What do you want your team to look like?
This is a question that you should really ask yourself before your draft, and you should enter the draft with an answer in mind. Because the reality is, most of the people in your leagues aren’t going to really go into the draft with much of a plan and will instead just hope for the best.
So if you do come in prepared with an idea about what the talent looks like at different parts of the draft, it will give you an advantage on the competition right from the opening tip.
There are many ways to build a championship-caliber squad, and ultimately you’ll need to come up with the strategy that works best for you. In my experience, I like the old “practice makes perfect” adage, so I like to do mock draft(s) before my real drafts to get a feel for what players should be available.
Will my sleeper picks be there, or does everyone know about them so they go earlier than expected?
Similarly, are there really good players that are just ranked lower than expected in the draft software and thus likely to go later than they should?
Having answers to these kinds of questions beforehand is very valuable when it comes time for your real draft(s).
To that end, here’s a quick look at how drafts have been shaping up so far. Utilizing Average Draft Pick (ADP) data, I’ve gone through and looked at the types of players that are going at different spots in the draft.
Here are some of the players that catch my eye at different spots in different rounds, given their ADP slots.
Note: All listed ADPs are as of Oct. 5.
Round 1: Top tier and best of rest
Nikola Jokic is one of the easiest No. 1 overall picks we’ve had in fantasy basketball in awhile. After Jokic, I go Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic, in that order, particularly in points leagues. Antetokounmpo finished second to Jokic in fantasy points per game last season, and Doncic still has achievable 30/10/10 potential in any given season. They make a clear top-3 tier.
For the rest of the round, I’m hoping for one of Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum or LaMelo Ball. Embiid has the highest projected per game fantasy scoring average of the trio, less than one FP/G behind Doncic’s projected average. But, Embiid has an injury history that makes him more risky; the 68 games he played last season actually represented a career high.
Tatum is likely the safest pick of this group, having never missed more than eight games in any season in his career thus far. Tatum projects to sixth in total fantasy points this season, and as a tie-breaker he also plays small forward, a position of scarcity this season. Tatum is the only small forward eligible player in my top-10 in total fantasy points projected.
Ball, however, might be the biggest value of the round. Though his current Average Draft Position (ADP) is 8.3, Ball actually projects to fourth in total fantasy points, just slightly outside of that top tier. Ball improved dramatically from his rookie to his sophomore season and finished ninth in total fantasy points last season; I believe he makes another leap in magical year three.
Late 1st Round/early 2nd Round conundrum: Do you feel lucky?
LeBron James and Kevin Durant rank third and sixth in projected fantasy points per game this season. Their ADP is lower, at 9.7 and 10.5, respectively. I am unlikely to draft them on my fantasy team in any league where they go even that high, because I can’t take the risk of making either my first pick.
The two aging legends have missed a combined 116 regular season games over the last two seasons, with LeBron missing 52 and KD missing 64. With that said, if I’m picking in the second round and either slide to me, that could be a different story. It’s still a risk, but I’m more liable to take a risk if I’ve already got a more secure team anchor in the first.
Early Round 2: Still standing despite trades
Trae Young and Karl-Anthony Towns were both comfortably among the top-10 in fantasy points scored last season, playing at their typical level. But, this offseason, both had their fantasy value impacted when their teams traded for elite producers that play similar positions.
When Young’s Hawks traded for Dejounte Murray, and when Towns’ Timberwolves traded for Rudy Gobert, my initial inclination was that it would cause all four players to slide in the fantasy rankings.
But when I completed my projections, despite their attenuated numbers, Young (11 ADP) and Towns (14.3 ADP) both still ended up in my top-10 in projected fantasy points this season. At their current ADP, Young and Towns project to be value picks in the second round.
Late second/early third: Pascal Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton
Siakam finished 15th in total fantasy points last season, even though he missed the first 10 games of the season and 14 games altogether. He moved to full-time center for the Raptors to finish the season, and utilized his quickness mismatch to put strong scoring and assist numbers on the board. This season, he projects to 14th in total fantasy points, making him value at his current ADP of 20.6.
Haliburton’s production exploded when he was given the ball last season, first with the Kings and later with the Pacers. Under the radar, he actually finished with the 11th-most fantasy points last season. Another guard in magical season three, he has the keys to the franchise in his hands, I project Haliburton to improve to eighth in fantasy points this season. As such, he is outstanding value with his current third round ADP of 17.7.
