As we wait for official word from the league on when the 2019-20 NBA season will resume, the nearly three-months-long struggle to survive in a world with no live basketball continues. But we have a saying in this business: the content must go on.
This week, we're kicking off a 10-part series – some might even call it a saga – looking back at every NBA draft from the past decade.
Starting with the
Cole Aldrich Draft John Wall Draft in 2010, we'll comb through, pick-by-pick, and rank the top 15 players from each class. We initially considered going deeper but decided the merits of hashing out one middling role player against another were ultimately quite limited. Now, with that said, if anyone is truly interested in debating Landry Fields vs. Ekpe Udoh, please DM me on Twitter.
Of course, we're aware that there's a chance we might not be the first ones to come up with the concept of a re-draft. The circumstances of the last few months have resulted in just about every tangible object on earth being the subject of some sort of draft. But our lists will steer clear of the typical process of selecting the best player available at each pick. RotoWire is, in fact, a fantasy basketball outlet, so we'll consider each player's fantasy value – both peak and longevity – as our number one factor.
A few notes:
- As you'll notice, there's typically significant overlap between best player and most fantasy value. In 2010, for instance, our top three picks ended up being Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
- Off-court or chemistry concerns were not considered, unless they impacted a player's fantasy value
- Team needs and roster construction at the time of the draft were not considered
- All production since each player entered the league was taken into account, including the 2019-20 season
- In order to pare our list down to 15, Alex and I ranked our top-20 fantasy players from each draft and ordered them by average ranking
- Any references to fantasy rankings refer to a player's finish in eight-category leagues by total value (as opposed to per-game value). Research was conducted using RotoWire's Historical Fantasy Archive tool
1. Washington Wizards: Paul George
Actual pick: John Wall
There's a case to be made for Wall to remain the pick here, but George has been the more consistent – and significantly healthier – player for the last decade. While George did miss nearly all of the 2014-15 season, he bounced back to put together four consecutive top-15 seasons, topping out as the No. 2 overall player in 2018-19. George's six top-15 finishes are by far the most of any player in the class, and his average career ranking (77.2) would rise much higher if not for the aforementioned injury, as well as a quiet rookie season.
It's also worth noting that Geroge did not burn any fantasy owners in 2014-15, as the injury occurred during the offseason while playing for Team USA. So while it still counts on his record, it's far from a black mark. - Nick Whalen
2. Philadelphia 76ers: John Wall
Actual pick: Evan Turner
The No. 2 spot wasn't an easy pick between Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. They've each had their fair share of injury-riddled campaigns – Wall and Cousins both missed the entirety of this season – but Wall's peak was higher. He put together four consecutive top-13 seasons, and his 2016-17 season was especially great, with Wall averaging 23.1 points, 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds and a combined 2.6 steals-plus-blocks.
Even though he's played just 73 games since the start of the 2017-18 season, he's the clear-cut best guard from this draft. - Alex Barutha
3. Brooklyn Nets: DeMarcus Cousins
Actual pick: Derrick Favors
We waffled between Cousins and Wall for the No. 2 spot, but ultimately Cousins' lack of a top-10 season – compared to Wall's three – made the decision for us. At his peak, Cousins was a borderline-first-round value for a four-year span, averaging 25.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks, while shooting 75 percent at the line, from 2013-17.
He reached his zenith in the final season of that stretch, posting 27.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and hitting nearly two threes per game in 72 appearances for the Kings and Pelicans. But injuries caught up to Cousins later in the decade, and he's played in just 78 total regular season games over the last three seasons. - Whalen
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Eric Bledsoe
Actual pick: Wesley Johnson
Bledsoe's career got off to a slow start. He was Chris Paul's backup on the Clippers for the first three years of his career, then only played 43 games once he finally found a starting job for the Suns in 2013-14. Injuries continued to be a part of Bledsoe's story, as he played in just 31 games in 2015-16. However, over the past four seasons, he's averaging a fantasy rank of 38th overall (17.6 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 combined steals-plus-blocks).
