Drafts hardly ever go as planned, and then can often go awry AF, especially in a season including Covid absences, lengthy injury absences, DNPs for unvaxxed players, and the regular churn of an NBA season.
Don’t panic! As Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells us, things can always get worse, so don’t fret too much about how bad things already are. And, who knows, maybe things could get better? Stranger things have happened.
With that in mind, let’s do a mock draft wherein we, the fantasy basketball team drafter, are handicapped by two rounds in our draft: I’ll only draft from players whose Average Draft Position (“ADP”) is at least two rounds (24 picks) later than our pick (we’re using ESPN’s ADP data). For instance, with our first pick, I can only draft someone whose ADP is #25 or worse (each round being 12 players), while ignoring the first 24 players. For the second round I can only draft someone whose ADP is #37 or worse (so, someone from the fourth round), and so on.
The purpose of this exercise is to show that you can build a competitive team even if you’re so screwed that you lose your first two picks to absences/injuries, or if you somehow got skipped for two rounds, or if missing on the first two rounds is the penalty for where you finished last season; whatever the reason, you can still draft a damn good team even without drafting a top 24 player.
We’ll draft a full 15-man squad and we’ll use ESPN basic scoring:
PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F, 3 UTIL, 5 BENCH
First Pick (can only draft a player whose ADP is 25+)
RUDY GOBERT, C, UTAH - #25 ADP (#6 Player Rating last season, 2020-21)
Don’t overthink things. The Stifle Tower during the regular season is a top 15 player, at worst. We’re picking him 10 spots later than he’s worth at his lowest value. Double-doubles, blocks, FG%, safe minutes, and safe shots = dependable fantasy player. Now that Andre Drummond is no longer a starting big, Gobert’s numbers might be the safest big man numbers out there. His scoring won’t wow you, but it doesn’t have to. He’s elite, and we’re getting a first round fantasy talent in the third round. Again, let’s not overthink it.
Second Pick (37+ ADP)
KHRIS MIDDLETON, SF/SG, MIL - #37 ADP (#16 PR 2021)
Middleton is now a champion. It’s unclear whether the Bucks got better this offseason, but one thing’s for sure: Middleton’s a top 20 fantasy player. He’s only getting better, he’s consistently overlooked, and he plays a ton. He gets overshadowed by Giannis, but Middleton is an elite basketballer. We’ll absotively posilutely take 2nd round talent in the fourth.
Third Pick (49+ ADP)
BUDDY HIELD, SG/SF, SAC - #63 ADP (#44 PR 2021)
Buddy had the second most value in 3-pointers-made (“3PM”) last season. He’s an elite outside threat in a league shooting more and more from outside. You may wonder if his role is secure in Sacramento, a suddenly crowded roster, but when you’re this good at shooting threes, your minutes and shots will be there. He may not deliver top 50 value this season, but he’ll be damn close. Any other counting stats he provides are pure butter.
Fourth Pick (61+ ADP)
MALCOLM BROGDON, PG/SG, MIL - #64 ADP (#55 PR 2021)
He’s a former Buck playing in Indiana, so it makes sense that he gets somewhat overlooked. If he can stay healthy, he’s a top 75 player, no matter what the roster looks like.
Fifth Pick (73+ ADP)
RICHAUN HOLMES, C/PF, SAC - #79 ADP (#33 PR 2021)
Yall, Richaun was a top 35 player last year. Now, you can kindly retort that some elite players didn’t play as many games as they usually do last season, and so the top 35 will get more crowded, but Holmes seems to be entrenched as a starter in Sacramento. I know I make fun of the Sad Sacs alla time, but it would be a helluva surprise if they lessened Holmes’s role. He’s good, you just haven’t watched many Kings games, and I really can’t blame you. But, they’ll be fun this year!
Sixth Pick (85+ ADP)
PJ WASHINGTON, PF, CHA - #86 ADP (#63 PR 2021)
PJ has improved in every season. He’s a starter on an up-and-coming team, and his minutes and shots seem to be safe. We’ll take security at this point in the draft.
Seventh Pick (97+ ADP)
MILES BRIDGES, SF/PF, CHA - #102 ADP (#56 PR 2021)
PJ’s teammate Miles is the hardest dunker in the NBA. But, is he a starter? The return of Gordon Hayward will show us how this roster construction works, but Bridges would definitely be starting on most other teams. He’s an elite sixth man with lots of minutes and shots if they decide to bring him off the bench. He seems like a safe bet to me regardless of role. Like PJ, he’s young and the sky’s the limit. He’s an excellent dynasty pick, by the way. The fact that he’s getting drafted at nearly double his player rating value from last season suggests to me that folks are uncertain what his role will be, but like I said, I don’t think it matters that much. He’ll get his.
Eighth Pick (109+ ADP)
JOE INGLES, SF/SG/PF, UTAH - #109 ADP (#65 PR 2021)
Old Joe is a trash-talking Australian who can lead the team as a point forward whenever the guards are sitting. He gives you counting stats, he gives you good ratios, and his role is secure whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He was also 12th in 3PM last year, and he gives you positional flexibility. He’s not as young nor as exciting as players getting drafted before him, but he was a top 75 player last year, and I don’t see why that would change. I try to have Ingles on as many of my teams as possible.
