As we wait for official word from the league on when the 2019-20 NBA season will resume, the nearly three-months-long struggle to live in a world with no live basketball continues. But we have a saying in this business: the content must go on.
This week, we continue our 10-part series – some might even call it a saga – looking back at every NBA draft from the past decade.
Starting with the
Cole Aldrich Draft John Wall Draft in 2010, we'll comb through, pick-by-pick, and rank the top 15 players from each class. We initially considered going deeper but decided the merits of hashing out one middling role player against another were quite limited. Now, with that said, if anyone is truly interested in debating Landry Fields vs. Ekpe Udoh, please DM me on Twitter.
Of course, we're aware that there's a chance we might not be the first ones to come up with the concept of a re-draft. The circumstances of the last few months have resulted in just about every tangible object on earth being the subject of some sort of draft. But our lists will steer clear of the typical process of selecting the best player available at each pick. RotoWire is, in fact, a fantasy basketball outlet, so we'll consider each player's fantasy value – both peak and longevity – as our number one factor.
A few notes:
- As you'll notice, there's typically significant overlap between best player and most fantasy value. In 2010, for instance, our top three picks ended up being Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins
- Off-court or chemistry concerns were not considered, unless they impacted a player's fantasy value
- Team needs and roster construction at the time of the draft were not considered
- All production since each player entered the league was taken into account, including the 2019-20 season
- In order to pare our list down to 15, Alex and I ranked our top-20 fantasy players from each draft and ordered them by average ranking
- Any references to fantasy rankings refer to a player's finish in eight-category leagues by total value (as opposed to per-game value). Research was conducted using RotoWire's Historical Fantasy Archive tool
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nikola Jokic
Actual pick: Andrew Wiggins
While this draft has two other players with top-20 seasons, Jokic is easily our No. 1 pick on the strength of three consecutive top-10 finishes, including third overall in 2019-20. The only "blemish" on Jokic's resume is the fact that he waited a year to come over, but in five NBA seasons, he holds an average rank of 19th. Jokic's passing and floor-spacing are what obviously set him apart, but he's truly an all-category contributor. Over the last three seasons, he's averaged at least 10.0 rebounds, 1.9 combined blocks/steals, and 1.0 made threes, all while shooting nearly 83 percent from the line for his career. - Nick Whalen
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid
Actual pick: Jabari Parker
Embiid has turned into such a dominant force in the NBA, it's easy to forget he didn't make his debut until 2016-17. Since his sophomore season, he has an average fantasy rank of 28.7 and topping out at rank 13 two years ago despite playing only 64 games. While a significant section of NBA fans would take Embiid over Nikola Jokic to win one game, Embiid's health needs to be taken into account and is an important part of the discussion about both his real-life value and fantasy value. - Alex Barutha
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Zach LaVine
Actual pick: Joel Embiid
Due in part to injuries, LaVine's fantasy profile is a bit up-and-down, but a 17th-place finish in 2019-20 helps him clinch the No. 3 spot. The major knock on LaVine is missing a combined 93 games between 2016-18, but in his last three healthy seasons, he's ranked 76th, 59th and 17th. No player below LaVine on our list has finished higher than 28th in any season. - Whalen
4. Orlando Magic: Andrew Wiggins
Actual pick: Aaron Gordon
Wiggins hasn't come close to actualizing his potential as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. However, there's an argument that he's been the fourth most productive player in the class from a raw numbers perspective. He's had an average fantasy rank of 79 across his career, topping out at 58 in 2016-17. Wiggins rarely misses games and has proven to be a 20-point-per-game scorer when empowered. - Barutha
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle
Actual pick: Dante Exum
He's one of the more frustrating players to own, which overshadows the fact that Randle has finished as a top-55 player in each of the last three seasons. He topped out at 51st in 2019-20, but his best season came a year earlier when he posted 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 blocks/steals per game, while shooting 52 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. - Whalen
6. Boston Celtics: Clint Capela
Actual pick: Marcus Smart
Capela has been a strong fantasy contributor since 2016-17 and, since then, he's averaging 14.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 combined blocks-plus-steals and 1.1 assists. He topped out at a rank of 28 last season. This season, he's appeared in just 39 games due to foot injuries, so he gets a small downgrade for that. - Barutha
