With the NBA regular season starting next Tuesday, draft week has officially begun. Since 2013, I’ve familiarized myself with the NBA, playing in 11 fantasy basketball seasons and winning two championships. Based on my experience, these are the best and worst values at each position.
Great Value: D’Angelo Russell
Russell only played 48 games last season due to a knee injury. While owners should be on the lookout for that, Russell has a ton of upside. He plays for the Brooklyn Nets, who should easily be one of the worst teams in the NBA once again this season. With the lack of talent on their roster, I fully expect Russell to be the focal point of the offense. His current ESPN pre-draft rank is 82nd; he’s a steal that late in the draft.
Poor Value: Kyle Lowry
Raptor Kyle Lowry’s current ESPN rank is 11th. His projections show him making 56.7 percent of his field goals and 97.2 percent of his free throws, both of which would be career highs. If you expect Lowry to produce that kind of efficiency, prepare to be disappointed. Last year, Lowry shot 42.7 percent from the field and 85.4 percent from the line. If he can improve his shooting by that much while playing in over 40 games, I will eat my computer.
Great Value: Klay Thompson
I never thought I’d see the day where Klay is considered a great draft value, but here we are. The Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason, who still hasn’t fully recovered from an Achilles injury that occurred in January. With or without Cousins, Klay is a surefire bet to average at least 18 points and a handful of threes per game. His rank is 57th, and I would be willing to draft him a round earlier than that.
Poor Value: Will Barton
Will Barton isn’t a bad pick, but as ESPN’s 65th ranked player, the thought of picking him doesn’t really excite me. He will give you an intermediate amount of points, some rebounding and defensive help, and he won’t really hurt you in any category, but he has very limited upside. With promising young talent in Denver, as well as the signing of Isaiah Thomas in the offseason, Barton’s workload is foggy at best.
Great Value: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway, like D’Angelo Russell, is going to be the focal point of a horrible team’s offense. The Knicks are without Kristaps Porzingis for potentially the entire season, and Hardaway is their next best offensive weapon. He averaged 17 PPG last season, and I expect that number to increase without Porzingis. Hardaway’s current ESPN rank is far too low at 102.
Poor Value: Gordon Hayward
Hayward’s ESPN rank is currently 47th, a fair rank for a player who was an all-star just two seasons ago. Unfortunately, there are too many concerns to justify selecting him that early. We have yet to see if Hayward has fully recovered, and we haven’t really seen how he fits into the Celtics rotation yet. Andrew Wiggins has more upside, a similar floor and is ranked 58th. I would stay away from Hayward this season.
Great Value: Aaron Gordon
Do you see a recurring theme here? Gordon is going to be Orlando’s best offensive weapon alongside Nikola Vucevic. Although his percentages aren’t elite, Gordon is a cheap source of points and rebounds, and he’s ranked 76th by ESPN.
Poor Value: Julius Randle
Julius Randle signed with the Pelicans this season. Even though the Pelicans lost Cousins in the offseason, they were surprisingly successful with Nikola Mirotic in his place at the end of last year. I don’t think it’s a guarantee that Randle takes over the starting role in the offense, and I can’t agree with his 41st rank without knowing what his role in the offense is.
Great Value: Steven Adams
Steven Adams isn’t going to be very involved in the offense for Oklahoma City, but he will supply a lot of rebounds, steals and blocks. He is an ultimate NBA role player, and he’s a great value as the 88th ranked player by ESPN.
Poor Value: Jonas Valanciunas
For whatever reason, the Raptors won’t give Valanciunas consistent minutes. If you buy into the fact that the Raptors have a new head coach, then Valanciunas might be a good pick. I don’t trust that he’ll get enough opportunity, and I think 54th is way too high.