While it's highly unlikely that the 30-year-old Bledsoe will ever reach the heights of his college teammates, his recent consistency and starting spot on a great team have done a lot to boost his value in both fantasy and real life. - Barutha
5. Sacramento Kings: Gordon Hayward
Actual pick: DeMarcus Cousins
Hayward's average career rank (125.3) is actually lower than a few players' beneath him on the list, but that's due almost entirely to a lost 2017-18 season when he played all of five minutes. Since then, Hayward has struggled to regain his pre-injury form, but prior to coming to Boston, Hayward put together four consecutive top-40 seasons from 2013-17. In 2014-15, he climbed all the way up to No. 17 overall behind averages of 19.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.4 steals with 45/36/81 shooting splits. - Whalen
6. Golden State Warriors: Derrick Favors
Actual pick: Ekpe Udoh
Favors has cracked the top-100 in six of the past eight seasons, topping out at 43 overall during the 2014-15 season when he averaged 16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals. Injuries have made drafting Favors a gamble of late, and he consistently remains under 30 minutes per game, which is infuriating for fantasy owners who look at his per-36 numbers. His peaks haven't been especially high, but his overall body of work has kept him in legitimate fantasy conversations for the full decade. - Barutha
7. Detroit Pistons: Hassan Whiteside
Actual pick: Greg Monroe
Ranking seventh overall in this current season, Whiteside's peak year is as good as anyone's on this list not named Paul George. And while he has two additional top-25 seasons to his name, a rocky start to his career prevents him from climbing any higher. Whiteside was not an impact player during his first two seasons with the Kings (19 total games played), and he was out of the league entirely for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
Over the last five years, he's grown into a rebounding, shot-blocking, and field goal percentage machine, but Whiteside must be dinged for his lack of assists, steals, and threes, as well as his (usually) shaky free throw shooting. - Whalen
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Greg Monroe
Actual pick: Al-Farouq Aminu
The three-point revolution changed the NBA in a way that Monroe – who played half his minutes at power forward just five years ago – could never recover from. He played overseas this season, and hadn't seen 2,000-plus minutes in the NBA since the 2015-16 season. However, early in the decade, he put together six straight top-65 seasons, including an 18th-overall season when he averaged 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks. - Barutha
9. Utah Jazz: Evan Turner
Actual pick: Gordon Hayward
Here is where things begin to drop off. As far as fantasy value is concerned, this was an eight-player draft. The No. 2 overall pick in real-life, Turner ended up being a solid player, but his lack of a consistent jump shot has hampered him throughout his 10-year career. Even in his two best fantasy seasons – 74th overall in 2014-15 and 2015-16 – Turner shot a combined 26.2 percent from beyond the arc. In four years since, Turner has failed to crack the top 180. - Whalen
10. Indiana Pacers: Al-Farouq Aminu
Actual pick: Paul George
At this point in the re-draft, having two top-100 seasons under your belt is enough to land you inside the top 10, and that's exactly what Aminu has done. He had his "breakout" in 2015-16, averaging 10.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks, which placed him as the 77th-best fantasy player. Aminu will always be more valuable in real life as a solid, three-and-D wing than he is in fantasy. - Barutha
11. New Orleans Pelicans: Avery Bradley
Actual pick: Cole Aldrich
Yes, the then-Hornets did actually take Cole Aldrich with this pick. That happened. Whether we're talking fantasy or real-life, Bradley should've gone much higher than he did (19th). The defensive-minded guard has never been an elite fantasy player, but he has a pair of top-100 seasons to his name, including a 63rd overall finish in 2015-16 when he averaged 15.2 points, 1.5 steals and 1.9 made threes. - Whalen
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Nemanja Bjelica
Actual pick: Xavier Henry (editor's note: still only 29 – just saying)
Bjelica is hurt in this re-draft by not making his NBA debut until 2015-16 as a 27-year-old. His best fantasy performance came during this current season (52nd overall), but it's his only season inside the top 100. I wanted to rank him higher, but that's my own personal bias of thinking he's been underutilized. If Bjelica can latch on with a team that values him as a sixth man/borderline-starter, he can climb up this list. It has to happen fast, though, since he's already 32 years old. - Barutha
13. Toronto Raptors: Greivis Vasquez
Actual pick: Ed Davis
Ah yes, Greivis Vasquez. We're coming up on four years since Vasquez graced an NBA floor, and a few more since he was a relevant fantasy player. But the 28th overall pick in 2010 put up two top-100 fantasy seasons early in the decade – one more than anyone below him on our list. In 2012-13, Vasquez climbed all the way up to 51st overall, leading the league in total assists (no memory of this) while adding 13.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. - Whalen
14. Houston Rockets: Patrick Patterson
Actual pick: Patrick Patterson
Patterson has one top-100 season to his name when he topped out at rank 88 in 2014-15. An unathletic 6-foot-8 power forward who could shoot the three, he was a beneficiary of the development of modern spacing in the same way Monroe was a victim of it. However, Patterson was quickly passed up by players who were equally good three-point shooters but could also do other things on a basketball court. - Barutha
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Lance Stephenson
Actual pick: Larry Sanders
So yeah. Stephenson's 2013-14 season is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here. He finished inside the top 60 that year – his last in Indiana before signing with Charlotte – with averages of 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists and a by-far-the-best-of-his-career 49/35/71 shooting line. In the six seasons since, Stephenson's highest finish is 173rd overall in 2017-18. - Whalen
Ed Davis (13th pick): Not much to say here other than Davis is still someone I consider plucking from the waiver wire if I'm light on rebounds for a week. He finished 98th and 114th in consecutive seasons in the middle of the decade, ranking 12th in the NBA in total rebound percentage in each one.
Larry Sanders (15th pick): Had a breakout season in which he was the 53rd-best fantasy player. Quit basketball shortly after to pursue other passions (skateboarding, art) but somehow still got $1.9 million annually from the Bucks across the next seven years. I need his lawyer.
Trevor Booker (23rd pick): Improbably finished inside the top-100 in 2016-17 behind 10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals in 71 games.
Landry Fields (39th pick): The perfect example of Knicks bias. If you lived through the Landry Fields Era (his rookie year), you would have thought he was a top-30 real-life player based on how he was discussed. He averaged 9.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals as a rookie (rank 72), dealt with a bizarre hand injury, and was out of the league by 2015.
Wesley Johnson (4th pick): Was only fantasy-relevant for about a season-and-a-half before washing out of the league at age 31. Johnson logged a top-100 season in 2013-14 with averages of 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks.