Lessons from a pre-Christmas Fantasy Basketball mock draft

Giannis Antetokounmpo went first overall during a recent midseason fantasy hoops draft (AP Photo).

With Fantasy Football season coming to an end, it’s is a great time to start thinking about basketball. We’ve made creating or joining a rollover league quick and easy just as the NBA starts really heating up – Christmas.

With an eye on starting up a new basketball league, last week I participated in a midseason industry fantasy hoops draft, the results of which can be found here. We used the new standard points scoring format, and it was interesting to see how different this draft went compared to ones before the season started. What a difference two months makes.

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I had the No. 1 pick and considered plenty of options, including LeBron James (but he should see more rest after leading the NBA in minutes played so far and with Isaiah Thomas returning), Kevin Durant (I’d have taken him #1 if Stephen Curry were out for the year, and the same goes for DeMarcus Cousins if Anthony Davis were out indefinitely), and James Harden (the MVP favorite) but went with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s not only lived up to incredible hype but surpassed it. He’s averaged 29.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.9 spg and 1.5 bpg while owning the paint. He just turned 23 years old. Teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both went in the top-10, which shows the immediate impact the Philly youngsters have had. Neither pick was a reach, as both should be first-round fantasy staples for years to come.

Victor Oladipo jumped to the middle of the second round, as his move from OKC to Indiana has gone better than anyone could’ve hoped for. His hot start is for real, making him well worth the high selection. I went with DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard at the wheel, highlighting the difference in scoring between this format and 9-cat leagues, as their poor free throw shooting won’t hurt me. Jordan’s putting up big numbers with Blake Griffin out (and Chris Paul gone), and Howard is racking up double-doubles while looking rejuvenated in Charlotte.

Other picks in rounds three and four included breakouts Aaron Gordon, Clint Capela and Donovan Mitchell, all of whom appear legit. LaMarcus Aldridge has been fantastic, but he lasted this long because drafters expect some regression with Kawhi Leonard now back for the Spurs. I took Lou Williams, who should set a career-high in Usage Rate on a Clippers team lacking alternatives on offense. Williams’ value has never been higher.

Lonzo Ball went off the board in round five, as his value increases in this format that doesn’t penalize the rookie’s poor FG% and FT%. Isaiah Thomas went a couple of picks later, hedging his big upside with obvious injury risk. Brandon Ingram has made a leap, while Tyreke Evans has gone from afterthought at drafts before the season to going in the middle of the sixth round here, ahead of Carmelo Anthony. Will Barton, Kris Dunn and Spencer Dinwiddie were three picks all in a row who’ve seen huge leaps in value over the first two months of the season. In fact, over the last two weeks, Dunn has averaged 38.4 points in this format, ranking No. 28 over that span.

Round eight was a fun one for fliers with upside, when Jamal Murray, Milos Teodosic and Jonathan Simmons were taken. Murray is heating up after a slow start to the year, and his streaky shooting won’t have a negative impact here, whereas Teodosic returns from injury in a situation with far more responsibility than expected. Simmons is a budding star looking at increased minutes moving forward. The latter end of the draft featured injured players like D’Angelo Russell, Evan Fournier, Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap getting taken, which were shrewd moves given there are two IL spots to stash hurt players who could pay huge dividends down the stretch and in the fantasy playoffs. Jahlil Okafor, who could see a bunch of run over the second half now in Brooklyn, was a fun last round pick.

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