• Pop open a Pale Ale, a Pabst or the Patron — a Pepsi if that’s your thing — and might as well grab the Pepto too, because the eye of the hurricane is calm but it only lasts a moment before you get shot out into the storm of whatever happens next.

    So how did it go? Did you go big? Play it safe?

    Did you have things play out the way you thought they would? Or did things spin in a totally different direction and how did you handle it?

    Draft season is a fickle mistress as storylines progress, projections get finalized, drafts start to pile up across various formats and once you’ve made the various rounds on the fantasy basketball circuit — you start to see the arc of a story.

    It’s very hard to make a monolith out of it, and the Hoop Ball Six started a few years back as an exercise in looking at some pretty basic questions.

    Who did we throw our weight behind.

    Who did we think was going to move the needle.

    Who embodied tough decisions when the stakes were high.

    Who showed up on all the Hoop Ball teams.

    Eventually, we’ll ask if these players really made that difference.

    There are sleepers that destroy industry expectations but they very rarely crack the top-75, so even though there are 4-5 rounds of profit or more we’re always asking the question of was it worth it.

    So picking the Hoop Ball Six is an attempt to balance out all of that and put our flag in the ground after everything is said and done.  The Bruski 150 sets it up, you knock it down and then we talk about it for a few quick seconds on the Monday before the season opener.

    I added an honorable mention section in last season’s HB6 (Hello Pascal Siakam) and this year I also wanted to look at some of the more expensive and buzzy plays, so I added a few sections for the hell of it.


    THE EXPENSIVE

    It was another year of Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard at the top, though these plays feel safer than past years, or more worth it might be a better way to put that. Curry has a chance to be a usage monster and that does more to offset risk than past seasons (when we already ranked him high), and Kawhi basically went Keyser Soze on the league and moved everybody around, showing up in L.A. at the cost of Steve Ballmer’s net worth, and there is a different level of responsibility to play after you do that.

    Owners were getting Curry in the top 5-7 at times and Kawhi’s upside fit into the ugly 8-16 slots extremely well, where just about everybody had a flaw.


    THE OLD

    Draymond Green isn’t exactly old but he’s been on the fantasy scene for a while and because of his decline, just sitting there for us to take in a lot of drafts. And then there was Chris Paul, who is both in decline and impossible to truly trust to stay healthy, there in almost every draft. That said, especially in the case of Paul their projected values were just too high to ignore.

    For Green, like Curry, he will also get all he can eat. The Warriors will have a chip on their shoulder and playing in a new arena, nobody is taking their foot off the gas there. Green will start his getting in shape process a whole lot sooner than he did last year. It all points to a bounce back season, even if I have some question marks about his overall effectiveness.

    I feel pretty strongly that the added motivations and usage will keep him from declining too much statistically, and that alone will make him an early round win.

    I took on the Chris Paul risk a good amount. In some leagues that was practically no risk in the fifth round, which was amazing to see happen. When the options weren’t good in the third round, knowing that it takes big moves to win in these ringer leagues, I gravitated toward what could be a first-round value if he somehow plays in 68-70 games.

    I coalesced around the idea of Paul needing to prove his market value and shave a year off his untradeable deal. If he were to tank the season, which is not in his DNA, the questions about whether he can be trusted at a still exorbitant cost would probably keep him from getting traded. He doesn’t want to end his career bouncing around at the whims of the marketplace, so I’m thinking he wants to take what is perceived to be a lottery team to the playoffs.

    Fluke injuries and really any injury could derail his season, but it’s probably understood by all parties in OKC to run him an increment or two beneath the red and avoid the durability injuries.

    A lot of people looked at Paul and said, ‘somebody else’s problem.’ We didn’t. And now it’s up to the universe.


    THE HONORABLE MENTIONS

    MITCHELL ROBINSON

    Robinson fit the criteria of being expensive, buzzy, fraught with questions about small sample sizes, foul trouble and restraint in blocking the ball. And the 3-point shooting stories – God bless September. In the end there just wasn’t enough value over ADP and the risk component was definitely a deterrent.

    That said, we were ahead of most sites and we weren’t afraid to take the leap, and in leagues where centers were more important it felt good to have a young player that doesn’t need too many minutes to be a top-60 player, which gives him a nice floor. Now we just have to hope that David Fizdale doesn’t do anything too stupid as he threatens to make Jason Kidd or Scott Skiles look like Steve Kerr.


    JA MORANT

    If Fantasyland was only comprised of 8-cat leagues, Morant probably makes it into the HB6. There was challenge in the projection and plenty of hype to make profit tough. But what we found was that owners didn’t want to take him in the early rounds and that’s where he’s going to finish as long as he stays healthy, unless again your league counts turnovers and then he’s going to lose 3-4 rounds of value.

