As we wait for official word from the league on when the 2019-20 NBA season will resume, 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're rolling out a 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. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kawhi Leonard
Actual pick: Kyrie Irving
Leonard missing essentially all of the 2017-18 season makes the No. 1 pick a close race between him and Kemba Walker. However, Leonard's peaks are higher, as he was the eighth-best fantasy player in 2016-17 and is the ninth-best fantasy player this season.
Which direction you would take with this pick depends on how you value consistency versus upside. Leonard's two-way ability allows him to have higher peaks, but his injury risk results in lower valleys. Walker is a steady scorer and playmaker, but he'll never be in the MVP discussion. - Alex Barutha
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kemba Walker
Actual pick: Derrick Williams
Walker vs. Leonard was really, really close, and I actually had Walker as my No. 1 fantasy player in the class. We had to bring in a third party, Shannon McKeown, to break the tie, and he gave the slight edge to Leonard. In fairness, Walker has never had a top-10 season (Leonard has two), but he's ranked inside the top 20 five times, including in four consecutive seasons from 2015-19.
Unlike Leonard, Walker almost never misses games (until this season), which has helped keep his ranking afloat even in his non-peak seasons. Waker's best fantasy finish (11th overall) came in 2018-19, when he played 82 games and averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 3.2 made threes. - Nick Whalen
3. Utah Jazz: Kyrie Irving
Actual pick: Enes Kanter
Irving going after Kemba Walker from a talent perspective doesn't make sense, though keep in mind that their career stats are almost exactly the same, minus the field-goal percentage difference. But Irving can't stay healthy. Walker has played 127 more regular-season games than him. Also, Irving's best season (rank 10) is only one spot higher than Walker's best season (rank 11).
With that said, when healthy, Irving has proven that he's an elite fantasy asset, which is why he's worthy of the No. 3 overall pick in this re-draft. He has four top-30 seasons, which includes three top-20 seasons and a 10th overall finish. - Barutha
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Klay Thompson
Actual pick: Tristan Thompson
It would've been quite the reach at the time, but, yes, the Cavs could've come away from the 2011 Draft with both Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. While he's fourth on our list, Thompson actually has the best average fantasy ranking (36th) of any player in the class.
We do have to knock him for missing the entire 2019-20 season, but prior to that he was a model of consistency and durability. Over his first eight NBA seasons, Thompson missed just 25 regular season games, and he never missed more than nine in any single season. He has a pair of top-20 seasons to his name, including a ninth-place finish in 2014-15, when he ranked sixth in the NBA in total points, second in made threes, fourth in three-point percentage, and 11th in free throw percentage. - Whalen
5. Toronto Raptors: Nikola Vucevic
Actual pick: Jonas Valanciunas
By virtue of being on the Magic for the vast majority of his career and having just 150 playoff minutes under his belt, Vucevic doesn't get a lot of love from the average NBA fan. But fantasy owners know that Vucevic has been a walking 15-and-10 for over half-a-decade.
Since his sophomore campaign, he's averaged 17.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 combined blocks-plus-steals. During that stretch, Vucevic had an average fantasy rank of 44.6, topping out as the league's 10th-best fantasy player last season. Injuries have capped his potential, but not so much that he's ever slipped outside of the top 100 in any of the past eight seasons. - Barutha
6. Washington Wizards: Tobias Harris
Actual pick: Jan Vesely (Editor's note: went 53-for-131 at the line in 108 games as a Wizard)
The Wiz didn't exactly hit the jackpot with Vesely, who fled back to Europe after three NBA seasons. Harris, on the other hand, has developed into a borderline-All-Star forward after a slow start to his career in Milwaukee and Orlando. Throwing out his first three seasons, Harris' average career rank climbs from 101 to 43. Over the last six seasons, Harris has never fallen out of the top 60, and he peaked at 21st overall in 2018-19. - Whalen
7. Sacramento Kings: Jonas Valanciunas
Actual pick: Bismack Biyombo (traded to CHA)
Though Valanciunas has played only 25.5 minutes per game since 2013-14, he's managed an average fantasy rank of 77. This current season is his best, as he ranks 36th on the back of 14.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks. We're all waiting for the year when a coach gives Valanciunas 35 minutes and he averages 20-and-15, but even if he remains in this pseudo-starter role for the rest of his career, he'll be one of the better players from this class. - Barutha
8. Detroit Pistons: Isaiah Thomas
Actual pick: Brandon Knight
Thomas' dramatic drop-off over the last three years hurts him, but he's the last player on our list who holds a top-40 season to his name. In fact, Thomas has cracked the top-25 three times, including a 10th overall finish in 2016-17, when he posted 28.9 points and 5.9 assists with a 46/38/91 shooting line in 76 games. Thomas, who was the final pick in the 2011 Draft, was also a top-25 player in 2013-14 and 2015-16, and he maintained a top-90 ranking in each of his first six NBA seasons. - Whalen
9. Charlotte Hornets: Markieff Morris
Actual pick: Kemba Walker
Morris topped out as a solid role player during his prime – not exactly what you're hoping for when drafting ninth but probably what you'll get more often than not. From 2013-14 through 2017-18, he had an average fantasy rank of 85.6, posting 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 combined steals-plus-blocks. Morris topped out at 41st overall in 2014-15 with the Suns. - Barutha
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Reggie Jackson
Actual pick: Jimmer Fredette (traded to SAC)
In real-life, this pick was involved in one of the wilder deals in recent memory. I'll keep it brief, but let's just say it involved an A-list cast of Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, John Salmons, and Beno Udrih, among others. Ultimately, Milwaukee ended up landing Tobias Harris, but with him off the board at No. 6, the Bucks go with Reggie Jackson, who quietly put together three top-65 seasons from 2013-16.
