This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.
Welcome to the latest edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundable. This week, our panel of fantasy basketball experts offer their take on five questions centered on draft prep for the 2021-22 season.
How does Kyrie Irving's vaccination status change how you value him in season-long fantasy? Does it change how you view the Nets as a title favorite/contender?
Alex Barutha: I'm not typically someone who drafts Irving anyway, since he's practically a lock to miss 15 games every year, so I might not be downgrading him as much as others. Still, there's a point in the draft where you have to take him. For me, that's the fifth or sixth round. The Finals are so far away it's tough for me to gauge how his vaccination status affects things. Will he get it late in the year/before the playoffs? Will the NBA ease restrictions at that point? Who knows what the landscape of the pandemic looks like next spring/summer.
James Anderson: I was already off Kyrie at his draft cost, and now he's basically off my board unless he's there in the middle rounds. He's a great real-life player and a great per-game player in fantasy, but availability is the first thing I look at with all players, and you just can't trust him to be around.
Paul Martinez: I'm already wary of drafting Irving because of the number of games he's missed the past two seasons, and the vaccination issue only strengthens that hesitation. If I had to guess, I'd venture that he'll sit out some games early in the campaign before the situation is resolved and he's able to play in Brooklyn. The Nets will be fine without him temporarily, and – assuming he's a full-go in time for the playoffs – the situation shouldn't hamper their title prospects. That said, I'd rather allow other managers in my fantasy leagues to take the risk unless he falls out of the first three rounds.
Mike Barner: I want no part of Irving. On top of the vaccination stuff, he could decide to step away from the team for personal reasons at any point, like he did last season. I don't think he'll hurt their title chances because he'll make sure that he's available for the playoffs, but he's a hard pass for me in fantasy.
Jeff Edgerton: Considering the Nets did just fine without him at various points last season, I won't be de-valuing them too much as title favorites (assuming Durant and Harden are healthy). It remains to be seen if Irving will cling to a hard line on the vaccine, but for now he's barely in my Top 50.
Gabriel Allen: In leagues where games played is a significant factor, Irving's value figures to take a sizable hit if he refuses to get vaccinated. I think the Nets are still slight title favorites, but I'm warming up to the idea of Milwaukee repeating.
Alex Rikleen: An unvaccinated Kyrie drops him from an early second-round pick to a shaky option in the third round – and even lower than that if you play in weekly lineups leagues. He legitimately might miss half of all games. His per-game production is good enough that we shouldn't let him fall too far, especially since he may eventually concede and get vaccinated. But you absolutely cannot pass on guys like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Trae Young, or Bam Adebayo for Irving.
Jacob Lebowitz: Irving's vaccination status has a huge impact on his season-long fantasy value because if he doesn't get vaccinated before the season he won't be able to practice with the Nets or play in home games. If he isn't playing in half his team's games, he's definitely not worth drafting anywhere near his true value. If the Nets want any chance of winning it all, they will need their point guard fully available and healthy throughout the season.
Ken Crites: I'm not touching Irving until the eighth round. He's already a big injury risk, and now he could miss 41 home games. No thank you. As for a Nets championship, they'll need Harden and Durant to stay healthy, which is no sure bet. Don't write off the Bucks just yet.
Rank the following players in order of how you would draft them in a standard, eight-category league: Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Bradley Beal, Trae Young
Alex Barutha: Paul George (has very little help – needs to play like an MVP); Jayson Tatum (a half-level away from being a superstar, but has more help than George); Trae Young (practically a lock for 25-and-10 every night); Bradley Beal (could lead NBA in scoring but doesn't pass or play defense especially well); Anthony Davis (worried about injuries and how Westbrook affects production).
Paul Martinez: George, Tatum, Beal, Young, Davis. Context is so important here. George will be heavily leaned upon with Kawhi Leonard potentially out for the season, while the Lakers will likely look to reduce Davis' load (and lower his injury risk) with the bevy of reinforcements they brought in over the offseason.
Mike Barner: Tatum, Beal, George, Davis, Young. Davis being ranked fourth among this group might surprise some, but his injury history worries me to the point where I usually don't draft him.
Jeff Edgerton: Young, George, Davis, Tatum, Beal. For overall production in an eight-category league, I'm looking less at pure scorers and more at guys that can check all the boxes, or at least specialize in one. Young can get my assists and steals numbers going, while George and Davis can give me all-around support.