    As we’ve seen in the preseason he’s the real deal and it was a printing money kind of move for us to be drafting him in the fifth and sixth rounds.


    ZION

    While we’re talking rookies it’s just too bad that Zion Williamson got injured, as we had him projected high before the preseason film started coming out and it took just a few frames to know that he was going to be dominant. Now he’s still getting drafted in the early rounds but the risk quotient doesn’t pair well with the challenge of the projection in general. Absent the injury, he’s a bubble HB6 guy.


    WENDELL CARTER JR.

    Carter’s preseason hasn’t been great and he’s already dinged up, which kept the price reasonable but there still wasn’t enough value gain over ADP to truly threaten HB6 status. We have him in a lot of places though, which was how he got his honorable shout.


    JOE INGLES

    We’re getting 2-3 rounds of value on Smokin’ Joe and in the end it just felt like we’ve already conquered this projection and sure, we’ll take everybody’s money again, but it was time to put the spotlight elsewhere.


    JEFF TEAGUE

    Teague gets absolutely no love and he’s still the starting point guard on a probably bad team and he just has to sort of not trip and fall on his face, or suffer serious injury, to meet his ADP. The Wolves also seem ready to run and this might be a 2-3 round gain without much heavy lifting.


    SPENCER DINWIDDIE

    Dinwiddie has long been a Hoop Ball guy and though he hasn’t been in the HB6, he’s carried us to titles and generally treated us well. He’s also underdrafted yet again and even if the Nets stay healthy, they’ll need to rely on all of their better players to be heavy producers. So as long as he doesn’t get in the doghouse for trying to spearhead the player contract investment revolution, he’s an easy profit. Alas, and who doesn’t love to say ‘alas’ to really try and drive the point home, there’s just not enough profit margin to make the cut.


    TYUS JONES AND RICHAUN HOLMES

    These guys have the huge margins against ADP and they’re on almost all of my squads, and in the case of Holmes it’s just great to see him taking Sacramento by storm. He should probably get some ceremonial stock in Hoop Ball, as he took our teams to championships after a trade deadline in Philly, only to have the Colangelos happen (they wanted their guy Amir Johnson to play) and his career has unfairly been on pause ever since. The Suns of all teams were able to acquire him, but drafted Deandre Ayton and they really couldn’t bench their No. 1 overall pick even as he was getting outplayed every night.

    My only question entering the year was whether he had passed his physical prime, and it appears that he’s still in the same range as the last two years, which needlessly to say is as impressive as it gets in the frontcourt. He turns away the league’s best penetrators and plays defense at a very high level, and offensively he does what he does in the screen and roll game very well. Teams balance out and optimize when he’s on the floor. And frankly, that the league has been this stupid and the Kings of all teams are the ones to fish him out of purgatory – it’s hilarious.

    And that’s the duality of his new role. The Kings have had a terrible time with playing time decisions throughout the years and Luke Walton isn’t known for rotation issues, but he did limit playing time for Julius Randle and Brook Lopez in what is largely seen as a mistake.

    That said, the Kings were smart enough to read my Twitter feed and get him signed, and this is no small feat – he’s the single-best player they could have acquired in free agency short of a major star. Affordable, of course, and the only complaint is not getting him signed for another year, but they needed a low-usage guy that could help make them an elite defense next to emerging stars De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley. The length, quickness, instincts and ability to switch will give any team problems defensively, and then offensively this quartet’s pick and roll has the potential to be devastating.

    Now, pardon me for waxing poetic there, but the key things that elevated Holmes to an honorable mention and a late mid-round B150 grade are that Sacramento sort of appears to get it. Their media has been hearing me drone on and on about him for a while, so there are no surprises here and with Holmes getting out there to a fast start, the talk is already about how you can’t take him off the floor. He has jumped off the film, per usual.

    The question of whether he’d get the minutes or not is also helped by Harry Giles’ knee acting up, and though Giles has been hyped up both locally and nationally, the reality is that his upside might never be as good as what Holmes is giving right now (let alone if Holmes gets unlocked). So Holmes has effectively jumped Giles and that’s enough minutes next to Dewayne Dedmon to stay in the top-150 range and maybe higher. If he can get to 24 mpg and truly be unlocked, and knowing that playing next to these players he has room for growth, it feels like the floor and upside combo will be there. And you’ll get him for free at the end of your drafts for the most part.

