It is, thankfully, that time of year again, when 30 fantasy owners from across the nation all rent RVs and drive into an undisclosed location* to draft their teams in the mammoth expert league known as 30-Deep.
Some background: This league has 30 teams in it (obviously), and up until this season, it was a 9-category league. Recently though, after a closely contested vote, it became an 8-category league with the elimination of turnovers. As a result, we’re likely staring at a whole bunch of 4-4 ties. Which is fine. And by fine, I mean annoying.
More background: By my count (which is rarely accurate), there are six Rotoworld writers in this league — myself, Dr. A, Mike Gallagher, Ryan Knaus, Ethan Norof and Nick Raducanu. That would be a 20 percent Rotoworld representation.
Last background-related paragraph: As you can imagine, having a high draft pick is pretty important in a league this big, and I’ve had an obscene run of luck in that regard. The last three seasons, I’ve had the No. 3 pick (Stephen Curry, who led me to the championship in 2014), No. 5 (Chris Paul, who led me to the Finals) and No. 1 last year (Anthony Davis, who made me profoundly regret not taking Curry).
With that improbable series of high picks in mind, I was pretty shocked when the random number generator gave me a gift again this fall: the No. 3 overall pick.
Here now is the draft breakdown — I’ve separated the whole thing into sets of 10 picks, and will drop in some thoughts after each group of 10:
THE 2016-17 30-DEEP DRAFT
1. Russell Westbrook
2. James Harden (Mike Gallagher, Rotoworld)
3. Stephen Curry (me)
4. Kevin Durant
5. Karl-Anthony Towns
6. Kawhi Leonard
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo
8. Paul George
9. Hassan Whiteside
10. Anthony Davis
Comments: I likely would've taken Curry at No. 1, but I certainly do see the case for taking Harden. Or Westbrook, who not only posted 23.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 10.4 apg last year with Durant, but has averaged 30.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 9.2 apg in the the 48 games he has played without Durant the last two years. … Gallagher won the league last year after knocking me out in the semifinals, and drafting directly next to him was both fun and maddening, as we both tend to target some similar players. … The one top-10 pick that stands out as a bit of a wild card is Antetokounmpo. Obviously I like him a lot, and his numbers did get borderline silly late in the season (including 18.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 7.5 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.9 bpg in his last 26 games). My main question, though, is this: Are you getting the Giannis who went berserk the latter part of the season, or are you getting the guy who was perfectly fine but not first-round caliber his first 54 games (16.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg)? I get why you'd take him if you believe you're getting late-season Giannis, but personally I want my first pick of the draft to be a little bit more of a sure thing. And I fully realize I will probably feel silly about that statement about a month from now.
11. Chris Paul (Ryan Knaus, Rotoworld)
12. Damian Lillard
13. LeBron James
14. DeMarcus Cousins
15. John Wall
16. Draymond Green
17. Andre Drummond
18. Kyle Lowry
19. Paul Millsap (Ethan Norof, Rotoworld)
20. Kemba Walker
Comments: Some stout names fell into the 10-20 range, including the No. 5 overall player in Basketball Monster's 8-category rankings last year (CP3), No. 7 (LeBron), No. 9 (Lowry) and No. 10 (Cousins). Any of those guys could’ve certainly been a top-10 pick. I also really like Millsap at 19, especially given that he’s more or less playing for a new contract (he has a player option at the end of this year).
21. Kyrie Irving
22. Jimmy Butler (Nick Raducanu, Rotoworld)
23. Victor Oladipo (Dr. A, Rotoworld)
24. Blake Griffin
25. Isaiah Thomas
26. Carmelo Anthony
27. Nikola Vucevic
28. Eric Bledsoe
29. Kristaps Porzingis
30. DeMar DeRozan
Comments: A reminder in case you’d forgotten: Irving averaged 25.2 ppg in the playoffs last year (up from 19.6 ppg in the regular season). Strong pick at No. 21. … I also like the choices by my Rotoworld colleagues of Butler (No. 19 overall last year), and Oladipo, who has a chance to explode in OKC this year. … Last season, I was able to get Isaiah Thomas at No. 60 in this league. So much for that. … I don’t have anything against picking DeRozan, but him being someone’s first pick in this draft illustrates just how difficult it is to win this league if you’re positioned at the end of the round.
