This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.
Nine members of the RotoWire content team – and one former member, ESPN's own Andre Snellings – got together in a cabana at The Cromwell in Las Vegas last week to conduct the inaugural RotoWire Vegas NBA League draft.
For several years, a football draft of this variety has taken place during the annual RotoWire pilgrimage to the desert, so we decided to borrow the concept. Hopefully, it can serve as an informed gauge as to where industry professionals stand on a number of key players in the wake of another busy NBA offseason.
A few notes before we get to the results and post-draft Q&A:
- The league is Head-to-Head Points style and will employ most of ESPN's standard rules for position eligibility, playoffs, FAAB, etc.
- Scoring: Points (.25 FP); Rebounds (.333 FP); Assists (.5 FP); Blocks (.666 FP); Steals (.666 FP)
- Rosters: Six starters (1 C; 2 F; 2 G; 1 UTIL); four bench players (any position); one IR spot
1. How did you evaluate certain players – Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, Kristaps Porzingis, Jabari Parker – who face major question marks heading into next season?Nick Whalen: Generally, I tend to play it safe with guys coming off of major injuries, but I was thrilled to grab Hayward in the middle of Round 6 and Cousins in Round 9. Boston has one of the deepest rotations in recent memory, and while that will put a cap on Hayward's value, I think it'll be Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum whose numbers suffer most. Cousins is even more of a mystery, but he was a luxury in the ninth round, and I'll probably stash him for a couple of months in hopes that he's able to carve out a significant role by January. Even if Cousins only provides 60 percent of last year's pre-injury production, that would mean averages of 15.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and almost two combined blocks/steals per game.
Peter Schoenke: Although I didn't take any of those players, I did take players coming off injury figuring they'd be a value in a draft this early. Plus, in a shallow league like this, I can more easily find replacements if say Kyrie Irving misses a few weeks or plays limited minutes initially.
Alex Barutha: I'm never in a rush to draft guys with major question marks. Most of the guys listed went about a round or two earlier than I would have considered them, except Hayward, who Nick drafted two spots ahead of me where I would have taken him.
DJ Trainor: I intentionally stayed away from all these players. I'm always going to take the sure thing, and there are too many question marks surrounding each of them for my comfort level, even in this low-stakes league.
Ben Miller: Leonard's past production speaks for itself and I always felt that he'd play out the upcoming season, so I was going to pick him wherever I thought he'd be taken if there weren't any huge question marks. Cousins' injury and the Warriors having the luxury to ease him back into action made him a prime late-round target considering the risk-to-reward ratio. Hayward is playing with a much more talented roster than his days in Utah and I think that could result in a slight dip in his production from his last healthy season. Still, he's a former All-Star and I'm confident taking him in the early middle rounds. Parker, on the other hand, is a player likely going too high in most early drafts due to his hefty contract and addition to a fairly weak roster, so I've kept him mostly off of my radar.
Shannon McKeown: When drafting this early, I tend to avoid any players with significant questions marks. But it was determined at the end of this draft that the league will include an IR spot. Those sort of details should be determined well in advance of the draft to ensure all managers can plan properly. In a league with an IR spot, risky injury options, like Cousins or Porzingis, are well worth a reasonable investment. Leonard was an extreme risk at the time of the draft, but that was quelled quickly, as he was traded 12 hours later. I don't view Hayward or Parker as a risk. In fact, those were two of the better selections in the field.
Ken Crites: I wasn't touching Leonard until late in the second. It's a great move for the Raptors, but I need my top talent to be healthy for 70+ games. My hunch is he isn't there yet. I had Hayward as a good fourth rounder. I worry about shot attempts for every Celtic other than Kyrie. Cousins should be brought back slowly, and when he does come back, how many shots will really be available for him? I'll probably trade Draymond Green before Cousins returns. Parker, to me, is just a late-round flyer.
Dan Bruno: At the time of our draft Kawhi was still in limbo and it was uncertain if/where he would play. At least with the other three players we knew which team they were with, and their general feelings toward those teams. Out of these four players, I thought that Jabari Parker would offer the best value.
2. The draft took place before DeMar DeRozan was traded to the Spurs. How, if at all, will his move to San Antonio impact his value?Whalen: In a league that doesn't count three-pointers, DeRozan is a bit more appealing, but I don't think the trade would have drastically impacted his draft slot. That said, the change of scenery will certainly entail an adjustment period, and it'll be interesting to see see how much the Spurs System™ alters DeRozan's shot selection and volume.