Round 3: Cade Cunningham and Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic finished 20th in fantasy points last season, even after he had a very slow start as a scorer in the then new-look Bulls. He’s been a walking 20-10 for years now and had returned to that player by the end of last season even next to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
Cunningham also got off to a slow start to his rookie season, but by the end of the campaign he was putting up right around 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists and clearly on the rise. I project Vucevic to 18th in fantasy points this season, and Cunningham to 17th, both well ahead of their borderline third/fourth ADP of 28.5 and 27.6.
Round 4: Toronto teammates
Fred VanVleet (45.2 ADP) and Scottie Barnes (40.2) both have fifth-round ADP, but fourth-round projected value (35th and 32nd, respectively) in total fantasy points. VanVleet and Barnes are two of the primary three offense creators for a Raptors team with a strong starting lineup but not a lot of depth.
VanVleet has excellent per-game value, but does have some injury history that lowered his projections. Barnes is the reigning Rookie of the Year, and should only continue to get better going into his sophomore season.
Middle rounds (5th – 8th rounds): Two Knicks, Bane, Giddey & Sengun,
Julius Randle (40.0 ADP) is coming off a down season all around, which seemed to happen in large part because he was the only/primary offense creator on the Knicks’ team and opposing defenses were able to focus directly on him. Jalen Brunson (45.0 ADP) is coming off being the second fiddle to one of the highest usage players in the NBA, but every time Doncic was out, Brunson put up monster numbers.
I think playing together will actually be a big boon for both, with Brunson showing he’s capable of carrying the load for a team offense and putting Randle back into his sweet spot playing off another creator. I project Brunson at 24th and Randle at 27th in fantasy points this season.
Desmond Bane (61.9 ADP) began his sophomore season as a substitute-starter, getting minutes because teammates were injured. But he played so well that he became the full-time starting wing and second scoring option on the team. With Jaren Jackson Jr. out for the first several months of this season, Bane should be in position to solidify his role as Ja Morant’s lieutenant. I project him with the 41st-most fantasy points this season.
Giddey (71.3 ADP) flirted with a triple-double on a nightly basis during his last 24 games last season, generating four of them during that span. He seems poised to improve on those numbers in season two, and I project him with the 57th-most fantasy points.
Alperen Sengun (69.0 ADP) has produced excellent stats at every level, from his days as the 18-year old MVP of the Turkish Super League to his strong performance in the Las Vegas Summer League to the per-minute numbers he generated as a rookie in Houston. With Christian Wood traded away and no longer in front of him on the depth chart, I project Sengun to have the 42nd-most fantasy points in the league this season.
Late rounds and fliers (9th round and beyond): A rookie and four other notables
Keegan Murray (88.3 ADP) was one of — if not the most — polished rookie on offense at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League. A natural tweener forward, he looks to play a lot of four and generate mismatches against slower-footed big men. He appears to be ready to score a lot of points as a rookie, and I project him with the 67th-most fantasy points.
Lauri Markkanen (93.6 ADP) was one of the most impressive producers in his draft class as a sophomore, and appeared as though he had a 20-10 future. Injuries and talented teammates have kept him from building on that start to his career, but this season he’s healthy and looks to be featured on a rebuilding Jazz team that has traded away its veteran starters. Markkanen’s achievable upside this season has him projected with the 70th-most fantasy points.
Spencer Dinwiddie (100.2 ADP) appears poised to fill Brunson’s role as Doncic’s main lieutenant in Dallas this season, but he’s already shown in his earlier Nets days that he can produce big numbers of his own when given a featured role. I project him with the 76th-most fantasy points.
Jalen Suggs (111.4 APD) looked poised to have a huge rookie season when he dominated the Las Vegas Summer League, but injuries ended his time in Vegas and hounded him through his first campaign. If he can get healthy, he could be in line for a big bounce back as a sophomore.
Tre Jones (113.5 ADP) has been a career backup to date but he’s also shown during his spot starts that he has the game to produce as a starter. He’ll get that opportunity for the Spurs this season, and I project him with the 91st-most fantasy points.