The NBA Draft lottery is right around the corner. With that comes the joyous and gleeful season of mock drafts and big boards leading up to the NBA draft. Unfortunately, the joy will only last until we finally learn which of our favorite prospects will be sniped by rival teams, and wonder what our favorite team was thinking when they made their selection. Why did your Kings have to overthink (or underthink?) their pick so much that they passed on Luka? Was it a reach to draft Cam Johnson with the eleventh pick? Which future superstar will my team draft in the late second round? These are the types of questions that spawn around this time of year. How fun.
That means it’s time to do the research that helps you beat your casual leaguemates who draft solely based on average draft position. Thanks to them, you got to steal Brandon Clarke last year because the national spotlight strictly focused on Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
Matt Lawson @NBADynastyADP on Twitter has compiled ADP data from several dynasty and rookie mock drafts, and will continue to do so going forward, making him a great follow for dynasty heads like us. We’ll be focusing on the ADP’s from the three rookie drafts that have taken place so far in this article, getting to know each lottery-level prospect, plus a little lagniappe. The mock drafts were filled with seasoned fantasy fans as well as several “industry guys.”
That’s enough with the pleasantries. First up, we’ll look at a handful of honorable mentions who I thought were worth bringing up for one reason or another, but didn’t make the top fourteen of the rookie ADP compilation. Let’s dance.
Current ADP: 30 One of the most brilliant passers of this class, Mannion’s playmaking instincts and court vision help define his greatest strength. Timing passes perfectly through tight windows, and finding his teammates in both the half-court and in transition, Mannion is one of the most fun prospects to watch. In addition to facilitating, the 19-year old also shows promise as a scorer. Through his advanced scoring off the dribble, high-level touch, and catch-and-shoot prowess, Mannion could quickly develop into a reliable option both on and off the ball at the next level. Mannion’s shortcomings come from his physical tools, athleticism, and defensive versatility. There are some significant concerns for Mannion to overcome, but through his passing acumen and scoring ability, he has some clear upside. The Arizona product’s current ADP here gives his fantasy drafters great potential value. An ADP of 30 makes this one of the best values of the draft in my opinion – great potential reward with very little risk.
Current ADP: 15 Nesmith can shoot the lights out of the ball. After swishing 52.2% of his 8.2 three-point attempts per game in his sophomore season, the Vanderbilt product has a clear path to NBA minutes. Nesmith is also a capable defender who stays locked in. A classic 3-and-D option, Nesmith offers little outside of his shooting on the offensive end. Luckily for him, that alone should be enough to earn him playing time at the next level.
Current ADP: 18 Maledon has joined Luka Doncic as the only players in the last decade to start more than half of their games in the Euroleague as 18-year olds. Now 19, let’s remember that this young man made his bread against experienced competition while participating in the Euroleague. Maledon may not be an elite ball-handler, but his vision and feel for the game help him to become a very good passer. And while he’s not an extreme athlete by any means, his alleged 6’5 frame and 6’9 wingspan (although accounts differ depending on where you look) could help him in his development around the rim and on defense. He doesn’t possess many (if any) elite skills at the moment, but he does several things well, and could be molded into an impactful NBA player in the right hands.
Current ADP: 22 Possessing great shot-blocking potential, fantastic rebounding ability, above average body control, verticality, and a developing three-point shot (he swished 36.8% of his 2.8 three-point attempts per game last season), it’s strange that Jalen Smith checks so many boxes for a young big man, but isn’t often considered for a lottery-level selection by draft heads. That likely comes down to two things – his mediocre passing and handling, and his troublesome paint skills due to his lack of lower body strength. Smith boasts an extremely appealing fantasy skill set, but possibly lacks the fundamentals to earn playing time early in his career. He’s a spectacular draft-and-stash option at the least.
Current ADP: 19 15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.6 blocks – those are Hampton’s per-36 stats in his single season in the NBL. While those numbers look solid, his shooting brings him down, making only 0.9 of his 2.9 three-point attempts per game (29.5%), and shooting 40.7% from the field and 67.9% from the line. The jump shot will have to improve if he wants NBA defenses to respect him. In addition to his shooting, Hampton’s defensive focus is a concern, and his lack of strength sparks questions. He seems to have most of the tools to be a good defender, but can he develop the will to succeed on that end? Hampton’s playmaking ability is in a curious spot. He showed flashes of brilliant reads and passes against NBL competition at times, but then struggled to make basic reads and simple decisions at other times. Hampton’s greatest strength is his speed and explosive first step. As one of the fastest players in the class, there’s obvious upside here. Can the 19-year old overcome the big, bold question marks surrounding him?
