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Whether you are brand new to fantasy hoops or a savvy veteran, doing at least a few mock drafts is an important part of getting fully prepared for your real drafts. It gives you the chance to make mistakes when they don't count, figure out where certain players are being taken, and create a game plan for your draft, among other things.
We gathered our ESPN fantasy basketball writers and editors for a mock draft in early October. This is a traditional rotisserie league with points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw percentage categories, but no turnovers. Read on, as I discuss the strategy behind my picks and get the lowdown on some of the more intriguing choices from our other participants.
If I'm not making a top-two choice between Durant and LeBron, I'd just as soon slide to the end of the first round, so I can pick back-to-back players to set the tone for my draft. Drafting on the turn, I doubled up on bigs with Jefferson here and Dirk in Round 2. They give me a solid foundation of scoring, boards and field goal percentage.
Andrew Bynum finally gets his chance to shine with the Philadelphia 76ers, but the injury-prone big man already has been shut down for a few weeks. How do you feel about dropping your first-round pick on him?
Neil Tardy: "I viewed No. 8 as a very tough spot in this draft. I considered Al Jefferson and especially Josh Smith, but in the end I decided the news on Bynum, as of now, didn't outweigh his potential to absolutely lay waste to the center-deficient Eastern Conference. As we get closer to the regular season and more is known about Bynum's status, I would obviously adjust my rankings if need be. But with the information that's available now, I'm figuring Bynum will be ready for the start of the season. If he's playing limited minutes for the first couple weeks (and Philly does have an early stretch of five games in seven days), I can easily live with that."
DeMarcus Cousins averaged 19.8 ppg and 10.6 rpg, 1.7 spg and 1.1 bpg after the break last season and is entering his third season in the NBA, so the upside is clearly there. Do you have any qualms about his occasional immaturity issues or investing a second-rounder on a big man who averaged just 44.8 percent on field goals and 70.2 percent on free throws, particularly since he had a pretty high volume of shots (15.6 FGA and 5.8 FTA per game)?
Keith Lipscomb: "There's no doubt I have concerns about Cousins' percentages, even more so than his occasional immaturity issues, but I just couldn't pass up a player with the potential to do even more than he did in last season's strong second half. I think that much of his skill set. And once I decided to take the free throw hit, it allowed me to take the dive on Dwight Howard a round later in hopes of finishing in the top three of most of the other categories. It's a bit of a gamble for sure, but one I was willing to take."
Quite honestly, I was surprised that Ellis made it all the way to the end of the third round. Granted, he's not in the wide-open Golden State Warriors' offense any more, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He's still going to take a ton of shots, but we may see a boost in field goal percentage and steals as he works in Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles' more structured system.
There was a lot of chatter during the draft about the upside and risk of Paul Millsap and where he should go in the draft. We know he has All-Star talent and is in a contract year, but he could be traded and Derrick Favors could eat into his minutes. The consensus seemed to be that you got a steal taking him 29th overall. What do you think?
Eric Karabell: "I agree, obviously! I didn't really consider Millsap with my first two picks, though he was ranked highly, but I was looking for bargains throughout the draft, and thought I followed the path with Millsap, John Wall, Jason Terry and (I thought) Tim Duncan slipping. Millsap might see his minutes cut into a bit, but he's safe for the percentages and enough points, rebounds and steals to matter."
Taking Monroe for his quality scoring, rebound and field goal percentage was a bit redundant with Jefferson and Nowitzki already rostered, but in my opinion, you can't have too much quality scoring and field goal percentage from your top players. Plus, I expect Monroe to take things to another level this season, so he was a good value here, anyway.
Ryan Anderson broke out last season and proved capable of scoring, rebounding and dropping a ton of 3s. However, he doesn't contribute much else and won't get to play off Dwight Howard's inside presence this season. Any concerns about making him a key part of your team by taking him in the fourth round?
John Cregan: "No concerns; ideally, I'd rather have him in the fifth, but I knew I was going to start going for centers soon and he was someone I wanted to set that up. I don't expect Anderson to do what he did last year; I'd expect something more along 15 points and 2-2.5 3s per game (don't forget, he averaged 16 and 9 in April without Howard). My ideal plan was to pair him with Bargnani to give me an edge in 3s. I love out-of-position stats, and Anderson is an elite producer in that regard. He's a great free throw shooter and has a high field goal percentage for a player who primarily takes 3s (39 percent from deep last season). He also might pick up some additional positional eligibility as the New Orleans Hornets tinker with different lineups. To me, some of his value will be tied to Eric Gordon's health, as teams will likely focus on him as long as he's on the court."
This round is chock full of excellent upside players like Gordon, George, Noah, Batum, Evans, an injured Wall and even the rookie Davis. Unfortunately, none of them made it to me, so I continued to build on scoring, rebounds and field goal percentage with STAT. So long as Carmelo Anthony is around, Stoudemire isn't going to be a top-20 player anymore, but I think he's going to provide terrific value in drafts this season, especially if he falls as low as 50, like he did here.
The first rookie off the board in the NBA draft was also the first rookie off the board in our draft. What are your expectations for your fifth-round pick, Anthony Davis?
Brian McKitish: "Davis is as close as it gets to a 'can't miss' fantasy prospect thanks to his unbelievable tools and instincts on the defensive end. I have no doubt that he'll be a dominant force defensively right from the start, and I won't be surprised even a little if he challenges Serge Ibaka for the shot-blocking title as a rookie. Given my high expectations, anything less than 8-10 points, 9-10 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.5 blocks would be a disappointment."
