NBA Roundtable: Analyzing Early Draft Trends
NBA Roundtable: Analyzing Early Draft Trends

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

Welcome to another edition of the RotoWire Roundtable.

This week, our panel discusses trends in early drafts, underrated players, the top of the East, and much more:

With early drafts beginning to unfold, which player(s) are you finding yourself higher on than most?

Alex Barutha: Jeff Teague (bounce-back from an injury-filled season), Kent Bazemore (might have to play 32+ minutes in Portland), Miles Bridges (should be excellent in Roto leagues), Marcus Smart (one of only nine players last season to average at least 4 APG, 1.5 STL and 1.5 3P), Nicolas Batum (increased role with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb gone)

James Anderson: Derrick White, Lonzo Ball and Fred VanVleet are the guys who I keep ending up with in the later rounds.

Ken Crites: Pascal Siakam's upside could be enormous. Jimmy Butler is eager to prove he's a star in Miami. Plus, who else on this Heat roster will shoot? (I'm ignoring Dion Waiters). Terry Rozier sure has the opportunity to shine, though the FG% will probably stay ugly.

Shannon McKeown: I'm higher on Zach LaVine, Kristaps Porzingis and Trae Young. I would select each about 10-15 spots higher than their current ADPs (54, 40 and 24, respectively).

Jeff Edgerton: There are seeds of doubt out there about how the Clippers will shake out, and I'm surprised to see where Paul George is going. Also, Karl-Anthony Towns is looking like a steal in the two drafts I've already participated in.

Mike Barner: I know he doesn't provide much in the way of defensive stats, but I love the walking double-double that is Enes Kanter in a starting role with the Celtics. I'm also higher than most on Ricky Rubio, who is poised to have a better season for a Suns team that should play at a faster pace than the Jazz did last season.

Alex Rikleen: Brook Lopez, Mike Conley, Al Horford. Lopez is the one that really baffles me. He finished top-35 last season, and with Malcolm Brogdon gone the Bucks will need his three-point shooting even more than they did last year. Yet he's falling way outside the top-60? He's a top-30 player this season.

Adam King: I've managed to get Robert Covington on a number of my teams, typically around pick 40 to 50. He ended last season as a top-20 player in 9-cat formats although did only manage to play in 35 games. He will likely shift to the power forward spot this season, meaning his rebound numbers could increase. 

Who are some players you're expecting to make a significant leap in value this season compared to last?

Barutha: Aside from some of the obvious candidates like Pascal Siakam, I think Draymond Green and Otto Porter will see a nice bump in value. Green was a fantasy monster before Kevin Durant came to the Warriors, and KD leaving opens up the door for that again. For Porter, he's had a history of being a top-30 player in terms of total production. He played well once arriving to the Bulls, and I expect him to retain a significant role in the offense.

Anderson: Luka Doncic, Trae Young, De'Aaron Fox, D'Angelo Russell, Pascal Siakam, Jaren Jackson, Mitchell Robinson, Bam Adebayo, Lauri Markkanen, Derrick Favors, Wendell Carter and Terry Rozier should all be significantly more valuable than they were a season ago.

Crites: Caris LeVert will step up for three reasons: health, attention on Kyrie, and the Nets are committed to him. Otto Porter did better in most categories while playing for Chicago instead of Washington.That should continue. I like Landry Shamet's second-year upside with the Clippers.

McKeown: I expect both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Miles Bridges to take significant leaps during their sophomore season. Bam Adebayo should easily crack top-50 value. And I like Gordan Hayward to bounce back while taking on a larger role with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford gone.

Edgerton: For starters, I think there are two guys coming off of injury who will see a huge spike. I'm interested to see how Dejounte Murray fares and how his minutes will fluctuate alongside Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan. (See Question 6 for the second guy). I also really like Mike Conley in Utah's system. He's a better fit than Ricky Rubio at the point and I think the Jazz backcourt of Mitchell and Conley will start hot.

