What do you want your team to look like?
This is a question that you should really ask yourself before your draft, and you should enter the draft with an answer in mind. Because the reality is, most of the people in your leagues aren't going to go into the draft with much of a plan.
Coming in prepared, with an idea about what the talent looks like at different parts of the draft, will give you a leg up on the competition right from the opening tip.
There are lots of ways to build a championship-caliber squad, and ultimately you'll need to come up with the strategy that works best for you. In my experience, I like the old "practice makes perfect" adage, so I like to do mock draft(s) before my real drafts to get a feel for what players should be available.
Will my sleeper picks be there, or does everyone know about them so they go earlier than expected? Similarly, are there really good players that are just ranked lower than expected in the draft software and thus likely to go later than they should? Having answers to these kinds of questions before your actual draft is very valuable.
To that end, here's a quick look at how drafts have been shaping up so far. Utilizing Average Draft Position (ADP) data, I've gone through and looked at the types of players that are going at different spots in the draft.
Below are the players that have caught my eye, given their current ADP, and how I am approaching drafts.
Note: All listed ADPs are as of Oct. 9.
Round 1: The best at the top
Nikola Jokic (ADP 1.4) continues to be one of the easiest No. 1 overall picks we've had in fantasy basketball, having maintained that perch for three straight seasons even as he sits in the peak of his basketball prime at age 28.
Jayson Tatum (ADP 4.6) is worth strong consideration as high as No. 2 in the draft, in part because of his history of availability. While both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic have higher per-game averages than Tatum, in the last two seasons they have averaged 65 and 65.5 games played per season, respectively. Tatum has averaged about 10 more games at 75 games per season, and the best ability is availability. Tatum also plays small forward, a position of scarcity in fantasy basketball leagues.
Anthony Edwards (ADP 9.7) is a superstar that has developed before our eyes and appears ready to explode. He finished last season averaging 35 PPG in his last four playoff games against the Nuggets, then went on to be the unquestioned alpha on the US National Team for the FIBA World Championship. If I miss out on the top four picks, I'd be comfortable drafting Edwards anywhere else in the first round.
Late Round 1/early Round 2 conundrum: Projected league leaders in assists
Tyrese Haliburton (ADP 11.2) and Trae Young (ADP 14.5) finished second and third in assists per game last season, trailing only James Harden, and with the question marks surrounding Harden this season they are in the drivers' seats to lead the league this season.
Haliburton is still a very young player on the rise; he has taken major steps in each season so far and has already proven himself a top-10 producer on a per game basis if he can stay healthy.
Young is established and consistent as a top performer, and he proved last season he could produce dominant numbers even in a backcourt with another great lead guard in Dejounte Murray. Both reside in my preseason top-10 based on my most recent projections.
Round 2: Ball and Booker
LaMelo Ball (ADP 19.2) entered last season fresh off a sophomore season in which he finished with the ninth-most fantasy points in the NBA, and he projected as a top-5 producer before a series of ankle injuries derailed his season.
Ball had ankle surgery early in the offseason and is expected to return to full health. If he does, he has the chance to bounce back in a major way as the offensive engine on a Hornets team that has added No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft, Brandon Miller. Ball could return first-round production as a second round pick.
As far as other options atop the second round, Devin Booker (APD 12.1) is going in that range and has the potential for more. He showed last season, particularly in the playoffs, that his upside as the point/lead guard for the Suns resembles MVP James Harden from the Rockets days: Booker averaged 33.7 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.8 RPG, 2.8 3PG, 1.7 SPG and 0.8 BPG in 11 playoffs games played with Kevin Durant last season.
His projections for this season are more conservative than that, since he won't be playing 41.7 MPG in the regular season and the addition of Bradley Beal could limit his volume, but Booker has that kind of ability and, at age 27, could be on the verge of turning in a transcendent peak season.
Late Round 2/early Round 3: Lead guards in Year 2 with team
Dejounte Murray (ADP 25.1) maintained elite production last season even playing next to Young in Atlanta. He's also a relative iron man since missing the 2018-19 campaign, having missed eight or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. There are also consistent rumblings about whether Young will remain with the Hawks the entire season, and if Young were to be moved it could be a big boost for Murray's production.