Current ADP: 29 Our final honorable mention, Jones could have come out in last year’s draft, but decided to return for a sophomore season. While his second time around hasn’t skyrocketed his draft stock, his three-point efficiency – which was one of his biggest concerns – seems to have improved a bit, going from 26.2% his freshman year to 36.1%. Although that seems like a marked improvement, his shot is still far from reliable. Another significant weak point for the youngest Jones brother is his lack of size and athleticism. He helps make up for that with his IQ and craftiness, but NBA franchises will put a cap on his perceived upside because of those flaws. It might be fool-hearted to expect more than some production in the assists and steals categories early on in his career, but Jones’ top-tier basketball IQ, strong passing, defense manipulation, and impressive defense could earn him playing time in his rookie year.
1. Lamelo Ball
I had the second pick in the first of these three rookie mock drafts, which isn’t a bad spot by any means, but it certainly doesn’t hold the same gravitas as it would in many other drafts. Wiseman was selected first overall in my mock, which didn’t make my decision here any easier as I was weighing the potential value of two players for this selection – Killian Hayes and Lamelo Ball. I went with the latter for his upside in counting stats, but it wasn’t an easy decision. Outside of his enticing length at the guard position, Ball doesn’t offer a ton on the defensive end of the court. Although his stroke is wholly unreliable at this point, his form is improving over time. Plus, he knows how to get the ball in the hole in several other ways. The youngest Ball brother’s fantasy strengths really come from his innate ability to tally impressive assists, rebounds, and points. With an outstanding court vision and passing IQ, Ball’s assist category will seldom be empty. And while he’s not physically imposing on the boards, his length and instincts will allow him to grab an impressive number of rebounds. As one of the premier prospects of this class, there’s no wrong spot to take Lamelo Ball in rookie drafts.
2. Anthony Edwards
As a player who could easily be selected first overall in the NBA draft, casual fantasy players might be inclined to select him closer to the top in their rookie drafts. I think that’s a reach when there’s prospects like Ball and Hayes available, but his first-option upside and potential playing time Edwards could get early in his career is enticing. If I could sum up Edwards’ role in two words, it would be athletic scorer. He’ll struggle to provide much more value than that on the real-life court early on in his career, and still has some work to do before he can be called a reliable scoring option anyway. His shot is still rather shaky and could stand to see an uptick in consistency, his finishing at the rim remains unreliable (and will be even tougher at the next level), and his shot selection needs a bit of a remodeling. His defense is inconsistent, but he’s shown flashes of competence on that end, and will hopefully learn how to use his extreme athleticism to become an above-average defender at the next level (and also to hopefully improve his finishing at the rim). Speaking of his athleticism, that burst and bounciness is one of the main strengths Edwards’ upside is predicated on. Plus, he’s a big, strong body. The 18-year old certainly has the physical tools you’d like out of a young wing. The question is if Edwards can put it all together and actually use those physical tools to his benefit. While his fantasy potential is a bit questionable at the moment, lead guards and top-option scorers (and almost any player who earns significant playing time for that matter) typically find ways to be successful in fantasy. If Edwards becomes the elite offensive option some believe he can, it will be a fun ride for the fantasy managers who drafted him.
3. James Wiseman
A year ago, I would have seen Wiseman at this pick slot, and thought it was a great – borderline steal – selection. Unfortunately, he has taken a tumble down many rankings as of late. There are some significant concerns with Wiseman – from his lack of physicality to his poor shot selection and feel for the game. But my biggest issue with Wiseman is his willingness (or lack thereof) to play the role that may best suit him. Standing over seven feet tall with an enticing wingspan and decent paint instincts, Wiseman has the potential to be a menacing shot-blocker and rim-runner, with upside for more. However, the 19-year old often appears to force himself into a much bigger role than that – a role he isn’t ready for. He often tried to show off a skill set away from the rim that wasn’t quite in his arsenal. To quote Rob Dauster from NBC Sports, “…if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.” Even so, it’s possible that the good outweighs the bad here. The young big man provides great length, fluid (but not yet advanced) movement, an improving shooting touch which could lead to stretch-five potential, compelling athleticism, strong rebounding where he’s quick off his feet, and a solid frame which should fill out nicely. Combine that with the obvious, aforementioned shot-blocking abilities, and you could have something special. While there are significant concerns, Wiseman is still brimming with fantasy potential, and if he reaches a level of production anywhere near his ceiling, the value he would provide would make this selection spot a great value.
