The start of the NBA postseason is just four days away. Many times over the last five months, it seemed like this day might never arrive, but the Orlando bubble has been a massive success in terms of player safety, and the league is marching toward what should be an intriguing playoffs.
While the eighth seed in the Western Conference won't be set until Saturday or Sunday, the RotoWire NBA staff convened on Wednesday evening for the annual NBA Fantasy Postseason Draft.
The rules are simple:
- Eight players per team: two guards, two forwards, one forward/center, one UTIL, and two bench spots.
- Scoring is cumulative and runs from the start of the first round through the end of the Finals
- Six categories: Points (1.0), Rebounds (1.2), Assists (1.5), Steals (2.0), Blocks (2.0), Turnovers (-1.0)
- Once a team is eliminated, those players can no longer accrue points. One roster addition is allowed throughout the entire playoffs.
This year, we had seven participants, each of whom entered the draft with their own unique strategy.
Here's how the draft played out:
Once the dust settled, I reached out to the league to see what everyone had to say about what went right, what went wrong, and how they expect things to play out over the next two months:
What are your overall thoughts on your team? What went right, and where are your biggest concerns?
Alex Barutha: I'm banking a lot on a Raptors-Clippers Finals, which I necessarily didn't do on purpose. I think I got a lot of quality rotation pieces, which is good, but I don't think I stand a chance if both those teams get eliminated before the Finals.
Nick Whalen: I had the sixth pick (out of seven), so the Giannis-LeBron-Davis-Kawhi foursome was already off the board. I opted to go with Paul George at No. 6, then paired him with Khris Middleton at No. 9. Neither are a No. 1 option, but Bucks-Clippers has been my Finals pick all season, so I was happy to get two players who I think will play the most games. At center, I was thrilled to land Bam Adebayo, but with my other center-eligible player being Jusuf Nurkic, if the Heat are upset in Round 1, I could suddenly be scrambling for depth at the position.
Shannon McKeown: I wanted to load up on as many studs as possible from the Bucks, Lakers or Clippers in the early rounds, and I was able to do so with Anthony Davis (1st), Eric Bledsoe (2nd) and Brook Lopez (4th). With that mix, my roster may end up with the most high-level talent that reaches the Finals. Overall, I should have a very competitive team.
Tim Schuler: My first four picks were Celtics and the next two were Lakers. If the NBA gets a real flashback Finals, I'm golden. Conversely, if either of these two teams busts I just wasted everyone's time. Guess it's alternating Kevin McHale or and Michael Cooper Zoom backgrounds for me for the next month.
Ken Crites: Clearly, I'm all in on Houston and Miami. With news of Westbrook's quad injury, I thought there was a good chance I could snag two superstars on the same team with my first two picks. The decision for me was either Harden-and-Westbrook or Tatum-and-Kemba. I went with Harden's huge usage rate. You have to gamble on stacking one team. I have some buyer's remorse from not going with Boston.
DJ Trainor: Ultimately I feel uneasy about my team since it's heavily tilted towards the Western Conference without having any players from either of the Los Angeles teams.
Which, if any, of the non-obvious teams (LAL, LAC, MIL) did you make a point to target?
Barutha: Toronto, Denver, Boston, Houston
Whalen: I didn't go in targeting one specific team, but I do like Miami's chances to beat Indiana in Round 1, and I don't think Houston is a lock to take down Oklahoma City – especially with Thursday morning's Russell Westbrook news. So with that in mind, I'm confident that at least one of Bam Adebayo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be playing in Round 2.
McKeown: Outside of those top 3 teams, I planned to target players from the Nuggets, Rockets and Celtics. Players from those three 2nd-tier teams proved to be hot commodities, so I changed gears and grabbed Luka Doncic (3rd) and Kristaps Porzingis (5th). If Dallas plays 2-3 rounds, I'll be in good position to win a championship.
Crites: At the fifth pick, I knew I'd have to stack either Houston or Boston. That was especially true when Kawhi went third. I thought I might have an outside shot at Kawhi-and-PG, but I did not.
In a league like this one, how much do you weigh individual upside versus the chance for a team to advance through the playoffs?
Barutha: I'm more concerned about team success. Even someone who averages 15-20 fantasy points per game will be more valuable over the course of a conference finals than someone who averages 35-40 fantasy points and gets bounced in the first round.
Whalen: Early on, I focus on longevity almost exclusively. It was difficult to pass on Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis multiple times, but a league like this requires discipline and confidence in your personal playoff projections.
