While we received word this week that the NBA is set to return July 31, the nearly three-months-long struggle to live in a world with no live basketball continues. But we have a saying in this business: the content must go on.
This week, we continue our 10-part series – some might even call it a saga – looking back at every NBA draft from the past decade.
Starting with the
Cole Aldrich Draft John Wall Draft in 2010, we'll comb through, pick-by-pick, and rank the top 15 players from each class. We initially considered going deeper but decided the merits of hashing out one middling role player against another were quite limited. Now, with that said, if anyone is truly interested in debating Landry Fields vs. Ekpe Udoh, please DM me on Twitter.
Of course, we're aware that there's a chance we might not be the first ones to come up with the concept of a re-draft. The circumstances of the last few months have resulted in just about every tangible object on earth being the subject of some sort of draft. But our lists will steer clear of the typical process of selecting the best player available at each pick. RotoWire is, in fact, a fantasy basketball outlet, so we'll consider each player's fantasy value – both peak and longevity – as our number one factor.
A few notes:
- As you'll notice, there's typically significant overlap between best player and most fantasy value. In 2010, for instance, our top three picks ended up being Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins
- Off-court or chemistry concerns were not considered, unless they impacted a player's fantasy value
- Team needs and roster construction at the time of the draft were not considered
- All production since each player entered the league was taken into account, including the 2019-20 season
- In order to pare our list down to 15, Alex and I ranked our top-20 fantasy players from each draft and ordered them by average ranking
- Any references to fantasy rankings refer to a player's finish in eight-category leagues by total value (as opposed to per-game value). Research was conducted using RotoWire's Historical Fantasy Archive tool
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons
Actual pick: Ben Simmons
Simmons missed the entirety of his rookie season, but he's nonetheless the clear choice at No. 1. Only one other player from the class finished in the top-100 as a rookie (Malcolm Brogdon), and Simmons has been by far the best fantasy player over the last three seasons. In that span, he's ranked 15th, 23rd, and 21st, posting an average finish of 19.6 overall – 18 spots higher than the next-highest average (Buddy Hield). - Nick Whalen
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Buddy Hield
Actual pick: Brandon Ingram
Hield's place on struggling Kings teams has largely kept him out of the eye of casual NBA fans. However, he's one of the league's premier shooters, and his effectiveness on offense is reflected in his fantasy value. He topped out at rank 25 last season, and he has an average rank of 38.3 over the past three years. During this stretch, Hield is averaging 17.9 points with shooting splits of 45/42/87 plus 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. - Alex Barutha
3. Boston Celtics: Pascal Siakam
Actual pick: Jaylen Brown
Siakam gets knocked for his first two seasons as a developing player (285th, 157th overall), but he's more than made up for the slow start. After rocketing up to a 29th overall finish in 2018-19, Siakam posted a top-35 season in 2019-20, despite missing 11 games. - Whalen
4. Phoenix Suns: Jamal Murray
Actual pick: Dragan Bender
Murray has been a quality option at guard for fantasy owners across the past three seasons, posting an average rank of 47.7 over this span. While he hasn't taken the leap that people were hoping for, he's a constant threat for an efficient 20 points. Since 2017-18, Murray is averaging 17.8 points on 14.6 shots, 4.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals. - Barutha
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Domantas Sabonis
Actual pick: Kris Dunn
Sabonis' trajectory mirrors that of Siakam, who also started slowly before emerging as a borderline-second-round value. After finishing inside the top-80 last season, Sabonis took his production up a notch this season, ranking 23rd overall behind 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists. If Sabonis can become even a marginally better defender or three-point shooter, his value could jump another level. - Whalen
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Malcolm Brogdon
Actual pick: Buddy Hield