Comments: First of all, Simmons was an auto pick, and one that really hurts this early. … Secondly, I like the Russell pick. I want to say I love it, but I do think we’re relying on a big leap from the 20-year-old, because his numbers down the stretch last season weren’t anything staggering (last 24 games: 15.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.8 3s, 39.6 percent from the field). With that said, Russell has the talent — and without Kobe, the right circumstances — to make the aforementioned large leap. There will certainly be some ugly shooting nights, but the upside for the 20-year-old — who has already popped off for two 30-plus-point preseason games — is pretty intriguing. … Pau joining the Spurs at age 36 is a little bit scary in terms of potential rest days, but in the fourth round it’s hard to argue too much. Even an aging Gasol is still quite effective (last season: 16.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.0 bpg in 72 games). And if you're worried about Gasol sitting a ton, just keep in mind that Tim Duncan played 77 games in 2014-15, at age 38. … The biggest question for Wiggins is: Can he do anything consistently other than score? Aside from 20.7 ppg, his counting stats from last year are unimpressive: 3.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.6 bpg, 0.7 3s. He’s still just 21 years old, but it’s less than encouraging that he had just one 3-pointer and two assists through his first four preseason games.
Comments: I’ll take Klay this late any day. The arrival of Kevin Durant certainly may put a dent in his value, but I don’t think it knocks the No. 25-ranked player (in 8-category leagues) down that far. … I’m a little bit (okay, very) blinded by my loyalty as a Hawks fan, but I’ll be drafting Schroder wherever possible. Last year, when getting just 25 or more minutes in a game, he averaged 14.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.1 spg and 1.4 3s. And so far in his career, when he has gotten 30-plus minutes in a game (11 times), his numbers look like this: 17.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.3 apg, 0.7 spg and 1.2 3s. … There are a lot of things working in Ibaka’s favor this year, including no longer having to fight for shots behind Russell Westbrook and Durant. More importantly though for Serge, it’s a contract year.
Comments: Pleasant days could be ahead for Dragic riding around on a moped in a post-Wade/post-Bosh Miami. Yes, he was somewhat of a statistical letdown last season (14.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.9 3s), but it’s worth noting that he did post 16.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 6.5 apg in six games he played without Wade. It's also worth noting that Dragic closed out last year strong: 17.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.0 spg and 0.9 3s in his last 28 games. … Someone in the draft chat commented that 53rd overall was an aggressive selection of Booker. I disagree. The soon-to-be 20-year-old averaged 21.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.6 3s over his final 22 games, and should have the same bright flashing green light this season. Gallagher and I disagreed about Booker on the Rotoworld hoops podcast, but I’m excited about him, and would definitely take him over Ariza, who went six picks earlier.
I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for me to comment on the thrilling run on Jazz players with a Gobert-Hood-Favors back-to-back combo. It’s easy to forget that Gobert was a very early selection in a lot of leagues last year, and is still only 24 years old. Getting him in the 50 range is something to celebrate. … My issue with Hood is that he isn’t going to do much for you other than score and hit 3s, though he could do a lot of both. … As for my pick (Knight), I’m less scared of his sixth man role than I am concerned about potential injuries (the last two seasons, Knight has missed 19 and 30 games, respectively). … The Myles Turner selection was one of many Gallagher! moments in this draft for me. Which is to say, I immediately began to second-guess my own pick when I saw Turner fly off the board the second after I drafted.