Barner: Bam Adebayo is one of my favorite big men to target. He's going to shine in a starting role for the Heat. Wendell Carter Jr. might be somewhat of a forgotten man due to his injuries last year, but he could provide excellent production if he stays healthy, especially with the lack of quality depth behind him on the Bulls.

Rikleen: Deandre Ayton, Draymond Green, Thomas Bryant, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Dwight Powell. Does having two Celtics make me a homer?

King: Fred VanVleet looks set to continue his upward trajectory, slated as the starting shooting guard for the Raptors. With Kawhi Leonard on the move, VanVleet could very well flirt with top-75 value. Much like VanVleet, Derrick Favors finds himself in a new role as the starting center for the Pelicans. He could exceed 30 minutes per game for the first time in the last four seasons. The last time that happened, during the 2015-16 season, Favors ended as a top-30 player. Thomas Bryant and Kevon Looney should also take steps forward.

Assuming Philadelphia and Milwaukee are the top two teams, which is the third-best team in the Eastern Conference?

Barutha: Boston. The loss of Al Horford hurts, but Enes Kanter *intro music for First Take starts playing* is underrated. Plus, Kemba Walker should be a positive over Kyrie Irving. I believe Irving is better than Walker, but the boost in chemistry matters so much here. Gordon Hayward could have a bounceback, while Tatum, Brown, and Smart can keep improving.

Anderson: The Celtics are the obvious choice, and I'll go with them just because of the top-end talent, even if the roster is a little lopsided towards wings. The Raptors are my pick to finish third if Boston disappoints or deals with injuries.

Crites: Boston, because Kemba Walker will play ~80 games and he's motivated to gel with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward. Philly still lacks outside shooting and depth.  There is, of course, no hometown bias in my answer.

McKeown: The Eastern Conference will a jumbled mess after the first two seeds. At this moment, I like the Pacers for the No. 3 seed. Indiana was solid after Victor Oladipo (knee) went down last season, and I like the additions of Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and TJ Warren. The Pacers are well-coached and will be one of the tougher teams in the east after Oladipo returns in December or January, and they have enough to be competitive before then.

Edgerton: The Celtics. In the right system, I don't think switching Kemba Walker for Irving is that much of a downgrade. In fact, I think it's a perfect situation for Walker to excel after toiling for several years with a lesser supporting cast. A starting five of Walker, Smart, Tatum, Hayward and Kanter? With Jaylen Brown as the sixth man? I'll take that lineup all day.

Barner: I'll go with the Celtics in a tight race over the Nets. Adding Kemba Walker could be a big plus for their chemistry and they still have a talented roster even with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford gone

Rikleen: Celtics. The Pacers are close, everyone else is still a tier behind. As much as the loss of Horford hurts, one of this team's biggest issues last season was that it had too much depth. Brad Stevens didn't manage the depth all that well, and some of the internal strife stemmed from players dissatisfaction with their workloads. In that context, a slightly shallower roster, including presumed improvement from three of the main players – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward – might be a good thing. The Nets might be better at their peak, but their lost depth plus the inevitable losses during the figure-out-how-to-incorporate-a-superstar period should push them down to the fourth or fifth seed.

King: The Celtics could still hold onto a top-four seed in the East. Despite losing both Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, the Celtics still possess a strong, young core. Both Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward are set for improved seasons and Kemba Walker adds much-needed leadership at the point guard position. Walker is certainly not as flashy as Irving but chances are he is a much better fit in head coach Brad Stevens' system. Enes Kanter, looking past his defensive inefficiencies, should give the Celtics a strong rebounding presence on both ends of the floor.

Giannis is the odds-on favorite to repeat as MVP. But from a value perspective, which other candidates do you like?

Barutha: Curry +500. With Durant off the court last season, Curry averaged 34.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.5 APG and 1.2 STL. The only person in NBA history to achieve those stats was James Harden, last year. Does it hurt my argument that Harden didn't win MVP? Still, 5-to-1 odds with those stats being realistically on the table? I'll take it.

Anderson: I like Curry and Jokic the most from a value standpoint, but I anticipate Giannis going back-to-back.