Barutha: In terms of pace, he'll be moving from the 14th-fastest team to the 28th, so that's something to consider. He'll also be going from the clear No. 1 scoring option to option 1A or 1B. I think his value goes down, but probably not more than one round.
Trainor: If anything, he'll be even more motivated by this move, so I think slightly higher per-game averages are realistic. Overall games played would be my only concern since the Spurs have traditionally used scheduled rest to their advantage. Combine those two factors together and DeRozan's overall value is likely the same as it would have been had he stayed in Toronto.
Miller: I think it gives his value a slight boost overall. Dwane Casey attempted to limit some of his starters' minutes last season, which resulted in DeRozan logging his smallest workload since his rookie season. That playing time should increase with the move to a team that has a fewer established pieces, albeit one that's never been afraid to rest stars. In addition to that, I expect DeRozan's usage to rise – or at least sustain – as LaMarcus Aldridge is really the only other guy that is going to demand touches on the offensive side of the ball.
McKeown: Overall, his draft stock remains about the same. That said, I expect DeRozan to see a slight dip in value on San Antonio, at least in the short term. Like we've seen with LaMarcus Aldridge, it takes time to thrive within Pop's system. Look for a slight dip in production from DeRozan for the first year with the Spurs, but for a strong bounce back in Year 2.
Crites: Losing Kawhi and Danny Green means losing a very large chunk of San Antonio's three point shooting. That means the Spurs will push DeRozan to continue increasing his three point attempts, which is good for his made threes, but bad for his shot percentage. But total volume wise, there should be plenty of shots available for DeRozan if he can stay out of LMA's way.
Bruno: Considering I picked DeRozan in the third round with high hopes for him to lead Toronto the way he did last year, I am not too worried about the trade. If anything, I think he will benefit from playing for Gregg Popovich and maybe even increase his efficiency.
3. Looking back, what was the best value pick of the draft?Whalen: Paul Millsap (7th round) and Josh Richardson (8th) were both guys I was hoping to get my hands on. I was also pleased to land Al Horford in the fifth round after neglecting the center position with my first four picks.
Schoenke: James Harden. I should have taken him at #4, but took a center since there's some positional scarcity in this format. Still, no way he should have gone outside the top three in retrospect.
Trainor: I'll toot my own horn and go with Nic Batum, who I took in Round 10. His per-game averages and overall games played took a hit last season, but he had a 10-game stretch in March where he averaged 13.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.8 three-pointers. Still only 29 years old, Batum should slot into the same role that he's always had in Charlotte as a secondary ball handler who chips in with cross-category production.
Miller: I thought John Collins at 77th overall was a solid value. I'll mention him again later, so I won't go too much into the details here. However, if he makes as big of a jump in his sophomore campaign as I expect, that pick could pay dividends.
McKeown: Hayward in Round 6 is a steal. And I love the Hassan Whiteside and Nic Batum picks.
Crites: Schoenke's third-round pick of Kyrie Irving at 24 could be huge, even with the format removing a bit of the usual premium for PG's. Sticking with Boston, Nick's fifth round grab of Al Horford is money in the bank.
Bruno: I think I got great value with Dwight Howard in the eighth round. He may have slipped because his team did not make any noise last season, but Dwight, himself, was a beast, averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. I can see him having a solid, maybe even better season with the Wizards.
Peter grabbing Carmelo Anthony in the last round was also a great snag. As long as he plays, he should average around 15 points per game, at least, like last season.
4. Which pick was the biggest reach of the draft?Whalen: Derrick Favors going 32nd was borderline reckless. And I love watching and evaluating rookies as much as anyone in the league, but I would have waited on Deandre Ayton, Collin Sexton and, especially, Marvin Bagley.
Schoenke: I wouldn't say reach, but I don't know that LeBron James is going to play enough to justify the No. 2 spot in this league. It's a total point leagues, so you want a pick that high to play almost every game.
Barutha: Derrick Favors with the 42nd pick. He's a sixth man with health concerns.
Trainor: Otto Porter in Round 5. In a league where three-pointers and percentages don't count, most of Porter's value is taken away.
