per game, and more than half were big men.
Therefore, my strategy basically shifted into getting value talent in every round rather than reaching for upside. I just saw my team starting to look like a gang of undervalued misfits, so I embraced it. I like the Smart pick as a lottery ticket if Rondo gets traded, and Stauskas seems to have a clear path to playing time with the upside to be a shooting specialist.”
Steve Alexander – Rotoworld
1) You selected Jodie Meeks 91st overall with a lot of bigger name SGs still on the board. You must be reasonably high on him. What is your outlook this season for Meeks with his new team, the Pistons?
“I probably took Meeks too high, but I will say that I’m not completely sold on the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hype after he blew it up in summer league. I like Meeks and am happy with the pick, although you’re right, I probably could have gotten him later. If I had it to do over again, given my lack of point guards, I would have tried to find one there instead of Meeks.”
2) Started your mock off with Chris Paul and then didn’t select another point guard thru round 13. Was this by design or simply a factor of just taking best player available? Looking back now, do you feel this was a mistake or you’re happy with what you did?
“Welp, it was a matter of me basically drafting this team from my kid’s football practice on a blackberry where I didn’t have much access to who I owned or who was available. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken another point guard in Round five-ish – Not my plan to go into the season with one point guard, but this slow draft and my four kids with school starting that week made for less than ideal drafting conditions.”
Josh Lloyd – Red Rock Basketball
1) Kevin Love was your first selection at 7th overall. What do you think of his outlook under the assumption that he joins LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and other solid players in Cleveland? Do you see him being near the same even surrounded by much better talent?
“Before Love’s destiny seemed to be in Cleveland, I had him as the number five player for fantasy basketball. If, as everyone expects, Love joins LeBron James, he will experience a slight drop off, but there’s no way I see him dropping that much. At pick seven, he was too good to pass on, although I did consider Russell Westbrook at that spot. In fact, in Cleveland, there is probably less competition for boards than there was in Minnesota with Nikola Pekovic, so the major dropoff, if any, will be in scoring.”
2) You took one of last seasons bigger busts/disappointments, Deron Williams, 66th overall. Feel Deron has a big bounce back season or just felt he had slipped too far considering his past numbers? What are you expecting from DWill in 2014-15?
“I’m not super, super high on Deron Williams, but at pick 66, it’s just amazing value. Even though he was considered such a disappointment last season, he was still ranked 51st on per-game value in eight-category leagues and if he is healthier and without Paul Pierce, he should improve on those numbers and return me solid top 50 value. In fact if he was a top 30 player again, I wouldn’t be shocked at all and if that happens, I probably got the bargain of the draft.”
Mark Kaplan – Fantasy Alarm
1) You found yourself on the clock for your 5th round pick within an hour of the brutal Paul George injury in the Team USA scrimmage game which led you to selecting Roy Hibbert. How far of a jump up your ranks did Hibbert leap due to the George injury and what do you feel Roy’s capable of this season due to the circumstances?
“Well, I needed some blocks and Hibbert was fourth in the league in blocks per game last season so that had something to do with it. With that said, Hibbert definitely jumped up about a round (10 spots in the rankings) because he will be asked to do more and this is a player that was awesome in the first half of last season before being worthless during the second half of the season. Hibbert will get more shot opportunities with George out so his PPG should increase as well as as his rebounds per game. Expect a bounce back season from Hibbert by producing 13-14 points, 8 rebounds, and 2+ blocks per game this season.”
2) Do you simply go best available player early and then build on the strengths of those players as the draft goes on or do you have a set plan from the get go?
“I do both. I try to target a few categories in the first few rounds of a roto draft and those are points, assists, and players that are elite in multiple categories. I want players that average 20+ points a game and assists is something that is hard to find at the end of drafts. Having 2-3 players average 6+ assists per game is a huge advantage. In this mock my first four picks were all players that did those things (Per game averages in 2014: Blake Griffin 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, Russell Westbrook 21.8 points, 5.7 rebs, 6.9 assists, Kemba Walker 17.7 points, 4.2 rebs, 6.1 assists, DeMar DeRozan (Think this was my best pick of the draft) 22.7 points, 4 rebs/assists). Then I target certain players that will fill out the categories I was lacking in (rebounds, blocks, and FG%).”
