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Fantasy Basketball: Picking last doesn’t doom you

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What team do you get if you draft from the last spot?

NBA: Preseason-Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy drafts are merciless, unrelenting beasts. Nothing goes according to plan, and you get eaten alive. Often by friends! Which makes the entire humiliating experience even more dreadful, since these jerks aren’t going to let you forget that you screwed the pooch on draft day big time.

And, yet, believe in hope, friends. For, even if you draft 12th, your chance at ultimate victory is still within reach. Hell, even if you drafted 24th, you’d still have a shot (though, you’d need to ace the wire and probably make some trades). With that in mind, let’s draft a Worst Case Scenario team: a squad of players taken 12 picks after the round in which we’re drafting. We’re picking last in our imaginary 12-person league, so the first pick available to us will be the 25th overall player according to ESPN’s Average Draft Position. Savvy? We’ll draft 8 players (Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Power Forward, Center, and three Utility), and we’ll attempt to acquire some deep sleepers, as well. So, our first pick’s ADP has to be 25th or after, our second pick must be 37th or after, and so on. We won’t do snake so that our job will be even harder.

The point of the exercise is to remind you that the best laid plans of mice and men often (always) go awry, that panic is the Enemy, and that drafts are all about value and value is all over the draft. The ADP is just a reflection of how the country is drafting that player; it’s not, necessarily, a reflection of the player’s actual skill and ability and opportunity.

1st pick, #12 overall: Kevin Love, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers

ESPN ADP (as of 10/12/18) 25th overall

I hate picking a Cleveland guy first (Go Pistons), but KLove could be elite-elite this year. He was a top 40 player in my league last year (we count minutes, too), and since LeBron is gone, Love will now be the offensive focal point on the Cavs. He could jump into the top 20 of fantasy players, no joke. Only 8 players last season averaged at least 17 points and 9 rebounds per game: Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Sergeant Russell Westbrook, Boogie Cousins, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and Kevin Love. Pretty good list to be on, no? AND, KLove averaged the fewest minutes of players on that list (he’s only 30, so don’t freak out, the minutes were a function of LeBron and the roster, NOT Love’s age or ability), and had the fewest field goal attempts. Now, Bron’s in LA, and his minutes and shots need to be taken by someone else. Love will play more, Love will shoot more, and Love will be more valuable in fantasy.

Love was the 38th ranked player overall in my league last year (we also count minutes). I think he averages 20 and 10 this year, I really do. In which case, he could be a top 10 fantasy player come year’s end.

2nd pick, #24 overall: Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz

ESPN ADP 41st overall

The Stifle Tower. The French Rejection. The 14th most valuable Center in my fantasy league last year, despite playing in only 56 games (he was more valuable than Steven Adams, Al Horford, and Ian Mahinmi, haha), and the 36th most valuable player overall (more valuable than our first pick, Kevin Love!). Gobert, if healthy, will absolutely be a top 25 player this year. He’s currently being drafted outside the top 40. We’ll take the Mad Gaul, thank you for the value, much obliged, bien venue and all that.

3rd pick, #36 overall: Enes Kanter, C, New York Knicks

ESPN ADP 53rd overall

We’re going big, early, but that’s okay because we’re reaching for the sky, so we’ll need tall dudes. Kanter was a top 10 Center in fantasy last year, and he was 30th overall in my league. I see absolutely no reason why that would change this year. In fact, he might even get more play because he’s a fan favorite, he’s going through some tough times with his home country and family so he may play with an edge, Kristaps Porzingis probably won’t play this season so the paint belongs to Enes, and he’s only 26.

12 players scored 10+ points and grabbed 10+ rebounds last season. Kanter is one of them, and he averaged the second fewest minutes. He should see 30+ minutes this year, and his numbers should go up accordingly (he averaged 26 MPG last year). Kanter’s high floor helps keep our hamstrung team afloat AND we’re probably going to dominate the Bigs stat categories (extra points if your league includes Double-Doubles).

4th pick, #48 overall: Otto Porter, Jr., SF, Washington Wizards

ESPN ADP 67th overall

Um, Otto Porter, Jr. was the 33rd best player in my league last year. Sooo, I don’t know what to tell you. Here’s the list of players last year who scored at least 14 points per game, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and shot 50%+ from the field:

Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Giannis, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, and...Otto Porter, Jr.

ALL of those guys, except Otto, are top 50 drafted players. Otto’s 25 years old. Do players that age usually get worse or get better? This is a steal of a pick, especially since we needed SF.

5th pick, #60 overall: Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder

ESPN ADP 74th overall

Steven Adams is a top 50 player. That’s the only rationale necessary here. It doesn’t matter if we’re big on Bigs (he’ll be the second Utility spot), what matters is value. We can either dominate rebounds and ratios, or we can sell one or two of our Bigs to help improve other areas of our team. But, top 50 is top 50, especially when it’s for 6th round value.

