NBA Roundtable: Reviewing the Vegas League Draft

NBA Roundtable: Reviewing the Vegas League Draft

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

Welcome to another offseason edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable.

Earlier this month, the RotoWire NBA staff took part in a 14-team, 10-round draft live from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas

Accounting for a head-to-head points league that counts only five categories -- points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks -- with no percentages, the draft presented a unique challenge. But at this point in the summer, it served as an excellent measuring stick for player value following one of the most turbulent free agency periods in league history.


For this week's roundtable, we'll hear from seven of the draft's participants on what went right, what went wrong and which players they'll continue to target as draft season heats up:

How do you feel about your team, overall? Any regrets, or players you wish you would've taken?

Nick Whalen: Given the long wait between picks, I was happy to start with Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin, though Griffin obviously carries some major durability concerns. I was really hoping to get Trae Young in Round 3, but he went two picks ahead of me. Still, I was fine with De'Aaron Fox, who I paired with C.J. McCollum at the end of Round 4.

Alex Barutha: I'm pretty satisfied with my top three picks (Jrue Holiday, Luka Doncic and Myles Turner), but I'm not too confident about my team after that. I wish I would have drafted Nicolas Batum. He might be the best player on the Hornets and he's a great multi-category player.

Ken Crites: I like my team overall, but I might have reached a bit for Danilo Gallinari in Round 5.  I think he'll give me Round 5 value, but he probably would have been around in Round 6. Ja Morant maybe should have been the move there.  Also, I took Julius Randel before Marcus Morris switched from San Antonio to NYK. That news was disappointing. I think the Knicks have eight power forwards.

Shannon McKeown: Selecting Embiid at #8 overall is risky. He needs to play 70+ games for the selection to pan out. That said, there were similar question marks about games played with other available options (Leonard, LeBron, George) at that slot. I could use some help at the guard positions, but overall, I like my team. Andre Drummond in the second round of a points-based league is an absolute steal -- He was the 11th-highest scoring option in this format last season. As far as regrets, there's a strong possibility I'll regret going Mike Conley over Chris Paul and DeAngelo Russell in Round 4. 

Alex Rikleen: I feel good, but I feel like my team is light on "my guys", which is somewhat disappointing. I feel like I got mostly good values, even if they're players I'm not excited about all of them (Curry at 1.7; Oladipo at 5.8 in a shallow league with an IR spot; Rondo at 7.8). And while I think Rudy Gobert at 2.8 was good value, I also think I will regret taking him over John Collins, who went one pick later. 

Adam King: I'm pretty happy with my team, given where I was picking in the draft and the combined knowledge of those I was drafting against. It was basically a case of people taking other people's draft picks consistently and so there were definitely some decisions that needed to be made on the fly. 

DJ Trainor: My answer to this question will undoubtedly change as the offseason continues to unfold, but as of right now, I think I have a pretty solid roster. No regrets at the moment. 

James Anderson: We were plenty pleased with our top six picks. We targeted guys who figure to be major contributors within their offense. Our top two picks, in particular -- Jimmy Butler and Devin Booker -- are guys we think will dominate the touches and help out with assists even if they aren't typical point guards. Our next four picks are all guys who should top, or at least get close to, averaging 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Which pick was the single biggest reach of the draft?

Whalen: I'm a Jayson Tatum supporter, but he came off the board at No. 44 overall, which felt a little high to me given the format. Later on, I was surprised to see both Coby White and Kevin Knox go in Round 8. I realize it's late enough in the draft to justify a gamble, but I don't love either player's short-term upside.

Barutha: Ish Smith in Round 6. He should put up numbers while starting for the Wizards, but I think there were safer picks available.

Crites: Deandre Ayton at pick #27 seemed like a reach. I see Saric and Baynes eating into his easy boards and buckets. That said, I bet Rubio does a nice job of feeding Ayton down low.

McKeown: Zion Williamson. He'll be solid, but he's a reach at 28th overall, even in this format. 

Rikleen: I think D.J. made two big reaches at 3.13 and 4.2 with Zach Lavine and Jayson Tatum. I understand the upside of both picks, and when you're picking near the turn you often have to reach a little bit to make sure you're getting the guys you want - I do the exact same thing all the time. That said, when you go pick-by-pick through the first four rounds, each player is pretty close in value to the guys taken just before... Until you get to those two picks, when it feels like the whole draft takes a hard left turn. After those two, there are a bunch of reaches all over the place, but D.J. really got the party started.

