Last year around this time, I wrote the season’s first Roundball Stew with a headline (and accompanying recommendation) that owners should aggressively target Damian Lillard in drafts.
I obviously wasn’t the first person to recommend drafting Lillard. Mine was, however, the first recommendation that a high school friend of mine saw, which prompted him to draft Lillard one spot ahead of me in our cutthroat league of old friends who take way too much pride in humiliating one another in fake sports.
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For a while I was pretty angry that I’d put Lillard in the headline – my writing had essentially given my friend a draft pick he never would have found – but after a lot of therapy and many long walks through scenic forests, I was able to make peace with the whole situation.
With that intro out of the way, let’s get going on the season’s first Roundball Stew. Hopefully we’ll find a Damian Lillard or two in here – and hopefully my friends won’t.
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Editor's Note 2: For articles, projections, rankings and more, get the Rotoworld Draft Guide right here.
The Roundball Stew Preseason Top-20
(Note: I play in 9-category leagues, so that's what these rankings are based on. If you play in 8-category leagues, the breakdowns should still be useful even if the draft spot changes.)
1. LeBron James: I personally put him ahead of Durant because I’d rather have the edge in assists (7.3 for LeBron, 4.6 for KD) over Durant’s advantage in FT shooting.
2. Kevin Durant: But if you want to take Durant over LeBron, I understand.
3. Stephen Curry: Injury risk? Maybe. But he’s still mostly durable. Other than his nightmare 26-game campaign in 2011-12, Curry has averaged 77 games per year (including 78 in 2012-13). I recently took him third in 30-Deep (the 30-team expert league that all the Rotoworld guys play in), so I’ll be walking around with my ankles heavily taped all season.
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4. Chris Paul: His most explosive seasons are probably behind him, but averaging 16.9 ppg, 9.7 apg and 2.4 spg with great percentages (as CP3 did last year) is still pretty useful. A very safe (if slightly boring) first-round pick.
5. James Harden: I’d expect last year’s scoring (25.9 ppg) to take a dip with Dwight Howard in town, but not by a lot. Harden is still in line for big stats.
6. Kevin Love: Obviously he’s an injury risk after playing just 18 games last year, but during a mostly healthy 2011-12, he was the No. 4 player in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings. Love doesn’t get many defensive stats, but 25 and 14 with a whole bunch of 3s is within reach.
7. Derrick Rose: Last season’s saga was annoying and bizarre, but all of that extra sitting out has him ready to go this year. Rose has averaged 26.0 ppg in his last four preseason games, and could easily make a run at the 25.0 ppg and 7.7 apg he posted in 2010-11.
8. Kyrie Irving: Averaged 22.5 ppg, 5.9 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.8 3s last year – and he’s still just 21 years old. Uncle Drew’s upside is flat-out monstrous.
9. Paul George: The No. 18 overall player as a 22-year-old last season. And if you’re worried that he’ll have trouble coexisting with Danny Granger, then you have more faith in Granger staying healthy than I do.
10. John Wall: Over the last quarter of the season (21 games), Wall was the No. 11 player in 9-category leagues, averaging 24.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 8.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.6 bpg and 0.5 3s. I normally want my point guards to hit 3s, but when the rest of the numbers are this explosive, I don’t care.
11. Carmelo Anthony: He doesn’t help as much in steals (0.8), blocks (0.5) or assists (2.6) as I’d like, but there’s nothing annoying about the 28.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 2.3 treys he posted last season.
12. Marc Gasol: Doesn’t dominate any one category, but brings elite value by helping across the board. With that said, I’d be much more excited about having him be the second-best player on my squad as opposed to the best.
13. LaMarcus Aldridge: If you don’t like surprises, Aldridge is ideal for you. His last three seasons:
2010-11: 21.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg
2011-12: 21.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.8 bpg
2012-13: 21.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 0.8 spg, 1.2 bpg
14. Deron Williams: Over the final two months of last season (28 games), he posted 22.9 ppg, 8.0 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.8 3s and a No. 6 overall ranking. He’s likely to shoot less and dish more with all the new options in Brooklyn, but there’s really nothing wrong with 19 and 10.
15. Nicolas Batum: A top-10 player for the first half before wrist and shoulder injuries slowed him down (16.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.5 3s in his first 42 games). I wouldn’t argue with taking Batum any time starting around No. 10.
16. Al Horford: The No. 15-ranked player last season (17.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg), he’s got a strong chance for a repeat (and possible slight improvement) with Josh Smith gone.
17. Anthony Davis: Despite a number of injuries (and 18 missed games), Davis still returned No. 25 overall value (13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.8 bpg) and has a chance for a big leap in his second year. With the probably unnecessary caveat that preseason stats are sometimes silly, Davis has posted 21.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.0 spg and 2.1 bpg this month.
18. Al Jefferson: He’s been dealing with an ankle sprain during the preseason, but he’s aiming for the opener and is once again a strong threat for fringe first-round value in 9-category leagues.
19. Serge Ibaka: A lot of his value comes from blocks, but his blocks generate a lot of value – Ibaka was the No. 11 player in 9-category leagues last year.
20. Dirk Nowitzki: Played in just 53 games, but for the second half of the year he looked a lot like Dirk – 19.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.3 3s and a No. 7 overall ranking for his final 32 games.
