This article is part of our Category Strategy series.
Three RotoWire contributors, and others, participated in a pre-Free-Agency mock draft on Fantrax. It was a slow draft, which came to a close following the start of free agency. Here are the results of the draft, with the roundtable to follow:
In order, what is your personal Top 5?
Zion Williamson was drafted 13th overall. Do you expect this to trend up or trend down once real drafts take place?
Barutha: I think this is the earliest he'll go. The upside is there, but rookies, no matter who they are, are always a risk. Personally, I'd wait until about picks 25-30.
Rikleen: A tiny bit early. I think that he will end up with an ADP around 15-20. I also think that is way too high.
King: I drafted Zion with the 13th overall pick and I think that is probably on the high side. The hype is going to be like a freight train, especially if he shines at Summer League. Managers may be able to get him in the third round in early drafts but I feel as though his stocks will rise quickly.
Does Kawhi's destination significantly impact where you would draft him?
Barutha: I'll downgrade him slightly if he goes to the Lakers (better teammates, more opportunities for rest). He's a late-first, early-second round pick in my book no matter what, though. I worry too much about rest days, plus normal injuries, to draft him much higher.
Rikleen: No. He will be my 7th pick no matter where he lands (after Jokic).
King: I am probably higher on Kawhi than most and would take him in the first round in most formats, no matter his eventual destination.
Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler went back-to-back with picks 17 and 18. Are these appropriate places to draft them given their new locations?
Barutha: I drafted Walker at 17th, and I feel like that's appropriate value. His usage might dip somewhat in Boston, but I still expect him to play at an All-Star level. Butler is difficult to gauge due to an abnormal 2018-19 season, but it wouldn't surprise me if he put up numbers in line with his career highs. He doesn't have much help in Miami.
Rikleen: It might actually be a little low for Jimmy. But 17-18 is pretty spot on for Kemba.
King: It could be argued that this is around the right spot for both of them. Personally, I would take them a little later, perhaps at the backend of the second round. Walker finished last season as the 17th ranked player on a Hornets with far less talent than his current Celtics team. Butler has a lot of miles in his legs and the potential of games missed would scare me somewhat.
Kristaps Porzingis and DeMarcus Cousins were taken at the 2nd-to-3rd round turn. Is that too much risk early on?
Barutha: I'm fine with Porzingis at that spot. I think being a second option and playing with an elite passer in Luka Doncic will be good for his career and his numbers. I'd probably wait at least another round, maybe two, for Cousins. It really depends on where he signs and what role he'll be given.
Rikleen: I think so. I can sign off on both of them in the 4th, maybe mid-third for Cousins, who has shown repeated top-15 upside. But Porzingis finished 55th, 36th and 23rd in 8-cat (slightly higher in 9-cat), and that 23rd finish was on a shortened season. For him to return end-of-second round value he needs to be 100% of his pre-injury self from the moment he firsts steps on the court.
King: Porzingis is a bit of a mystery and he has never played alongside someone as talented as Luka Doncic. The upside is there but I would probably hold off until later in the third round. Cousins doesn't even have a team yet which makes him a risky selection. We have seen him put up first-round value in the past but a lot has changed over the past 18 months. He is a classic risk vs. reward guy right now.
I guess D'Angelo Russell is on the Warriors now. He was drafted 29th overall. Does he need to be downgraded playing next to Steph Curry, Draymond Green and eventually Klay Thompson?
Barutha: I don't think he deserves to fall much further than that, but I'd understand arguments for him being closer to 40 than to 20. The move caught everyone off-guard, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.
Rikleen: Maybe a little, but not much. Russell was the No. 1 on the Nets, but the Nets' fourth-through-eighth options were much more useful than the Warriors'. He'll get plenty of time as either the primary offensive option or benefiting from Curry's spacing.
King: 29th is a bit high in my opinion, especially when looking long term. He ended last season as the 37th ranked player and that could be viewed as his fantasy ceiling. I actually think he could be undervalued this season and could be a value pick if other managers are scared off by the fact he is on the Warriors.
How high would you draft Pascal Siakam if Kawhi leaves Toronto?
Barutha: I selected him at pick 32, and I was debating between him and LeMarcus Aldridge under the assumption Kawhi stays. If Kawhi leaves, I'd draft Siakam around pick 20, but it wouldn't surprise me if he goes in the late teens.
Rikleen: He went 32 in our mock, which is about right if Kawhi leaves. I'd bump him up to the early 20s if Kawhi bolts.
King: Siakam went at 32 in the mock draft. If Kawhi were to leave, Siakam would likely demand a top-30 pick.
Take a look at players drafted outside of the top-50. Name-drop a few guys that you think could make the jump into the top-50 due to free agency moves.
Barutha: Malcolm Brogdon should carry a significant workload offensively for the Pacers with Victor Oladipo out for much of the year. I think Jeremy Lamb has an outside chance of reaching top-50, but that would be in a best-case scenario.
Rikleen: Julius Randle is the easy and obvious answer, as he now gets to headline the Knicks - he went at 62. Hassan Whiteside went 100th, and the change of scenery should mean a gigantic boost to his production. I'm not a Jonas Valanciunas (58th) fan, but the Grizzlies' continued dissent into the abyss should raise his stock. Derrick Favors and Nerlens Noel went in the 10th round - their situations aren't fully clear yet, but they could finish top-50 depending on how things land.
Adam King: There remains uncertainty when looking at the rosters with a number of players yet to sign on. A couple of the obvious winners thus far would be Malcolm Brogdon and Bam Adebayo, both of whom could potentially flirt with top-50 value. Jonas Valanciunas has the ability to put up top-50 numbers but it really comes down to playing time for him. Lonzo Ball finds himself in a good position and if everything falls the right way, could be a fringe top-50 guy.
Use this space to discuss anything FA related that you find interesting that wasn't addressed in prior questions.
Barutha: If this mock draft is any indication of what we can expect come real draft day, I think we might see a wide range of draft outcomes. With so many players changing teams, fantasy owners might be quick on the draw to grab guys they think will be good in new situations, not to mention completely avoiding guys in less-than-ideal new situations.
Rikleen: I'm still unclear on what's going on with Goran Dragic. If he actually does end up a not-Heat, then Justice Winslow would see a big boost in his value. Outside of Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks are probably going to be every bit as annoying for fantasy as they were last year. Lastly, who wins more games, the Hornets and Grizzlies combined, or the third-worst team?
King: This free agency period has been one of the more chaotic in recent memory. The impact on players fantasy value has been felt across all formats and the domino effect has been curious to watch. I would think this upcoming fantasy draft season is going to produce perhaps the most debate in terms of ADP's as seen in a long time.
What are some of your general draft strategies?
Barutha: Generally, I choose low-risk players for almost the entire draft. I save maybe my final two spots to call my shot, so to speak. I also lean into players who are great in at least one advanced stat, or that are in contract years.
Rikleen: Generally speaking, I'm a big "punt points" advocate in head-to-head. I never draft rookies in the top-100. And don't be afraid to reach for your guys - I probably could have waited a bit more on Mitchell Robinson (took him 47th), but I believe that I got fair value and he was a perfect fit for the team I'm building.
King: I typically prefer to play head to head as opposed to roto, if not only for the banter that takes place. Given my preferred league type, punting is generally something I like to employ almost everywhere. Of the nine leagues I won last season, I punted in eight. I am not afraid to consider a hard punt in which I may even punt three of eight categories. I am not tied into a particular punt but rather tend to base it upon my pick in the draft and who I think I can target. I am currently developing a detailed punt guide which will be a part of the upcoming Fantrax Fantasy Basketball Draft Guide.