For what it’s worth, his counting numbers have increased every year of his career; he’s only 25; and only Adams, Clint Capela, and Rudy Gobert scored at least 13 points per game and shot better than 60% from the field. Adams is safe, solid, and getting better. Great value here.

6th pick, #72 overall: Golden Gary Harris, SG, Denver Nuggets

ESPN ADP 90th

Readers of this space will know that I’m in love with Golden Gary. I think Denver’s a fun AF team, and I expect improvement from all five of their starters (Millsap was injured, so he’ll be better by default). I just think there are bright days in this team’s future, I love Millsap’s defense as an addition while not taking away too many shots from the Joker, Gary, and Jamal Murray, and Will Barton. Damn, Denver has a lot of shooters! But, fear not, for Gary was a top 75 fantasy player last year (62nd overall), and he’s only 24 so he’s only getting better.

Plus, guess who averaged at least 5 three pointers per game AND 1.8 steals per game? Victor Oladipo, Paul George, James Harden, and!...Gary Harris. This isn’t to suggest he’s a defensive mastermind, it’s only to show you that he’s got some thievin’ hands AND he’s a long range shooter. He’s a cool outlaw in the Old West! Goddamn, I love this guy!

7th pick, #84 overall: Joe Ingles, SF, Utah Jazz

ESPN ADP 111th

Be honest, you don’t know who Joe Ingles is. (Also, can you tell that I’m excited about the Jazz this year? I think they’ll be great!)

Here’s the list of players last season who scored at 11 points per game, grabbed 4 boards, dished 4 dimes, and made at least two 3-pointers per game:

Steph Curry, James Harden, Dame Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Tyreke Evans, Boogie Cousins, Victor Oladipo, and...annnndd!..Joe MFing Ingles.

ALL of those guys, aside from Evans (now on the Pacers as a possible 6th man) and Boogie (injured), are top fantasy picks. As in, you can’t really go wrong with them. Ingles was a top 60 fantasy player in my league last year. He’s being drafted outside the top 100. This is what I meant when I mentioned Vegas earlier: the nation has no idea who Joe Ingles is, so they’re not drafting him. But, he’s better than nearly half the guys being drafted before him.

8th pick, #96 overall (must be a PG)

Our final pick must be a point guard, so here’s a list of the available ones that satisfy our requirements of being pick #121 or later, according to ADP:

  • Rajon Rondo, 122nd
  • Dejounte Murray, 125th (this would’ve been my pick before he got injured)
  • Darren Collison, 127th
  • Jeremy Lin, 131st
  • Terry Rozier, 138th
  • Malcolm Brogdon, 142nd (he, along with the rest of the Bucks, should benefit from their new coach’s offensive scheme)
  • Marcus Smart, 147th
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, 155th
  • Patrick Beverley, 184th

Here’s what I think: I think Rondo’s the starting point guard for the Lakers to begin the year, but who knows what will happen to that team as the season goes along. Rondo’s a solid, but riskier-than-he-seems pick.

I think Brogdon has upside, I think Lin will get volume (if he can stay healthy), and I love Spencer Dinwiddie and hope he gets big minutes this year.

HOWEVER. PatBev, one of the NBA’s most tenacious and ferocious defenders, is listed as the starting point guard for the LA Clippers. Last season, Beverley was hurt and only played in 11 games, but the season before that, when he was still in Houston, he averaged 9+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 4+ assists. 21 players equaled or exceeded that line last year. The player who scored the least on that list was Lonzo Ball. Ball’s ADP is 51st; PatBev’s is 184th.

We’ll go with Patrick Beverley.

Here’s our team:

  • PG - PatBev, #184 ADP (hardly played last season)
  • SG - Gary Harris, #90 ADP (top 75 player last season)
  • SF - Otto Porter, Jr., #67 ADP (top 40 player last season)
  • PF - Kevin Love, #25 ADP (top 40 player last season)
  • C - Rudy Gobert, #41 ADP (top 40 player last season)
  • UTIL1 - Enes Kanter, #53 ADP (top 30 player last season)
  • UTIL2 - Steven Adams, #74 ADP (top 40 player last season)
  • UTIL3 - Joe Ingles, #111 ADP (top 60 player last season)

Overall, we drafted 7 top 75 players from last year, and the 8th has upside after returning from injury. That’s pretty damn good for not being able to draft talent from the first two rounds. That’s a fantasy team that should get you to the playoffs. You fill in your bench with other value picks, like Glenn Robinson III (drafted outside the top 200), or get lucky with someone like Michael Carter-Williams (ditto), or you make a good trade, and all of a sudden your Worst Case Scenario squad is looking like a First Place Champion team.

There’s a ton of talent out there, folks. Make sure you’re aware of the players who don’t get the press, but do get the numbers. Quiet can still be elite.