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Fantasy Basketball Mock Draft: Category League, Early Pick (2022)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Aug 8, 2022
Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid asserted himself as one of the most dominant players in the NBA last season.

We are so used to the NBA moving at a rapid pace, transitioning from the regular season to the playoffs, to the NBA Draft Lottery, to the NBA Finals, to the draft, to free agency, that when there is a lull, we find ourselves asking “now what?”

And there’s not just a lull in the real-life NBA. No, not at all. There’s a lull in fantasy as managers are yearning for another season. We are also seeing a lull in supporting resources around the industry for fantasy hoops, too, as we have early rankings at ESPN for points leagues and early rankings at Yahoo, which are always … interesting. The initial Yahoo rankings always have people scratching their heads at certain placements, but they course-corrected — a bit.

To fill those gaps in the lull that’s happening a tad, we’ll be doing a series of early mock drafts over the next few weeks from different draft spots.

Before we get into the first one, a few notes:

  • We are using Yahoo rankings because, well, that’s what we have right now
  • We are going to do an 8-cat league because, as I’ve been very vocal about in the past, turnovers are the worst fantasy category to exist in any sport
  • It’s going to be a 12-team league
  • I’ll explain each pick and the reasoning behind it, as well as an end-of-draft recap

Let’s get started by picking from the No. 2 spot.

NBA DFS Lineup Optimizer

Round 1, Pick 2:

Joel Embiid (PF/C – PHI)

This was a tough call between Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo for me. It’s close across the board, with a slight lean toward Embiid in the majority of the categories. Plus, for narrative street, we have two players who will feel “shunned” for not getting the MVP last year (as if Nikola Jokic wasn’t deserving of it). What’s more, the addition of James Harden helped Embiid out a ton, as they were the most productive two-man unit off the pick-and-roll (per The Lowe Post podcast).

Round 2, Pick 11:

Devin Booker (SG/SF – PHO)

Let’s run it back again, Phoenix. It feels like there is still a lack of respect put on Booker’s name from a real-life and fantasy perspective. I’ll take the elite scorer and three-point shooter on a team that loves to push it (ninth-ranked pacing at 99.75). The dual-eligibility helps his case, too.

Round 3, Pick 2:

Darius Garland (PG – CLE)

I wanted a guard here, but which one? I’ll let someone else find out how the Dejounte Murray and Trae Young pairing goes for fantasy, and while I love Tyrese Haliburton, I’ll take the scoring and team build of Garland over him as a tiebreaker. Garland’s defensive inefficiencies are hidden thanks to his supporting cast, which allows him to stand out offensively.

Round 4, Pick 11:

Evan Mobley (PF/C – CLE)

I find myself really liking the values in Rounds 3 and 4, and hate that I’m missing out on Anthony Edwards, Cade Cunningham and Zion Williamson in this spot. But since I’m in the two-hole, we’ll assume all of those guys are gone. I’m doubling up on Cavs here with Mobley. I’m getting elite defensive stats and a good FG% from the second-year big man.

Round 5, Pick 2:

Desmond Bane (SG/SF – MEM)

I’m pushing ADP a bit here, but I’m OK with it. See, I thought about Brandon Ingram, but there’s one ball in New Orleans with Ingram, Williamson and C.J. McCollum all needing and wanting touches. Julius Randle with a point guard is interesting, as is Josh Giddey in OKC. Ultimately, I’m going with a homer pick (go Grizz) in Bane. Losing Jaren Jackson Jr. to start the season, as well as the departures of Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton and Ja Morant missing 15-20 games per year means that Memphis is going to look toward Bane to take another leap forward and be the secondary scorer most nights.

Round 6, Pick 11:

Tyrese Maxey (PG/SG – PHI)

And this is where the Yahoo rankings don’t make a ton of sense to me. Maxey elevated his game last year and didn’t slow down with Harden’s arrival. Tobias Harris became the fourth option on offense but is ranked in Yahoo 11 spots ahead of Maxey. Capitalize on it for the third-year guard out of Kentucky.

Round 7, Pick 2:

Ben Simmons (PG – BKN)

We’re getting to the part of the draft where you can react to your build and take some shots on players. While I’d like to get another big here, I’m going to go with Simmons instead. I like the build that I have a ton, and it affords me the ability to take a chance on Simmons. Look, I could get nothing from him this year, or I could get a top 50 player in the seventh round.

