The NBA season is right around the corner, and fantasy basketball drafts are in full swing. We’re all looking for those monster picks that will carry our teams through the season, but we’ve all been burned by busts before, too. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck when your turn comes up in the draft, consider this value based approach to help you roll the dice with a little more confidence.
In addition to O-Rank, Yahoo sorts its draft list by Average Draft Position (ADP), or the average overall pick spent on a player across all fantasy drafts. Using ADP to gauge the sentiment of players in the fantasy landscape, we can create an advantage by drafting players that might be overlooked and avoiding guys who might be over-hyped. Now, it’s not necessarily wrong to pay a premium and ‘reach’ to get the guy you want. You may want to lock up one of your favorite upside picks early to keep him away from the competition. But if you draft a player early and he doesn’t live up to the hype, you’re left with a bust and a huge hole in your roster. Sorting players by ADP and drafting for value will limit downside risk and help avoid busts. The following list highlights some undervalued players to target and overvalued players to avoid throughout the first eight rounds of the draft. All projections courtesy of basketballmonster.com.
Lebron James (ADP 2)
Lebron is going second overall this year in a lot of drafts due to KD’s expanded roll on an OKC squad still asking questions in the wake of the Harden trade and Westbrook injury. That’s fair, but Miami didn’t exactly fill up the wing positions during the offseason, either. Lebron could have to do more with Wade getting closer to old age and a thin bench pinning the starters on the floor for longer stretches of time. With that in mind, both Lebron and KD are miles ahead of the competition and either would be a great top pick.
Kevin Love (ADP 9)
Love’s season was a disappointment for many last year and memories of those letdowns might be pushing Love down the draft pole a bit. I don’t see the perceived Derrick Williams breakout as a threat to Love’s production. Love is the man in Minny and his FG% should skyrocket as he shakes off the injury rust of last year.
Paul George (ADP 10)
Paul George has been on breakout watch for three years now. After making the all-star team last season, his next challenge is cementing his status among the league’s elite. I think he will – and so does everyone else, apparently, because George is going around 10th overall in fantasy drafts. That’s asking a lot of a guy who finished 24th overall last season. Paul George will be fun to watch this year. Don’t ruin that by begging for first round value out of him every night.
Anthony Davis (ADP 17)
Despite remaining limited offensively in his rookie year, the Unibrow impressed all with lofty defensive and big man stats. He finished 25th overall, and 13th during the last month of the season. Look for some offensive polish to push Davis into first round value this year, making his ADP of 17 look like the first real bargain of the draft.
John Wall (ADP 20)
John Wall is a player that has yet to play at his full potential. We’ve seen glimpses of elite guard play throughout his first two years, but inconsistency (re: playing for the Wizards) has hampered his development. With the Wiz all in on the playoff push this season, Wall will be thrust into a leadership role that finally has the role players to support elite production. I’m looking for late first/early second round value out of his 20th overall ADP.
Ricky Rubio (ADP 23)
We start to see the first few landmines in the second round. As lovable and Spanish as he is, Ricky Rubio could be one of the most overpriced players in the draft at the 23rd overall average pick. The assists and steals are nice, but Rubio doesn’t hit 3s and shot just .360 last season. His decision making skills will have to make leaps and bounds this year if the shot selection and turnovers are to improve enough to justify a second round pick.
Nicolas Batum (ADP 21)
Last season Nic Batum finished 37th overall but suffered from serious overhype that pushed a lot of owners to take him in the second round. Batum has a fun game to watch but we could be witnessing the plateau of his abilities on a Blazers team that needs to feed Lamarcus Aldridge and the expanding role of Damian Lillard. His minutes could also dip now that Portland actually has a bench.
Dwight Howard (ADP 29)
Welcome to Dwight 101. Give up FTs and you have yourself a top 5 player with all the best big man stats. If your league counts FTs, or even worse, FT%, Dwight’s inability to freely throw the ball through the hoop drops him severalrounds below value.
Rudy Gay (ADP 30)
The last train to Rudy Gay’s star status may have already sailed. Now stymied by an unfit offensive system and trade rumors that just won’t die, Rudy will be forcing his game for the Dinos and could see percentages and 3PT production drop enough to cap him at mid-round value.
Damian Lillard (ADP 33)
Damian Lillard’s 33rd overall ADP is a big gamble. Playing 38mpg last year, Lillard hit 2.3 3s per game and finished with 19ppg/6.5apg, good enough for 60th overall in fantasy. The Blazers’ beefed up their bench over the summer and Mo Williams will be sure to steal some of those minutes. I like Lillard to improve slightly on last season’s numbers, but third round value will be out of reach unless rebounds and steals improve enough to balance the drop in usage.
Paul Millsap (ADP 41)
The fourth round is full of upside. Paul Millsap projects to be one of the biggest draft day steals on the board at 41 overall ADP. Stepping directly into Josh Smith’s shoes, Millsap is looking at 35mpg and a starting gig. During his rookie year in Utah, Millsap played 33mpg and finished 10th overall in fantasy. He’ll get plenty of looks and be asked to step up on defense.
Blake Griffin (ADP 42)
As strange as it sounds, Blake Griffin’s numbers have actually taken a hit with the addition of Chris Paul to the offense. Blake has been at the mercy of CP3’s decision making rather than in positions to create his own shot, and he doesn’t have the defensive stats to provide elite standalone value. Blake has vowed to step his game up this year, and this looks like the bottoming out of his stat decline.
DeMarcus Cousins (ADP 43)
DeMarcus Cousins got his money, and now he’s going to show everyone that he earned it. That’s how it usually works, right? DMC turns the ball over like a point guard and doesn’t make up for it on defense. That being said, the Kings are his team now he will have every opportunity to succeed. The fourth round should be the floor for both Blake and DMC, who have nowhere to go but up this year.
