Whether you are brand new to fantasy hoops or a savvy veteran, doing at least a few mock drafts is an important part of fully preparing for your real drafts. It gives you the chance to make mistakes when they don't count, figure out where certain players are being taken and create a game plan for your draft, among other things.
On Oct. 10, we gathered our ESPN fantasy basketball writers and editors for a standard 10-team rotisserie mock draft with points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FG% and FT% categories, but no turnovers. Read on, as I discuss the strategy behind my picks and get the lowdown on some of the more intriguing choices from our other participants. (Click here for a full rundown of picks by team.)
I think the second pick is the easiest in the draft, because you don't have to choose between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. I prefer Durant because of his prowess in percentages, but you can't go wrong with either. There are a lot of injury questions in the first round this year, including the likes of Love, Irving, Curry, D-Will and Derrick Rose. Personally, I have Rose way higher than most and agree with Huang's thinking behind drafting Love and Rose with his first two picks.
I ranked Rose No. 3 overall, and was shocked that he lasted until midway through the second round. You ended up rolling the dice on Rose (16th overall) and Kevin Love (5th overall), both of whom essentially lost last season due to injuries. What is your thinking with these picks?
Mike Huang: According to all accounts coming from training camp, Love is perhaps in even better shape than he was before the injury. I saw a multicategory guy at No. 5 who was a better value than Kyrie Irving or Paul George. His percentages at the rim and from 3 are exceptional, with double-digit boards to boot. With Rose, again I was confident of his health, and with him still sitting there so late in the second round, it was an easy value pick. Both Love's and Rose's track record of in-season consistency mitigates an occasional missed game due to rest.
I love Davis' upside this season, so I didn't hesitate to pull the trigger on drafting him at No. 20. I think that's right about the perfect spot for him, and it gives me a big man to pair with Durant. I was hoping that Lillard would make it all the way to me, too, but Quintong grabbed him right before my pick. I'm also bully on Wall this season, but not as bully as Tardy is for T-Wolves' upstart point guard Rubio.
As you said soon after you took Rubio with the second pick of the second round, "I know what Carpenter is going to ask me." So, I'll ask the obvious: Why take Rubio 12th overall when he probably would have lasted much later and hasn't proved capable of posting a respectable FG% to date?
Neil Tardy: My draft changed dramatically before my first pick. I was set on Paul George when the Minnesota kid, Marrinson, swooped in and claimed him at No. 8. Had George been on my roster, I probably would have gone big, with either Aldridge or Marc Gasol at No. 12. But once I chose Aldridge at 9, I wasn't looking for another big (eliminating Ibaka, Gasol and Jefferson). Among the other point guard possibilities, Wall was certainly a consideration, but in the end I just think Rubio has a chance to be special. I like players who do unique things, and no one else in the league is capable of pushing 10 assists and three steals. Yes, FG% is a prickly issue, but we're not talking Carmelo Anthony-type shooting volume. If Rubio approaches 40 percent for the season, it's manageable in roto. Obviously it's a huge gamble, but I didn't expect him to be there for me at the end of the third round, so I took the leap.
By all accounts, D-Wade spent the offseason getting into terrific shape at the request of Pat Riley. Consider how he battled though injuries last season but posted a career-best 52.1 FG% to go with his usual well-rounded stats. I expect a healthy Wade to be one of the better "sleepers" near the top of the draft, and pairing him with Durant and Davis gives me a great baseline for my team FG%, which will allow me to take some chuckers later in the draft if I need to.
I love Pau Gasol this season and probably will end up with him in most of my drafts, because his perceived value took such a hit last season. He is a great value at the end of the fourth round. We typically see a lot of "breakout" picks in Rounds 4-6 or so, and this draft was no exception, as everyone but Duncan and Gasol are young and have room to grow.
It's tough to get a read on Lopez with his injury issues and KG added to the Nets frontcourt, but you took him over shot-blockers such as Larry Sanders, Roy Hibbert and even Tim Duncan in the fourth round. Do you like his upside this season?
Ross Marrinson: I probably reached in taking Lopez so early in the draft, and especially over Sanders, Hibbert and Duncan, but after taking Paul George and Serge Ibaka, the latter of whom will likely lead the league in blocks again, I knew I needed a multicategory center who could score, first and foremost, without hugely damaging my percentages -- which I worried about in taking Sanders and Hibbert. Lopez can score, has good percentages and will contribute 6-8 rebounds and at least a block per game. Sanders and Hibbert are better shot-blockers, for sure, but Lopez's percentages and scoring output are such that I felt the difference between Sanders/Hibbert in block potential was worth the pick. As for the addition of Garnett, who works primarily in the midrange, I'm hoping that'll shift Lopez further into the interior/post, where his percentages will be as good as before with a similar scoring output.