4. Obi Toppin
While I would personally prefer Killian Hayes here (heck, I would consider Hayes ahead of the previous two players mentioned as well. But that’s just my flavor, and I’ve certainly been wrong before. I’m looking at you, Stanley Johnson.), Toppin is certainly no dud. He’s a scoring forward with extreme vertical jets, a soft touch in the paint, and a solid passing acumen with good decision-making. After just managing to crack the triple-one club in his sophomore season (1.0 threes, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game), Toppin’s fantasy potential is intriguing. He may have averaged decent hustle stats, but the swing factor for Obi remains on the less-glamorous end of the court nonetheless. Toppin needs work in several areas on defense – from his awareness to his footwork, closeouts, and effort in general. He seems to have the tools to be a better defender, but does he have the want-to? And if he never improves much on that end, will his offensive war chest be enough to earn him the playing time that fantasy managers want to see? The Dayton product may have been one of the best offensive players in college this past season, but he’ll be hard pressed to translate that level of play to the NBA. If the 22-year old can continue improving upon his jumper while maintaining some of the strengths that helped him succeed last year, he could be a fantasy stud.
5. Killian Hayes
After strongly considering him with my second-overall pick, it’s surprising to see him fall to the fifth slot after three rookie mocks. The newly-turned 19-year old has the juice that you want from your guard position – shot creation (for both himself and his teammates), three-level scoring, promising instincts and decision-making, and a wicked passing acumen at all levels of the court. And though his shot isn’t quite where you’d want it to be, Hayes appears to have improved drastically in that area over time. One of Hayes’ glaring flaws at the moment is his inability (or unwillingness) to use his right hand. He is extremely lefty-dominant, and it shows on the court. He rarely goes right, even when it would make his efforts easier in a particular situation. He’ll never be the most explosive or athletic guy on the court, but Hayes will use all the tools mentioned above to become a reliable contributor in fantasy. If you’re selecting at pick five and the French prospect is available, my recommendation is to scoop him up with no second thoughts.
6. Onyeka Okongwu
Okongwu is not a particularly advanced ball-handler, passer, or range shooter yet, but don’t let that deter you from selecting him in your draft’s lottery. The 18-year old is one of my favorite players to draft outside of the first couple of picks this year because of his strong upside in big-man stats (he averaged a .616 FG%, 8.6 boards, 2.7 blocks, and 1.2 swipes in 30.6 minutes per game his freshman year), and the effort he brings to both ends of the court. Okongwu’s fantasy calling card will be his shot-blocking upside and defensive rebounding prowess. He possesses some post-up ability, but can he diversify his game enough to help space the floor down the line? Regardless of whether or not his three-point shot ever develops, Okongwu provides enough to consider drafting him in the early lottery of fantasy rookie drafts. Although he already shows obvious signs of becoming a reliable NBA rim-runner/roll man, and an impactful defender, the USC product still has a lot of developing to do. At just 18 years of age, who knows what he could become, and what extra skills he could add to his arsenal? Possessing a solid floor in at least three categories with upside for more, this sixth-overall slot in a less-than-jaw-dropping class could be a steal.
7. Deni Avdija
A year ago, Avdija looked like the next NBA point forward. With an outstanding passing ability for his age and size, the 19-year old could be a threat in several offensive situations – from transition to the half-court. Boasting above-average ball-handling, experienced cutting ability, nice feel for the game (both on and off ball), solid shot mechanics, and the aforementioned passing chops, Avdija is a real potential offensive weapon. Although Avdija seems like a walking gold mine, he isn’t without his faults. While his shot mechanics look strong, he has rarely shown any pull-up ability in his jumper, and seldom utilizes a floater. Additionally, he only nailed 27.7% of his threes (albeit on just 1.8 attempts per game) in 14.3 minutes per game last year for Maccabi Tel Aviv, and his free-throw shot seems a bit less developed. Luckily, these “weak points” can easily be addressed. Areas that may prove to be a little more difficult to correct include his finishing, defensive rebounding, and defensive upside in general. His athleticism also leaves a bit to be desired, but we may just be nitpicking at this point. All in all, Avdija is a great offensive prospect. If you draft him expecting the next Luka Doncic, you’ll be disappointed, but he has the goods to be a strong secondary creator at the next level, and possesses the upside to contribute in many fantasy categories thanks to his natural skill set and IQ. The seventh selection spot he’s currently slotted in here seems to be about right, although, I wouldn’t blame anyone for selecting him as early as the top five.