McKeown: It's a delicate balance, but I do put a heavier weight on players projected to advance further into the playoffs. For instance, I selected Bledsoe in the 2nd round over Kyle Lowrie, Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray and numerous other players who would be ranked higher, if projected for a Finals run.
Schuler: I was the least NBA savvy person in the room, and probably 10 IQ points below the second-last guy to boot. It's pure games volume for me.
Crites: I'm pretty much thinking 95% "team" for the whole draft. For instance, I really like T.J. Warren, but why bank on the Pacers? There are no prizes for leading after the first playoff round.
Trainor: Especially this season, I value individual upside more than team upside. I could see any of the top 6 teams in East make the Conference Finals, and other than the Mavericks, I could see seven teams in the West – assuming the Trail Blazers claim the Eight Seed – reaching the Conference Finals.
Were there any players on your do-not-draft list?
Whalen: I avoided all players from the Nets and Magic. Both of those series should be sweeps, and – unlike the 1-8 and 2-7 series in the West – there's zero percent chance of an upset.
McKeown: I essentially put all Magic and Nets on my do-not-draft list. Those are the only two teams I believe have zero chance at advancing to the 2nd round.
Schuler: I let the home-office Madison guys fill up with Bucks and also avoided the Rockets and their small ball scheme.
Crites: Yes. I refused to draft anyone on a 6th-seeded team or worse. My whole team is from Houston, Miami and the Clippers.
Trainor: All Nets and Magic players. Those are the only two teams with no chance of reaching Round 2.
Whether you got them or not, who were some of the players you targeted in the later rounds?
Whalen: I was holding out for Michael Porter with my final pick and, of course, Shannon grabbed him one pick before mine. Definitely regret not taking him a round earlier.
McKeown: Michael Porter was a late-round target and I was able to land him with my second-to-last pick. Denver could surprise and make a run to the conference finals. If the Nuggets do so, I believe Porter will be a significant contributor.
Schuler: I felt I had enough Celtics and Lakers by the last two rounds that I'd win if that ends up being the Finals and didn't need to keep stacking at that point, so I took the best player available in Ibaka and Brogdon in the last two rounds. The thinking there is if one of my stacks makes it to the Finals and the other maybe falls short at the semis, Ibaka and Brogdon produce enough on a nightly basis that it'll all add to a winning total.
Crites: Late in the draft, I was happy to gamble on Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson, with the hope one of them gets hot from deep. For the Heat to advance, one of those two need to catch fire, which is certainly possible. People undervalue Dragic because he comes off the bench. But he's averaging 16.2 points, 5.1 dimes and 2.1 threes per game this season.
Trainor: For me, the later rounds is less about targeting specific players in the pool and more about stacking your team with role players on a team where you already drafted the star player. After taking Chris Paul, I went ahead and targeted Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams late for the stack.
Which picks were the biggest reaches of the draft?
Barutha: I'm worried about Kemba's knee, so I don't think I would have drafted him early in the second round.
Whalen: Pairing Tatum and Walker at 8-9 is a high-risk, high-reward move, partially because of Walker's knee issues, but also because the Celtics are far from a lock to beat the Sixers – even without Ben Simmons. Justin Holiday going 30th overall was puzzling, as well.
McKeown: Kemba Walker going at #8 is a mistake. He's not 100% and the Celtics are most likely to only play two, maybe three, rounds.
Schuler: Probably Dwight Howard. I was filling a position and it's pretty obvious the Lakers have 3-4 other options that will far outproduce him.
Crites: I preferred Schuler's Tatum-and-Kemba stack versus Nick grabbing on two second-fiddles (Paul George and Khris Middleton) with his first two picks. If I was Shannon, I would have taken Kyle Lowry in the third round instead of Luka Doncic. I don't see the Mavs getting out of the first round. They could get swept. I'd rather have roughly a dozen games from Lowry versus, say, five games from Luka.
Trainor: Justin Holiday in Round 5. He probably should have gone undrafted.
Which picks were the best values of the draft?
Barutha: Brook Lopez in Round 4 was a steal given the Bucks' upside and how well he's played in the bubble. He should lead the playoffs in total blocked shots.
McKeown: Assuming the Bucks advance to the Finals, Lopez in the fifth round could end up providing the most overall value.
Schuler: Kuzma. If the Lakers go as far as I think they will, he's got the game to do a ton while the opponent tries to shut down either LeBron or Davis on a nightly basis.
Crites: I think getting Westbrook in the second round could be huge for me. Either that, or his quad is a real problem and I'm doomed. You gotta roll the dice, baby!
Trainor: I have no faith in the Pacers escaping Round 1, but if they do, T.J. Warren in Round 8 will have been a great pick.