On the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 21, RotoWire and CBS Sports collaborated to bring together 12 fantasy basketball experts for the first of three preseason mock drafts.
While the league wonít be played out, the draft served as a viable indicator of player value with less than a month remaining until opening night. Things went mostly as expected early on, with plenty of surprises in the middle rounds.
Below, youíll find the results of the 12-team, eight-category, rotisserie draft, as well as a quick Q&A with the six participants representing RotoWire.
FULL DRAFT RESULTS AND TEAM ROSTERS
What are your overall thoughts on how your roster turned out?
I didnít grab a true center as early as I would have liked, but Iím not going to complain about Draymond Green falling to me at 22nd overall. He provides rare assists production at his position, which should help compensate if Lonzo Ball isnít as productive as Iím expecting, or if Kyle Lowry begins to decline.
I'm shallow on assists, which are nearly impossible to find on the waiver wire, so that's easily the biggest weakness with my squad. However, I have the only roster with four players projected to average at least 21 points this season, thanks to Devin Booker and Andrew Wiggins.
I was pretty thrilled with my first four picks (Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, DeMar DeRozan, Marc Gasol). Getting proven veterans who will provide diverse contributions should give me a pretty high floor. This is important, because much of the rest of my roster carries quite a bit of risk. Dennis Smith and Josh Jackson are ready to contribute right away and should get all the minutes they can handle, but as rookies, there's still a chance one or both don't live up to my expectations. I like the value I got with Rodney Hood (7.11) Buddy Hield (9.11) and Allen Crabbe (12.2), but they are all very similar, and I probably could have used one more big man instead. A healthy season from Derrick Favors would be huge, but there's obviously risk there as well.
In an eight-category league, I find it way more difficult to punt any particular category, so the focus of my draft was to have even distribution. I feel as though I accomplished that goal, with all of my players providing stats across the board. I have an abundance of rebounding guards, and I made sure that none of my players hurt me in any particular category. That did end up leading to some weaknesses though, as my big men are below-par compared to my league matesí. Luckily, I was able to salvage some rebounding and blocks production with Dwight Howard in the eighth round, but many of my forwards and centers help me in the non-typical big man categories. With that said, my weaknesses will likely be blocks and field-goal percentage.
Surprised and excited to get Isaiah Thomas at 77 and Zach LaVine at 101. I know neither of them will be rushed back out onto the floor, but I still imagine them playing around 50-60 games each. I'm a little worried I did some reaching in the early-mid rounds with Nurkic (44) and Rondo (53), but I'm still high on both of them and was looking to build a strong foundation of rebounds and assists after selecting LeBron, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love to start things off. It also doesn't appear I stand a chance in the defensive categories, which I accidentally end up punting every year.
The biggest problem with my roster was having to adapt to a punt-FT build on the fly. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Klay Thompson arenít terrible for that build, but itís a total waste of one of Gordon Haywardís best skills. If I had known Jordan would fall to me in the fourth, I would have taken Hassan Whiteside over Hayward, which would have freed me to take Harris instead of Drummond in round five. Realistically, it would have influenced a few other picks too, but I would like my team a lot more with those two substitutions.
Iím still happy with the final results. Assists are a glaring weakness, but Antetokounmpo should help cover me there. With Thompson, J.J. Redick, and Dirk Nowitzki, I should be in good shape for threes. I even have a chance at challenging the Anthony Davis-Rudy Gobert pairing in blocks. Assuming I dominate field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks, tank free throws, and stay out of the bottom three in assists, my season will be decided by points Ė which is both terrifying and exhilarating.
Which player was the biggest reach of the draft?
Marquese Chriss (6.7). I get that Chriss has some tantalizing tools and should see plenty of minutes on a bad team, but I didnít walk away from last season all that excited about his future. Chris is an inefficient scorer for his position and while the foundation of a decent jump shot is there, he shot just 32.1 percent from three last season. Considering established names like Serge Ibaka, Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari -- as well as a few higher-upside young players -- were still on the board, Chriss felt like a reach.
Turner is certainly a rising star with a heavy workload on tap this coming season, but even a big jump in production from his sophomore campaign doesn't warrant being drafted ahead of proven frontcourt talents like Hassan Whiteside, Draymond Green and Blake Griffin.
Rajon Rondo (5.5). I know chasing assists gets pretty tricky at this point in the draft, but I'd much rather try to get those assists from a high-upside rookie like Dennis Smith or Ben Simmons, or a high-pedigree PG in D'Angelo Russell, who will play a prominent role in a new situation. All three of those guys went after Rondo, who is a terrible real-life player and whose shooting woes all but cancel out the 6-7 assists per game (on the high end) that he will provide.
Marquese Chriss (67th overall): Chriss is a talented player, but he was lucky to post the numbers he did last season with so much falling in his favor. Serge Ibaka went three picks after Chriss, and itís hard to justify taking Chriss over Ibaka at this point.