Miller: Collin Sexton was a reach in my opinion. Yes, he was the 8th overall pick in the draft and he did look good in Vegas, but he's going to need some time to get used to playing at the next level. I expect plenty of struggles early on, though I wouldn't be surprised if he was a solid fantasy asset by the end of the season. I know both George Hill and Jordan Clarkson aren't exactly James Harden and Chris Paul, but they're still in the way of a full starter's workload for Sexton.
McKeown: I can be accused of numerous reaches in the draft, but none of my picks even sniffed the Derrick Favors selection. Favors is a good player, but his ceiling is capped with a return to Utah. I wouldn't have selected him before the 8th round.
Crites: I get the gamble, but Ben taking Kawhi Leonard with the 10th overall pick screams "free bar tab!" I'm also not big on DeRozan going in the third to Bruno. The Toronto native was drafting with his heart, not his wallet.
5. What are your overall thoughts on your team? Did you come away satisfied with your roster? Are there any concerns?Whalen: This was the rare draft from which I walked away mostly satisfied. Finding out after the draft that three-pointers don't count dampers my enthusiasm a bit – with regard to Thompson and Ingles, especially – but I really like my top-six guys. If there's a concern, it's that I have two risky commodities in Cousins and, to a lesser degree, Hayward, but I'm content with my fall-back options.
Schoenke: This head to head format is so thin that you could almost compete from the waiver wire, so my mix of guys coming off injuries and upside rookies seemed a good fit.
Trainor: If you were to look at my roster without knowing the scoring categories, you'd probably think my team is going to absolutely crush the three-point category. Since that's not a category under this unique scoring system, I'm a tad concerned that my team won't be well suited for this particular league.
Miller: When Kawhi Leonard is your first-round pick, you obviously have plenty to be concerned about. Is he going to be healthy? Is he going to hold out for some reason because he's not a fan of Toronto? There are plenty of questions there, so that's obviously my biggest issue heading into the season. On the other hand, the Will Barton selection was one of my favorites and I love his upside with Wilson Chandler out of the picture. I somewhat regret my Otto Porter selection at that point in the draft due to our specific league's rules, but otherwise, I thought my second half selections were strong, overall.
Barutha: I may have reached for Tobias Harris and Gary Harris, but the former is always healthy and the latter could crack 20 PPG and 2.0 STL this year. However, I think I made up for it by getting Jonas Valanciunas and Jusuf Nurkic with my final two picks.
McKeown: My roster is a dumpster fire. But I could be a darkhorse for contention if my rookies (Ayton, Sexton) exceed expectations.
Crites: Very satisfied. Glad I didn't reach for center. Nikola Vucevic is worthy of a fourth-round pick, regardless of position (though maybe I should have taken Horford). Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter both are quality bench guys with short-term upside. The format lowers the usual premium on PG's, so I'm happy I went with the late Bledsoe-and-Teague strategy.
Bruno: I'm not crazy about my Favors pick in the fourth. Also, Chris Paul early in the second – hopefully he stays healthy.
6. Which player(s) were you surprised to see go undrafted?Whalen: There weren't any egregious omissions in this 100-player draft, but I thought Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma, Eric Gordon and Taurean Prince should have come off the board.
Trainor: Thaddeus Young. He largely flies under the radar when it comes to fantasy, but he's almost always a sturdy reserve option in a league this size. There was an obvious push in the latter rounds to reach for upside instead of taking proven veterans, and Young fell by the wayside even though his expected role for 2018-19 qualifies him as a top-100 player.
Miller: I wouldn't exactly say I was surprised, but I thought there was a pretty strong argument to be made for Taurean Prince to be selected. I think he's got just as much value and upside as a few of the other late-round selections. He made a huge jump from Year 1 to 2, so if he continues to improve, I could see Prince being a bigger fantasy contributor than some may expect.
McKeown: Given the shallow player pool, there are dozens quality players who went undrafted. As a result, I expect lots of waiver wire moves in this league. If I had to pick one name, it would be Reggie Jackson, who will easily provide top-80 value when healthy.
Crites: Not surprising, but still intriguing to see Dennis Schroder not even drafted. His trade to OKC occurred after the draft, but his value may have been higher before that. Obviously, the Trae Young factor was huge. Somebody will grab De'Aaron Fox if he can play even mid-level point guard for Sacramento. If Yogi Ferrell beats out Fox for minutes, that team is even more screwed up than I imagined.