Matt McLean – Worldwide Fantasy
1) You took Damian Lillard 16th overall, fifth point guard off the board. Do you feel Lillard has an even higher ceiling that he hasn’t reached yet statistically or do you expect about the same and you’re completely happy with what he brings at 16th overall?
“Lillard is just scratching the surface of his potential at 24 years old. His new focus on defence this offseason will only strengthen his all round game and fantasy appeal alike. He takes a lot of shots for a point guard but you can see by the results that Portland have had in his first 2 seasons that he is a very special talent.
As for outdoing his draft position, in some formats and scoring categories Lillard ranked within the top 15, in any standard format he ranks inside the top 30 overall with ease. In the case of drafting the best player you could for a need, Lillard fits the bill with fantastic production from a second year player.”
2) Who do you feel was the best value you got in the draft and why do you feel they’ll far exceed their draft spot?
“I don’t particularly have favorite pick for my draft because my strategy had to change after the injury to George. When you need to cover the production from your first round pick on the fly, it changes the freedom to take risks in certain areas for the remainder of your roster.
Michael Gallagher – Rotoworld
1) Have to admit, I absolutely loved your starting three picks combined. Three great roto guys that compliment each other quite well. Kawhi Leonard, the NBA Finals MVP, 15th overall did raise a couple of eyebrows at the time. Explain why you love Kawhi in roto leagues and just how good do you expect him to be this season?
“I can’t begin to tell you how many frustrated people there were about Kawhi even before his metacarpal injury. However, he was still putting up fifth- or sixth-round value even before he went down.
When he did return on Feb. 26, it was on like Donkey Kong. He was the No. 5(!) fantasy player when he did return to the end of the season, and you’ve probably seen us blurb him on our Player News page and pimp him big time.
On top of that, he completely took over in the postseason. After having just a somewhat low 40.7 percent of his shots come unassisted in the regular season, that number grew to 50.0 percent in the playoffs. Coach Gregg Popovich said he’s going to run more plays for Kawhi this year, which makes all too much sense. That means he has a shot to move his 12.8 points per game from 2013-14 to around 16 while also upping his treys.
Including the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard had a 52.0 effective field goal percentage on his jump shots and pull-ups last season. He just turned 23 about a month ago and has really just counted on his freakish frame and quickness, so adding some more moves makes him extremely dangerous. On top of that, his shot selection is top notch, and he’s a career 80.3 percent free throw shooter. The sky is the limit and he could easily be a top-five guy for the season just like he was in the last two months of 2013-14. If he slips out of the second round, there is something wrong with your league.
So much ceiling and he’s relatively safe with a high floor because of percentages and doing it all on D.”
2) You started with John Wall then took Batum in the third, both of which get assists, but then seemed to abandon assists the rest of the way. Did you know from the jump that you were not going to go after assists and just loved Wall and Batum’s all-around roto games or did your strategy change a few rounds in?
“I think Wall is a near lock to be in the top three for assists after leading the NBA in total assists last season. Plus, as you alluded to, Batum came in at a very respectable 23rd for dimes last year.
I almost never reach for a category unless I’m in dire straits. I think I found some nice value in Mario Chalmers, George Hill and Patrick Beverley, which puts me right in the middle of the pack on dimes by my estimation.
I have almost always drafted the best available player in the first half of the draft, then I’ll move my needs up on my lists of priorities for the second half of drafts. The draft isn’t a huge deal in the second half of NBA fantasy leagues. You can pull off some nice trades and obviously the waiver wire can be a huge asset, especially at point guard.”
Sam Macey – The Fantasy Fix
1) Was there a player that you were surprised fell to you in the mock as a great value, and what’s your evaluation of this player for the upcoming season?