The 24th overall pick out of Boston College, Jackson peaked in 2015-16 – his first full season in Detroit – averaging 18.8 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds while hitting 35 percent of his threes and 86 percent of his free throws. For the most part, his last four years have been a disaster, but Jackson did salvage a top-90 finish in 2018-19. - Whalen
11. Golden State Warriors: Bojan Bogdanovic
Actual pick: Klay Thompson
Bogandovic didn't make his way over to the NBA until 2014-15 and didn't post his first top-100 season until 2017-18. Over the past three seasons, he has an average fantasy rank of 64.3, posting 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He'll likely end up having a better fantasy career than a few players currently above him, but he still has to prove it. - Barutha
12. Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter
Actual pick: Alec Burks
The scoring and rebounding production has always been there, but Kanter's struggles on the defensive end have consistently prevented him from reaching his fantasy ceiling. The No. 3 overall pick in 2011 has never averaged 30 minutes per game, though even in somewhat-limited action he's managed three top-70 fantasy seasons
As a member of the Knicks in 2017-18, Kanter put up 14.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and shot 59 percent from the floor en route to a 50th overall ranking. - Whalen
13. Phoenix Suns: Marcus Morris
Actual pick: Markieff Morris
Morris' best fantasy season was in 2015-16 when he ranked 83rd, and he had a nice comeback this year to rank 99th before the shutdown. However, he can't seem to find a consistent role, and it's been hard to gauge where his value lies year over year. Drafting Morris with the final pick in your draft hoping for an emergence would have been a fine move for most of his career. - Barutha
14. Houston Rockets: Kenneth Faried
Actual pick: Marcus Morris
At this point in the draft, all players have flaws. Faried's happens to be that he's played in 69 NBA games over the last three years, including zero in 2019-20. Still, The Manimal's three-year run from 2012-15 deserves recognition. During that stretch, Faried finished 61st, 62nd, and 73rd overall, averaging a combined 12.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. - Whalen
15. Indiana Pacers: Brandon Knight
Actual pick: Kawhi Leonard (traded to SAN)
The days of Knight being a relevant NBA player are long gone, but for our purposes, what he did at the beginning of his career matters just as much as what he's doing now. Over his first five seasons, Knight had an average fantasy rank of 90th (with a high of 53rd) and posted 15.9 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals. Injuries took a toll, however, and he hasn't been a fantasy consideration since. - Barutha
Chandler Parsons (38th pick): Was a top-40 player in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 but fell off a cliff shortly after amid knee troubles.
Nikola Mirotic (23rd pick): Was the 99th-ranked player during his rookie year but couldn't break into a larger role. After struggling for the Bucks last season, he went back to Europe despite having a significant contract offer from the Jazz.
Tristan Thompson (4th pick): He's been relevant enough to hold six top-140 finishes, but Thompson has never cracked the top-100. His highest finish (102nd) came during his second year in the league.
Davis Bertans (42nd pick): Now off the Spurs and fully empowered to launch threes with no conscience, Bertans is the 83rd-best fantasy player this season. Before, he had never cracked the top 150.
E'Twaun Moore (55th pick): As far as 55th overall picks go, Moore has put together a nice career as a role player. He came out of nowhere to rank 74th overall in 2017-18.