Brandon Jennings (ADP 45)
Brandon Jennings could be cooking up a big ol’ pot of ugly shot stew in the Detroit kitchen. In his rookie year, Jennings shot .419 and finished 31st in fantasy; last year he shot .399 and finished 56th. The lane looks pretty clogged in Detroit this year, which does not bode well for Jennings’ percentages. The assists could improve with some coaching, but that’s not a gamble I’m willing to take with the 45th average overall pick.
Thaddeus Young (ADP 57)
The Sixers cleared out the roster and fired up the tanks this summer, leaving Thad in charge of a dud team looking to rack up losses and rebuild from scratch. Thad has outplayed his ADP in each of his last three seasons, but his game is built on efficiency and the Sixers’ offense will be all over the place this year. Spending more time at SF should dock his FG%, but if he can keep the turnovers down, the increased usage will provide a nice boost in offensive stats. Part of Thad’s appeal has always been his draft value, but sleeper buzz has already pushed him up the board to his highest career ADP . Don’t reach for Thad, but the 57th average overall pick should be a solid floor to support upside to third round value.
Klay Thompson (ADP 50)
Klay Thompson faces some serious challenges to his value in his third year. He’s proved to be a capable scorer that’s lights out from deep, but the rest of his numbers are flat across the board. With Igoudala in town to take care of the game’s intricacies, Klay won’t be forced to step up handling the ball and defending and could gravitate towards a strict stretch shooter role. This would cap his upside close to where he finished last season, at 84th overall in fantasy.
Derrick Favors (ADP 62)
Utah has been dangling the keys in front of Derrick Favors for a while, and the frontcourt is wide open now after the offseason departure of Millsap and Big Al. At 32mpg, Favors could wield elite rebounding and block abilities, and the emphasis in Utah should be on developing talent rather than winning games this year. A fifth or sixth round pick could yield second to third round value if the limelight is kind to Favors.
Tyson Chandler (ADP 70)
Tyson Chandler is getting old, but luckily his game doesn’t involve much moving and should stand the test of time relatively well. It also doesn’t involve shooting the ball from farther than four feet outside the basket, which is why he has the highest career FG% of any player in NBA/ABA history. Tyson’s blocks aren’t going anywhere and he should easily carve out 10 and 10 collecting all those Carmelo and JR Smith bricks.
Wesley Matthews (ADP 71)
See Thompson, Klay. Wes is what happens when a player like Klay caps out as a stretch wing. You get a sharp shooter that can spread the offense and rack up a couple steals on defense, which is much more valuable in real basketball than fantasy basketball. Make sure you don’t overpay for these kind of players, even if their points and 3s seem alluring.
Jonas Valanciunas (ADP 74)
Everybody’s favorite sleeping giant Jonas Valanciunas settles around the seventh round with an ADP of 74, but you’ll probably need to reach a lot earlier than that if you’re drafting with savvy owners. He should have the classic 7-footer stats locked down with the added bonus of positive free throw shooting. The Raps will be looking to get him involved in the post and he could grab plenty of rebounds off Derozen and Gay misses. JV’s 32mpg projections are good for fourth round value, which is right around where some owners might start reaching. If he makes it through the fifth, you’d be hard pressed to pass him up.
Kenneth Faried (ADP 84)
Kenneth Faried’s draft value plummeted on news that the Nuggets signed JJ Hickson to share time at PF. If you believe in Faried’s talent, then you’re getting him on sale at 84 ADP. The Manimal makes plays that others simply aren’t capable of. The rebounding and defensive numbers are effort driven and made a big difference for the Nugs last year. This is not a player that’s easily benched.
Steve Nash (ADP 80)
Please, do not draft Steve Nash anywhere near the 80th overall pick. In his debut Lakers season, Nash averaged 32.5mpg for 50 games and finished 120th in fantasy. Steve Nash will be 40 years old before the all-star break. Think those numbers are getting better?
Andre Drummond (ADP 92)
Andre Drummond had a great summer. In 20mpg last year, he shot .608 with a steal and 1.6 blocks. At 29mpg this year Drummond could command second round value with a double double and two blocks (FT% aside). Savvy owners will be reaching for Drummond around the fifth round, but even there he has plenty of upside.
Tobias Harris (ADP 91)
Lamented Milwaukee trade loss Tobias Harris finished the last month of the 2013 season 39th overall in fantasy. With Glen Davis sidelined to start this year’s Orlando campaign, Toby should get plenty of minutes to show that he belongs in the starting five. Harris attacks the basket with ferocity, out-rebounds his position, and could average a block and a 3-pointer per game.
JaVale McGee (ADP 93)
We all know the Javale McGee story at this point. He’s an athletic freak, has a few mental issues to sort out, and projects 3 blocks a game per 36 minutes. But he’s never averaged over 28mpg due to asthma issues and poor decision making. The upside is huge, but he’s not exactly a secret after years atop draft day breakout lists. I’m not sure if this is the year he finally gets it all figured out, but the Nuggets are giving him the money and the minutes to find out. That alone sets a solid floor at his 93rd overall ADP, but reaching for McGee is a gamble.
Gordon Hayward (ADP 96)
Gordon Hayward will be asked to handle the ball often by the new look Jazz to take pressure off rookie PG Trey Burke. Gordo has flashed playmaking ability running the second squad in previous campaigns and could take a big step forward to fill the offensive vacuum left behind in the Utah trade implosion. 17/4/4 with 1.5 treys and a steal is possible and would give Gordo mid round value.
UPDATE: Trey Burke could be out 8-12 weeks with a finger injury, which bumps up Hayward’s value.
More on deep sleepers later.