Here's a very early look at a 2017-18 fantasy basketball first round mock draft.
There are two advanced metrics used in this gallery: Player Efficiency Rating or PER which is the "measure of per-minute production standardized such that the league average is 15."
The second is Effective Field Goal Percentage which "adjusts for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth one more point than a two-point field goal."
Despite the efficiency issues and turnovers, it’d be difficult to rank a player averaging a triple double for an entire season (currently sitting at 31.8 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game, 10.4 assists per game) lower than number one. Even factoring in the less than stellar 42.5 FG%, 33.6 FG3%, and 5.4 turnovers per game, he’s still boasting a 30.6 player efficiency rating (PER). Without a second star, and as long as his teammates continue to dive out of the way of rebounds, Westbrook will remain the league’s unquestioned stat sheet stuffer.
James Harden has been tremendous since he was traded, but it’s almost staggering how excellent his numbers have been since he joined the Rockets. From 2013-2017 Harden has averaged 27.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 7.5 apg. His crown jewel of a 2016-17 is shaping up to be an all-time great statistical season with 29.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 11.3 apg, and one dismissed Kardashian (take notes Tristan Thompson). Harden has never shot below 85% from the free throw line in Houston. The fly in the ointment for Harden is his historic turnover rate. He owns two of the top three turnover seasons in NBA history. If he can cut down on the turnovers, he’ll be the best fantasy player in the league.
LeBron has been the best player in the world and the picture of efficiency (averaging about 27 ppg, 7 rpg, 7 apg on 50 FG% and a 27.6 PER) for the better part of a decade. Depending on how much he sits for the remainder of the 2016-17 season, James could be the first forward in NBA history to average nine dimes per game. This is remarkable when you consider he plays the same position as Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, and several other great passers. Even with minor regression from his ‘16-‘17 stat line (26.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 8.8 apg) James simply has to be a top tier fantasy option, and certainly no later than fourth or fifth overall.
Kevin Durant and the rest of the Warriors were just getting the hang of their role as the NBA’s version of the MonStars before Zaza Pachulia fell on his knee. Durant is one of the rare players in the NBA who can net you double-digit rebounds and shoot 85%+ from the free throw line. That alone almost makes him a top eight pick, but throw in the wide open looks he gets in Golden States’ offense and Durant is arguably the deadliest offensive option in the league.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
For all intents and purposes, Steph Curry has had an “off” year. Funny to think that shooting a hair under 40% from beyond the arc would be considered off for anyone, but when you’re the best shooter of all time, I guess that happens. Just one season removed from back to back MVPs, Curry is still averaging 25 ppg and hitting 91% of his free throws. Unlike many three-point specialists, Curry is shooting 54% on two-pointers. Throw in the nearly two steals per game and you’ve got one of the rarer statistical profiles in the entire league.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Can we get one full season of Anthony Davis? Just one? Davis has posted 24+ ppg, 10+ rpg, and 2+ bpg in each of his last three seasons. The problem has been his health. Davis has only reached 70 games once in his five year career. If the basketball gods bless him with more playing time, Davis has an elite combination of offensive and defensive abilities that are hard to come by.
For a player so young, Towns has few holes in his game. He can score (24.7 ppg in ’16-17), rebound (double-digit rebounds in each of his first two seasons), shoot threes (averaging a very respectable 35% from three this year), and play defense (1.5 bpg over two years). Towns has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, increasing his scoring average from 23.7 before the All-Star break to 28.4 after. Not to mention Towns is on pace to play 82 games again this season. A rare feat in today’s NBA. The sky is the limit for KAT.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDavid Sherman
Mr. Leonard has come a long way since he clanged two free throws that would’ve all but iced the 2013 NBA Finals. As his game matured, Kawhi has developed into one of the best two-way players in the league. The elite defensive skills have allowed him to average about two steals and one block per game over the past three seasons. Leonard is also an efficient scorer with a career 54.9 effective field goal percentage.
Soobum Im-USA TODAY SportsSoobum Im
After a frightening leg injury in 2014, Paul George has rebounded nicely and played two sterling seasons of 23 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.7 apg basketball. Paul George and Jimmy Butler are very similar players in that they are two-way talents that can affect both ends of the floor. They also share a bit of an inefficient streak. For example, George averaged just 17.8 ppg on about 16 shots in February, as opposed to his season average of 23.2 ppg on 17 attempts. They have the propensity to throw up a 3-18 stinker every once in a while. The tie-breaker between the two is George’s 52.1 eFG% and his 90.6% from the free throw line this season.
Despite the team failures of the Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler has remained the lone bright spot for the struggling franchise. Over the past three seasons, Butler has averaged 21.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, and 1.8 spg. For a player with his skillset, Butler is not without his flaws. He’s a career 33.2% three point shooter and has an eFG% of 48.6, a good deal lower than his counterparts on this list. Butler redeems himself with his stellar free throw shooting (84.4% over the past three years) and two-way play, contributing on a nightly basis with steals.
My goodness, if this man ever develops a jump shot he’d challenge for the title of best player in the world let alone best fantasy player. Without any semblance of an outside shot, Giannis has compiled an astounding stat line with 23.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.7 spg, and 1.9 bpg. For a player who handles the ball as much as he does, 2.8 turnovers per game isn’t bad. If he can improve on that ghastly career three point percentage (28%), he’d dominate for years to come.
Damian Lillard has to be admired for his durability and steady production since he broke into the league in 2012. Lillard played all 82 games in his first three seasons and only missed seven games last year (2015-16). Lillard is pretty much a lock for 25 points and six-to-eight assists every night. He gets the nod over a player like Kyrie Irving because he’s been so darn durable during his five NBA seasons.