June 22, 2017, 11:35 pm
This has been a great week for basketball fans and though we didn’t have the fireworks we could have had if Kristaps Porzingis, Paul George or (gasp!) LeBron James got traded – we had more than enough fun on draft day. Part of that is the abundance of talent in this draft, and there’s something to the composition of where teams drafted that I think really shook things up. But I digress….
We’re here to break down how this draft went from a fantasy perspective and get you on your way. If you need to check out the blurbs you can find them all here. Also, a quick shout to our team of badasses that blurbed most of these things today. Hernan Golbert, Mike Passador, Derrick Wang, Nathan Nguyen and Jake Fitzgibbon were all monsters today.
1) MARKELLE FULTZ, PG/SG, PHILADELPHIA SIXERS
No surprises here. The Sixers zeroed in on Fultz after their No. 3 slot didn’t exactly put them in a great spot due to their need for shooting at positions of need. Fultz gives them that and the good news for both he and rookie Ben Simmons is that they can both share ballhandling duties. And there is also Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Robert Covington there to handle a little bit, so Fultz shouldn’t have to worry about getting beat up too bad in his rookie year.
Aside from the normal efficiency dips that players have from college to the pros, there is a slight chance that his outstanding college percentages from the field (47.6) and deep (41.3) were a bit inflated in a small sample size against bad opponents. His 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game are a nice boost to his defensive stat potential, and Philly games could turn into uptempo slop fests pretty quickly with this crew they’re rolling out there – so this could help him keep some of those numbers.
There is a glaring issue and that’s his 64.9 percent foul shooting on 6.7 attempts per game. For such a good shooter, that suggests it’s a mental issue and that makes one wonder about shooting in general, the streakiness potential and ultimately he won’t profile as a three-tier percentage guy.
Way Too Early Standard League Rating: Top 85-110 (8/9 cat)
2) LONZO BALL, PG, LOS ANGELES LAKERS
I’ll spare you the discussion about you-know-what. The Lakers have their point guard of the future and outside of Jordan Clarkson he won’t have any real challenge in the backcourt, assuming the Lakers don’t have a trade up their sleeve. There are other offensive players that will command touches in Brook Lopez, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, but Ball is going to get heavy run doing what he’s good at in facilitating offense.
He’s going to be a low-volume, but efficient shooter and to that end he’ll be a positive for your squad’s field goal percentage. He’s also willing to shoot the three so there could be a nice balance there that higher volume shooters have a hard time achieving. Free throws (67.3%) were an issue at UCLA but he’s not going to shoot a lot of them so that’s not really a problem. The real question for his fantasy value next season is whether or not he can continue to rebound (6.0) and find a way to keep his assist number from dropping compared to college (7.6).
Defensively, he’s a good steals (1.8) and blocks (0.8) guy and though those numbers will come way down he won’t be a zero in those categories by any stretch. This is a great situation for him in fantasy land and as is the case with most rookies he’ll probably be overdrafted, but he’ll most certainly be useful as this team is currently constructed.
Way Too Early Standard League Rating: Top 60-90 (8/9 cat)
3) Jayson Tatum, SF/PF, Boston Celtics
I didn’t have Tatum this high and it’s fairly simple for me. Defensively, he’s going to struggle and offensively there is a question how he will function when the athleticism dips in Years 3-5 and beyond. He should be a quick starter but landing in Boston he’s going to be buried in depth. Folks aren’t entirely sold that there isn’t a trade lingering around the corner, but that’s mostly conjecture surrounding the Celtics pursuits of other guys (Paul George, Gordon Hayward) that are in his positional range.
Regardless, there will not be any real fantasy value and I’m not sure stashing him in Dynasty leagues makes much sense. That said, an improvement in situation could make him a decent waiver wire pickup at some point.
Way Too Early Standard League Rating: Top-250
4) Josh Jackson, SF, Phoenix Suns
Jackson was as high as No. 1 on a few different draft boards and I wouldn’t argue with anybody that put him there. Shooting isn’t his strength but if he can get the catapult worked out of his motion he can be fixed like any number of non-shooters that entered the league before him. It’s his athleticism and defensive upside that put him in this discussion and it’ll be his calling card in fantasy leagues.
Averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, he has a shot at flirting with a triple-one and he’ll be a strong bet for averaging 3.0 money counting stats per game if he plays 30 mpg. T.J. Warren will get a healthy assortment of minutes and this is the Suns, so they could do something ridiculous at a moment’s notice – but projecting 25 mpg for Jackson this season seems safe. Free throw shooting (56.6%, 4.9 FTA) will be a problem and the hope will be that he cuts that volume in almost half. The scoring won’t be there like it was in college and all in all he’ll struggle to be productive in Year 1.
Way Too Early Standard League Rating: Top-200
5) De’Aaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings
It’s going to be tempting to slot Fox in as the starting point guard with no challengers and let’s assume for a second that the Kings don’t retain either of Darren Collison or Ty Lawson. Theoretically they’d be bringing in Fox and Frank Mason as a combo and in shades of Damian Lillard they’d let Fox run wild.
Now let’s run this back a second. Dave Joerger has underplayed his rookies forever. The Kings also have (in no specific order) Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple, Bogdan Bogdanovic and a high-post offense where the bigs handle a lot. Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein figure to be a decent portion of the offense.
