I’m of the mind that it’s never too early to participate in fantasy basketball mock drafts, so when Henry at Weakside Help reached out to me with the idea of partnering on a drafting adventure, I was amped — Robin Lopez amped.
Here’s the deal: We’re working with a 12-team head-to-head league with nine categories (FG%, FT%, 3ptm, Pts, Reb, Ast, Stl, Blk, TO) and 13 draft rounds. I’m taking the first round, Henry takes the second, I take the third, etc. Each round will consist of picking players in the order we see fit while making sure we’re building 12 viable teams as best as we can, sprinkling our comments along the way.
Got it? Good.
Without further ado, let’s dive right into the first round of our fantasy mock draft:
- Kevin Durant: I hate to be boring, but toss me into the large pool of fantasy basketball fans putting KD at No. 1 in 2010-11. He was neck-and-neck to finish last season as the top fantasy stud in the land and now that his only competitor has seemingly made a decision to take his talents out of the running for the top spot, Durant seems fit to be plucked here without too much debate. Everyone knows that the kid can score in gargantuan (or is it Durantulan?) bunches, but he also kills it at the free-throw line. The only weaknesses he has are paltry assists and relatively frequent turnovers. Keep in mind that KD will be just 22 years old when the season starts, which means we haven’t even seen the peak of his powers yet.
- LeBron James: It’s tough to definitively peg James’ value heading into this season. He’s no longer the clear top dog on his team, and while that has justifiably deflated his fantasy appeal in the eyes of many, no one should expect all that much of an overall drop-off. Will he take the reins of the offense and be the primary scorer, or will he be the main distributor of the ball? The latter is probably more likely, but don’t be fooled into thinking that would destroy James’ fantasy value. Yes, he might score fewer points, but that just means he’ll have more chances to focus on rebounding and dishing the ball, which could mean LBJ will be the closest he’s been thus far in his NBA career to averaging a triple-double for a season. Whether you’re talking real-life basketball or the fantasy variety, that’s nothing to sneeze at. He’ll go lower than this in more than a few drafts, but it wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see James end the season as the top fantasy stud in the land.
- Chris Paul: The rumors swirling around his name lately make for juicy NBA discussion, but given the short list of potential places besides New Orleans for CP3 to play at the start of the season, along with the difficulty the Hornets will have in moving him, it’s safe to say that his fantasy value is cushioned from much volatility. His health is a concern to weigh when considering his value (he’s played fewer than 65 games in two of his five seasons in the league), but his strong all-around numbers make it tough to knock him too much for that. Paul helps you in every category save for blocks, and assuming he plays at full strength this season, he’s solid at No. 3. Many will take him at No. 2, which is understandable, but his health and obvious unhappiness with the Hornets, along with the team’s apparent lack of motivation to deal him, makes it tough to take him above the sturdier, maybe-on-the-verge-of-triple-doubles-on-a-regular-basis LeBron.
- Dirk Nowitzki: His scoring and rebounding took baby steps back last season, but Diggler is as steady and predictable as they come, which is a great thing. He doesn’t hurt you anywhere and is one of the most efficient players out there. Nowitzki’s care for the ball (1.9 turnovers per game over 12 seasons) is an underappreciated part of his game. Sorry, not much else to say about this stud.
- Kobe Bryant: During the suffocating hoopla surrounding James’ decision, how many bench presses, squats, miles and hours in the gym do you think Kobe put in? He showed signs of being human at some points last season (even missing nine games) but like Dirk, Kobe slaps up stellar lines like clockwork. With a Lakers squad that has somehow managed to improve itself in the off-season, expect Bryant to come into the season brimming with energy, confidence and focus, and ready for another season of dropping 26/5/5 on a nightly basis.
- Danny Granger: He’s the only guy on this list that I’ve actually stood within four feet of (last summer at XS in Las Vegas, where he was playing blackjack at a table by himself), but that doesn’t mean he gets any favorable treatment. Granger is a mini-Durant, which just about describes his big-time fantasy potential. If the dude could stay healthy, he’d be a spot or two higher than this, but his frail body and growing fondness for hoisting up three-pointers without a conscience (which has dented his field-goal percentage) keep him out of the top five. I’d personally try everything I could to avoid drafting him, but if I had to, I’d look to package him in a deal ASAP.
- Pau Gasol: The big man does everything but hit threes and seems to have figured out the trick to being a double-double machine. Many people talk about Andrew Bynum as a ceiling to Gasol’s fantasy value, but those two guys have figured out how to play with each other just fine. The bigger threat to Gasol’s value is his own health, which has been suspect throughout his career. But the chances that the shakier Bynum misses a bunch of games this season (which means huge lines for Gasol) more than makes up for that risk. Feel confident taking the best fantasy big man in the land here.
- Deron Williams: His health is a concern, as well as the absence of Carlos Boozer, who was a great pick-and-roll partner for D-Will, but this guy’s still the second-best fantasy point guard, hands down. It’ll be interesting to see how his game will mesh with Al Jefferson’s, but there shouldn’t be much concern about that. Until we see otherwise, Williams is a lock for a double-double each night he’s out on the floor.
- Stephen Curry: Picking the second-year stud here is likely to raise some eyebrows, but it shouldn’t. In fact, it’s easy to make the case that Curry could go higher than this. His shooting percentages were great, he hit a ton of threes, racked up steals and had solid all-around production last season. Maybe the biggest threats to Curry’s fantasy value are the questionable status of coach Don Nelson, whose free-flowing offense helped Curry grow into a formidable fantasy force, and the low ceiling for his touches/shots with Monta Ellis and a new, capable big man in town. If Nelson gets pushed out, keep a close eye on the situation. If Nelson stays, there’s little reason to think that Curry won’t make a good sophomore-year jump (though we’ve all come to expect the unexpected from Mad Nellie).
- Dwyane Wade: Ah, our former top-five friend has finally arrived. Mr. Wade will likely see his points, rebounds and assists fall by a bit, but he could shoot above 50 percent from the field for the first time in his career, thanks to his newfound help. The interesting questions are whether Wade can focus more of his energy on ratcheting up his steals, threes and blocks, and if his turnovers will dip thanks to James taking a good deal of the ball-handling duties. His health is also a cause for concern, as he’s averaged about 67 games per season in his seven years in the NBA. If the Heat live up to the hype and destroy opponents, that would mean plenty of rest and a better chance at a healthy season for Wade. But that would also mean fewer chances to play heavy minutes and put up big numbers. As you can see, it’s a mixed bag for Wade heading into this season, so it’s tough to envision him going much higher than this.
- Gerald Wallace: Last season was great for Wallace, who notched career highs in games played (76), minutes per game (41:00) and rebounds per game (10.0). He’s no longer expected to accumulate two steals and two blocks each game, but if he can keep up the rebounding and solid free-throw shooting while staying healthy, Wallace should have first-round value in 2010-11. If you’re skeptical about his health (who could blame you?), feel free to take a pass on him until the second round.
- David Lee: The dude was a monster last season on the Knicks, and the good news is that he’s landed on the Warriors, a squad that might play at an even more reckless pace. As with Curry, if Nellie isn’t coaching the team, all bets are off and Lee could fall a few spots. Assuming Nelson stays as the coach of this team, and assuming Andris Biedrins continues to stink it up in Oakland, Lee should be in for another huge year. Now, if he could only figure out how to block more shots…
What do you think? What did I get right, what did I get wrong? Let me have it in the comments section below, and check out the second round at Weakside Help tomorrow.