I would much rather pick in the middle of each round, because you are more likely to have players you like fall to you. However, drafting on the end does have its advantages; having back-to-back picks allows you to solidify certain parts of your roster. In this case, I paired a big man (Pau Gasol) with an up-and-coming PG in Teague. A key to drafting on the end is not to be afraid to reach for a guy you want when you're sure he won't make it back to you next time. I did that with Teague, who probably would have lasted into Round 6, but maybe not the end of the round.
You rolled the dice on a pair of aging Lakers who have injury issues (Kobe Bryant in Round 4 and Steve Nash in Round 8). What are your expectations for them this season?
James Quintong: In the case of Kobe, I think he could be back to normal pretty quickly and do what he usually does, and he doesn't have Dwight Howard around, either, to get in the way. I'm a bit more wary of Nash, but I think he'll be useful in assists and free throw percentage when he's in. In hindsight, I probably should've gotten another PG just in case.
At this stage of the draft, I am looking for guys I think are poised to far exceed their draft spots, which means I typically draft very young players. Bledsoe is just 23 and has a wide-open look at as much playing time and production as he can handle with the Suns. And since I went heavy on FG% early on, I can handle any FG% issues he may have in his increased offensive role. I think late in the sixth round is about the right spot to roll the dice on Westy and would have taken him if Lipscomb hadn't. I also love the upside in players such as Favors, Green, Beal, Harris and Young.
In a round that saw a ton of young players go, you took the veteran Monta Ellis. I thought that was one of the steals of the draft. How do you think Ellis will fare in Big D?
Joe Kaiser: Ellis wasn't someone I was targeting, but at that stage in the draft, a lot of the names I was looking at were off the board, and I am a big believer that he'll be a big-time scorer and steals guy with the Mavs this season. One thing that's for sure: He'll play huge minutes. And if Jose Calderon continues to battle injuries, the Mavs might even need him to run the point, which creates some assist potential as well.
As I've told Kaiser before, the fact that I, as a Michigan man, am smitten with the game and heart I've seen from IU's Victor Oladipo should speak volumes about his potential as a pro. I should loathe my enemy, but I can't deny that he is a special talent. Whether he lives up to his draft spot at 61 will depend a lot on whether he can find a rhythm with his jumper, but I'm willing to take the chance. Even if the scoring takes time, he'll be a two-guard with quality rebounds, steals and dimes.
I am a Kyle Lowry skeptic. Are you a believer?
Keith Lipscomb: I'm a believer in Lowry's skill set; now it's up to him to stay on the court and deliver. It's not easy taking on the poor shooting percentage, but at that point in the draft, I needed to address my point guard depth -- I felt Lowry was the one with the most all-around upside -- since I will be without Westbrook for a while to start the season. I'm hopeful he's motivated to answer his critics after a disappointing 2012-13 season.
Butler has the ability to sport quality percentages, steals, rebounds and 3s. How much he scores and exactly how many of those other stats he churns out remain to be seen, but I think this is about the perfect spot to take him, as we head into the part of the draft where all players carry some uncertainty.
I was hoping that Chandler Parsons would slide down to me at the end of the round, but you snagged him. How do you think the arrival of Dwight Howard will affect the shooter's production this season?
John Cregan: In terms of raw production, I see Howard's presence keeping Parsons' output near his 2012-13 averages (15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers). Simply put, Howard will demand more minutes and touches than Omer Asik, and this will have a ripple effect through the Rockets' offense. He's going to register 5-6 more field goal attempts per game than Asik (7.5 attempts last season); they have to come from somewhere. On a positive note, Parsons is still only 24, and he really blossomed down the stretch last season (18.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 3-pointers in the playoffs). Howard's presence should collapse opposing defenses with more regularity and open up better looks for Parsons on the perimeter. In 2013-14, Parsons could be a case of improved PER and decreased Usage Rate. On a side note, Parsons bulked up during the offseason and reportedly could be used as a stretch four on occasion, so there's that chance he diversifies his game to mesh alongside Howard (and finds other ways to get minutes). The overall takeaway is that Parsons is massively -- MASSIVELY -- undervalued in the eighth round. Remember, we're talking about a player who finished 36th overall on the Player Rater in 2012-13; an elite (and efficient) 3-point producer, a starter logging heavy minutes in a high-pace offense and someone who has yet to hit his ceiling. Even at or near last season's averages, if you're getting Parsons any time after the fifth round, I call that a steal.
