This mock draft was held on Sept. 27, with a mix of Rotoworld writers and hardcore fantasy owners who volunteered to participate. It was held earlier than most drafts, but close enough to the season that it's an accurate representation of where players are likely to be targeted in an average draft. The format is as follows:
Standard 9-cat, ROTO scoring, snake draft with no keepers
12 teams with 13 players per roster: PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, UTIL, UTIL, UTIL, Bench, Bench, Bench
This was a mock, but in the interest of realism and detail...there was no IR spot. Lineups locked daily. Free agents were thrown into an auction system with an acquisition budget of 200. No limit on trades, league GM was the sole veto for trades, and there was an 82-game limit per position.
Personally, I love 82-game limits. They aren't restrictive, but reduce the advantage of streaming players and encourage creative DNPs to save games played. It just adds another level of depth and long-term strategy to roto leagues. As much as I love DFS, nothing beats a good season-long league for me.
With all of that out of the way, let's get to the draft!
*If you look only at the picks and ignore the commentary, be aware that "Team Rob" was an auto-pick. He thought it was the following night, and sincerely apologized, but I told him it might actually be a blessing -- his auto-drafted team was awful. It's a cautionary tale for us all.
|1||James Harden, Hou SG||Team Norof|
|2||Stephen Curry, GS PG||Team Spyropoulos|
|3||Kevin Durant, GS SF||Team Patel|
|4||Russell Westbrook, OKC PG||Team Clarkson|
|5||Kawhi Leonard, SA SF||Team Johnson|
|6||Karl-Anthony Towns, Min C||Team Knaus|
|7||Chris Paul, LAC PG||Team Lakodaris|
|8||LeBron James, Cle SF||Team Rob|
|9||Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mil SF||Team Gallagher|
|10||Anthony Davis, Nor PF||Team Nader|
|11||DeMarcus Cousins, Sac C||Team Fox|
|12||Hassan Whiteside, Mia PF||Team Joey|
Harden has quickly become my No. 1 target in 8-cat leagues, and you can make a very strong case in 9-cat despite what will be a ridiculous number of turnovers this season. He already led the league in turnovers last year at a whopping 4.6 per game, and has now been given the full PG mantle. That will result in more turnovers but also more assists, and it should yield some easier scoring looks in transition, so the good outweighs the bad for me. A pick you can't quibble with.
Westbrook falling to No. 4 has something to do with the 9-cat format, and I can't argue against the 1-5 grouping of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi is a complete 9-cat stud and I'll take him at No. 5 every single time. I had to take Towns with the No. 6 pick, CP3 isn't flashy but he gets the job done every single year and is one of the best PGs to target in 9-cat, which brings us to...LeBron James.
Team Rob was a no-show for the draft, so instead of nabbing Giannis Antetokounmpo, he wound up with LeBron. It's not the worst outcome possible (he has many worse auto-picks as the draft progresses), but already we see the peril of not showing up. After that pick, Mike snagged Giannis, Jonas went with Anthony Davis' upside, and Fox took DeMarcus Cousins at No. 11 -- Cousins' turnovers hurt him in 9-cat, but he's viable at the turn of the first round.
|13||Damian Lillard, Por PG||Team Joey|
|14||Paul George, Ind SF||Team Fox|
|15||Paul Millsap, Atl PF||Team Nader|
|16||Al Horford, Bos C||Team Gallagher|
|17||John Wall, Wsh PG||Team Rob|
|18||Victor Oladipo, OKC SG||Team Lakodaris|
|19||Kyle Lowry, Tor PG||Team Knaus|
|20||Kyrie Irving, Cle PG||Team Johnson|
|21||Nikola Jokic, Den PF||Team Clarkson|
|22||Draymond Green, GS SF||Team Patel|
|23||Kristaps Porzingis, NY PF||Team Spyropoulos|
|24||Isaiah Thomas, Bos PG||Team Norof|
I like what Joey did at the turn here, locking up both an elite center (Hassan Whiteside) and point guard (Damian Lillard). Whiteside was already a first-round value last season, in under 30 minutes per game, so it's not a stretch to anticipate top-10 value with expanded minutes and offensive responsibilities.