Round 8, Pick 11:

Paolo Banchero (PF – ORL)

I need a forward here for my build, and there were two on the board who piqued my interests. Both were with the Magic, as Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr. were in consideration. The Magic have a fun team — not good, but fun. And they have a ton of players who are trying to break into the rotation and can be fantasy viable. But one thing is a lock in Orlando — there are going to run the offense through Banchero and utilize his offensive skillset after building around its defense for so long.

Round 9, Pick 2:

Jalen Brunson (PG/SG – NYK)

I truly don’t like this spot in the draft, where it’s a whole bunch of meh. Jalen Green is interesting here, but I’m going to go with the 104-million-dollar man in Brunson. I think the Knicks slightly overpaid (get your money, Jalen!), but that’s the market value. I’m more surprised that he’s this low in the rankings after signing the big contract in New York. Brunson will be the third option in the offense — fourth if they get Donovan Mitchell — but will give me a boost in steals and assists with him setting up R.J. Barrett and Randle on the floor.

Round 10, Pick 11:

Chet Holmgren (PF/C – OKC)

And this is where we cheat the system by taking advantage of the Yahoo rankings. They course-corrected a bit, as he was ranked No. 212 in the initial set of rankings. He’s still an eighth-round player to me given his ability on both ends of the court. We run the risk of him being overpowered early and shut down late, but he’s a fantastic value here in Round 10. I hate having two rookies in my lineup, but I’ll make it work.

Round 11, Pick 2:

Onyeka Okongwu (C – ATL)

It’s time to fill out the bench, and I have enough guards on this roster, so I want to hit one of my favorite bigs first in Okongwu. I love targeting third-year players, and the Hawks absolutely love him. He’s been halted by injuries and Clint Capela in his first two seasons, but he’s one of my favorite players to take a big step forward for the Hawks and for fantasy. The offense is still a work in progress, but the defensive stats are phenomenal.

Round 12, Pick 11:

Jaden McDaniels (SF/PF – MIN)

I was torn here between McDaniels and Cam Johnson, but give me the player the Timberwolves — as PR spinny as it seemed — wanted to protect in their deal with the Jazz. He’s going to be started every night for them, and while his rebounding numbers will take a hit with the Rudy Gobert addition, I like the across-the-board game for McDaniels for fantasy.

Round 13, Pick 2:

Kelly Oubre Jr. (SG/SF – CHA)

With our last pick, we are going to look at a polarizing player who has one thing ahead of him that others in this range don’t — opportunity. With Miles Bridges likely (hopefully) never playing in the NBA again, Oubre should slide into a bigger role with the Hornets. LaMelo Ball is a fantasy stud. Terry Rozier is Terry Rozier. Gordan Hayward can’t stay healthy. Mark Williams is good, but Mason Plumlee will get run over him. The Hornets need another offensive contributor, and that’s going to be Oubre. He’s never been afraid to launch it — which can be good and bad for your FG% — but Charlotte loves to push the ball (sixth-fastest pace in the league last year at 100.02), which will result in more looks and involvement for Oubre this year.

Final Roster:

  • PG: Darius Garland
  • SG: Devin Booker
  • G: Ben Simmons
  • SF: Desmond Bane
  • PF: Paolo Banchero
  • F: Chet Holmgren
  • C: Joel Embiid
  • C: Evan Mobley
  • UTIL: Tyrese Maxey
  • UTIL: Jalen Brunson
  • Bench: Onyeka Okongwu
  • Bench: Jaden McDaniels
  • Bench: Kelly Oubre Jr.

Final Thoughts:

I like the build of the team overall. I may have gotten a tad too cute after my initial foundation by drafting not just Simmons, but also Banchero, Holmgren and Okongwu. I fell into the shiny toy trap a bit, but I do think all four are more than capable of putting together top 75-100 seasons.

Next time around, I’m going to maybe take a shot on one or two of them, but not take on that much risk in the middle rounds.

I feel OK with my scoring, and Booker, Oubre, Bane and Garland all help with three-pointers. Embiid, Mobley, Holmgren and Okongwu help me defensively and on the boards. I may be a tad light in assists and steals, Simmons getting right could give me a nice boost there.

In all, I give my team a B.


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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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