Jalen Brunson (26.4) was in this article last season as he went from a backup position with the Mavericks to the starting job with the Knicks. If anything, he outperformed expectations in his first season in New York, and comes into this season with even higher projections. Brunson has averaged 27.8 PPG (51.7 FG%, 45.6 3P%), 5.8 APG and 2.4 3PG in 34 games in calendar year 2023, and if those numbers are a baseline for this season it would outperform his current ADP.
Round 3: Former understudies now in lead role
Jordan Poole (ADP 27.3) has put up big numbers the last two seasons when called upon to start and lead the team with Stephen Curry injured. He did this on a Warriors team that, even without Curry, had structure and expectations. Poole will now be in the lead role for a Wizards team where he should have the ultimate green light and every chance to generate large numbers of points, assists and 3-pointers. He currently sits at 14th in projected fantasy points this season.
Mikal Bridges (ADP 29.0) transitioned from an elite 3-and-D forward to a primary high-volume scorer when he was traded to the Nets last season. If he maintains the numbers he generated with the Nets in the last portion of the campaign, mixed in with his status as the iron man of the NBA (he played in 83 games last season!), Bridges could return first-round overall production from a third round pick.
Round 4: One risk/reward, one safe
Zion Williamson (ADP 33.7) is one of the biggest risk/reward players in the draft. He projects to be seventh in fantasy points per game this season, but has missed 135 of the last 162 Pelicans games due to injury. As a fourth round pick, he could be a league-winning pick and the risk is mitigated a bit with three other high-round picks already in the fold.
Nikola Vucevic (ADP 33.7) is a non-sexy pick that just produces like a metronome every year. In two full seasons with the Bulls, he has averaged exactly 17.6 PPG, exactly 11.0 RPG and exactly 3.2 APG while playing in 155 out of 162 games. You know what you're getting from Vucevic, and with his high projected game totals that could be second-round value from a fourth round fantasy hoops pick.
Middle rounds (5-8): Two sets of teammates and a former Rookies of the Year
Josh Giddey (ADP 50.7) and teammate Jalen Williams (ADP 81.4) both project to outperform their ADPs. Giddy flirts with a triple-double on a nightly basis as the floor general for the Thunder, and Williams is fresh off a First Team All Rookie first season with upside to improve in season two.
Scottie Barnes (ADP 54.6) had a slow start to his sophomore campaign as the then-reigning Rookie of the Year, but finished the season strong and should have more on-ball responsibility for the Raptors this season with Fred VanVleet no longer running the point. He projects to early fourth-round value.
Alperen Sengun (ADP 63.1) and Jalen Green (ADP 78.8) are another set of teammates set to outperform their ADPs, both entering magical season three. Sengun took over the starting center job early last season and got better over time, averaging 15.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.0 BPG in his last 36 games. Green also finished the season in impressive fashion, averaging 23.2 PPG in his last 36 outings. Sengun projects to a top-50, and Green to a top-60 fantasy producer this season.
Late rounds (Round 9 and beyond): projected to outproduce draft status or lottery ticket fliers
Ja Morant (ADP 81.8) is suspended for the first 25 games of the season, and he wouldn't be eligible for the injured list so he would be eating a roster spot. With that said, he projects to 22nd in per-game production, and being able to stash that to have for the final two-thirds of the season could be worth the roster spot in the mid-to-late rounds of your fantasy hoops draft.
Tyus Jones (ADP 91.2) has spent the last few seasons backing up Morant, but each time he has been given the chance to start for extended periods he has put up numbers. Last season, in 22 starts in place of Morant, he averaged 16.4 PPG, 8.1 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 3PG and 1.8 SPG while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. If he can replicate those numbers in his new situation with the Wizards, Jones could return top-50 fantasy basketball value.
Other players with late-round ADPs that project to top-100 fantasy value this season:
Tre Jones (ADP 80.8; projected fantasy points (PFP) 61st)
Keegan Murray (ADP 88.8, PFP 61)
Jakob Poeltl (ADP 90.3, PFP 69)
Buddy Hield (ADP 101.3, PFP 76th)
Kevin Huerter (ADP 101.3, PFP 81st)
Daniel Gafford (ADP 118.4, PFP 82nd)
Jabari Smith Jr. (ADP 117.1, PFP 97th)
Shaedon Sharpe (ADP 112, PFP 99th)
There are three players that were once fantasy hoops stars that are working their way back after extended absences and are currently going either undrafted or being picked in the last round: Ben Simmons and Jonathan Isaac.
Both are risky plays but have seasons with easy top-50 fantasy hoops per-game production in their past and could be league winners if they return to form.