Paul George fell pretty far before going at No. 14, and Paul Millsap's relative dip can be attributed to the recent swelling in his knee. It sounds like a minor concern, but is enough to slide him behind guys like PG and LeBron.
John Wall was another brutal auto-pick. He's coming off surgeries to both his left and right knees, and isn't a lock to play on opening night (although reports from training camp have been very positive). Victor Oladipo looks like a better, healthier option here, and I was more than happy to land Kyle Lowry at a relative value with the No. 19 pick. Everyone's favorite breakout fantasy stud, Nikola Jokic, flew off the board at No. 21 this time. Nobody is sleeping on him and his ADP is rapidly catching up to his upside, so be prepared to splurge on draft day if you want him. Draymond Green went about where I expected, Kristaps Porzingis was a bit early for my liking, and Isaiah Thomas was a safe pick as the best PG on the board.
|25||Jimmy Butler, Chi SG||Team Norof|
|26||LaMarcus Aldridge, SA PF||Team Spyropoulos|
|27||Brook Lopez, Bkn C||Team Patel|
|28||Kemba Walker, Cha PG||Team Clarkson|
|29||Eric Bledsoe, Pho PG||Team Johnson|
|30||Serge Ibaka, Orl PF||Team Knaus|
|31||Kevin Love, Cle PF||Team Lakodaris|
|32||Blake Griffin, LAC PF||Team Rob|
|33||Myles Turner, Ind PF||Team Gallagher|
|34||C.J. McCollum, Por PG||Team Nader|
|35||Klay Thompson, GS SG||Team Fox|
|36||Nicolas Batum, Cha SF||Team Joey|
I said that IT was the best PG remaining. That's because Eric Bledsoe is a constant injury concern and Kemba Walker isn't yet fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. I like Jimmy Butler early in the third round, and the arrival of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo aren't likely to knock him out of Top-25 value. LaMarcus Aldridge is a solid value who seems to have lost all cult appeal after joining the Spurs, but he was a top-15 player in 9-cat after the break last year. That's hard to overlook.
There was a quick run on PFs in this range, with Ibaka, Love and Griffin all flying off the board in succession. Blake's quad injury has made me leery of drafting him, but all reports from camp have been positive so it's a reasonable gamble. As with Jokic earlier, you can see that Myles Turner is no longer a potential mid-round steal. Mike's enthusiasm for his upside has helped to propel him multiple rounds, to the point where you'll likely need a top-40 pick to get him -- assuming you're playing against other owners who follow Rotoworld, at least. C.J. McCollum at No. 34 is a bit rich for my taste -- you're basically paying for his ceiling at that point. His odd PG eligibility might have played into the decision here. Klay Thompson will lose value this year, that much is assured. I'm still fine with taking him in the 35-40 range, under the assumption that even if his points dip, his elite 3-pointers will again be supported by excellent percentages, low turnovers, and a smattering of defensive stats.
|37||Pau Gasol, SA PF||Team Joey|
|38||Carmelo Anthony, NY SF||Team Fox|
|39||Nikola Vucevic, Orl C||Team Nader|
|40||Mike Conley, Mem PG||Team Gallagher|
|41||Khris Middleton, Mil SF||Team Rob|
|42||Derrick Favors, Uta PF||Team Lakodaris|
|43||Rudy Gobert, Uta C||Team Knaus|
|44||Trevor Ariza, Hou SF||Team Johnson|
|45||Gorgui Dieng, Min C||Team Clarkson|
|46||Gordon Hayward, Uta SG||Team Patel|
|47||Ricky Rubio, Min PG||Team Spyropoulos|
|48||Marc Gasol, Mem C||Team Norof|
First of all...Khris Middleton was an obvious auto-draft special. Owning Pau Gasol seems like it will be joyless this season, thanks to the Spurs' propensity to limit minutes and sprinkle in occasional DNPs. If that's true for younger guys, it will certainly be true for the 36-year-old Gasol. This is a reasonable range for Carmelo and Conley, the latter of whom was the best remaining PG, but I think Jonas reached a tad for Nikola Vucevic. I'm higher on him than most, as the majority of owners seem leery of him now that Bismack Biyombo has arrived, but I've routinely landed him in the 40s and even 50s. It's still not a bad pick if Vuc can stay healthy -- he's missed an average of 16.7 games over the past three seasons.
