1st Round Rundown – Picks 5 – 8
The easy ones are out of the way, so it is time to roll up your sleeves, take off your shoes, and get a little nasty. If you play in a 10, 12, or 14 man fantasy basketball league (sorry to offend my 1% female demographic), you have a greater chance of being outside of the top 4 than being in it, so you better get a game plan together! Many of these players’ values are almost identical, so it comes down to personal preference and risk tolerance.
5. Kevin Love – Love is in tremendous shape right now. If you have followed him throughout his career, you know that he is a winner. He has improved every year (we will give him an injury pass for last year), and he addresses his weaknesses quickly. In addition, the man is only 25 years old! The Timberwolves have been extremely public about K-Love becoming more of a facilitator on the offensive end this year. That is great fantasy news. Although the talent around him has improved, it should actually benefit Love with more assists and an improved field goal percentage. Love is anxious to prove his critics wrong and demonstrate that last year was a fluke. With a healthy Rubio and a better supporting cast, the Timberwolves should be really fun to watch. I believe that Love will average 22 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, close to a steal, 0.5 blocks, 2 three’s, 46% FG, 84% FT, and 2.5 turnovers. If you would rather Stephen Curry or Paul George over those averages, I can live with your decision. Curry and Love carry a substantial injury risk, so it is a total toss-up. I’m siding with K-Love because of the significant point guard depth in this year’s draft.
6. Paul George – There are about 90 million reasons why George will improve this season. This kid has the drive to be great. The ultra-talented 23 year old works hard and showed why he belongs with the NBA’s elite players during last year’s series with the Heat. He attacked LeBron with the confidence of a poised veteran. His on and off the ball defense is almost unparalleled in the NBA. Although Indiana bolstered their lineup considerably, George’s minutes and production should not be hurt. Like Harden, his field goal percentage should increase, and turnovers should drop. From a pure statistical standpoint, I would give Curry the edge over George but having shooting guard eligibility is that important this year. Furthermore, George has much tougher ankles. This is only George’s fourth season in the league, and he has cracked my Top 6. That speaks volumes about his endless potential.
7. Stephen Curry – The Warriors’ fans are restless and frustrated with me. For the record, I love Stephen Curry. As a former PG, I admire most point guards. However, loyalty can be a hindrance to fantasy success. The point guard position is loaded this year, and the addition of Andre Iguodala has me a little leery. In my previous article, LeBron James is #2 – 1st Round Rundown, I mention Curry under Chris Paul’s analysis. Don’t call me “Iggy” has historically been a drain on his surrounding players. Of course, I am speaking purely from a fantasy perspective. He is a small forward that averages 5 assists per game. It is safe to say that Curry and David Lee will take a hit in multiple categories, especially assists, because of their new partner. If Bogut is able to stay somewhat healthy during this contract year, Curry is going to have a very tough time duplicating or exceeding last year’s unbelievable season. There are simply too many mouths to feed in Golden State, but he will still provide first round production. Steph will be gone in every draft after this point, so if you want him, you are going to have to pay up.
8. Marc Gasol – Yes, Marc Gasol at the 8 slot! You heard it here first. The most underrated player in the league finally received a little notoriety by scoring the Defensive Player of the Year accolade. Gasol is an absolute treat to own, and his days as a second or third round pick are over. He is an 8 category force from the center position. Gasol’s production improved when Rudy Gay headed north. Additionally, the Grizzlies intend to push the pace this year. The Lionel Hollins grind sessions are over. More possessions and shots translates to increases across the board for the newly superior Gasol brother. If he can remain healthy, I really believe that Marc will have the best year of his career. Randolph’s stats are gradually declining. Conley is entering his prime. Gay is gone. The stars are aligned. As exhibited in A Great Draft Begins NOW!, centers are in short supply this year, and this is the first one to grace our list. You should not have any reservations about using your first round pick on Marc Gasol.
If you thought picks 5 – 8 were difficult, just wait until Friday’s 9 – 12 are revealed. There are about 8 players that can be taken in only 4 slots. I’ll try to navigate through this highly debatable part of the draft. See you Friday!