King: There were a number of players that may have gone slightly high but the fact is that everyone knew they would have to reach to get the players they wanted. Joel Embiid went at pick eight and while he is clearly a top 10 player on a per-game basis, there is a very real chance he misses multiple games. This is also the case for players like Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, and Kevin Love. However, Leonard still went inside the first round whereas Paul and Love fell to picks 51 and 46, respectively. I took Zion Williamson with the 28th pick, partly because I knew he wasn't coming back to me. This may be somewhat of a gamble but it is one that I am prepared to take given the upside.

Trainor: Marc Gasol at the end of Round 4. I can understand wanting to lock down a center-eligible player, but Gasol played 103 games last season -- a career high -- and there are at least 10 other players taken in Round 5 and beyond that I'd rather have this year over Gasol.

Anderson: DeMarcus Cousins early in Round 4. 

Which picks were the best values of the draft?

Whalen: If LeBron plays 70-plus games, getting his counting stats -- without having to worry about free throw percentage or turnovers -- will be a big-time value. Brad Beal in Round 2, Kevin Love in Round 4 and Bam Adebayo in Round 7 were some of my other favorites.

Barutha: Drummond and Vucevic in the second round are both great values. They're both 20-and-15 threats on any given night. A points format helps Drummond as much as anyone.

Crites: LeBron James at 11 could be a steal if he stays healthy.  One must assume he'll care more with AD in the fold. Of course, he's 34 years old, so 70+ games might be a real reach. Bradley Beal, as the only option in Washington, could be huge at #20.

McKeown: Montrezl Harrell dropping to Round 8 is absurd - he was a top-50 player in this format last year. If Darius Garland starts from Day 1, he could be an absolute steal in Round 9. Inefficiencies won't hurt you in this format. And I'll toot my own horn with the selection of Miles Bridges in Round 9 -- He should show solid growth in Year 2. 

Rikleen: Kyle Lowry at 4.6. That's the 48th pick off the board. This is a points league with some unusual settings, but Lowry's game is well-suited to this particular league. He's finished inside the top-35, both in standard 9-cat and with these unusual points settings, every season since 2012-13. Juan Pablo got an incredible steal there. Honorable mentions to Bartel getting Jaren Jackson Jr at 4.10 and D.J. getting Al Horford at 5.13, but those values pare in comparison to Juan Pablo's heist.

King: Draymond Green went at 35 and I think that is great value given the scoring system. Bradley Beal at 20 was also a good get with Washington having basically nothing outside of Beal in terms of consistent stat production. On a personal note, I am very happy with Lonzo Ball at pick 57. Percentages are always his downfall and if he can stay healthy, he could have a nice season.

Trainor: Dennis Schroder taken with the fourth pick in Round 10 will easily be the best value if the Thunder are able to trade away Chris Paul this offseason. If not, I like Collin Sexton early in Round 9 and Steven Adams early in Round 7.

Anderson: Chris Paul looks like a major bargain, provided he stays healthy.

How did your draft strategy change to account for a league that only has five stat categories and no percentages? Were there certain players you targeted who you'd typically stay away from?

Whalen: Westbrook climbing into the top-five is the most salient example of the player archetype that benefits from a format that doesn't value turnovers or percentages. The notoriously bad free throw shooters, like Steven Adams and Andre Drummond, get a bump, as does someone like DeMar DeRozan, whose lack of three-point shooting hurts him in more traditional formats. Conversely, players whose values are heavily dependent on three-pointers and efficiency -- think Buddy Hield or Malcolm Brogdon -- receive a slight downgrade.

Barutha: Mainly just aiming for guys who fill the stat sheet without regard for efficiency. Someone like Westbrook, who I usually stay away from, gets a huge bump.

Crites: I would never take Russell Westbrook at #4 in any other type of format.  I also made that pick when he was the only option in OKC, before the Houston trade.

McKeown: Big men tend to be safer and have more upside, so I went heavy with those options early in the draft -- Embiid, Drummond and Porzingis were my first three picks. 

Rikleen: Not only did this league not have percentages, but it also didn't value threes, and assists, steals and blocks all seemed disproportionately valued. Compared to points, assists were worth 2x, while steals and blocks were worth roughly 2.5x. I tried to avoid players who get a lot of perceived value from threes, and I tried to focus on defensive specialists and good passers. That's why I ended up with a team that could realistically have three top-10 per-game shot-blockers (Mitchell Robinson, Gobert, Draymond Green), three in the per-game top 10 in steals (Robert Covington, Marcus Smart, Victor Oladipo), and Rajon Rondo. Rondo is the only one who I'll probably avoid in more standard settings, though I took Green, Covington and Smart earlier than I'd typically prefer to. 

King: As previously mentioned, Lonzo Ball is someone I had my eye on based on the leagues scoring system. I am also very happy with my Derrick Favors and DeJounte Murray picks. I tried to stay away from players who rely more on their scoring ability such as Andrew Wiggins, Harrison Barnes, and J.J Redick.