Marc Gasol is a reasonable gamble around the 50 mark, but I'm happy letting someone else take him -- coach David Fizdale has already vowed to monitor his minutes and give him occasional DNP-CDs. Two picks I love here are Trevor Ariza and Gorgui Dieng. Ariza is an iron-man with limited competition, he's been a top-30 guy for each of the past three seasons (cumulative value), and he's playing in an ideal offense under Mike D'Antoni. What's not to love? Dieng is no longer flying under the radar, but he should still be a value in the fourth and fifth rounds. Tom Thibodeau will undoubtedly give him more reliable minutes than he saw last season (27.1 per game), which is all he needs to surge toward early-round value.
|49||Ryan Anderson, Hou PF||Team Norof|
|50||Jonas Valanciunas, Tor C||Team Spyropoulos|
|51||Goran Dragic, Mia PG||Team Patel|
|52||Jae Crowder, Bos SF||Team Clarkson|
|53||Marcin Gortat, Wsh C||Team Johnson|
|54||Jeff Teague, Ind PG||Team Knaus|
|55||Andrew Wiggins, Min SG||Team Lakodaris|
|56||Andre Drummond, Det C||Team Rob|
|57||D'Angelo Russell, LAL PG||Team Gallagher|
|58||Jabari Parker, Mil SF||Team Nader|
|59||DeMar DeRozan, Tor SG||Team Fox|
|60||Evan Fournier, Orl SG||Team Joey|
Of the three point guards drafted in this round, I'm most partial to Goran Dragic. The Dragon has missed an average of 5.0 games over the past five seasons, and he's poised for a bigger role now that Dwyane Wade (with his lofty usage) is in Chicago. D'Angelo Russell is a probable breakout candidate, but I was more comfortable taking Jeff Teague. It's a bit conservative, but I was fine to add a veteran PG who rarely misses games and has posted top-40 value (cumulative) in three of the past five seasons.
I'm not the least bit concerned about Jae Crowder this season -- neither Al Horford nor Jaylen Brown should impact his two-way production. Andrew Wiggins figures to have a massive role under Tom Thibodeau, and he's a few 3-pointers and defensive stats away from stud status. Jabari Parker's offensive load increased when the Bucks lost their leading scorer, possibly for the season. Last year he was a poor source of 3-pointers (0.1), assists (1.7), blocks (0.4) and FT% (76.8%), but it makes sense to bet on his continued development.
|61||Zach LaVine, Min PG||Team Joey|
|62||Dennis Schroder, Atl PG||Team Fox|
|63||Chandler Parsons, Mem SF||Team Nader|
|64||Tobias Harris, Det PF||Team Gallagher|
|65||DeAndre Jordan, LAC C||Team Rob|
|66||Enes Kanter, OKC C||Team Lakodaris|
|67||Nerlens Noel, Phi C||Team Knaus|
|68||Brandon Knight, Pho PG||Team Johnson|
|69||Aaron Gordon, Orl PF||Team Clarkson|
|70||Reggie Jackson, Det PG||Team Patel|
|71||Jrue Holiday, Nor PG||Team Spyropoulos|
|72||Devin Booker, Pho SG||Team Norof|
Zach LaVine was unleashed after the break last year, averaging 35.0 minutes in the final two months, resulting in averages of 16.4 points, 2.4 triples, 2.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks and 2.0 turnovers. He also shot 47.9% from the field during that span, and it added up to top-75 value. He's a reasonable target here, but I'm not as sold on Dennis Schroder or Chandler Parsons...for very different reasons. Schroder is tempting as a guy with unlimited minutes coming his way -- the Hawks have precious little depth behind him, and Jarrett Jack is coming off major surgery. Schroder had a 29.2% usage rate last year, and will be a great source of points, 3-pointers, assists and steals, but he has the potential to tank you in two categories -- FG% and turnovers. He shot just 42.1% from the field and per-36-minutes he turned it over 4.1 times, severely hurting his appeal in 9-cat leagues. That said, Team Fox began the draft with DeMarcus Cousins and was in all likelihood consciously punting/ignoring turnovers.