Gabriel Allen: Tatum, George, Young, Davis, Beal. Tatum and George are so well-rounded, they don't hurt you anywhere and they help you everywhere. It's a toss-up between them at the top. Trae could average 30+ points, 10+ dimes, and several threes, but he provides little else. Davis is due for a bounce-back season, but who knows how many games he'll play or to what extent his stat profile will resemble the Davis of old (i.e. before last year). Beal will contend for the scoring title while handing out more dimes than everyone except Young, but will he contribute enough in the other categories to warrant taking him over these other guys? I have my doubts.
Alex Rikleen: Tatum, Davis, George, Young, Beal
Jacob Lebowitz: Beal, George, Tatum, Davis, Young
Ken Crites: Tatum, George, Young, Beal, Davis
Based on early ADP data, who are some players who you believe are being drafted too late?
Alex Barutha: Fred VanVleet (39 on CBS; 23 last year) will see increased usage with Lowry gone and Pascal Siakam set to miss the first few weeks of the season. He could return early-second-round value. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (55 on CBS; 32 last year) is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and is the clear-cut best option in OKC by a mile. I understand if fantasy managers are worried about him being rested down the stretch, but 55 is far, far too low. Derrick White (108 on CBS; 77 in RW projections) might now be the best scorer on the Spurs with DeMar DeRozan gone, and he can pass a little as well. I wouldn't be surprised if he's closer to a top-50 player than a top-80 player, and 108 is an unbelievable value.
James Anderson: Karl-Anthony Towns, Michael Porter Jr., Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Richaun Holmes, Jalen Green, Robert Williams, Darius Garland, Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart, Ivica Zubac, De'Andre Hunter, Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, Terance Mann, Kelly Oubre, Chuma Okeke, Tyler Herro, Kevin Huerter, Cameron Johnson, Maxi Kleber, Jordan Poole
Paul Martinez: I love point guards who can contribute both three-pointers and assists, and Devonte' Graham has done just that in his last two seasons. He has a good chance to outperform many PGs currently being drafted ahead of him as the floor general for New Orleans. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a guy who could explode into a 2022 first-round fantasy draft pick by the end of the season. He should get a ton of usage and has the talent to convert it into huge numbers as long as he stays healthy.
Mike Barner: Nickeil Alexander-Walker could be a steal at his ADP of 117. If he doesn't start for the Pelicans, he'll be their high-usage-rate sixth man off the bench. I have no problem taking him inside the top 100.
Alex Rikleen: I just published an article on this! A few players not mentioned in the article include: Jayson Tatum, Richaun Holmes, Myles Turner, Bogdan Bogdanovic (the Atlanta one), and Norman Powell
Jacob Lebowitz: Zion Williamson's ADP of 18 is way too low considering that the former number one overall pick improved all of his major stats in his second season in the league. The Pelicans lost their leading rebounder and leading assister from last season, so Williamson should absorb some of the production Steven Adams and Lonzo Ball left behind.
Ken Crites: Fred VanVleet going 39th on CBS and 25th on Yahoo is criminal. I'd love to grab VanVleet in the second round of every draft. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 55 on CBS also makes absolutely no sense.
Based on early ADP data, who are some players who you believe are being drafted too early?
Alex Barutha: Kevin Durant (4 on CBS; 4 last season) obviously has the potential to be the fourth-best player in fantasy – if not the No. 1 player in fantasy – but he's a 33-year-old, 7-footer coming off an Achilles tear recovery season where he played 35 games. There should be zero expectation that he plays over 65 games. It's just not worth the risk selecting him at 4. Nikola Vucevic (14 on Yahoo; 13 last season; 27 on RW projection) is being drafted over LeBron James and Paul George on Yahoo. Why? Vucevic is now arguably the third option on the Bulls and is being drafted below two guys with legitimate MVP narratives. C'mon man. It's more likely he averages 16-and-9 than 25-and-12.
James Anderson: Joel Embiid, Bradley Beal, LeBron James, Nikola Vucevic, Domantas Sabonis, Zion Williamson, Russell Westbrook, Julius Randle, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Clint Capela, CJ McCollum, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, Jerami Grant, Chris Boucher, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins
Paul Martinez: LeBron James and Anthony Davis are incredible basketball players, but it seems likely that their respective fantasy values will drop given the talent the Lakers added around them in the offseason. Injuries to the pair destroyed Los Angeles' chance of repeating as champion last season, so you'd have to think that the organization will be very concerned about keeping them healthy and rested in anticipation of a near-guaranteed playoff run.
