October 13, 2023, 2:14 pm
League Format: 8-Category Head-to-Head
With fantasy basketball swing right around the corner, it is imperative to start doing some mock drafts to get a feel for how any particular draft will unfold. Contrary to popular opinion, the mock team you draft doesn’t matter and will almost never be indicative of a team you will end up with because people act differently in a mock than they do during the real thing. The real value in mocks is to see where guys fall and who is generally available at each spot during the course of a draft. If you draft at the 12/13 in a a 12-man, it’s important to know when the good point guards fly off the shelf and if you have to reach for a center early because at 36/37 there isn’t anyone you trust at that spot. There are a million variables that can unfold in each draft and no two drafts are ever the same, but it’s exponentially more helpful if you know that if you draft in the 5th slot that you are going to have to make a choice between going all out for Victor Wembanyama or taking the safer route with De’Aaron Fox in the third round.
The common misconception people make when drafting in the first round is that they go for ceiling when really all they should be concerned about is floor. If your first round stud only plays half the games because he always gets hurt, that is going crush your team more than drafting a player 9th who only puts up top-35 value, but plays in 70-plus games. All that really matters is that your studs are available when you need them most (H2H playoffs) and hopefully they also bring their A games and at worst their B+ game. This is one man’s opinion, but Joel Embiid is my number-one DND this year. He should be a per-minute monster again, but in a H2H format I have zero faith he will be there in March after getting hurt again in the playoffs selling out to get his first MVP. Also the Nick Nurse effect. Same goes Kevin Durant. The last three season’s he hasn’t played more than 55 games once. Hard pass. I would be over the moon at getting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyrese Haliburton or Jayson Tatum. Luka Doncic has had injury concerns as well, but he’s too good to pass up and looks like he’s got a real chip on his shoulder this season. As fun as Steph Curry is, he had two legitimate injuries last season and at 35 years old, I can’t go all-in on him if I really want to win. Lamelo Ball is intriguing because he is built for fantasy and the Hornets should be vying for the Play-In and at least he played 75 games two seasons ago. Drafting Kyrie Irving in the first round sounds insane to me and I’m a Kyrie guy. Damian Lillard will see his usage drop, but likely his efficiency go up. He had his best season at 32 last year and he might be the one guy who defies father time. I don’t hate Dame at at the end of the first. My favorite pick was getting Tatum at eight. I would legit take him over Embiid and no less than fifth after Jokic, Hali, SGA and maybe Luka.
The perfect embodiment of my draft philosophy is Trae Young vs. Anthony Davis. When healthy, there was no better player in fantasy than Davis last season and he was a legitimate league-winner when he miraculous played 30 of his last 32 games. Young had a weird year and couldn’t hit triples (33.5 3PT%) and finished 51st in per-game and 33rd in totals. I took Young 4th in a league last season and to be honest he crushed me and I ended up trading him away. Knowing all this, if I had to make the choice this season between Young and Davis, it’s Trae All Day. He’s played at 73 games in B2B seasons and I have faith he is closer to the player who finished 4th on totals two seasons ago than whoever he was last season. I’m telling you, I wouldn’t even hesitate. The next four picks Devin Booker, Domantas Sabonis, Anthony Edwards, Donovan Mitchell and Jaren Jackson Jr. are all money and you can’t go wrong either way. I would probably rank them Edwards, JJJ, Sabonis, Mitchell, Booker but it’s marginal at best. The next pick. WOW. I would take Kawhi Leonard closer to 120th than I would 20th, well maybe not, but it’s close. I don’t even need to look at his history to know Kawhi is in Never, Never Land for me. When healthy sure, he might be the best player in the league, but he lasted two playoff games before breaking down and now he’s 32. Karl-Anthony Towns might be the toughest player in fantasy to gauge. The guy played every game in his first three seasons and now has two sub-40 game seasons over his last four campaigns. I think he’s too good to pass up after 20 and although the Rudy Gobert fit is gross, he’s built for fantasy and I’m in love with his efficiency. There is some risk there, but at least it’s not costing a top-five pick this season. James Harden, who knows. All I can say is if you wouldn’t let James Harden house sit for you, you probably don’t want him on your fantasy team. Mikal Bridges, aka pound-for-pound best player in fantasy, aka the iron man, aka the most trusted man in sports. Bridges has played 82 games every season except last year….where he played 83 games after getting traded. Bridges was a must-draft player on the Suns when he was the third option and now as the first, it’s honestly insane if you don’t go out of your way to draft him. If you are in a league with me, ignore this, otherwise you’re welcome. Desmond Bane is a great choice at the end of the second with Ja Morant out 25 games, Bane showed last season he’s got pseudo point guard chops and has raised his game each season. Great fantasy skillset and great name.
Jimmy Butler is 34 and has crossed the invisible trust Rubicon for fantasy purposes. He’s still being drafted like he is 29 and while the per-game will be great, the Heat keep telling us they don’t care about the regular season. Believe them. Not to walk over my previous point, but Bam Adebayo might be the exception. He improved his FT% north of 80% last season and that makes him an efficiency beast and while his ceiling isn’t sky-high, he’s a solid floor general. Bam won’t make your team unbeatable, but he’s a stabilizing force especially if he falls to you. Victor Wembanyama is the embodiment of magic beans. He’s going to win you blocks and help in almost everywhere else. As long as he can stay healthy, he will be top-30 at worst and this is probably the lowest he will ever be available in re-draft leagues for the next decade. I can’t advocate going all-out to get him because the unknown variable of whether someone that tall can hold up over a full season is just too much of an unknown. I will probably draft him, but I play in a lot of leagues. Pascal Siakam will continue to be a great fantasy asset on the Raptors, but if/when he gets traded, his usage is almost assuredly taking a big hit. He kind of gets over-drafted anyways, so this season he’s a big stayaway. Cade Cunningham crushed fantasy GMs who took him with an early pick last season, aka me and now we are supposed to just assume he’s healthy and ready to play. Consider me once bitten, twice shy, but he projects as a full-fledged fantasy monster once he gets going. Paul George is just a slightly healthier Kawhi, don’t do it, I’m begging you. The next five Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen, Jalen Brunson, Dejounte Murray and Myles Turner are all great picks and if I was doing an auction draft, I would target this block to get at least three of the five. They are all still improving, were healthy last year and should see a similar or increased role this season. Fred Van Vleet for fantasy purposes was insane last season, finishing 11th on totals and 19th on averages. It was all for the bag. Nick Nurse destroyed him and this Rockets team is a mess. There will be a team out there who drafts Embiid, Kawhi and FVV and I weep for them.
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