Getting back to Parsons, I'm simply too worried about his health to burn a top-75 pick on him. Consecutive seasons ended by knee surgeries, a lack of clearance for contact during training camp...it's just too risky for me when players like Tobias Harris on the board.
My decision to snag Noel here raised some eyebrows, giving me a ridiculous frontcourt with Noel joining Rudy Gobert, Serge Ibaka and Karl-Anthony Towns. Last season, those four combined to average 36.3 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 7.2 blocks, with excellent FG%. I also picked up two PGs with Kyle Lowry and Jeff Teague, freeing me to target swingmen with abandon in the back-half of the draft. Locking up PGs and big men early isn't always a great idea -- it depends upon your draft position, which players fall to you, etc. -- but in this case I felt good about it.
One last note here -- Rob's auto-draft team robbed anyone else of taking a pure punt-FT% approach, as he now has Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan on a team that also includes LeBron James and Blake Griffin.
|73||Bradley Beal, Wsh SG||Team Norof|
|74||Dirk Nowitzki, Dal PF||Team Spyropoulos|
|75||Avery Bradley, Bos SG||Team Patel|
|76||Robin Lopez, Chi C||Team Clarkson|
|77||Jordan Clarkson, LAL PG||Team Johnson|
|78||Wesley Matthews, Dal SG||Team Knaus|
|79||Kent Bazemore, Atl SG||Team Lakodaris|
|80||Rajon Rondo, Chi PG||Team Rob|
|81||Nikola Mirotic, Chi PF||Team Gallagher|
|82||Jusuf Nurkic, Den C||Team Nader|
|83||Rudy Gay, Sac SF||Team Fox|
|84||Gary Harris, Den SG||Team Joey|
With the first six rounds in the bag, I'm shifting the format and will only mention a handful of picks that I liked or disliked from each round.
Liked: Avery Bradley has proven he can stay healthy, minutes won't be an issue, and he's coming off a terrific year...his stats were comparable to the Zach LaVine numbers listed above. Robin Lopez is another nice, underrated pickup in the middle of drafts. I'm expecting more than last year's 26.9 minutes per game, but even that was good enough for top-60 value. I'm high on Wes Matthews this year, and also loved the picks of Kent Bazemore and Nikola Mirotic. Can't argue with Rudy Gay here, either, given his long track record of fantasy success.
Disliked: Bradley Beal has never impressed me, fantasy-wise, with weak across-the-board numbers compounded by an inability to stay healthy. Rajon Rondo was actually a fine pick for the auto-draft team, which is unintentionally going all-out on the punt-FT% strategy! In general, I view Rondo as a necessary evil for owners who whiffed on assists and/or steals in previous rounds. Jusuf Nurkic has gone to Jonas (Team Nader) in every single mock I've done with him, usually a round or two earlier than this. I'm not huge on him as a center who turns the ball over a ton and hurts you in both FG% and FT%, so I doubt he'll fall to me in any leagues.
|85||Darren Collison, Sac PG||Team Joey|
|86||Jeremy Lin, Bkn PG||Team Fox|
|87||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Det SG||Team Nader|
|88||Otto Porter Jr., Wsh SF||Team Gallagher|
|89||Dwyane Wade, Chi SG||Team Rob|
|90||Marvin Williams, Cha SF||Team Lakodaris|
|91||Robert Covington, Phi PF||Team Knaus|
|92||Greg Monroe, Mil PF||Team Johnson|
|93||JJ Redick, LAC SG||Team Clarkson|
|94||Harrison Barnes, Dal SF||Team Patel|
|95||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Bkn SF||Team Spyropoulos|
|96||Dwight Howard, Atl C||Team Norof|
Liked: Few players moved into a more favorable position than Harrison Barnes, but he's getting very little love in the drafts I've done. Spikes in scoring, 3-pointers, rebounds and assists should easily outweigh higher turnovers and any dip in FG%, so I like him to beat this modest valuation. Marvin Williams handily beat this 8th-round value last year. The return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may dent his appeal a bit, but not enough to drop him outside of the top-100.