Considering my lack of guards at this point, I gave serious consideration to Holiday and J.J., but I pulled the trigger on Crash for his hustle stats. I'm not expecting much in the way of scoring from him this season, but I think he's going to ramp up his steals and block with the new Brooklyn Nets' roster. Especially helpful from the SF spot.
All Gallinari needs to do is stay healthy and get comfortable in the Nuggets offense and he should break out. There is big-time 3-point and scoring upside here, which makes him a terrific sleeper.
The younger set of fantasy hoopsters may not remember Andrei Kirilenko in his prime when he was a rebounding and hustle-stat stud, because he didn't top 5.1 rpg, 1.4 spg or 1.5 bpg during any of his last four NBA campaigns. Do you expect a return to his studly AK-47 days as he joins the Minnesota Timberwolves this season?
Seth Landman: "The short answer is no, I don't expect Kirilenko to be the guy who averaged better than three blocks and three assists per game for two straight seasons. Those days are long in the past. But I think Kirilenko could average better than one block and one steal per game in his sleep, and for a guy who racks up around three assists per game as a forward, that's pretty valuable. Yes, he could get hurt, but I also think his passing and cutting abilities will be a great fit in Rick Adelman's offense. I'm very high on him this season."
I fully expect Williams to lock up the starting SG spot for the Atlanta Hawks. Considering that he basically posted starter's stats as a reserve with the Philadelphia 76ers, he should be a fantastic fantasy play this season. One of the better sleepers out there, and I was thrilled to get him in Round 8.
Gordon Hayward showed some promise late last season, averaging 14.1 ppg, 3.1 apg and 1.1 3-ppg with good percentages (48.2 field goal percentage, 86.3 free throw percentage) after the All-Star break. That's pretty solid, but are you expecting even more as the former ninth-overall pick enters his third season?
Josh Whitling: "I'm a sucker for players who provide 3s, steals and blocks (Hayward averaged 0.8 3s, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in his sophomore campaign). I also like third year players who have steadily improved in their first two seasons, and whose role with their team will likely continue to grow. Hayward finished the season strong, averaging 16.1 points, 3.5 assists, 1.8 3s and 0.9 steals in 13 March contests, and has the brand of multidimensional skill set that provides roster stability when selecting in the middle rounds of a draft, especially in a rotisserie format. Hayward already finished last season ranked No. 58 on the Player Rater, not registering a single negative rating in any category. That means that even if he doesn't improve he'll be worth the eighth-round pick, although I'm looking for even better numbers and see him as a surefire top-50 player with statistical and positional versatility."
Having solidified my bigs early on, I was focused on rounding out my guards at this point, so I rolled the dice on Mayo. He make for a terrific sleeper this season, because most people are going to think of him as a reserve who shot 40 percent from the field the past two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. But don't forget he was the third overall pick and averaged 18 ppg and about 44.8 percent from the floor in his first two seasons. Three-point specialist Jason Terry is gone and Mayo's averaged 37.5 percent on 3-pointers for his career. There's a ton of upside here.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will have every chance to shine on a Charlotte Bobcats roster that looks more like a collegiate roster. Of course, the Bobcats won't be able to hide his deficiencies on such a young roster, either. What convinced you to pull the trigger on the NBA's No. 2 overall pick at the top of the ninth round?
Matt Draper: "I took MKG too early here, but was in search of a versatile bench player with breakout potential. Yes, he may struggle with his shooting while learning the ropes in the NBA, but he could post decent rebound and hustle stats, and could put up some points on the abysmal Bobcats. His Summer League stat line (yes, I know it's the summer league) was solid. Basically, he's a bit of a wild-card pick with good upside, though probably a much better end-of-draft pick."
Since this pick rounded out my starting roster, I felt I could take a flier on the rookie Waiters. The only "competition" he has for playing time is from coach Byron Scott (i.e. Waiters must satisfy his coach to stay on the floor), and he has the natural skills to bust loose. I expect ups and downs, but that's fine for the last guy in my starting roster; I can bench him when he goes cold.
The Bobs are so bereft of scoring options, I think it will be nearly impossible for Gordon to not score at least in the upper teens and bomb a couple of 3s each game.
Biyombo has a wide-open shot at averaging a double-double and 2.5 blocks and that's a low-end projection on blocks in my opinion. He's one of the better late-round fliers out there.
With your starting lineup in place, you selected Derrick Rose in Round 12. Seems like that's a logical time to take him, even though you'll have to burn one of only three bench spots to hold him until he is able to return from his knee surgery, likely after the All-Star break. What was your thinking with this pick?
Andrew Brooks: "My plan was to take Rose in the last round, but I wanted to make sure that I got him so I reached a round early. This was the classic shoot-for-the-stars pick from me. I thought about taking a flyer on Bradley Beal, who will obviously play in more games and was coincidentally drafted with the next pick, but if and when Rose is healthy, that kind of value in the 12th round was too much to pass up. I feel good enough with the production I'll get from my picks in the first 11 rounds to stash a former MVP on my bench for a few months. Plus, I can always drop him if his rehab takes a turn for the worse."
It's a little ironic that a guy who craves attention on the court ended up being "Mr. Irrelevant" in this draft, but so he was. With the New York Knicks' backcourt banged up early on, Smith will have every chance to light things up. Sure, he's as streaky a shooter as they come, but I'll take his upside with the last pick of the draft.