Mike Barner: Unless you're playing in a points league, there is no way you can draft Russell Westbrook at his ADP of 21. Even in points formats, his production could be somewhat suppressed this season playing for the Lakers.
Jeff Edgerton: If current news holds, then Kyrie, for sure. And, it pains me to say it, but LeBron James is outside of my Top 20.
Jacob Lebowitz: LeBron James is being drafted way too early. The 36-year-old should not be going any earlier than 11th in most fantasy leagues. Russell Westbrook will likely take away points, rebounds and assists from James and the Lakers' overall depth should finally take some of the workload off of James' shoulders.
Ken Crites: Irving is obvious one. Ja Morant is a great NBA player, but his ADP worries me a bit. Give me Jrue Holiday instead. Russell Westbrook at 19th overall ADP also seems crazy, though that probably factors in his increased value in points leagues.
Who are some player(s) you've either found yourself targeting, or plan to target, late in drafts this season?
Alex Barutha: Derrick White; Gordon Hayward (I don't care about injuries late in drafts); Darius Garland (ranked 82nd last season and will continue to get better); Kevin Porter Jr. (could end up being the No. 1 option on the Rockets); Isaiah Stewart (people are aware of him but I still think his rookie year was underrated); Robert Covington (always underdrafted)
James Anderson: I'm 2-for-2 on taking Jalen Green inside the top 80. He's a top 60 player for me, and on our rankings and NFBKC ADP he's closer to pick 100. I think he'll have a historic rookie season from a raw points per game standpoint. Obviously the Rockets' pace will inflate his traditional box score stats, but he should basically be Donovan Mitchell lite right away in terms of fantasy production.
I'm also 2/2 on getting Jaden McDaniels inside the top 100. There's some risk with this one, since he hasn't proven that he can be that valuable and get starter's minutes, but I think he's an emerging fantasy stud — the type of guy like Andrei Kirilenko or Shawn Marion who's much better in fantasy than he is considered in real life. McDaniels seems like the best power forward on Minnesota's roster and one of the few young players with a high ceiling that they can build around. At worst, he's a nice source of blocks and threes from the forward spot late in drafts, but I think he could finish inside the top 50 overall if everything breaks right.
Paul Martinez: I've already mentioned Devonte' Graham, who I'll jump on every time if he continues to fall below pick 80. There are the obvious injury concerns with Jonathan Isaac, but his upside – especially in terms of defensive stats – is going to be hard to resist late in drafts. Jakob Poeltl isn't the most exciting fantasy pick, but I'll gladly take his rebounds and blocks if I can get them in the 7th-8th round.
Mike Barner: I'm very high on Larry Nance Jr. The Trail Blazers have an extremely thin bench, so he could challenge to play 30 minutes per game while spending time at center, power forward and even small forward. Should they suffer an injury to their frontcourt, he would likely be a lock to play over 30 minutes a game.
Gabriel Allen: For points leagues, Kevin Porter (92.0) was impressive last season, and without John Wall around he's the likely lead ball handler once again. For category formats, Robert Covington (98.3) is always drafted too late. This year is no exception. For all formats, I'm reaching for P.J. Washington (102.7). So well-rounded and so much upside.
Alex Rikleen: Alperen Sengun. As much as I detest drafting rookies early, I love drafting them late. The Rockets do not care about wins this season and are 100% focused on developing their young potential stars. That should mean plenty of opportunity for Sengun, who I'm impressed with as a prospect. And don't forget, while he fell to 16 on draft day, several prominent scouts and draft experts thought Sengun had top-half-of-the-lottery potential - especially in an uncharacteristically deep draft, that's meaningful.
Jacob Lebowitz: Devonte' Graham. With an ADP of 98, Graham is surrounded by bench players and rookies even though he's slated to be his team's starting point guard. Graham will have Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram alongside him to help boost his assists and points, while the Pels don't have a ton of reliable depth behind him. Graham could emerge as the Pelicans' third-leading scorer and top assists-producer.
Ken Crites: I love the upside of Robert Williams in Boston. He could lead the league in blocks. Isaiah Stewart also has big upside in Detroit. And if my team field goal percentage is solid, I love taking a flier on Devonte' Graham in New Orleans. He could easily return to 2019-20 form. Finally, the hate on Tyler Herro is too strong. He's only 21 years old – there's plenty of time for him to mature his game and take another step.