Disliked: Darren Collison is a calculated risk, given that we're not sure how long he'll be out. It could be 10 games, but the league did suspend Jeff Taylor 24 games for a domestic abuse incident a few years back, so there's precedent for a longer suspension. On a per-36-minute basis, Jeremy Lin has never cracked top-140 value in 9-cat leagues (with the exception of his Linsanity fluke, which was a small sample size).
|97||Alex Len, Pho C||Team Norof|
|98||Rodney Hood, Uta SG||Team Spyropoulos|
|99||Steven Adams, OKC C||Team Patel|
|100||George Hill, Uta PG||Team Clarkson|
|101||Ben Simmons, Phi PF||Team Johnson|
|102||Danilo Gallinari, Den SF||Team Knaus|
|103||Courtney Lee, NY SG||Team Lakodaris|
|104||Thaddeus Young, Ind SF||Team Rob|
|105||Danny Green, SA SG||Team Gallagher|
|106||Kris Dunn, Min PG||Team Nader|
|107||Elfrid Payton, Orl PG||Team Fox|
|108||DeMarre Carroll, Tor SF||Team Joey|
Liked: Danilo Gallinari at No. 102 was a no-brainer for me. Danny Green is the forgotten man after last year's inexplicable struggles, but his 9-cat upside is too great to ignore. George Hill is an underrated gem of a 9-cat PG, and he's ideally situated in Utah. DeMarre Carroll was a strong choice for Team Joey at No. 108, which is low enough to compensate for any health concerns (he's admitted that he’s still not 100%).
Disliked: Alex Len finally stayed healthy last year, but he took a step back statistically with just 0.8 blocks to accompany his 9.0 points on 42.4% shooting. He even turned it over 1.9 times in just 23.3 minutes per game, and the Suns' concern about his long-term health makes it unlikely that his playing time will surge this year.
|109||Joel Embiid, Phi C||Team Joey|
|110||Deron Williams, Dal PG||Team Fox|
|111||Monta Ellis, Ind SG||Team Nader|
|112||Seth Curry, Dal SG||Team Gallagher|
|113||Julius Randle, LAL PF||Team Rob|
|114||Mirza Teletovic, Mil PF||Team Lakodaris|
|115||Markieff Morris, Wsh PF||Team Knaus|
|116||Bismack Biyombo Orl C||Team Johnson|
|117||Jahlil Okafor, Phi C||Team Clarkson|
|118||Joakim Noah, NY C||Team Patel|
|119||Clint Capela, Hou C||Team Spyropoulos|
|120||Eric Gordon, Hou SG||Team Norof|
Disliked: Bismack Biyombo does nothing for me, especially with Nikola Vucevic fighting him for minutes. If I'm targeting a late-round center, I'd rather roll the dice on a guy with proven upside like Joakim Noah, or even Andrew Bogut. I'm not convinced that Mirza Teletovic will get enough minutes to make case for top-120 value...I'd take him with a flier in the final round, but that's about it.