“I was really happy with Reggie Jackson in round 8. All indications are he’s the new starter at SG, with Morrow/Roberson/Lamb off the bench. I expect Jackson to get around 32mpg – in the 24 games he played at least 32mins in last season, he averaged 15.6pts, 4.3reb, 5.0asst, 1.8stl, 1.3x 3s along with 43%fg with 92%ft. That’s a lot more value than someone grabbed at pick 86 and he should meet all those stats, which is top 60 value. Kevin Martin at 110 was also a steal, providing he’s starting and healthy.”
2) Kelly Olynyk was an interesting pick in the 11th round. Are you expecting big things for his sophomore campaign or did his second time of Summer League domination just get you thinking he was worth a later round gamble?
“I’m not expecting too much this late, but the kid has talent and I fully expect Brad Stevens to utilise his smarts and post game. His Summer League play was very solid, but when he got minutes last year – despite being on a horrible team, which won’t change this season – he really showed his worth. It’s a small sample size, but in the 15 games he played at least 25mins in, he produced 16.7pts, 8.4reb, 3.2ast, 0.8stl, 0.9x 3s and 53/92 shooting splits. I’ll be honest, I wanted Sullinger at this pick, but Olynyk might have more upside in fantasy with those elite percentages. I’m pencilling in 13-15pts, 6-7reb, 2-3asst and useful steals, blocks and threes with 50/80 shooting percentages.”
Scott Malewig – Draft Day
1) You started out with two of the leagues great big men who both deliver not only great FG% but also solid FT%. You then took four straight players who shot a combined 42.1% from the field last season, two of those four were also poor free throw shooters. Guessing this wasn’t the plan after the first two rounds, what changed your course?
“I honestly didn’t even get started on the plan I had going into the draft. That tends to happen to me a lot in drafts because I’d much rather take the players that fall to me than try to build around a “plan” that could easily be trash three weeks into the season. I couldn’t pass up Ibaka with the last pick in the first, so he was more of a “Awesome, he’s still there” pick than a team building pick. The key word in this question to me is “last season” and people forget that Rondo is almost a 48% career shooter.
I expect Bradley Beal, much like DeMarcus Cousins, whom I picked earlier, to take a huge leap forward this year, I think Beal will end up being a 3rd round value easily this season. My next two picks were guys I simply guys I felt fell too far. I expect Josh Smith to rack up huge counting stats this year if the Pistons can move him or Greg Monroe so he can play power forward all season and Michael Carter-Williams isn’t an elite talent, but in the Sixers fast paced offense and a year of experience under his belt, I can’t imagine him not improving on last years numbers with the lack of competition for shot attempts.”
2) Towards the later rounds you grabbed two intriguing rookies in Julius Randle and Dante Exum. What kind of fantasy impact are you expecting from these young guns right away?
“I’m extemely high on Julius Randle as an NBA player, I think the Lakers stole him at pick seven. Obviously, the Carlos Boozer addition dampens his upside, but people seem to be out there assuming Jordan Hill is going to play 30 minutes a game all season. He has NEVER averaged more than the 20 mpg he did last season. I expect Randle to get plenty of playing time whether it’s in big lineups with him at the 3 or small lineups with Boozer at the 5.
As for Exum, he just has so much talent, that it’s hard to see him being relegated to a minor role all season. He’s better than Trey Burke already if you ask me and the Jazz clearly don’t have any major love for Alec Burks. There’s a good chance he’s starting at one of the guard positions 20 games into the season and could have a Russell Westbrook-type rookie season, horribly inefficient and turnover prone, but also flashing elite talent and racking up counting stats.”
Well, I promised you all a full course meal, and I am quite certain 5000 words later that you are all popping open the Pepto right now. I hope you all enjoyed the draft recap and follow-up Q and A content. I strongly advise you all to follow each of the analysts on Twitter if you want to improve your chances of winning your leagues this season. I am sure if any of you have additional questions for the writers, they would gladly give you even further insight on their feelings on a player or draft style/strategy.
If you have any comments, questions or just want more fantasy analysis from Zack you can follow him on Twitter @BigZack44.