On a per-game basis, Brogdon has been a nice fantasy contributor due to well-rounded stats and efficient scoring. However, his missed games have dragged down his overall value. Brogdon has appeared in just 235 games across the past four years. From a raw stats perspective, this year is his best, with Brogdon averaging 16.3 points on 13.7 shots, 7.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He holds an average fantasy rank of 123.5 for his career. - Barutha
7. Denver Nuggets: Brandon Ingram
Actual pick: Jamal Murray
Ingram's 19th-place finish this season is the second-highest of any player in the class, but it's easy to forget just how much he struggled early on with the Lakers. Ingram has always been able to score, but he never logged a top-160 season in Los Angeles. Ingram arrived in New Orleans a vastly improved three-point shooter, free throw shooter and passer. - Whalen
8. Sacramento Kings: Jaylen Brown
Actual pick: Marquese Chriss (traded to PHO)
Brown has likely been a more valuable real-life player than fantasy player, though he's still put together a solid average rank of 122 across the past three seasons. His main barrier to more fantasy success is his poor free-throw shooting (68.0 percent career) and lack of playmaking (1.7 assists across the past three years). - Barutha
9. Toronto Raptors: Taurean Prince
Actual pick: Jakob Poeltl
This is probably the official drop-off point for this draft, but Prince has quietly been a productive fantasy option. He ranked just outside in 2019-20, and he's only two years removed from a 45th overall finish with the Hawks in 2017-18. - Whalen
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Dejounte Murray
Actual pick: Thon Maker
Murray emerged onto the fantasy scene when he took the starting point guard job for the Spurs over Tony Parker in the second half of the 2017-18 season. He ended up with a fantasy rank of 122 and it seemed like he was poised for a breakout. However, Murray missed all of last season due to a torn ACL. He came back healthy this season and was ranked 61st, averaging 10.7 points on 9.3 shots, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 24.9 minutes. - Barutha
11. Orlando Magic: Kris Dunn
Actual pick: Domantas Sabonis (traded to OKC)
Dunn has not lived up to his pedigree as a No. 5 overall pick, but his scoring, passing and defensive contributions have kept him in the fantasy conversation. Dunn led the NBA in steal percentage this season and finished third in that category in 2017-18. - Whalen
12. Utah Jazz: Marquese Chriss
Actual pick: Taurean Prince (traded to ATL)
Chriss' fantasy value has fluctuated significantly across his four seasons in the league as he's struggled to find a consistent role. However, this season is his best, ranking 116th with averages of 9.3 points on 6.5 shots, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 combined blocks-plus-steals. - Barutha
13. Phoenix Suns: Jakob Poeltl
Actual pick: Georgios Papagiannis (traded to SAC)
Finishing inside the top-120 in his second NBA season was more than enough to land Poeltl in the lottery. He's struggled to hold down a consistent role since leaving Toronto, but Poeltl's per-36 averages remain impressive. - Whalen
14. Chicago Bulls: Caris LeVert
Actual pick: Denzel Valentine
LeVert's continuous struggles with staying healthy have tanked his overall fantasy value, though he's been good on a per-game basis. His best campaign was 2017-18 when he appeared in 71 games with averages of 12.1 points on 10.4 shots, 4.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals. This season, LeVert has appeared in just 39 games but has posted nice averages of 17.7 points on 15.6 shots, 4.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals. - Barutha
15. Denver Nuggets: Ivica Zubac
Actual pick: Juancho Hernangomez
Minutes have always been the issue for Zubac, who averaged just 18.1 per game in 2019-29, despite functioning as the full-time starter. A dependable rebounder, shot-blocker and high-efficiency scorer, Zubac has established himself as one of the better streaming options at center. - Whalen
Malik Beasley: Ranked 136th last season while filling in for injured backcourt and wing players on the Nuggets.
Denzel Valentine: Somehow finished inside the top-110 in 2017-18, when he averaged 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.9 made threes.
DeAndre' Bembry: Ranked 119th last season but the Hawks have seemingly made it a priority to develop other young players.
Dragan Bender: Played 82 games and finished inside the top 200 as a sophomore. Hasn't been remotely relevant in any of his other three NBA seasons.
Juancho Hernangomez: Has struggled staying healthy and finding a role but it appears he may have one next season with Minnesota.