Comments: Gallagher took another favorite of mine in LaVine, and I considered Rudy Gay here despite the trade rumors. Ultimately though, a steady center in this league goes a long way. Gortat (12.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg in an average of 79 games played the last three years) is not all that exciting, but he is one thing: wildly reliable. Backup Ian Mahinmi (knee surgery) being out early in the season also helps. … Aaron Gordon has the look of a player with a ton of upside given his athletic/dunking ability and age (21), but I’m not fully sold that his ceiling is insanely high this year. After taking over as a starter last season, he averaged a solid but unspectacular 11.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg and 0.6 3s. I certainly am intrigued by his long-term potential, but I think there’s a sound reason to wait on him until at least No. 70.
Comments: I would gladly draft Embiid in the right round — consider me intrigued that he has comfortable 3-point range in addition to his shot-blocking potential — but in a league this deep, he’s a big risk at No. 75. Keeping in mind that we drafted 360 players in total, there’s very little you can do to find a replacement when injuries hit. … Jusuf Nurkic doesn't need a ton of playing time to churn out a useful stat line, and I like him a lot at 79 overall.
81. Deron Williams
82. Harrison Barnes (Raducanu)
83. Jordan Clarkson (Dr. A)
84. Bradley Beal
85. Thaddeus Young
86. Julius Randle
87. Elfrid Payton
88. Dirk Nowitzki
89. Danilo Gallinari
90. Tyreke Evans
Comments: Barnes has had a rotten preseason in Dallas (6.7 ppg on 23.5 percent shooting). We can easily just call that a shooting slump, but the bigger issue is that Barnes doesn’t do much of anything other than score and hit some 3s. … Even if he’s in a bench role, Clarkson should be a solid source of points, 3s and steals. … I would be thrilled to get Gallinari this late in any format. There’s of course a chance he misses a bunch of games, but he — like Beal — is a dynamic producer these days when healthy. Over his final 26 games last season (from early January to late February), Gallo posted 21.9 ppg and 1.7 3s, with 9.6 FT attempts per game.
Comments: A number of risky players were taken in this group of 10. Noel has the potential to be a steals/blocks monster in the right circumstances, but at the moment — with Embiid healthy, and Jahlil Okafor likely to play a significant role — the circumstances are not ideal. … I wouldn't aggressively draft Parsons given the concerns with his knee (he missed the entire preseason), but it's hard to argue at 97th overall.
101. Avery Bradley
102. Kent Bazemore (Norof)
103. Zach Randolph
104. Michael Carter-Williams
105. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
106. Brandon Ingram
107. Markieff Morris
108. Buddy Hield
109. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
110. Steven Adams (Knaus)
Comments: Ingram's draft position will probably move up a bit after his strong preseason game Wednesday against the Warriors (21-7-4 with two steals and two treys). I would expect the 19-year-old to be a useful fantasy option sooner rather than later. … Adams looks like a really solid deep league center. His final 20 games last season: 10.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.1 bpg.
111. Robert Covington
112. Marvin Williams
113. Kris Dunn
114. Tim Frazier
115. Emmanuel Mudiay
116. Joakim Noah
117. DeMarre Carroll
118. Nikola Mirotic (me)
119. Dario Saric (Gallagher)
120. Alex Len
Comments: A collective harrumph echoed through the draft room with the selection of Bob Covington. He’s inconsistent, but should post some monster weeks in 3s and steals in head-to-head leagues. … Neither Mudiay nor Dunn has had a single preseason game shooting above even 40 percent. As much fun as they are to watch at times, I’m staying away from both. … Even with all his injuries, Carroll still posted 1.7 spg and 1.8 3s when he played last season. The 30-year-old is a nice pickup here. … Mirotic has had a turbulent preseason, but I see him as a combo of reasonably high floor (11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg and 2.0 3s last year) and some upside. Despite an inconsistent role and 16 missed games, he still posted 11 games of 20 or more points last season, including a 35-point, nine-trey explosion in late March.