So they’re not going to just turn the entire offense over to Fox, though he will be among the most utilized rookies in this year’s draft – unless the Kings retain a veteran PG and then he might get Joerger’d a bit. The other concern from a fantasy perspective is that he doesn’t profile as a 3-point threat, his free throw shooting is mediocre (73.9%) for a point guard and his defensive stats (1.5 STL, 0.2 BLK) don’t help him add value for owners.
He might improve on his assists (4.6) by virtue of playing in a more point guard driven environment, but holding steady might be the best bet. Assuming he enters the season as the undisputed starter, he’s bound to go overdrafted and he might go overdrafted anyway.
Way Too Early Standard League Rank: Top 150-175 (8/9 cat)
6) Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Orlando Magic
Isaac was a polarizing pick for many but in the end his athletic and skill profile slotted him snugly into the No. 6 pick. And that’s interesting because the Magic already have an athletic beast in Aaron Gordon, and they picked up Terrence Ross so there is some duplicative pieces at his position.
Of course, you’d want the Magic to play Gordon at the four exclusively but they got this whack idea that he could be a three and that pretty much failed last year. With Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo around they creep into the power forward bucket and without Serge Ibaka around it isn’t as bad for Gordon, but it still isn’t ideal for a rookie like Isaac to be crowded out of his native positions.
Statistically he has a chance to be a safe percentage guy while giving you a trickle of threes, solid free throw shooting (78%), rebounds (7.8) and defensive stats (combined 2.7 steals/blocks). There could be a learning curve but he’s more skilled than one might think if labeled purely as a raw, athletic type. Look for him to come out of the gate slow but his long-term upside is somewhere between last year’s Otto Porter and a poor man’s Kevin Durant.
Way Too Early Standard League Rank: Top-125
7) Lauri Markkanen, PF, Chicago Bulls
Poor kid. He’s going to have a ton of pressure after the Bulls drafted him at the high-end of his draft range. He’s also a part of the Jimmy Butler trade and the pressure for that one will fall on Zach LaVine, but that’s another story for another article. Markkanen is a shooting big man and that’s where the guarantees stop.
With low rebounding totals and less than 1.0 combined steals and blocks last year in 31 mpg, he’s going to struggle for fantasy value even if he gets full run. The interesting news is that the Bulls are looking pretty dilapidated so he might get a healthy amount of run, but he’s going to have to prove he can do more than just shoot if he’s going to get bequeathed 30 mpg in the pros.
Way Too Early Standard League Rank: Top 175-200 (9/8 cat)
8) Frank Ntilikina, PG, New York Knicks
Ntilikina’s numbers for Strasbourgh IG of the French Basketball League aren’t going to jump off the page. He logged 19.0 mpg and shot 44.4/38.2/64.5 with just 2.2 boards, 1.6 assists and 0.8 steals per game. But he stands a good chance of getting big time run with no point guard currently installed ahead of him in New York.
Overseas stats have a way of getting skewed with young players playing less overseas than they do in the NBA, anecdotally speaking. This is a clear case of us having to watch him extremely closely in Summer League (without overreacting of course) and also in the preseason to get a feel for what type of numbers he’s going to put up. If I had to guess right now I’d say he’s going to be a lower percentage guy and plodder that racks up value because of his minutes and games played.
Way Too Early Standard League Rank: Top 125-150 (8/9 cat)
9) Dennis Smith, Jr., PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks
This is a great fit for Smith because he goes to an organization that can both be cool and tell him to cool it. It’s Dirk’s franchise and that can have a humbling effect on a rookie that comes into the draft with question marks about his selfishness and relationships with teammates, and that on its own can be humbling.
Smith also had as much upside as any player in the 6-10 range so joining a team where the competition at point guard isn’t exactly stiff, he makes for an intriguing sleeper prospect. He’ll compete for minutes with J.J. Barea, Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell and to a lesser degree Wesley Matthews and maybe Devin Harris.
On the flip side, Rick Carlisle doesn’t mess around and he won’t be afraid to play the old guys over Smith until he feels he’s getting the right action out of him. But this veteran squad might be able to do just that for Smith, so his Dion Waiters-like numbers and game might find their way to some low-end value.
Way Too Early Standard League Rank: Top 110-135 (8/9 cat)
10) Zach Collins, PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers
Collins didn’t log a lot of minutes in his freshman year (17.2) at Gonzaga but he came on strong in the NCAA Tourney and before you get all the red flags about that he’s quite good and does a little bit of everything. He blocked 1.8 shots per game with 0.5 steals and those numbers (at that rate) won’t come close to continuing at the NBA level but it’s good to see he’ll have some spunk in that area.
He also fights for rebounds (5.9) and sets good screens, with the ability to pick-and-pop (0.26 3PM, 0.54 3PA, 47.6%). He hit 65.2 percent from the field so he basically only took really good shots. He’s got all the right indicators and playing for Portland his main competition for minutes will be Jusuf Nurkic and the small-ball lineups putting Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless at the 3 and 4.
Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis will be irritants, but Collins will be able to outplay both of them. He stands a very good chance of slotting himself in for 25 mpg unless for some reason all of the film was best-case scenario stuff, and that would make his stat set an interesting proposition for fantasy owners. Clearly he’s not going to get the best of it at the NBA level but he might meld efficient and versatile offense with respectable activity numbers to boot. It’s the type of stat set that inherently brings value.
Way Too Early Standard League Rank: Top 100-125 (9/8 cat)