Crites: I like the value for Anthony Davis. If he's healthy (I realize that's a big if), he's arguably the best player in the game and will see crazy minutes for the Lakers. He does have two 75-game seasons under his belt and he's still only 26.

McKeown: Jimmy Butler at +10000 deserves some serious consideration. He will be the clear-cut Alpha in Miami and they could easily compete for the 3rd or 4th seed in the East. If Miami surprises and finishes as the 1st or 2nd seed in the east, Butler will be a top-5 MVP pick.

Edgerton: Paul George. The spotlight is on Kawhi, but I feel strongly about George as the difference-maker in the Clippers' offense. He provides what's been missing since Blake Griffin's departure, and what Tobias Harris couldn't really deliver: a dominant performer inside who can also stretch the floor.

Barner: Based strictly on value, I like Jokic at +1100. He's the undisputed top player on his team and the Nuggets should once again finish with one of the best records in the Western Conference.

Rikleen: Curry, Davis, Harden and Jokic are all appealing, in that order. If the Warriors can stay in the top-half of the West and Curry plays more than 70 games, he's a lock to finish in the top 5 in voting. LeBron James is sending all the I-want-Davis-to-win-MVP signals that he can. I personally wouldn't bet on Harden because I'm terrified of the Westbrook effect, but those odds seem low for a guy who has finished in the top-two three years running. Jokic has a great chance to be the "unrivaled only star on a top-four team", which is often enough to get someone serious MVP consideration.

King: Joel Embiid could be a sneaky option given the projected success of the 76ers. Philly will likely be pushing for the number one seed in the East and to do that, Embiid is going to have to be on the floor. If Embiid manages to play in at least 72 of the Sixers games, he could absolutely be in the MVP conversation.

Prediction: Which teams will finish as the top four seeds in the Western Conference?

Barutha: Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers, Jazz

Anderson: Jazz, Nuggets, Clippers, Rockets.

Crites: Nuggets, Clippers, Houston, Lakers

McKeown: Clippers, Jazz, Nuggets, Rockets

Edgerton: Rockets, Clippers, Jazz, Warriors/Nuggets

Barner: Nuggets, Clippers, Rockets, Lakers

Rikleen: Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz, Trail Blazers

King: Jazz, Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers

Who are some of the late-round, bargain-bin players you've found yourself targeting near the end of drafts?

Barutha: Gary Harris, Kent Bazemore, Ish Smith, Jeff Teague, Marcus Smart, Alex Len

Anderson: Darius Garland, Robert Williams, Tyus Jones, Aaron Holiday.

Crites: Ish Smith in Washington.He could play until his knees bleed, considering the Wizards' lack of depth. Same for rookie Rui Hachimura.

McKeown: Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Kevon Looney, Rui Hachimura and Cedi Osman are some of my favorite late-round values to target.

Edgerton: At the risk of getting laughed off this roundtable, I'm going to buy in on Markelle Fultz. Lest we forget, Fultz was a former No. 1 pick and the Twitter-sphere is abound with videos of Fultz draining threes at practice. Unless you think a guy like D.J Augustin or Michael-Carter Williams is the true answer for the point in Orlando, you have to give Fultz a little love late in your draft.

Barner: I like Ish Smith considering the wasteland that the Wizards have at point guard. Tomas Satoransky could find himself in a prominent role with the Bulls, so I like taking a flier on him, as well.

Rikleen: Dwight Powell, Rui Hachimura, Justise Winslow, Paul Millsap, Landry Shamet, Danny Green

King: Taurean Prince is someone I have landed with in a number of drafts. He has the ability to hit the three-ball, defend the wing, and has a solid enough passing game. Grabbing him with your final pick is a move that could prove beneficial. 

Bruce Brown is another player I have taken in some very deep leagues, and Davis Bertans has also been on my radar. Bertans is in line to start for the Wizards and could see upwards of 30 minutes per night. He won't light up the boxscore but could provide points and rebounds on solid enough efficiency.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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