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. New Orleans Pelicans: Damian Lillard
Actual pick: Anthony Davis
Lillard versus Davis was really difficult, but we ultimately sided with the consistency of Lillard, who has never ranked outside of the top 20 in eight NBA seasons. While Davis has the two best individual campaigns (first in 2017-18; second in 2019-20), he also has the two worst seasons between the two. In all, Lillard has four top-10 seasons to his name, including a career-best No. 4 ranking in 2019-20. - Nick Whalen
2. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Davis
Actual pick: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
A version of Davis that played 75-plus games per year could have an argument to be selected No. 1 in our fantasy re-draft. Davis has unquestionably been one of the best players in the league over the past seven years, averaging a fantasy rank of 8.9 since his sophomore season and posting 25.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals. But availability matters, especially when you're being drafted in the first round year after year. - Alex Barutha
3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal
Actual pick: Bradley Beal
There's a clear distinction between the top two and Beal, but the gap has narrowed over the last two seasons, in which Beal finished eighth and 10th overall, respectively. Beal got off to a slower start than Lillard and Davis, however, ranking 165th, 91st, 100th and 143rd in his first four seasons. Over the last four, his average rank sits at 15. - Whalen
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond
Actual pick: Dion Waiters
While Drummond has only appeared in eight career playoff games, that doesn't matter for fantasy. He's been a monster in the box scores since his second year in the league, averaging a fantasy rank of 33.9 since then. Drummond's past three seasons have been especially good. He ranked exactly 14th overall three consecutive times with averages of 16.6 points, 15.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks. - Barutha
5. Sacramento Kings: Draymond Green
Actual pick: Thomas Robinson
Totally forgot about Thomas Robinson. What a heat-check of a pick. In our do-over, the Kings go with Green, the owner of four top-25 seasons, headlined by a sixth overall finish in 2015-16. Green's run from 2014-17 is unassailable, though he has dropped off considerably over the last two years. - Whalen
6. Portland Trail Blazers: Khris Middleton
Actual pick: Damian Lillard
Middleton has three top-30 seasons to his name, which is easily enough to land him in the sixth spot in our re-draft. He topped out at rank 13 in 2017-18 when he averaged 20.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals. He gets downgraded for playing just 29 games in 2016-17, but no one from this class has a case to move above him because of that. - Barutha
7. Golden State Warriors: Evan Fournier
Actual pick: Harrison Barnes
Here is where things truly begin to drop off. Fournier has carved out a nice career in Orlando, but he's never reached the heights of the six players above him. Fournier has three top-100 seasons, but he's never cracked the top-40, and he ranked outside the top 200 from 2012-15. He had his best fantasy season in 2019-20, ranking 45th behind 18.8 points, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and a career-best 2.7 made threes per game. - Whalen
8. Toronto Raptors: Harrison Barnes
Actual pick: Terrence Ross
Barnes is an underwhelming fantasy player but is someone who's ranked inside the top 100 three times. He ranked 68th in 2016-17 and 70th the following year, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He'll probably never be in that role again, but he should be productive enough to warrant a spot on most fantasy benches for the foreseeable future. - Barutha
9. Detroit Pistons: Will Barton
Actual pick: Andre Drummond
There's a case for Barton to be ranked a few spots higher. His highs are higher than those of Barnes or Fournier, but his lows are also lower. A No. 34 ranking in 2017-18 stands out, but Barton followed that up by finishing 265th last season. He also gets dinged for a slow start to his career, ranking outside the top-250 in each of his first three years in the league. - Whalen
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Jae Crowder
Actual pick: Austin Rivers
Crowder had a nice two-year stretch with the Celtics in 2015-16 and 2016-17 where he averaged 14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals, ranking 46th and 67th, respectively. However, those are the only two years where he cracked the top 100. He was close this season, checking in at 102. Overall, he's been a passable role player over the past six years, with an average rank of 112.3 during this stretch. - Barutha
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Terrence Ross
Actual pick: Meyers Leonard
Never an easy player to trust, Ross' shooting tends to come and go. But he's managed three top-100 seasons in the last four years, including a career-best 73rd overall in 2018-19. He followed up with a top-90 2019-20 campaign, which helps offset a disastrous 2017-18 season when he missed 58 games and finished outside the top 300. - Whalen
12. Houston Rockets: Tomas Satoransky
Actual pick: Jeremy Lamb
Satoransky didn't make his NBA debut until 2016-17, cracking the top 100 for the first time two years later. While he has very few minutes played compared to everyone else in our top-15 re-draft, he's proven to be a valuable fantasy asset. Over the past two years, he has an average rank of 80 while posting 9.3 points, 5.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals. If he can maintain a sixth-man role for the next few years, it's possible he'd likely be re-drafted a few spots higher by the end of his career. - Barutha
13. Phoenix Suns: Jeremy Lamb
Actual pick: Kendall Marshall
Two top-80 finishes in 2017-18 and 2018-19 helped flip the narrative for Lamb, who struggled to maintain fantasy relevancy early in his career. Over his first five NBA seasons, Lamb ranked 261st, on average, while never finishing higher than 170th. He was worth a late-round pick in 2019-20 but fell back to 165th after joining a crowded Pacers rotation. - Whalen
14. Milwaukee Bucks: Maurice Harkless
Actual pick: John Henson
Harkless' best season was his only time he cracked the top 100. He ranked 84th in 2016-17, averaging 10.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.0 combined steals-plus-blocks. Harkless is a more relevant real-life player than fantasy player, though he isn't exactly sought after in either context. - Barutha
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Jared Sullinger
Actual pick: Maurice Harkless
Look, we're really backed into a corner here. Cannot believe this is what it's come to. Sullinger hasn't played an NBA minute since February of 2017. And yet, he makes our top 15. It's easy to forget, but Sullinger had a three-year run of relevancy from 2013-116, posting an average finish of 111th, with a high of 86th in his unforgettable 2015-16 campaign. - Whalen
John Henson: Almost cracked the top 100 in 2017-18 when he averaged 8.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.0 combined blocks-plus-steals. Is a free agent this summer and it's not clear what his career trajectory is.
Kyle O'Quinn: Snuck into the top-100 in 2017-18, mostly thanks to 1.3 blocks per game in 77 appearances.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: One of the worst No. 2 overall picks ever. Average career fantasy rank of 244, with his best season being rank 75 while posting 9.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.0 combined steals-plus-blocks.
Tyler Zeller: Finished 97th in 2014-15 but was never able to recapture that magic. Zeller averaged a ranking of 340th over the next four seasons.
Austin Rivers: Had a two-year stretch of relevance in deep fantasy leagues while with the Clippers from 2016-17 through 2017-18. During the latter campaign, he ranked 159th and averaged 15.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals.