While we received word last 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: Donovan Mitchell
Actual pick: Markelle Fultz
Mitchell hasn't made significant strides since his surprising rookie campaign. That's not a bad thing, however, as he has an average fantasy rank of 26.3. For his career, he's averaging 22.7 points on 18.8 shots, 4.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 33.8 minutes. Mitchell made his first All-Star game this season at 23 years old. - Alex Barutha
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jayson Tatum
Actual pick: Lonzo Ball
Tatum is the owner of the second-highest single-season ranking (15th) of any player in the class, and he joins Mitchell as the only other player with three top-50 seasons to begin his career. The No. 3 pick in 2017 took a major leap forward this season, setting new career-bests in nearly every category, while missing only five games. As long as Tatum stays healthy, he projects as a perennial top-20 player. - Nick Whalen
3. Boston Celtics: John Collins
Actual pick: Jayson Tatum
Collins has been a great per-game contributor across the past two seasons, averaging 20.3 points on 14.1 shots, 9.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 combined blocks-plus-steals. However, he's appeared in just 102 games during this stretch, dealing with injury in 2018-19 and being handed a 25-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs this season. That's capped his fantasy value, with Collins holding an average rank of 73. - Barutha
4. Phoenix Suns: Bam Adebayo
Actual pick: Josh Jackson
In our re-draft, the Suns will take a pass on Josh Jackson and instead go with Adebayo – the current Vegas favorite to take home the Most Improved Player award. After ranking 77th as a sophomore, Adebayo leaped all the way up to first-round value this season, finishing as the No. 12 overall player when the season was suspended. If Adebayo can expand his range and/or become even a marginally better free throw shooter (69% FT), he could be a borderline-top-10 pick on a yearly basis. - Whalen
5. Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox
Actual pick: De'Aaron Fox
In our re-draft, Fox gets selected in the same place he was in the real draft. His rookie season was underwhelming, but he had a breakout sophomore campaign in which he ranked 24th in fantasy behind 17.3 points on 13.6 shots, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 combined steals-plus-blocks. Fox played well this year, too, but has appeared in only 45 games while fighting injury. - Barutha
6. Orlando Magic: Jarrett Allen
Actual pick: Jonathan Isaac
The arrival of DeAndre Jordan this season may have stunted Allen's development, but he still managed to rank 76th overall, despite splitting time. The Texas product was a top-70 player a year ago, and he even had some fantasy utility in deeper leagues as a rookie (145th overall). - Whalen
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lonzo Ball
Actual pick: Lauri Markkanen (traded to CHI)
There has been no doubt that Ball is a great per-game fantasy contributor since his rookie season, stuffing the stat sheet on both sides of the ball. Poor efficiency and constant injuries have limited his fantasy value, however. Ball appeared in just 99 games across his first two seasons and shot 38.0 percent from the field. He was able to stay reasonably health this year, though, and is holding a rank of 42 through averages of 12.4 points on 11.2 shots, 7.0 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 combined steals-plus-blocks. - Barutha
8. New York Knicks: Lauri Markkanen
Actual pick: Frank Ntilikina
One of five players from the class to finish in the top-100 as a rookie, Markkanen's 84th overall ranking in 2017-18 is still the best of his career – by far. Injuries have gotten the best of Markkanen in each of the last two seasons, though even when healthy his numbers regressed in 2019-20. Markkanen provides value with his floor-spacing, free throw shooting and rebounding, but he shot just 34 percent from three this season, while his overall field goal percentage dipped to an unsightly 42.5 percent. - Whalen
9. Dallas Mavericks: Kyle Kuzma
Actual pick: Dennis Smith
Kuzma had a nice rookie year, ranking 76th on the back of 16.1 points on 13.5 shots, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 combined steals-plus-blocks. His rank has slipped each of the two years since then. This season, he's seeing only 24.6 minutes per game and averaging 12.5 points, as the Lakers' gameplan has revolved around other role players. - Barutha
10. Sacramento Kings: OG Anunoby
Actual pick: Zach Collins (traded to POR)
A limited role kept Anunoby out of the top-240 in each of his first two seasons, but he broke through in a major way in 2019-20. Ranking inside the top 60 at the time of the shutdown, Anunoby started 62 of 63 games and averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks in just over 30 minutes per game. Most importantly, Anunoby hit 51 percent of his field goals and 38 percent of his threes – both career-bests by a wide margin. - Whalen
11. Charlotte Hornets: Derrick White
Actual pick: Malik Monk
White's rookie year was essentially non-existent, but he's been a solid contributor for the Spurs across the past two seasons. That's reflected in his fantasy value, ranking 125th in 2018-19 and 105th this season. During this stretch, White is averaging 10.1 points on 7.9 shots, 3.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 combined steals-plus-blocks. - Barutha
12. Detroit Pistons: Markelle Fultz
Actual pick: Luke Kennard
Fultz wasn't remotely fantasy-relevant during his first two NBA seasons, which will continue to tank his average career rank. But his 85th overall rank in 2019-20 is significantly higher than any player below him on our list. Fultz still has some major flaws in his profile, but his counting stats – 12.1 points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals – are solid, and he shot better than 47 percent from the floor (52% from 2-point range) this season. Fultz even demonstrated major improvement at the line, hitting 72 percent of his free throws after shooting a combined 53 percent over his first two years in the league. - Whalen
13. Denver Nuggets: Josh Hart
Actual pick: Donovan Mitchell (traded to UTA)
Hart has improved his fantasy value each season, topping out at 120 this year while averaging 10.2 points on 8.4 shots, 6.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 combined steals-plus-blocks. His average rank of 173.3 would be much higher if he was able to stay healthy. In his three years in the league, Hart has appeared in only 187 games. - Barutha
14. Miami Heat: Jonathan Isaac
Actual pick: Bam Adebayo
Isaac should probably be a few spots higher, but we have to knock him for missing significant time in two of his first three seasons. Isaac played just 27 games as a rookie, and he was limited to 32 games this season after suffering a knee injury in early January. Prior to the injury, however, Isaac was a dark horse Most Improved Player candidate thanks in part to a mind-boggling 4.0 steals and blocks per game. The missed time relegated Isaac outside of the top 150, but on a per-game basis he ranked inside the top 35. - Whalen
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Dillon Brooks
Actual pick: Justin Jackson (traded to SAC)
Brooks gets downgraded for playing only 18 games last year, but he ranked 154th as a rookie and 115th this season. While he isn't particularly efficient, Brooks climbed up the fantasy ranks in 2019-20 through raw numbers and not missing any games. In his 65 appearances, Brooks is averaging 15.7 points on 14.2 shots, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 combined steals-plus-blocks. - Barutha
Monte Morris: Finished inside the top 120 as a sophomore and remained a decent streaming option this season despite a backup role on perhaps the deepest team in the league.
Josh Jackson: Has proven to be a good fantasy player when empowered but hasn't been a part of a successful team with that role. Last season was his best with a rank of 143, averaging 11.5 points on 10.6 shots, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 combined blocks-plus-steals.
Dennis Smith: Probably not a great sign that his best ranking (148th) came as a rookie in Dallas.
Thomas Bryant: Broke out last season, ranking 116th with averages of 10.5 points on 7.0 shots, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 combined blocks-plus-steals. Improved this year but has only appeared in 38 games.
Luke Kennard: Injuries derailed what would've easily been the best season of his career in 2019-20.