Fantasy Basketball Mock Draft: Category League, Middle Pick (2022)
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 correct — 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 continue this series by picking from the No. 5 spot.
I was sweating this pick like it was a real draft. I was torn between KAT and Jayson Tatum here. We invest early in KAT each year, but we’re waiting on that fantasy superstar season. With Rudy Gobert in the fold in Minnesota, it opens up scoring opportunities for KAT from behind the three-point line a bit more and to be involved outside of the paint more while still providing elite rebound and block numbers. I like the elite-level guards that are available in the next few rounds, so I feel good about getting my big anchor here.
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. I give a slight lean to Booker here over Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Donovan Mitchell, due to the certainty of where he’s playing, and we don’t have to worry about his team resting him down the stretch in a tank situation.
I really wanted to go with Gobert here and pair the Twin Towers together but decided to grab myself a third-year point guard who is going to make the All-Star Game this year. What’s not to like about Haliburton? He’s efficient, he’s an across-the-board contributor, and he’s the betting favorite to win the Most Improved Player Award. Haliburton will push Round 2 value by the time the season starts.
Let’s swing for the fences here, shall we? The Pelicans aren’t just going to be a fun NBA.TV team; they are going to be a top-six seed in the West — at worst. A big part of that is Williamson, who is fresh off his rookie extension. Look, we all know the concerns, but we also know that Williamson is arguably the most dominant per-minute player in the league. He feels he has something to prove, and the league is going to remember why he was so highly touted coming out of Duke.
I’m pushing ADP a bit here, but I’m OK with it. See, I thought about Jarrett Allen, but he’s going to be the third option at best behind Evan Mobley and Darius Garland. Julius Randle with a point guard is interesting, as is Josh Giddey in OKC. Ultimately, as I did in the first mock, 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 to Bane to take another leap forward and be the secondary scorer most nights. What’s more, the Grizzlies have a cupcake schedule — on paper — for the first half of the season, which means Bane should feast early and often.
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. I wanted to switch it up from the last mock, but the value here is too good compared to the players around him (Tyler Herro, Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins).
I don’t like this part of the draft at all. I don’t need sexy players, but the guys in this range do absolutely nothing to excite me. The only one who stands out — Collin Sexton is here, too, but there’s uncertainty there — is Barrett. Barrett could go to the Jazz in a Mitchell deal, but I find that unlikely. He has the highest upside and gives me some scoring that I’m lacking.
I waited a bit too long on grabbing my second big. This is the clear end of a tier for me — you could argue Isaiah Stewart belongs there, too, and I’m OK with that — as Carter is slowly making that Nikola Vucevic deal look better and better for the Magic side of things. It’s crowded in Orlando, but Carter has a clearly-defined role for the Magic going forward.
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 man in Brunson. I think the Knicks slightly overpaid, 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 Barrett and Randle on the floor. I need some help with assists, too, so Brunson helps me there.
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 repeating another pick from the last mock, but until Yahoo fixes their rankings, we are going to take advantage of it.
Last year, in my weekly column, I wrote about being patient with Sengun and stressed that it was almost time. The Rockets took a while, but they finally gave him a longer leash and a bigger role down the stretch. He’s one of my favorite second-year players this year, as the competing centers are Boban Marjanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Bruno Fernando. Over his final four games of the season, he was averaging 34 minutes per night. While I don’t expect that many, I expect somewhere around the 27-minute mark with a usage rate of around 25.5.
As we end here, I’m looking for extra buckets. Hart is underrated from a real-life and fantasy sense, and he’s going to be looked at as a bucket-getter for the Blazers this year. Hart should play around 30 minutes for Portland each night and should maintain the gains that we saw in scoring and playing time that he carried over after the trade — even with a healthy Damian Lillard.
With our last pick, we are going to go with one of the more underrated moves of the offseason and that’s the Sixers landing Melton. Melton is in the perfect landing spot for his game, as he brings a lockdown presence off the bench and is able to match up on guards and forwards alike. If Maxey or James Harden were to miss time, he’s able to be a spot starter and his fantasy value will really spike. But even on the surface, he’ll contribute assists, points, and most importantly, steals.
PG: Tyrese Haliburton
SG: Devin Booker
G: Tyrese Maxey
SF: Desmond Bane
PF: Zion Williamson
F: R.J. Barrett
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
C: Wendell Carter Jr.
UTIL: Jalen Brunson
UTIL: Chet Holmgren
Bench: Alperen Sengun
Bench: De’Anthony Melton
Bench: Josh Hart
I liked the first team I drafted a lot, but it had warts with getting too cute in the middle rounds. As much as I liked that team, I like this one even more.
I still have some fun youth in Holmgren and Sengun and I’d rather Carter be a UTIL for me instead of a second center, but getting Sengun eases that stress for me.
I don’t have many risks on this team outside of Williamson, and it’s pretty balanced up and down the roster.
I feel OK with my scoring, and Booker and Bane will lead me in threes, but I’ll get contributions from others — assuming KAT adjusts to the four role like I hope. KAT, Carter, Williamson, Sengun, Holmgren, and Melton help me defensively and on the boards. I may be a tad light in assists and steals, but with Haliburton, Brunson, and Melton, I feel like I can compete in those categories.
In all, I give my team an A-.
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