Bonus! 21. Tim Duncan: Yes, you have to deal with DNPs (13 of them last year, many without warning), but based on averages he was the No. 6 overall player last year in 9-category leagues. Repeat: No. 6. I can understand not wanting to deal with the risk, but one owner in your league is going to end up gaining big from others deeming Duncan too old.
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut:
Kobe Bryant: Based on no medical knowledge and simply based on Kobe’s reputation and relentlessness, I expect him to be on the court posting Kobe-like stats before too long.
Dwyane Wade: Only outside my top-20 because he has missed an average of 15 games the last two seasons.
Ricky Rubio: After a slow start, he kicked his season into gear in early February, posting 13.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 8.3 apg and 2.8 spg over his final 38 games. Fully healthy at the start of this season, he could do even more. Rubio went 21st overall in the 30-Deep league, so be ready to take him in the top-25 if you want to get in on the roller coaster of bad shooting, lots of turnovers and otherwise very entertaining stats.
Mike Conley: No objection to his quiet (boring) production, but I’d much rather try to get him in the third round than in the second.
Kawhi Leonard: He didn’t make my top-20, but there’s still a strong case for taking him in the second round. He was the No. 15 player from Feb. 1 onward last year thanks to averages of 14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.0 3s (along with strong percentages and just 1.1 turnovers).
Josh Smith: His declining free throw shooting (coupled with the fact that he’s in the first year of a long-term deal) has me inclined to stay away this year.
DeMarcus Cousins: Still has room to improve at age 23, but unless he falls outside of the first few rounds, I’ll let someone else draft the No. 73-ranked player from last year.
(Continue reading on the next page for some of my favorite players to target in drafts…)
Some Other Players I’ll Definitely Be Targeting:
Jrue Holiday: He posted 17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 8.0 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.2 3s as a 22-year-old last season, and now plays with some extra motivation after being dealt from Philly to New Orleans. He has already posted one monster line this preseason (19 points, eight boards, eight assists, eight turnovers), and it doesn’t look like the move to a new city has slowed him down.
Damian Lillard: This one probably goes without saying given the way this article started, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see the No. 51 player from last season make a leap into the top-30.
Kemba Walker: It’s been a pretty quiet preseason for Walker, which is a good thing if you’re trying to draft him. The 23-year-old was quietly the No. 32 overall player (17.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 1.9 spg, 1.3 3s) while playing all 82 games last year.
Paul Millsap: He had somewhat of a down year in 2012-13 (14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.0 bpg), but with the task of replacing Josh Smith’s frontcourt scoring in Atlanta, I expect something closer to the 16.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg Millsap posted in 2011-12.
Tobias Harris: He’s dealt with ankle issues this preseason, but that only helps his value in drafts. The 21-year-old posted 17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.4 bpg and 1.0 3s in 27 games after being dealt to Orlando.
Pau Gasol: Yes, he has durability issues, but there’s also a chance for a big bounce-back season with Dwight Howard gone. In eight April games last year (playing alongside Howard), Pau averaged 17.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 6.6 apg and 1.3 bpg, including two triple-doubles.
Jeff Green: Someone has to put up numbers on a rebuilding Celtics squad, and Green showed he’s plenty capable by posting 16.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.8 spg, 1.2 bpg and 1.2 3s over his final 36 games. On a related note, don’t forget about Gerald Wallace toward the end of drafts. He knows a little something about putting up big numbers on bad teams from his Bobcats days, and could come back strong after a rotten 2012-13.
Thaddeus Young: Similar to the Boston principle, someone needs to put up stats in Philly. Young could reach for the 17 and eight range after posting 14.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 spg and 0.7 bpg last year. I also expect good production from the sometimes/often frustrating Evan Turner.
My Roster (so far) in 30-Deep
Since I mentioned the 30-team expert league a few times, I might as well wrap things up with a quick breakdown of my roster in the league, including the overall number of the draft pick in parentheses:
PG: Stephen Curry (3) – You can find my thoughts on Curry above.
SG: Ben McLemore (118) – I expect him to get plenty of minutes, but he may not do a lot other than score and hit 3s.
SF: Rudy Gay (58) – Posted 19.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.3 3s after trade to Toronto.
PF: Tobias Harris (63) – In addition to posting a nice combo of points, rebounds, blocks and 3s, he calls to mind one of the greatest TV characters of all-time (Tobias Fünke).
C: Samuel Dalembert (123) – I wouldn’t be excited about him in a standard league, but he could get seven-plus rebounds and two blocks per game, which is pretty useful in a 30-team league.
G: Lance Stephenson (178) – If/when Danny Granger gets hurt (actually, he's already hurt), this pick could pay off nicely.
F: Channing Frye (183) – Remember this guy? Before Channing Tatum, he was arguably the most famous Channing in the world. And in 2011-12, he posted 10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.1 bpg and 1.4 3s in 26 min per game. Even if he’s in a timeshare with Markieff Morris, Frye could easily duplicate those stats.
Util: Terrence Ross (238) – Have I mentioned that this is a 30-team league?
BN: Anthony Randolph (243) – I mainly did this to get a reaction out of Dr. A. And I almost immediately regretted making the pick.
Meanwhile, with three more bench spots to draft in that league, things are going to get even more obscure in the next few days. I’ll post my squad’s final roster next week so you can see what bizarre players I ended up with in the final rounds.
Good luck drafting this week. In the meantime, I’ll be steering any and all conversations with my friends away from basketball and toward football so that they hopefully won’t realize I’ve written this column.