With just two spots to fill out in my starting lineup at this point, I rolled the dice on Rajon Rondo. Even if he doesn't contribute for a couple months, I know I'll be able to easily replace him in the lineup with one of my upcoming picks. My team is a little light on dimes, too, so he could be a difference-maker for me if he returns to form by the All-Star break. On a side note, we did this draft before Trey Burke broke his finger. I thought this was a pretty good spot for him, but now that he will miss up to three months, he likely would have gone undrafted in this 10-team, 13-round league.
Gordon Hayward will be given every chance to shine in the pared-down Jazz rotation. Do you think he's up for the challenge? What sort of production do you expect?
Brian McKitish: Good players on bad teams typically result in fantasy gold, and despite their youth movement, the Jazz are actually loaded with potential fantasy breakout candidates. In Hayward, the Jazz have themselves an underrated talent who is a better athlete and shooter than most give him credit for. Given Utah's lack of proven offensive options, Hayward will be asked to do a lot this season, and I'd be shocked if he didn't improve on his impressive, second-half splits from last season: 15.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers while shooting 83.5 percent from the line. After missing out on some of my favorite targets earlier in the draft (Derrick Favors and Bradley Beal), I was ecstatic to have Hayward fall to me in the ninth round.
Martin isn't the impact player he was when he was an offensive focal point back in the day. On the other hand, he still managed to average 14 points and 2.1 3s on 10 FGA per game as a reserve playing 27.7 minutes per game with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. Now he's back with Rick Adelman, who loves his game and wants to feed him shots as a starter. He should score 17-18 PPG and could push up on three 3-pointers per game. He does little else besides shoot free throws well, but in Round 10, he is a great value.
At this stage of the draft, we're just taking fliers on guys we hope will be able to round out our rosters, so it's a good spot for a guy such as AK47. What sort of fantasy impact do you think he will have in his new role with the Nets?
John Cregan: Last season was a mini-renaissance campaign for Andrei Kirilenko; despite playing in only 64 games, it was easily his best season since 2005-06. Now in a bench role on an older team, I think you take him as an endgame source of cheap blocks and steals, and see if he hits his upside in other categories. Fantasy-wise, Kirilenko at his best is an eight-category player who can subtly fill a stat sheet. But he's also injury prone and can let his emotional state drive his production when he's unhappy. And we don't know how Brooklyn's rotation will shake out ... if Kirilenko becomes a 20-24 minute player, he becomes high-end waiver wire material. But if he's healthy, motivated and getting 26-28 minutes per night, Kirilenko could average 10-11 points a game to go along with a steal and a half, a block, solid percentages, five rebounds and half a 3-pointer. And I think playing for a certain oligarch on a high-profile team helps him stay motivated. Prokhorov's a very persuasive man.
Johnson should get a lot more love than he does from fantasy folks. In 38 starts last season, he averaged 12.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 53.9 FG% and 78.7 FT%. His production won't go much higher than that, but like Cregan noted above, at this stage of the draft, players such as AK47 or Johnson can give us a nice, well-rounded statistical bump as we complete our starting lineup. I liked Kaiser's Eric Gordon pick (little risk this late in the draft) and Karabell's Spencer Hawes pick (lots of upside on that thin Sixers roster) in this round.
Once my starting lineup is set, I'm just looking for lotto tickets such as Harrison Barnes. He's a guy who I will likely dump to waivers for a better upside option in a few weeks. On the other hand, even as a reserve for the Golden State Warriors, he has plenty of fantasy upside, and maybe he gets hot early on and I land the late-round jackpot.
You ended up taking five PGs (Deron Williams, Goran Dragic, Jeremy Lin, Michael Carter-Williams and Avery Bradley). Was this part of your draft strategy or just how the flow of the draft went?
Eric Karabell: I fully intended to choose Deron Williams with one of my first picks, and nearly chose Derrick Rose as well. I also see Dragic being legit all season. I like point guards and double-double post players, and I'm hopefully littered with them. I can't presume Carter-Williams and Bradley are must-own players, but if you're going to take a chance late, bad teams supply dimes, too.
I was looking at J.J. Redick for his 3-point prowess, but decided to roll the dice on Otto Porter. Once he gets up to speed, he will be a nice source of 3s, steals, rebounds and percentages. If that doesn't happen in the first couple of weeks, I'll cut bait, but I won't be surprised if the rookie pushes his way into the Wizards' starting lineup and makes a fantasy impact sooner than later.