|121||Stanley Johnson, Det SF||Team Norof|
|122||Patrick Beverley, Hou PG||Team Spyropoulos|
|123||Marcus Smart, Bos PG||Team Patel|
|124||Luol Deng, LAL SF||Team Clarkson|
|125||Buddy Hield, Nor SG||Team Johnson|
|126||J.R. Smith, Cle SG||Team Knaus|
|127||Trey Lyles, Uta PF||Team Lakodaris|
|128||Kenneth Faried, Den PF||Team Rob|
|129||Brandon Ingram, LAL PF||Team Gallagher|
|130||Dario Saric, Phi SF||Team Nader|
|131||Emmanuel Mudiay, Den PG||Team Fox|
|132||Justise Winslow, Mia SG||Team Joey|
Liked: Emmanuel Mudiay at No. 131 is a worthy gamble, even if he was a massive anchor for 9-cat owners last season. After the All-Star break last year, he improved his scoring, FG%, FT%, 3-pointers (both makes and percentage), rebounds, and turnovers, all while playing just 0.5 more minutes. I anticipate a big leap forward this year. Kenneth Faried has really lost his shine for fantasy owners, huh? He's a value in the 120s. Justise Winslow is also a probable value pick with an expanded role for the post-Wade Heat.
Disliked: I'm inherently skeptical of rookie's fantasy values, particularly this class, and I'd wager that Buddy Hield, Brandon Ingram and Dario Saric will all be net-negative 9-cat players until the All-Star break. Of that trio, though, I'd gamble on Saric -- who knows what might happen in Philly?
|133||Jerryd Bayless, Phi PG||Team Joey|
|134||Andrew Bogut, Dal C||Team Fox|
|135||Tim Frazier, Nor SG||Team Nader|
|136||Kyle Korver, Atl SG||Team Gallagher|
|137||Andre Iguodala, GS SF||Team Rob|
|138||Norman Powell, Tor SG||Team Lakodaris|
|139||Jerami Grant, Phi SF||Team Knaus|
|140||Terrence Jones, Nor PF||Team Johnson|
|141||Will Barton, Den SG||Team Clarkson|
|142||Allen Crabbe, Por SG||Team Patel|
|143||Tyreke Evans, Nor SF||Team Spyropoulos|
|144||Al-Farouq Aminu, Por SF||Team Norof|
Liked: Kyle Korver had three straight top-50 seasons before dropping off last year. He started the season with health issues and never quite looked comfortable, but now that he's healthy there's no reason to pass him up in the 12th round. Terrence Jones' nightmare season is in the rearview and he gets a fresh start in New Orleans, where he'll frequently join pal Anthony Davis in the frontcourt -- they could even start together depending upon matchups. He and Will Barton both represent solid upside picks this late in the draft.
Disliked: Jerami Grant was a poor choice for me here. The Sixers' rotation is inscrutable and will likely be changing throughout the year, and Grant offers nothing except blocks -- the exact category I needed least.
|145||Derrick Rose, NY PG||Team Norof|
|146||Josh Richardson, Mia SG||Team Spyropoulos|
|147||Zach Randolph, Mem PF||Team Patel|
|148||Evan Turner, Por SG||Team Clarkson|
|149||Jared Dudley, Pho SF||Team Johnson|
|150||Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cha SF||Team Knaus|
|151||Michael Beasley, Mil SF||Team Lakodaris|
|152||Michael Carter-Williams, Mil PG||Team Rob|
|153||Malcolm Brogdon, Mil SG||Team Gallagher|
|154||Chris McCullough, Bkn PF||Team Nader|
|155||Jared Sullinger, Tor PF||Team Fox|
|156||Kevin Garnett, Min PF||Team Joey|
LOVED: Kevin Garnett as the final pick of a mock draft. Respect the legend.
Liked: This might be the first time I've ever said this...I liked the Derrick Rose pick. He has plenty going against him, from off-court problems to three straight years of awful play, but as a pickup in the final round? Sure. Josh Richardson should also be a sneaky value once he returns from his partially torn ACL.
Disliked: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has yet to stay healthy or prove that he can contribute more than some rebounds with solid FG%. I should have picked up another PG here -- Ty Lawson will open the season as the Kings' starter for an indefinite period, and would have been a nice source of assists which could turn into a streaming spot once DC returns.
Also...seriously, was the ESPN auto-draft intentionally drafting every bad FT% player it could find? Rob's team finished with LeBron, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Rajon Rondo, Thaddeus Young, Julius Randle, Kenneth Faried, Andre Iguodala and Michael Carter-Williams. Surreal.