Ninth Pick (121+ ADP)
DUNCAN ROBINSON, SG/SF, MIA - #139 ADP (#85 PR 2021)
I could’ve gone with a backup point guard with this pick, but I decided to go for assured excellence instead. Duncan Robinson was #4 in 3PM value last season. He’s on a Miami Heat team that desperately needs shooting around Jimmy Butler. The Heat PAID Duncan to keep his elite shooting around. And, if Tyler Herro doesn’t regain Bubble Form, then Duncan barely has any competition at his position. Also, Hield and Robinson as a dynamic sniper duo is really attractive & fun in my opinion.
Tenth Pick (133+ ADP)
KYLE ANDERSON, SF/PF, MEM - #141 ADP (#45 PR 2021)
SloMo’s getting drafted 100 spots later than his value. Don’t overthink this, get a top 50 player when you have the chance. SloMo’s role may fluctuate throughout the season, but he provides counting stats, he’s hella fun to watch, he’s still young, and HE WAS A TOP 50 PLAYER LAST YEAR. DO NOT OVERTHINK IT.
Eleventh Pick (145+ ADP)
JOSH GIDDEY, PG/SG, OKC - #156 ADP (Rookie)
And, thus, we arrive at the risk-taking portion of our draft. We could still use a backup PG, we could still use some scoring, so let’s take a flier on a player that everyone seems to love heading into this season. The OKC Thunder are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and their young players WILL get minutes and shots. In the preseason, Giddey was sharing the floor in a three-guard lineup with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort. Yes, I will watch that. I don’t see any reason why Giddey won’t get volume this season since the Thunder aren’t going to be very good (again, they’re young). Giddey’s cache with being a high draft pick protects him more than someone like Poku or Isaiah Roby or Bazley. Hell, Giddey’s volume could propel him into Rookie of the Year conversations.
Twelfth Pick (157+ ADP)
MONTE MORRIS, PG, DEN - #161 ADP (#225 PR 2021)
I love Monte and I don’t care who knows it. He’ll be the STARTING point guard on a team with the MVP, Nikola Jokic, and one of the most efficient shooters in the entire NBA, Michael Porter, Jr. Morris and Facu Campazzo will share PG duties, I expect, but we’re getting a young starting point guard with enormous upside with our twelfth pick. Don’t get distracted by his value last year, just think about all the minutes and counting stats he’ll get until/unless Jamal Murray returns from injury.
Thirteenth Pick (169+ ADP)
TYRESE MAXEY, SG, PHI - #176 ADP (#242 PR 2021)
Yknow, even if Ben Simmons comes back and plays for the 76ers, I still think that Philly will give Maxey plenty of run. If Simmons doesn’t come back, then Maxey’s role will increase even more. This is another high upside pick for a very young player.
Fourteenth Pick (181+ ADP)
DE’ANDRE HUNTER, SF/PF, ATL - #188 ADP (#283 PR 2021)
Hunter is such a good wing defender that I think he’ll start if he’s healthy, no matter what. Atlanta’s deeper than they were a year ago, but they still need perimeter defense. If Hunter’s offense continues to improve, and he can stay on the court, then we could see massive fantasy potential from a guy we’re drafting outside the top 150.
Fifteenth Pick (193+ ADP)
ALEKSEJ POKUSEVSKI, PF, OKC - 200+ ADP (#287 PR 2021)
If you know, you know. POKU! is listed as the starting SF for OKC, but he’s a seven-footer who shoots. We’ll risk our last pick on that! Again, the Thunder are a young team who will give minutes to their young players. Poku could end up being just a curio, but you can’t teach seven feet tall. If his shot can fall and if he can move the ball around, then we could have ourselves a nice little sleeper right here at the end of the draft.
So, here’s our team:
PG - Malcolm Brogdon
SG - Buddy Hield
SF - Khris Middleton
PF - Richaun Holmes
C - Rudy Gobert
Guard - Joe Ingles
Forward - PJ Washington
UTIL1 - Miles Bridges
UTIL2 - Duncan Robinson
UTIL3 - Kyle Anderson
BENCH1 - Josh Giddey
BENCH2 - Monte Morris
BENCH3 - Tyrese Maxey
BENCH4 - De’Andre Hunter
BENCH5 - POKU!
We have three players with PG eligibilty, 3 with C eligibility, and then 9 wings. Due to this construction you’d be perfectly fine assuming that our squad will be a little light in assists, steals, and rebounds, but the nice thing about these guys is how they give you a little bit of everything in counting stats, as well as having safe minutes and volume.
We also have the #2 (Hield) and #4 (Robinson) players in 3PM value from last season (Joe Ingles was 12th most valuable in 3PM, so three top 15 shooters).
We have the #1 (Gobert) and #8 (Holmes) valuable players in blocks. Gobert was also #1 in rebound value last year.
So, while we may seem a little light in some categories, we have a deep and broad base to build from. We have three of the best outside shooters, we have multiple elite bigs, and we have undervalued wings. This is a squad destined to do a two-for-one deal!
And, there are young players who could pop, like Monte Morris, Josh Giddey, Tyrese Maxey, and Poku. (Hunter’s value depends on his health, I think. Again, he’s such a good defender that if he’s healthy, I think he’s a safe starter, despite all the wing depth on Atlanta this year.)
Regardless of complaint and critique, this is a solid team with room to make trades to improve. So, don’t panic if your draft doesn’t go well in the first two rounds! You can always recover if you make some clever picks and find hidden value. Try to ascertain which players have safe minutes and accumulate volume stats, and which players might have elite skills in one or two categories, and which players will get opportunities to shine (like Maxey in Philly, even if Ben Simmons comes back).
The fantasy basketball season is long, and things can always get worse. Remember, you can find value later in drafts than you think. And go read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams if you haven’t already.