Hello and welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! With the 2016-17 season winding down, this week we’re going to look ahead to next season and talk about which players we are most excited about drafting next season. I’ll start us off…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Giannis Antetokounmpo- The Greek Freak is only 22 years old and has the potential to be one of the best fantasy assets of all time. With excellent shooting percentages and averages of 23.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.7 steals, he checks off every category except 3-pointers, but he’s getting better at that as well — he’s hit five triples in his last five games. So how good has he been this season? Well, only eight other players have EVER averaged 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists on 50 percent shooting in Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, LeBron James and Kevin Durant (h/t Adi Joseph of USA Today).
Nikola Jokic- There’s a reason the Nuggets have the best offensive rating in the NBA since Jokic moved back into the starting lineup on Dec. 15. I wish he would get more steals, blocks and triples, but he’s elite in every other category. He’s on pace to be a first-round pick.
Robert Covington- He’s sixth in the NBA in steals (1.9 per game) and is also hitting 2.0 triples per game with 1.0 blocks. There’s a reason he’s been a first-round value in standard leagues for the past two months. Some owners might be scared away by Ben Simmons, but Covington is Philly’s best perimeter defender and they will need his floor spacing, so expect him to start — he’s ranked inside the top five in the entire NBA in Defensive Real Plus-Minus behind Rudy Gobert (1), Draymond Green (2), Andrew Bogut (3) and Dewayne Dedmon (4).
Karl-Anthony Towns- I think Giannis has the higher ceiling for his assists and steals, but KAT has been the most consistent player in fantasy basketball for several months. He’s a no-brainer top-3 pick.
D’Angelo Russell- Yeah, he burned his owners earlier this season, but he wasn’t healthy and his slow start will hopefully keep his ADP down next season. The Lakers are playing him off the ball a lot more, so there’s no reason to panic if they use their top-3 protected lottery pick on a point guard.
Taurean Prince- If you can average 1.0 3-pointer, 1.0 block and 1.0 steal, that’s pure gold in fantasy. Prince has per-36 minute averages of 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 triples and could open the 2017-18 season as the starting small forward with Thabo Sefolosha hitting free agency. Prince is shaping up to be a sleeper in the later rounds with tantalizing upside.
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Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
Jusuf Nurkic: I want to draft Nurkic mainly so I can tweet/text “NURK ALERT!!!” (in all caps with a lot of exclamation points) whenever he’s having a monster night to tick off the people in my league.
C.J. McCollum: Give me C.J. all day in the second/third round of eight and nine-category leagues. This season, McCollum is averaging more points John Wall and Paul George and more 3-pointers than Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. Oh, and he’s on pace to become just the third player this century to shoot above 48 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point territory and 90 percent from the free throw stripe in the same season. Despite enjoying a breakout campaign in 2016-17, I think he still flies far enough under the radar that he remains undervalued and unappreciated.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’ve never owned the Greek Freak before and, honestly, I’m jealous of those who have. I’ll even learn how to pronounce his last name if he slips to me in a draft. I promise.
Joel Embiid: No player will be more debated and disputed heading into 2017 fantasy drafts. Typically, there is some sort of general consensus on most players, especially the elite-level guys. This will NOT be the case with Embiid. Opinions on where to draft him will be all over the board. He was an absolute stud in the 31 games he appeared in. The problem, of course, is that he’s played in only 31 of 246 possible games since he was drafted three years ago. As for me, I tend not to be a gambling man, but I Trust The Process!
Markelle Fultz: I would prefer he doesn’t go to the Celtics, who have a logjam in the backcourt; but this kid is the truth.
Kristaps Porzingis and Myles Turner: Always down to invest in post-hype sleepers.
Matt Stroup (@MattStroup)
I'll start by agreeing on Taurean Prince, who not only has the per-36 minute numbers that Jonas mentioned, but is also averaging 11.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg and 1.2 3s in his last 10 games.
Marquese Chriss has put up a couple duds lately, but that doesn't diminish my enthusiasm whatsoever. And even with the recent inconsistency, he's still averaging 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.4 bpg and 1.4 3s in his last eight games.
I'm also eager to draft one Gary Harris, who over his last 12 games has posted 17.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg and 2.2 3s, shooting 54.5 percent from the field.
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Now that Tommy mentioned him, I can’t believe I didn’t say Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian Beast has been nothing short of incredible since his move to Portland, averaging 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals on 51.4 percent shooting and 65.6 percent from the line. He’s been a top-45 player in that span and has more than made up for his miserable start to the season in Denver.
And Stroup, I also love Marquese Chriss and he could be a breakout player next season if he can stay out of foul trouble — he’s averaging 5.7 fouls per 36 minutes. Yikes.
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
The player I look most forward to drafting this fall is Karl-Anthony Towns. The guy got off to a slow start this year, but has been pretty much otherworldly ever since. He hits threes and free throws, doesn't miss games and is going to be a more mature and improved version of himself next season. The sky's the limit with him. Sure, I still love Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but If he's there when it's my turn to make my first selection in any fantasy draft, as of now, KAT will be my guy. I can also tell you who I'd prefer not to build around, and that's LeBron and Kevin Durant. I know Durant's numbers are still sick, but the fantasy team I built around him this year really struggled. Maybe it was user error and I need to look in the mirror, but I'm just gonna keep telling myself it was KD's fault.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
Can't agree more on guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Myles Turner, Kristaps Porzingis, Jusuf Nurkic and projected No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, so I'll add just one more name to the mix.
While watching the NCAA tournament this year, I was certainly impressed by guys like Fultz and Lonzo Ball, but someone that really grabbed my attention was Josh Jackson. He's an athletic freak, has an uber-quick first step, is an above average playmaker at 6'8", and while he doesn't have the prettiest jumper, he can knock it down from 3-point range. But what stood out the most to me with Jackson was his obvious defensive upside. The kid is just so quick, and you can really tell he takes pride in shutting down the guy on the other end of the floor. During Jackson's one-and-done season with the Jayhawks, he compiled averages of 16.3 points, 1.0 triple, 7.4 boards, 3.0 dimes, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks and 2.8 turnovers per game on 51.3 percent shooting. Obviously where he winds up on draft day will affect just how strong of a rookie season this guy can have, but if he lands somewhere like Phoenix or Orlando, I'll definitely be willing to invest a late-round selection in this up-and-coming beast!