7. Lonzo Ball (53) and Collin Sexton (54) went back-to-back in Round 6. Given the context of his rookie season, as well as the arrivals of LeBron and Rondo, how are you evaluating Lonzo heading into his sophomore year?Whalen: I love Sexton, but when we look back, I think that pick could end up being a reach, whereas Ball probably went right where he should have. While the knee injury is concerning, I'm confident Ball will be more consistent in Year 2, but we've seen plenty of teammates struggle to adjust to playing alongside LeBron before.
Trainor: It's not unreasonable to think that Ball will fall below his season averages of 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists from his rookie campaign. The one area of improvement I foresee would be in his three-pointers made, which checked in at 1.7 per game last season. It seems like he'll be handling the ball less this coming season, but with that comes open shots from beyond the arc as defenders collapse on LeBron and Rondo in the paint.
Miller: Lonzo showed plenty of promise as rookie despite playing only 52 games. His shot wasn't pretty, but he filled up the box score elsewhere and another offseason should have given the 20-year-old a chance to make some improvements. James is going to allow Lonzo to play off the ball at times, which should help his catch-and-shoot consistency. At this point, I don't really buy the fact that the starting point guard job is open. I see it as Ball's to lose and I think Rondo will be a solid mentor and insurance plan. With that said, I think Ball's value could actually increase with the Lakers' additions, and I think his location in our draft (53rd) seemed very fair.
Barutha: As I mentioned before, there's an argument for taking Ball over Draymond Green in a points format. Even with the addition of Rondo, I assume Ball will see 30 minutes per game. LeBron handling the ball could decrease Ball's chances for assists, but Ball racks up a lot of his assists in transition (LeBron doesn't run as much anymore), and I think Ball will find at least some semblance of a reliable jumper.
McKeown: Ball will make significant strides in Year 2. He's a perfect fit at point guard alongside LeBron, and I don't expect Rondo to steal many minutes from the sophomore.
Crites: Being concerned with Ball's knee issue is legitimate. And LeBron will definitely take away from Ball's ball-handling. I can live with Sexton going ahead of Ball, but relying on either as your top PG is problematic.
Bruno: Lonzo at 53 is pretty solid. He averaged 10 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and 1.7 steals per game last season and is a more valuable asset in a league that doesn't value percentages.
8. Whether he's on your roster or not, who is your favorite "breakout" candidate for 2018-19?Whalen: John Collins and Tim Hardaway, Jr. have serious bad team, good stats potential. After summer league, I'm also struggling to imagine Kevin Knox averaging fewer than 40 points per game as a rookie. You heard it here first.
Schoenke: Luka Doncic was the one player I wanted I didn't land. Seems like he'll be given every chance to succeed. He's a great fit for this format.
Barutha: I think Julius Randle is in a position to be really successful with the Pelicans, especially considering he'll remain on a fast-paced team. If rookies count, I'll say Wendell Carter, who averaged 14.6 points (27-of-47 from three), 9.4 rebounds and a combined 3.4 blocks/steals across 28.8 minutes during summer league.
Trainor: Jarrett Allen. The 20-year-old averaged just 20 minutes per game last season but now seems to be in line to start at center for the Nets. His per-36 numbers from his rookie campaign suggest that he could routinely gather a double-double with two blocks under an expanded role during the 2018-19 season.
Miller: Definitely one of the more obvious choices, but I think John Collins has the clearest path to a breakout season. Ersan Ilyasova won't be around to ruin the first half of his season and the Hawks also dealt Mike Muscala to the 76ers, so Collins is a safe bet for big minutes. He already averaged 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals across 24.1 minutes as a rookie, so with a slightly increased workload and another offseason to work on his game, look for Collins to make another jump.
McKeown: Jabari Parker and John Collins are two of my favorite targets for a big breakout during the 2018-19 season. Parker could easily score over 20 points per game, and Collins will be a walking double-double.
Crites: I just love to watch Donovan Mitchell. I had wild hopes of him falling to me in the fourth, but that was foolish.
Bruno: Donovan Mitchell seems like the player that could take the greatest leap this season. He really only started his rise midway through the season and what we saw after that was only the beginning.