Fantasy Basketball Rankings: Way-too-early look at top 12 picks for 2023-24

Fantasy Basketball Rankings: Way-too-early look at top 12 picks for 2023-24

Well, the 2022-23 fantasy basketball season is coming to an end, so it's time to start looking ahead. And there's no better way to kick off the new season than with an early look at potential first-round picks for the next go-around.

While it will be many months until drafts get underway, a lot can change in that amount of time. Still, this list provides a handy guide for the die-hards wanting to start early on next season's planning.

Read on as we discuss the top players heading into next season.

1.01: Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets

The undisputed, unanimous and consensus 1.01 is Nikola Jokić. He's on the cusp of averaging a triple-double this season, and that was alongside a healthy-ish Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and arguably the best version of Aaron Gordon we've ever seen.

Jokić will be an MVP candidate for the foreseeable future. Plus, he has never played fewer than 72 games in his career; his availability should be lauded, and it gives him a significant edge over most fantasy players heading into next season.

He's firmly in his prime and will remain the best selection atop the draft.

1.02: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Speaking of prime, Philadelphia's center of attention and soon-to-be MVP of the 2022-23 regular season (crosses fingers), Embiid proved that he is one of basketball's most dominant and physically imposing two-way threats. He played more than 65 games for the second consecutive season while leading the league in scoring (again) at a career-best 33.3 points per game.

He also is coming off a career-high 4.2 assists per game while shooting 55% from the field. His usage rate is an absurd 37.1%, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo by two-tenths of a percent (37.3%) for the highest in the league. Embiid will continue to be a force to be reckoned with, assuming James Harden decides to run it back, as they're the deadliest pick-and-roll combo in the NBA.

1.03: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

He was my fantasy MVP this season, and I'm not afraid to draft him in the top three in fantasy because he's only going to improve. He willed the former laughing stock of the NBA into a playoff-bound roster while taking a massive leap in fantasy. He scored more than 30 points per game and was the only guard to average more than a block and a steal per contest this season. The sky's the limit for SGA, and I'd expect him to see a boost in assists next year with the return of prized rookie Chet Holmgren.

1.04: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

I'm not convinced that Jaylen Brown remains a Celtic going into next season, and that'll catapult Tatum into serious MVP consideration. He has improved his scoring, rebounding and assist rate in every season since he entered the league five years ago, and at only 25 years old, he hasn't even entered his prime. That's scary.

He averaged 30 points and almost 9 rebounds with 4 assists in 2022-23 and hasn't played fewer than 64 games in his career — so availability plus more usage and opportunity equals fantasy gold.

1.05: Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers

Chris Paul's best days are behind him, and I've anointed a new point god in Haliburton. The Pacers guard made a substantial leap this season, and I see no reason he won't improve heading into next season. He's one of two players to average at least 20 points with 10 assists this season (James Harden is the other), and he'll compete for the assists crown for years to come.

The Pacers might attract even more talent in the offseason as players are reportedly interested in playing with the young All-Star. His shooting splits are elite at the guard spot, and he ranked top-10 in steals per game defensively (1.6/g), so that combination of efficiency plus category-leading upside is worthy of a top-five pick next season.

1.06: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Davis was the top player in fantasy basketball for a couple of months this season, but health will always be the knock on him. He managed to play more than 50 games for the first time in three seasons, and the Lakers have a pressing timeline to win, with LeBron James seemingly on the tail end of his contract — and potentially his career. AD, when healthy, is a top-three talent in fantasy.

He posted a gaudy 26 points with 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal this season, and the only category in which he'll need more help is 3-pointers made. However, he's still one of the best bigs in fantasy and warrants a first-round pick.

1.07: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

I can't realistically rank Curry any lower than seventh because he's still producing as if he's in his prime. He's averaging nearly 30 points per game with superb efficiency: 49% FG, 43% 3PT, 91.5% FT. He posted a career-high 6.1 rebounds per game with 6.3 assists, and despite playing sub-60 games, he ranks 24th in total value and sixth in per-game value this season. When healthy, he's still one of the best in fantasy.

1.08: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers don't have a playoff-contending roster, so things might get interesting this summer, but as it stands, Lillard is going to ball out no matter what. Sure, he was shut down weeks before the regular season and fantasy playoffs ended, but he carried fantasy managers all season nonetheless.

He averaged the most points in his career, at more than 32 per night, while knocking down more than 4 3s and dishing out over 7 assists for the third straight season. He's also in his prime and should stay within a mid-first selection — even for a terrible Blazers squad.

1.09: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks

It's not that spicy putting Luka at 9 because this will be a huge offseason for the All-NBA guard. Let's see how the playoff situation shakes out (the Mavs are currently 11th and fighting for the 10-seed in the Western Conference), but Doncic has already indicated that his defense has suffered from playing for three consecutive years with no significant breaks.

He has looked gassed at the end of the season, but still, he put up a career-high 32 points per game with 8 rebounds and 8 assists with his fewest turnovers since his rookie year. He also shot a career-best 49.8% from the field.

If he can keep up this level of efficiency, there's no reason Dončić shouldn't be among the top 10 in fantasy next year.

1.10: Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns

The run on discounted injury-risk players continues with Durant. He has yet to have much floor time with his Suns teammates, but it's tough to imagine a scenario in which a healthy KD doesn't thrive with CP3, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

KD continued to be one of the most lethal midrange shooters in NBA history this season, and coupled with his defense and competent rebounding and assist numbers, KD has top-five upside in the back end of the first round.

1.11: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Before you cook me for ranking an MVP candidate near the bottom of the first round, I have concerns about his free-throw shooting, dip in steals and blocks (less than 2 per game) and availability heading into next season.

The Bucks are poised to make another deep run in the playoffs, and they made a conscious decision to load-manage Antetokounmpo more than ever. In points leagues, however, Giannis is easily a top-five pick after he finished this season averaging more than 54 fantasy points per game.

Still, in 9-cat leagues, you have to discount him because he will cause you to punt free throws and turnovers.

1.12: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

The new "stock god" is a first-round pick next season because he's a fantasy beast. He led the league in blocks for the second consecutive season at 3 per game and is the first player in 15 years to average at least 3 blocks and 1 steal per game. He shot more than 50% from the field and averaged career highs with 18 points per game and 6.8 boards. He'll close out this season 13th in per-game value and 23rd in total value — and this is only the beginning.

JJJ will turn 24 later this year, and similar to other up-and-comers, he hasn't yet reached his prime and is one of the best young two-way players in the league who can give you a big categorical boost in blocks. I'll gladly scoop him up in the back end of the first round next season.