121. Marcus Morris
122. Otto Porter (Gallagher)
123. Jahlil Okafor (me)
124. Eric Gordon
125. Danny Green
126. Tristan Thompson
127. Marquese Chriss
128. Jamal Murray
129. Patrick Beverley
130. Gary Harris
Comments: I was debating between Mirotic and Porter at No. 118, hoping I’d get the other one at 123. Gallagher destroyed that plan. … Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with Okafor here. With Embiid’s emergence and Okafor’s knee injuries, I think he’s probably been a little bit undervalued in drafts so far — and certainly was here. As a rookie last year, the 20-year-old posted 17.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 1.2 bpg, is reportedly expected to be back for the opener. With Embiid and Noel having durability issues of their own, Okafor should get plenty of chances in a featured role, though I won't be surprised if he gets off to a slow start. … Green was a great pickup this late. Even in a really frustrating season, he still posted 1.0 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.5 3s last year. … Learn to spell the name: Marquese Chriss. He’s a dunking machine with a smooth 3-point stroke, and at some point this year I would guess the Suns are going to have no choice but to find minutes for him. … Murray hasn't shot well in the preseason, but he could be a pretty intriguing source of points, 3s and assists. ... News that Gary Harris could play in the season opener makes him a pretty stellar pick this late.
Comments: We have reached the portion of the draft where I don't have a lot I'm dying to say about any of these people. … Faried has fallen pretty far, but still posted 12.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 0.9 bpg in just 25 minutes per game last year. … There was a little bit of excitement over the Curry pick, and he could put up some numbers when Deron Williams is hurt.
141. Evan Turner
142. Andrew Bogut (Raducanu)
143. Shabazz Muhammad (Dr. A)
144. Jerryd Bayless
145. Will Barton
146. Taj Gibson
147. Tyler Johnson
148. Brandon Jennings
149. Matthew Dellavedova
150. Zaza Pachulia
Comments: Even though it's a bit crowded in Denver this year, I like the Barton pick here. I won't be shocked if he somehow finds a way to earn 25-30 minutes per night. … I can't stand the sight of Dellavedova’s face, but he’s in a position to put up some useful lower-end PG numbers this year.
OTHER NOTABLE PICKS
Yes, the draft went on all the way through 360 picks, but listing them all here would shorten our lives considerably. So instead, I’m listing a handful of post-150 picks that caught my attention:
161. JaMychal Green - Expected to start at PF in Memphis. Multi-faceted skill set (is a phrase I'm already annoyed at myself for using).
170. Terrence Jones - Now playing in New Orleans, and has been flashing his shot-blocking ability and 3-point range this preseason.
191. Mario Hezonja (Knaus) - Last year's No. 5 overall pick is a flier with some upside.
195. Dante Exum - Should play plenty, but I don't think he's figured out how to score yet.
Reminder: You can hear much more about this on the Rotoworld Hoops podcast, where I joined Mike Gallagher to dissect this draft even further.
PG - Stephen Curry (No. 3 pick)
SG - Brandon Knight (58)
SF - T.J. Warren (178) - Wouldn’t be excited about him in standard league, but will at least play and score.
PF - Nikola Mirotic (118)
C - Marcin Gortat (63)
G - Glenn Robinson III (358) - Has looked pretty good in the absence of C.J. Miles during preseason, but I’m skeptical that he'll have a regular role once the regular season starts.
F - Jaylen Brown (238) - The No. 3 overall pick in the draft could actually open the season in the rotation. That's good enough for your late-round picks in this league.
Util - Jahlil Okafor (123)
BN - Taurean Prince (243) - Not sure what his role will be early on, but I think he'll get a chance to play for Hawks before too long. Could be a very cheap source of steals and 3s.
BN - Nick Young (FA) - Has looked rejuvenated during preseason. Deep league points and 3s.
BN - C.J. Watson^ (303) - Might be the third string PG in Orlando, and might not be on my roster for very long.
BN - Wayne Ellington (FA) - In this league guys who simply get consistent playing time are useful, and Ellington could at least get me some points and 3s.
IR - Jarrett Jack^ (183) - This was an auto pick (this draft goes almost 24 hours around the clock for a week), and I’m pretty unhappy with the oversight on my part. Jack was waived by the Hawks on Thursday.
^Denotes a pick I’m furious about.
*Much of the first sentence of this column was not true.