Trainor: I didn't necessarily end up with players I otherwise wouldn't normally, but guys like Westbrook, Drummond, Simmons, Capela and Jordan were all more enticing than usual. 

The draft was conducted prior to the Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook trade. Westbrook went 4th overall, while Paul went 51st. Knowing what we know now, how would you evaluate each player's value?

Whalen: Westbrook's value probably takes a slight hit to account for the adjustment to a new system, as well as playing alongside the league's highest-usage player in James Harden. But given the number's he's put up over the last three years, taking him in the top-five is justifiable. At this point in his career, Paul's value is inherently tied to his health. He'll take on more responsibility with the Thunder, but it won't matter if he misses 25 games.

Barutha: Westbrook at No. 4 is appropriate. I think Chris Paul's value deserves a bump. He'll be unquestionably the primary ballhandler in OKC, and I think he'll be out to prove he's still an elite point guard.

Crites: Maybe I should have gone with KAT, Jokic or Curry at #4, had I known about the trade.  Paul's stats in OKC could be off the chart, but I doubt he stays healthy. Still, Chris Paul in OKC is a steal at #51.

McKeown: Westbrook was the second-highest-scoring player in this format last season. He played alongside Paul George, who ranked 6th. I expect Westbrook to see a slight decline playing with Harden (#1 in this format last season), but Westbrook will still be a top-5 player. Rotisserie or categorical head-to-head is another story, though. In those formats, I wouldn't touch Westbrook with the first 15-20 picks. 

Rikleen: I think Westbrook's value drops on the Rockets, but in this league he might still get drafted in the exact same spot. He'll drop several spots in my standard rankings, but in a points league that overvalues assists and ignores turnovers, Westbrook remains a viable early first round target. Paul's value probably improves on the Thunder. Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could cut into Paul's minutes, but the team will still want to give him plenty of run and he will no longer have to modify his preferred play style to accommodate the high-usage James Harden. Paul might fall a few more slots if the draft were held now, but he also could rise a few, too.

King: Paul is a risky selection given his well-documented injury history. His production could certainly increase in OKC and so taking him at 51 is really a no-brainer. Westbrook is a beast in points leagues but his numbers will likely take a small hit playing next to James Harden. I would still have him as a top-10 player in this format, but perhaps closer to 10 than where he went.

Trainor: I think Giannis becomes the clear No. 1 and it's more so a toss-up for Harden and Davis at No. 2 and No. 3, with Paul's value still relatively constant since his future remains uncertain.

Anderson: Paul looks really good at 51 without Harden alongside him dominating the touches. Westbrook at No. 4 is still fine, assuming his and Harden's minutes are staggered, but he should probably be knocked down a few spots.

Whether you were able to get them or not, who were some players you targeted as late-round flyers?

Whalen: His numbers have been up and down the last few years, but I like the upside of Delon Wright at the end of Round 8. Tomas Satoransky, Collin Sexton, Derrick Rose and Bogdan Bogdanovic were some of the other picks I liked late in the draft.

Barutha: Enes Kanter (always puts up numbers, starting in Boston), Nicolas Batum, TJ Warren (always a threat for 20 points), Alex Len (likely starting at center for ATL)

Crites: Coby White is a great flyer in the 8th round – Chicago will give him every opportunity to succeed and the dicey FG% won't hurt you in this format. Ricky Rubio in the 8th round is a nice, non-sexy pick that will pay dividends.

McKeown: Miles Bridges is one my favorite sleepers for the 2019-20 season. Delon Wright, Thomas Bryant, Jonathan Isaac and Colin Sexton are other options I'm targeting later in drafts. 

Rikleen: Joe Ingles probably shouldn't have still been on the board in the eighth round, but I was hoping he'd fall to me. I stand by selecting Justise Winslow over Serge Ibaka and Thomas Bryant, but I was hoping the pair of bigs would fall to my ninth pick. I wanted T.J. Warren with my last pick, and when he went I was scrambling to find anyone worth drafting before settling on Smart. There's a good chance I drop either Smart or Mikal Bridges for a rookie before the season starts. 

King: I actually went quite safe with my final round picks, taking Rudy Gay, Gary Harris, and Klay Thompson. Gay will likely find himself as a fringe top-100 player once again while Harris could be in for a nice bounce-back season. Jonathan Issac, Tomas Satoransky, and Montrezl Harrell were all nice late-round pickups. Any rookies that went in that area are also selections that could pay off depending on their playing time post-All-Star break.

Trainor: I was targeting Bobby Portis late and ended up taking him early in Round 8, although I'm admittedly concerned about his playing time with the crowded frontcourt in New York. 

Anderson: Coby White, Joe Ingles, Gary Harris.

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Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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