Fantasy Basketball 9-Cat industry mock draft: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid at the top

With October approaching and the NBA regular season looming large, it's never too early to start preparing for your fantasy hoops drafts. Even if training camp hasn't opened, now is the time to get ahead of your league mates and strategize for your title run. In our last preview, we took a look at rankings for 9-cat formats. Today, we'll be putting those players to the test in a 16-team mock draft.

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Mock drafts are the perfect way to visually see how the complexion of a draft unfolds. Understanding which players are falling and which you have to reach for is vital when making those difficult decisions. In this preview, we will be analyzing the first three rounds a 16-team, 9-category snake draft conducted by industry experts. With high-flying rookies and ascending fantasy superstars, there's no shortage of star power entering the 2023-24 fantasy hoops season.

Check it out:

(Note: This draft was done prior to Damian Lillard being traded to the Bucks)

Round 1

1. C Nikola Jokic, DEN
2. C Joel Embiid, PHI
3. G Tyrese Haliburton, IND
4. G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC
5. G Luka Doncic, DAL
6. F Jayson Tatum, BOS
7. G Stephen Curry, GSW
8. G LaMelo Ball, CHA
9. F/C Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
10. F/C Anthony Davis, LAL
11. F/C Jaren Jackson, MEM
12. F Kevin Durant, PHO
13. G Damian Lillard, POR
14. G Kyrie Irving, DAL
15. F/C Domantas Sabonis, SAC
16. G/F Anthony Edwards, MIN

The beginning of this draft was uneventful, even with Haliburton being taken with the third overall pick. Those three guards (Haliburton, SGA, and Doncic) can all produce at a level that would make them worthy of being taking in the top 5 of category drafts. Ball being selected with the eighth pick opened the door for me to draft Giannis, which for some would be the beginning of a free-throw percentage punt approach. He made just 64.5% of his attempts last season, which was a major factor in Giannis finishing outside the top 100 in 9-cat, per-game value. I'm expecting him to bounce back in 2023-24. Jackson going as high as he did was a slight surprise, even with his borderline first-round production last season. While he did lead the team in blocks each of the last two seasons, those are also the only years in which JJJ has averaged at least two per game. That said, this was a 16-team draft, so there isn't much to complain about here.

Round 2

17. G Donovan Mitchell, CLE
18. G Devin Booker, PHO
19. G Trae Young, ATL
20. G James Harden, PHI
21. G Cade Cunningham, DET
22. G Fred VanVleet, HOU
23. F/C Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
24. G/F Mikal Bridges, BKN
25. G Desmond Bane, MEM
26. G/F Kawhi Leonard, LAC
27. C Bam Adebayo, MIA
28. F Paul George, LAC
29. C Myles Turner, IND
30. G Darius Garland, CLE
31. F Jimmy Butler, MIA
32. F LeBron James, LAL

Harden's placement in drafts is something that I'll be keeping a close eye on, given his current situation in Philadelphia. With it being reported earlier this month that it was the Clippers who stepped away from the trade discussions, it feels even more likely that Harden will begin the season in Philadelphia. Will he play things "straight up" and give an honest effort if that's the case? Or will there being a series of micro-aggressions that lower Harden's fantasy value and force Philadelphia to make a decision? Clippers Leonard and George went off the board in this round, and there's considerable risk in taking either given past availability issues. I went in the complete opposite direction as far as availability is concerned, selecting Bridges with my second pick.

Round 3

33. F/C Victor Wembanyama, SAS
34. F Pascal Siakam, TOR
35. G Jordan Poole, WAS
36. F/C Kristaps Porzingis, BOS
37. F Lauri Markkanen, UTA
38. G Dejounte Murray, ATL
39. G De’Aaron Fox, SAC
40. C Nikola Vucevic, CHI
41. F Zion Williamson, NOR
42. F/C Evan Mobley, CLE
43. G/F Jaylen Brown, BOS
44. G Jalen Brunson, NYK
45. C Walker Kessler, UTA
46. G Jrue Holiday, MIL
47. F Chet Holmgren, OKC
48. G Jamal Murray, DEN

The first rookie went off the board in this round, with Wembanyama being the first pick. While San Antonio has insisted that he's a forward, Wemby will likely have center eligibility in fantasy basketball. That's good news for the managers who land him from a roster versatility standpoint. Large leagues can result in some managers making reaches that they normally wouldn't, as evidenced by Poole being selected with the 35th overall pick. Can he produce at that level for a rebuilding Wizards team? It's certainly possible, but that spot in the draft felt a bit high for him. I played it safe this round, selecting Vucevic, but I wish I'd gone with either Mobley or Kessler.