Nikola Jokic isn't just the back-to-back NBA MVP, he's also proven to be a league-winning fantasy option during each of the past two seasons. Virtually everyone wants him at No. 1 in points, category and roto leagues this season.
So that begs the question: If Jokic is off the board, who should you draft at No. 2 in 2022-23?
Here's who our fantasy basketball experts Andre' Snellings, Eric Moody, Eric Karabell, Jim McCormick and John Cregan have their sights on.
Snellings: In points leagues, the choice is simple: Giannis Antetokounmpo. While Jokic may be the clear-cut No. 1, Giannis is just as clear at No. 2. For illustration purposes, let's look at the top-11 players from last season, sorted by fantasy points per game. Jokic was first at 61.4 FP/G, Giannis was second at 56.1 FP/G, then there were nine other players that averaged more than 46 FP/G. Of those 9, teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis missed a combined 68 games last season and teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving missed a combined 80 games. Joel Embiid and James Harden just became teammates late in the season while Trae Young and Dejounte Murray became teammates this offseason, potentially limiting each other's upsides. That leaves Luka Doncic (52.2 FP/G last year) as the only other player on that list, and he's a worthy candidate, but Giannis has the higher average and a similar record of availability over the last several seasons.
I'd take Giannis second in category H2H leagues as well, but in roto leagues I might consider Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum or Karl-Anthony Towns as dominant category performers without an egregious weak category. Giannis and Luka are both shaky free throw shooters at high volume, which could hurt them in roto rankings. But, in category H2H, I'm willing to worry less about a bad category in exchange for overall dominance in several other categories.
Karabell: It does seem a bit wide-open for the No. 2 pick and I have to admit I'm surprising myself a bit by picking Antetokounmpo, since he can be a bit of a problem in category leagues for the low free throw percentage (though it rose some last season). However, he's just so good in every other category that I would have a hard time passing him up at No. 2 regardless of format. Antetokounmpo scores, rebounds, passes, steals, blocks and hits his field goals, is relatively durable, especially when compared to other notables, and is showing no signs of decline. He's reliable. That counts for a lot.
Moody: I would not hesitate to select Giannis Antetokounmpo No. 2 overall in a points or category league. For the fourth straight season, he was among the top four in MVP voting. In both formats, Antetokounmpo presents fantasy managers with a very high floor and upside to finish as the top player in both formats. Field goal percentage is one of his biggest draws. But in addition, the 53.5% career shooter averaged 29.9 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.4 BPG, and 1.1 SPG while having one of the highest usage rates in the league at 34.5% last season.
McCormick: Doncic is the rare heliocentric playmaker who can rival the sheer stat-stuffing volume of Antetokounmpo and Embiid and still counter the elite shooting and scoring volume of Durant and Curry, all while a nightly threat to flirt with a triple-double. It's amazing to consider that there is almost a degree of Doncic fatigue in fantasy terms; which is to say, he's been so good for several seasons that it seems his rich production has become mundane and expected. When the reality is, Doncic is still just 23 and scratching his statistical ceiling. No player has a clearer path to league-leading usage, especially in the wake of Jalen Brunson's exit. It's wild to consider, but this guy is just getting started.
Cregan: In points, one could marshal arguments for seven players worthy of silver medal valuation. In roto: four. In points, when in doubt, this old head looks towards two dynamics: health and positional scarcity. In roto: health and true shooting percentage (TS%) scarcity.
If you have a tough decision at any point in any draft, look at aggregate value, not per-game value. In points, that narrows it down to Antetokounmpo, Doncic and Tatum (who all have historical injury red flags, and could miss six-to-eight games). Roto-wise, that gets you down to Tatum and Joel Embiid.
Now apply scarcity. In points we are looking at a dust-bowl paucity of SF production for 2022-23. Selecting Tatum sets the table for rest of your draft, while taking a chunk of SF production off the table. In roto, prioritizing TS% scarcity gives Embiid the nod.