8. Tyrese Haliburton
Grabbing Haliburton at pick eight could pay off handsomely if things shake out the right way. The Iowa State product is an extremely high-IQ player on both ends of the court, effortlessly commanding and directing his teammates. He’s a solid shooter with nice range – particularly off the catch, and his decision-making is smart and fluid on both ends. While his passing isn’t necessarily advanced in all scenarios, he can make virtually every pass in the book out of pick-and-rolls. There’s a lot to love about Haliburton and his upside. In fact, he could have entered the 2019 draft as a possible first-round prospect, but opted to return to school to continue honing his craft in a sophomore season. If he can put it all together at the next level, and add a bit of strength, the 20-year old could contribute to every category you’d want out of your guard position. Selecting him around the eighth-overall slot seems like solid value. I’d even consider him a few spots earlier depending on who’s available.
9. Cole Anthony
Entering his freshman season, Cole Anthony was atop my (and several other) draft boards. He seemed to have the juice you’d like out of a lead guard – an engine who has the potential to score from all three levels while possessing the ability to make a decent number of reads and passes, albeit not at the level of an advanced facilitator. And the fact that he showed promise shooting both on and off-ball at times certainly helped his case. Unfortunately, Anthony disappointed compared to expectations in his lone season at North Carolina. His court vision isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, and he may never be an elite passer. However, if your lead guard isn’t going to be a great passer outside of some simple reads, you’d hope he’s at least a top-option scorer with a reliable deep-range stroke. That is certainly still within the range of outcomes for the 20-year old. The situation he was thrust into at UNC was not beneficial to him, surrounded by a severe lack of spacing and a two-big frontcourt at times. He may have more to show in the NBA’s spacing. Fantasy-wise, Anthony will post nice points, threes, rebounds, and steals, a decent number of assists, and maybe even some out-of-position blocks. Anthony sitting at the ninth spot after three rookie mocks shows just how much his single season at North Carolina impacted his stock. This selection spot provides a sweet combination of floor value and upside. Anthony is honestly a steal here, and his fantastic work ethic could help him become one of the values of the draft down the line. Similar to Tyrese Haliburton’s case, I’d consider drafting Cole even earlier than this.
10. Devin Vassell
I’m a sucker for triple-one prospects (Vassell averaged 3.5 threes, 1.4 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game in his sophomore season at Florida State), so I don’t hate this position for Devin Vassell. However, I will admit that I have a hard time envisioning the 20-year old prospect in anything more than a 3-and-D mold. Vassell possesses true catch-and-shoot potential with legitimate touch and floor-stretching capabilities. He’s not an outstanding passer, but he at least shows a veteran-like ability to keep the ball moving, which could lead to a few assists. His skills off the dribble are uninspiring – especially because of the lack of mass to his frame. That lack of mass might put a cap on his defensive versatility, but his motor and prowess in the team-defense area is undeniable. NBA teams are always looking for the next 3-and-D prospect (just look at the Suns’ selection of Cam Johnson last year), which gives Vassell an obvious advantage at the next level. While he may not possess the impressive ceiling of a typical top-ten selection, Vassell’s floor is as stable as any.
11. Isaac Okoro
Okoro is a defensive menace who puts forth the hustle and effort that you really want to see out of your rookies. While his work on the less-glamorous end will earn him minutes early in his career, his fantasy potential is still up in the air. In 31.5 minutes per game, Okoro averaged 12.5 points, 4.4 boards, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks, 0.9 steals, and 0.7 threes on 51.4% shooting and 67.2% from the line. Viewed as a defense-first prospect at the moment, you’d like to see a bit more in the hustle stats from a fantasy perspective. The numbers he posted in his single year at Auburn don’t scream “top-twelve value,” so fantasy managers would be taking a risk selecting him this early. But the reward to counteract that risk could certainly be worth it. Unlike a lot of his peers, Okoro played it safe on defense more often than not, preferring to stick to his man as opposed to leaving him to jump passing lanes or go up for a possible block, which is part of the reason for his lower hustle stats. A mindset like that could actually earn him more early playing time than his fellow NBA rookies. Looking at the other end of the court, you’ll see the 19-year old has an inconsistent stroke, which could obviously hinder that early-career playing time that he’s worked so hard to earn on the defensive side. His future NBA coaching staff will have to work with him to improve his shooting mechanics. Outside of his shooting, Isaac at least has promise in other offensive areas – he has shown strong flashes as a driver and finisher, using his body control to find success around the rim. Even if Okoro simply becomes something close to an average shooter, it will go a long way towards building enough trust with his staff to earn him sufficient court time. Due to the risks Okoro carries with him, you’d have to have some strong belief in his potential development to select him much higher than this spot in rookie drafts, but his defense and finishing at least give him a chance at a decent floor.