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart
Actual pick: Julius Randle
Despite being one of the worst three-point shooters in NBA history to begin his career, Smart holds three top-75 seasons and has never dropped out of the top 200. His overall field goal percentage is still less-than-ideal, but over the last two years, he's been a 36 percent shooter from outside on 5.4 attempts per game. If he plays at least 75 games, Smart's all-around contributions virtually lock him into a sixth- or seventh-round value. - Whalen
8. Sacramento Kings: Jusuf Nurkic
Actual pick: Nik Stauskas
Nurkic arrived on the scene in 2017-18 when he jumped from the 163rd-ranked fantasy player to the 53rd-best. He beat that the next season, ranking 38th in 2018-19 while averaging 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 combined steals-plus-blocks. A devastating leg injury prevented Nurkic from playing this season. - Barutha
9. Charlotte Hornets: Jordan Clarkson
Actual pick: Noah Vonleh
I can't believe I'm writing this, but Clarkson may be slightly underrated. I was shocked to learn that he has not one, not two, but THREE top-100 seasons to his name. Clarkson finished 78th overall in consecutive seasons (2015-16, 2016-17), and since his rookie year he hasn't fallen out of the top 125. The Missouri product ranked just outside the top 100 when the 2019-20 season was suspended. - Whalen
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Aaron Gordon
Actual pick: Elfrid Payton (traded to ORL)
Gordon has been a much more relevant player in the highlight reels than in games themselves. He has an average fantasy rank of 98.6 since his sophomore campaign, and has only ever cracked the top-100 once. Gordon has been solid, but hardly ever lives up to where he's drafted. His best campaign was last year (rank 61) when he averaged 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 combined steals-plus-blocks. - Barutha
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris
Actual pick: Doug McDermott (traded to CHI)
Harris' 44th overall finish in 2017-18 carries a lot of weight, but so too do his sub-150 rankings in each of the last two seasons. Harris has struggled to stay healthy, and – more concerningly – he's fallen off a cliff as a three-point shooter, hitting just 33.6 percent of his attempts since the start of the 2018-19 campaign. - Whalen
12. Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton
Actual pick: Dario Saric (traded to PHI)
The first four years of Payton's career were his most productive, with an average fantasy rank of 90 and per-game averages of 11.2 points, 6.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Since then, he's dealt with injuries and has seen a slightly decreased role. When available, he's still one of the best sources of assists in fantasy. - Barutha
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Spencer Dinwiddie
Actual pick: Zach LaVine
Dinwiddie is one of several players in this class who has a handful of really good seasons offset by a few non-fantasy-relevant years. As someone who came up through the G League, Dinwiddie ranked outside the top 200 in each of his first three seasons, but he's finished 61st, 120th, and 64th, respectively, over the last three years. His field goal percentage remains an issue, but Dinwiddie was a 20-point-per-game scorer in 2019-20, while adding career-bests in assists (6.8 APG), rebounds (3.5 APG), and free throw attempts (7.0 FTA/G). - Whalen
14. Phoenix Suns: Joe Harris
Actual pick: T.J. Warren
Harris has been one of the best three-point shooters in the league across the past three seasons. During this stretch, he's averaging 12.7 points (2.2 made threes on 43.6 percent), 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He's been the 96th-ranked player across each of the past two seasons. - Barutha
15. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric
Actual pick: Adreian Payne
After staying over in Europe for two years, Saric was immediately effective when he debuted in 2016-17, finishing 100th overall. A year later, he cracked the top-55 behind 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.0 made threes per game. But since leaving Philadelphia, Saric's workload has been on the decline, and his fantasy value has followed suit. - Whalen
T.J. Warren: He's been an excellent fantasy option when healthy, but that's been rare. This season has been the healthiest of his career, and he's set a career high with a fantasy rank of 47.
Bogdan Bogdanovic: A better real-life player than fantasy option, Bogdanovic finished 91st as a rookie but hasn't ranked inside the top 100 since.
Jerami Grant: Grant was ranked 69th in fantasy two seasons ago when given 32.7 minutes per game with the Thunder. However, he was traded to the Nuggets this season, where his workload has been reduced to 26.2 minutes. That's resulted in a fantasy rank of 128.
Kyle Anderson: A 68th overall finish in 2017-18 is doing pretty much all of the work here.
Jabari Parker: Injuries have derailed his career. His best fantasy season was when he ranked 92nd as a sophomore, appearing in 76 games and averaging 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 combined steals-plus-blocks.