Last-Minute Draft Tips (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)
The NBA season tips next Tuesday, Dec. 22. We’ve got one weekend left before the fantasy basketball season officially gets underway, and this should be a busy draft weekend for hoop-heads who have held off on drafting until the last possible minute. With that in mind, we polled our experts for some final words of wisdom before jumping into your fantasy basketball drafts. Brad Camara, Alex Burns, Aaron Larson, Michael Waterloo, Dave Kluge, and Zak Hanshew weigh in.
When in doubt in early rounds, pick the player on the better team. Out of the top-30 players in last year’s final rankings, only six guys from non-playoff teams made the list; Trae Young, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, and Zack LaVine. The NBA is ruled by star-power without the same parity we see in other sports. A decent player on a good team is more likely to fill out a valuable role on your fantasy lineup than a high-usage player on a bad team. Those players are likely shoot more contested shots and turn the ball over more, requiring them to do a lot more to elevate their fantasy rankings. Although all three are ranked similarly, I’d prefer Christian Wood over Andre Drummond or Brandon Ingram due to his ability to compile statistics on a high-powered Houston offense. -Kluge
Avoid risk in the early rounds but embrace it in the later rounds. Your first two to three picks are the foundation of your team and you don’t want to miss on them. Ideally in the first two rounds, I’m selecting tried and true players whose situation hasn’t changed much. I don’t feel comfortable with James Harden at the 1.01 because of all the uncertainty he carries right now. Kevin Durant in the early second round is too rich for me as he returns to the court for the first time in 18 months with a new team. However, this flips as the rounds get later. In the double-digit rounds, I’ll take the chance on players in uncertain situations. DeMarcus Cousins and Kyle Kuzma are just two examples of risky upside players that come to mind. You can stash them on your bench and monitor their situations while you start the season strong on the back of your safe early-round picks. -Larson
In the first four rounds, draft the the best available player and build around your core. I recommend creating a tiers list by position to help with your next selections. For points leagues, fantasy managers can enter their scoring settings and use either the FantasyPros Fantasy Basketball Draft Wizard (shameless plug), or print a cheat sheet with the FantasyPros Fantasy Basketball Cheat Sheet Creator. Both are great tools to help you keep track of your draft. In this format, I am mainly looking for elite scorers and players who stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis. For rotisserie leagues, fantasy managers should be balancing their teams and not punting specific categories. Draft versatile players who contribute in most categories and have high shooting percentages. In the later rounds, don’t be afraid to take a gamble on players with upside. Shoot for the stars with your bench, and select players with a high ceiling. -Camara
The draft isn’t won in the first round. Sure, you’d like to get a superstar, but who you take in first round is far less important than it’s made out to be. In fact, for the better half of the entire draft, you need to take the best player available and tweak your roster from there. Also, don’t fall victim to the shiny toy syndrome. We all love the young, flashy players, but there’s a higher level of variance with them than there is with “boring” veteran. -Waterloo
Do your homework. It’s a tired maxim that gets consistently trotted out ahead of drafts for all fantasy sports… but it’s for good reason. Staying in the know ahead of your fantasy basketball drafts is key, especially if you’ve waited until now to draft. A couple of weeks ago, I was all in on James Harden as a potential 1.01 selection. Now? Not so much. It’s clear that there is an issue with team and locker-room culture in Houston, and Harden’s apparent discontent with the organization is reaching a boiling point. Staying aware of issues like this can help you make more informed decisions on draft day. Paying attention to pre-season performances – while not all-telling – will still give you a good idea of a player’s ceiling or potential usage. Make sure you know where players signed or to which team they were traded, what their role might be, and how that impacts their fantasy value. Drafting a fantasy basketball team without any prior research can really set you up for disappointment. -Hanshew
A wise person once said, “you can’t win your draft in the first round, but you can certainly lose it.” With that being said, I am always looking to mitigate risk through the first four rounds while taking value over positional need. Once I get to the fifth round and beyond is when I will start looking at some high upside players who may also present some sort of risk. For example, in our recent FantasyPros Mock Draft article, I selected Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, De’Aaron Fox and Brandon Ingram with my first four picks. Each of them offer an extremely high floor due to their role on their respective teams and it’s pretty easy to know what you are going to get from them on a nightly basis. I then selected Michael Porter Jr. in round five, someone who possesses elite upside and can easily out-produce his ADP of 60 but carries a bit of risk. The consistency of my first four selections, however, allow me to feel comfortable taking a flyer on someone like Porter Jr. If he pans out, great! If he doesn’t, my team still has a solid core. I have seen plenty of success when implementing this strategy in fantasy drafts. -Burns