12. Aleksej Pokusevski
Pokusevski has the goods to be an absolute fantasy phenom. Standing at 7ft tall, and boasting rim-protection, passing, ball-handling, and shooting, the 18-year old has the potential to flood the stat sheet on any given night. So why isn’t he at the top of the draft if he can blow up the box score? Well, there are some significant risks when it comes to Pokusevski’s floor. First, his struggles scoring in the paint are often obvious due to his lack of strength and touch. Given his height, Poku’s frame being less than 200 LBs (90.718 kg) might give pause to a lot of coaches. His defensive effort and effectiveness also get called into question at times – especially his quickness and hip movement (although his lateral mobility is above average for his size). Aleksej is in an odd position due to his size and limitations. If he can find an NBA role that could minimize his weak points, and play him to his strengths, Pokusevski could end up being a stat-stuffing steal in fantasy drafts. He’s absolutely worth the risk at spot twelve. In fact, considering Poku’s ceiling, drafting him twice as early as this spot could even be worth the shot.
13. Kira Lewis Jr
Lewis has the potential to become a great fantasy point guard option, and provides solid upside at this selection spot. The sophomore Alabama product boasts fantastic speed, explosive first-step quickness, and great shot mechanics. While Lewis can make simple reads, and shows promise with his strong passing velocity, he’s not necessarily an advanced passer. However, if he continues to hone in on his ability to use his speed and explosiveness to generate open teammates, it will certainly be reflected in the assist category, a la Russell Westbrook. He shows flashes of being a reliable three-level scorer with the ability to drive both ways and finish with either hand. And while he possesses solid ball-handling skills, he has been prone to coughing up the rock. If Lewis can tighten up some of his loose ends, the value he’d provide in points, threes, assists, steals, and maybe even FT% would be outstanding for a player selected around this spot.
14. Tyrese Maxey
Much of Maxey’s value at Kentucky was derived from his excellent decision-making, possibly even rivaling Tyrese Haliburton’s. He’ll be a better option in traditional nine-category leagues rather than eight-cat. At one point in the middle of his college season, Maxey’s assist-to-turnover ratio appeared to be at an elite level – not because he was accumulating a boat load of assists, but because he kept his turnovers down. That number eventually started slipping a bit, but I still believe in his ability to limit turnovers. Overall, Maxey is an energetic combo guard who can score in bunches. While he’s not the most explosive athlete, he has some speed, and knows how to get to the basket and finish. At the least, Maxey should find a path to a spark-plug scoring role off the bench, but he could become more than that if he improves in some areas. First, after drilling just 29.2% of his 3.6 three-point attempts per game, he should work on his shooting ability in both pull-up and spot-up situations. The touch could be there, and he made 83.3% of his free throws in his single college season, which is a nice sign. Furthermore, while the Kentucky product’s assist numbers aren’t on-par with that of an ideal creator’s (3.2 assists in 34.5 minutes per game), he’s shown flashes of great reads, and handles pick-and-rolls very well. Where Maxey might bring home the bacon early on in his career is on the defensive end. The 19-year old plays with hustle and effort on defense, and often shows off his enticing basketball IQ. While he’s not necessarily a 3-and-D prospect, Maxey still provides solid two-way potential. Like virtually all guards/wings with shooting issues entering the league these days, one of Maxey’s most crucial areas of improvement will be his jump shot. If he gets that to a respectable level, his upside will be solid.
This certainly isn’t the most stacked draft class, but there are some diamonds in the rough available for the taking. Many of these prospects have solid fantasy upside, but come with some tough concerns that could negatively impact their immediate playing time. It’s not the best year to have a lottery pick in your dynasty leagues so you have to make the most of it.
Good luck in your prospect research, fantasy fiends.