Dieng and Chriss going back to back (66,67) while Ibaka was still on the board. Neither Chriss nor Dieng are guaranteed starters or particularly consistent players. Ibaka should see 30-plus minutes a night and seemingly outplay them in all statistical categories.
LeBron James at 5th overall looks terrible to me. I donít even have him as a first round pick, and my second and fourth overall picks, Steph Curry and James Harden, were still available. LeBronís aging, his minutes should decline, and his fantasy value has dropped each of the last three seasons. After that, I really didnít like DJís picks at the third/fourth-round turn. He picked Andrew Wiggins and Devin Booker back-to-back. The highest fantasy finish for either player was Bookerís 71st overall last season. By my ranks, he reached almost 30 spots for both players.
Which player was the best value of the draft?
Dennis Schroder (5.4). Schroder slipped further than I expected, and in retrospect I somewhat regret taking a riskier player in Ball over him at the end of Round 4. While the Hawks might make a run at 60 losses, Schroder should be in position to be the seasonís ultimate bad team/good stats guy.
Considering this was for a H2H league, it's acceptable to punt one category. Since Drummond is elite when it comes to both rebounds and field-goal percentage, he's more than worthy of being picked as a fifth-rounder.
Ben Simmons (5.10). I considered Simmons strongly at 4.2, and was shocked to see him almost get back to me at 5.11. He is basically Draymond Green without the high-end defense, and I wouldn't be surprised if he averaged over 12 points, over seven rebounds and over six assists per game while shooting a fairly high percentage from the field. That production from a forward is like a bailout if you miss on the top assist options in the first two rounds.
Kawhi Leonard (11th overall) and Zach LaVine (101st Overall) both look like incredible values. I was silly not to take Leonard with the ninth pick and it's crazy he fell two picks after me. Not only is he an MVP favorite, but he's one of the most efficient players in the league. As for LaVine, it's very possible that he'll become the go-to player for Chicago and that sort of upside makes him an amazing value in the ninth round, even if he misses the first month or two of the season.
Markieff Morris going in the 12th round. I know there are some question marks surrounding Morris after sports hernia surgery and possible assault charges, but assuming he plays the majority of the season at full strength, that seems like good value to me. He's a legitimate starting power forward with potential to average 15 points and 7 rebounds, and isn't a slouch across the rest of the board either.
Thad Young at 7.12 and Clint Capela at 8.3 jump out to me. I devoted a whole section to Young in my Bounceback Candidates article. As for Capela, I would have taken him 16 picks earlier, at 6.11, except I had just picked back-to-back centers and had a glaring need at point guard. But the fact that I seriously considered taking a third center with my sixth pick should tell you all you need to know about how highly I value Capela this season.
Which player(s) were you targeting but were unable to get?
I was hoping to get my hands on Rodney Hood in the middle rounds and, strange as it sounds, I would have been more than happy to snag Dwight Howard had he fallen to me in Round 8.
I was ready to take Rodney Hood with the final pick of Round 7, but James sniped him right ahead of me. With Gordon Hayward out of the picture, Hood should have every opportunity to become Utah's leading scorer.
Ricky Rubio went earlier than I was expecting, but I'm intrigued by what he could do with a change of scenery. Aaron Gordon, Ben Simmons and D'Angelo Russell all went right before my fifth-round pick, which caused me to take Derrick Favors, perhaps a little earlier than i needed to.
We have to go back to my value pick, as I was praying for Zach LaVine to fall to me in the ninth round. He ended up going four picks ahead of me, and I had to settle for Ryan Anderson to fill my forward depth and add some three-point volume. While my roster is extremely solid, I don't have many breakout candidates and I feel as though LaVine would have been a nice complement to my roster in that regard.
Nerlens Noel: Too much upside to slip to 74. If the Mavericks give him 30 minutes a night, he could average a double-double with about 3 combined steals and blocks per night.
Harrison Barnes: Just a really safe pick at 72. He could easily average 20-plus points and 6 rebounds next year. Dennis Smith's game could help free Barnes up offensively as well.
Brandon Ingram: I just buy the hype. He's a great run-and-gun player at the small forward slot with Ball considering his speed and length -- the same reason he has a high ceiling as a defender. Not too many players available in the 10th round with his kind of stat-stuffing potential.
DeWayne Dedmon: Same rationale as Noel, just a later guy and later round. I'm not really convinced Miles Plumlee will compete for that starting job, unless the Hawks really are trying to lose as many games as possible.
Players I was planning to take, but missed out on by two picks or fewer: Kristaps Porzingis (second round), Garry Harris (sixth), Harrison Barnes (seventh), Joe Ingles (12th). Less close, but still thought I had a chance at: Khris Middleton (fourth), Jeremy Lin (eighth), Willie Cauley-Stein (eighth), Avery Bradley (eighth), Rudy Gay (10th), Buddy Hield (10th), DeíAaron Fox (12th).