    As for Jones, it’s a similar phenomenon, but without as much hype here on the site. There’s been a cult-like following for him in Minnesota and for good reason, he’s been pretty good at beating expectations. The Grizzlies have very little overall depth and Jones will be one of their top-5 players this year, getting enough minutes to hang around the top-150 range on the low-end with a bunch of upside as the Grizzlies go small and fast this season.


    — THE HOOP BALL SIX —

    BUDDY HIELD

    Contract situation aside, there are no questions about the player and all he has to do is not regress to destroy his ADP. He wants to play in every minute of every game and he’s possibly the best shooter in the NBA. He has added to his game every year, so the dribble drives and playmaking will continue to improve. Defensively, he has become one of the better two-guards in the league staying in front of other players, forcing turnovers and winning 50/50 balls. There might be some concern that the depth in Sacramento could squeeze him, but we’re not predicting a massive jump in usage despite him entering his prime with easy All Star potential/pedigree. And though there is depth, there isn’t anybody with more of a green light in Sacto than Hield. Behind the scenes, there isn’t major concern that the parties will have a stalemate on the money side.


    DENNIS SCHRODER

    Schroder is coming out of nowhere to be one of the bigger needle movers in this draft for us. He reminds me of Taurean Prince and Joe Ingles of past seasons where we just knew the minutes and stats were going to be there. The Thunder have a dearth of talent and plain and simple they’re going to need Schroder’s production, with or without Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander around, which is why he fell into ice-cold late round territory. And if any number of injuries strike, it’s going to get real easy for Schroder to just do his thing and cruise to a healthy mid-round finish.


     

    BRANDON CLARKE

    Clarke isn’t sneaking up on anybody and typically he has been going in the 100s in drafts. I had to grab him around 90 in the ringer leagues just to beat the other heathens to the punch and the good news is that I had the rest of my draft scripted for the most part, so I could afford to make that play and not worry about it too much. And if anything happens to Jonas Valanciunas, he has the stat set and game plan to threaten a top-50 finish and with that stat set, you can’t really rule out something beyond that, either. After all, remember when Hassan Whiteside came into the league and started pumping out first round value … it can happen.

    The good news is that he’s going to get minutes right away, and in those minutes he can be plenty productive to keep around, and with all that upside you won’t want to let go. He probably cracks top-100 without a major injury around him, and again, he’s being hyped up everywhere but we have him as high as anybody I’ve seen and we’re reaching here to make it happen.


    TAUREAN PRINCE

    Hello old friend. I didn’t start this offseason thinking that Prince would be anywhere near this list. But landing in Brooklyn and seeing them have no answers at the four slot, Prince is back and after a really tough season in which he looked checked out. That doesn’t wear well on him but it’s worth noting that a bunch of them looked checked out in Atlanta and it’s possible they just knew the organization was moving on from them, which at least adds texture to the falloff.

    Prince has looked solid during the preseason and he’s going to get a bunch of minutes as long as he doesn’t get caught in Kenny Atkinson’s 28 mpg fetish, but they don’t have enough minutes to fill in at the SF/PF slots. Prince is going to blast ADPs by 3-4 rounds and that’s without any major bounceback in the defensive categories, which can’t be summarily ruled out.


    BAM ADEBAYO

    Bam was a big buzzy name at a high price that was a focal point of my drafts, as grabbing him assured me of having the center position nailed down with a premier guy that projects to stay on the floor.  The good news is that folks undershot the valuation and stuck Bam in the third or fourth round, when he should have been in the second or third. Everything is there for him in the points, rebounds and assists game, but it’s always felt like he could get more defensively than he has gotten in the past. But even if you assume he just holds the line there, he’s in for a monster season and the only thing that can stop him is injury, and in that area he seems as equipped as any player to put up a big games played number.


     

    MARVIN BAGLEY

    Bagley has been given the blue chip respect in drafts, going in the fifth, six and seventh rounds but it doesn’t seem like folks have registered the ease with which he dispatched the competition at times last season. His left-handed jump hook is unstoppable. Nobody can touch the square that high and even if they could they couldn’t get there fast enough. He’s probably the best leaper in the game right now.

    The Kings love him and there’s going to be no shortage of action headed his way. His head is mostly on his shoulders, battling the arrogance of youth against the abundance of confidence that he cannot be stopped. He will probably take a few bad shots every night and clog up the offense at times, but those will be dwarfed by the instant one-on-one advantage and he can do that opposite of all the other chaos the Kings can wreak on offense. You’re not going to gain more than a round or two of value unless he takes a major step forward in free throw shooting, but that’s nowhere near off the table and he could also find another gear that’s hard to predict, but like most things for Bagley – definitely possible.

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