Do you agree with where the top rookies were selected?
As the owner who broke the ice and took Lonzo Ball at No. 46 overall, I might be biased, but I think Ballís floor as a fantasy commodity is quite high. I think heíll be less efficient than some expect, but if the minutes are there -- and thereís no reason to think they wonít be -- he should be an assists monster who rebounds his position and provides three-point volume. Outside of Ball, I think both Ben Simmons and Dennis Smith went slightly later than expected. Like Ball, Simmons is a multi-category producer with a high floor, while Smith may be in the most fantasy-friendly situation of any rookie.
If you've ever heard me talk about fantasy sports, you know I don't ever mess around with rookies. They're unproven, hard to project, and of course, there's the dreaded rookie wall that always seems to hit when H2H playoffs roll around. Unsurprisingly, then, I thought all rookies were taken too high.
I think Ben Simmons and Dennis Smith should have gone a lot closer to Lonzo Ball in the late fourth round/early fifth round. I'm fine with Ball being the first one off the board, but I view those three as part of the same top tier. I think Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Lauri Markkanen and De'Aaron Fox all went right about where they should. Of course, I ended up with Jackson and Fox so I'm obviously biased.
It's no surprise that I didn't end up with any of the rookies, as I find most of them to be overvalued. Lonzo Ball is my favorite for Rookie of the Year, but it's simply too risky to take him in the fourth round. As for Fultz and Simmons, I believe the Sixers have a muddled rotation and there's simply too many young weapons to trust any one of them. Josh Jackson, Lauri Markkanen and De'Aaron Fox all went late enough to take a chance on, but it's very possible that none of them will carve out a role significant enough to become fantasy-relevant. Dennis Smith, Jr. is an unknown for me, as he is probably in the best situation of all the rookies, but he could be battling Seth Curry, J.J. Barea and Yogi Ferrell for point guard minutes.
Lonzo Ball (4.10): Seems fair to me, though I think he could have gone in the late third round. Rookies are risky fantasy plays without a doubt, but Ball has incredible upside as a distributor and three-point shooter. It's also a strong possibility he plays 30-plus minutes per night and has the highest usage rate on the team. Pretty high floor if you ask me.
Ben Simmons (5.10): I was gearing up to take Simmons with my sixth-round pick, so I think he went in the right spot. All indications out of the 76ers' camp is that he'll be the point guard in the majority of situations. While he doesn't have perimeter upside of Ball, I think his assists will be similar and will certainly average more rebounds.
Dennis Smith (6.2): Similar situations as Ball and Simmons -- should see around 30 minutes a night and be the primary ball-handler. His range is a little questionable, but I think his ability to drive to the rack and find open shooters should ensure he has some big games here and there.
Markelle Fultz (6.8): After losing out on Simmons, I pivoted to Fultz, who I felt like has good upside in the late sixth round as an all-around guard. I'm somewhat worried about his assist numbers considering he'll often be off-ball, but I'm hoping that translates into more points and fewer turnovers.
Josh Jackson (10.2): I fully expect the Suns to play Jackson as many minutes as he can handle. I'm not entirely sold on his offense, but it's hard not to fall into 10-15 points per game if he sees minutes in the mid-30s. The real draw here is his defense, where he has upside for around 2.5 combined steals and blocks per game. Even if he's a fantasy bust, taking him in the 10th round won't kill your team.
Lauri Markkanen (11.6): I think Markkanen could have been selected about a round or two earlier. The team doesn't seem committed to keeping Nikola Mirotic around, and it would be a pretty bad look for the team not to deploy the guy they took with the pick they received when trading away Jimmy Butler. Also, someone has to score for this team, right?
De'Aaron Fox (11.11): This feels late -- though George Hill's presence on the team would make me hesitate choosing him earlier. I really just don't know if Fox is going to play 20 minutes a night, or 30. That said, the late 11th round is a fine spot to take the risk.
All of the rookies went way too high. This rookie class is thrilling, and I have had to take weekly ice baths to cool me off everytime I start considering ranking one inside my top 50. I fully expect at least one of them to be a top-30 player, and one could even pull off a top-15 season Ė a feat that hasnít been achieved by a rookie since Stephen Curry back in 2009-10.
But rookies are inherently bad bets, and we really have no idea which one will be the best. My money's on Dennis Smith, Jr. for this year, and Ben Simmons for the long-term, but we really just donít know. A fourth (Lonzo Ball) or fifth (Simmons) round price is much too steep. I liked where Smith went in the sixth round, and where Markkanen went in the 11th, but I thought every other rookie went too high. I think Ball and Josh Jackson were the biggest rookie reaches.
Keep an eye out for two more mock draft recaps as the season approaches. A 12-team head-to-head mock is scheduled for Sept. 28, with a final Rotisserie draft slated for Oct. 5.