Fantasy Basketball 2017: Top NBA Player Rankings and 1st-Round Mock Draft

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - FEBRUARY 11: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder handles the ball against Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors on February 11, 2017 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Fantasy basketball mirrors its real-life counterpart in a number of ways, including the fact championships are only realistic with a dominant superstar or two.

The "steals" at the end of the draft—and role players in the NBA—play their parts, but the Golden State Warriors aren't winning a title without the likes of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Cleveland Cavaliers wouldn't have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals without LeBron James.

The top of fantasy drafts are naturally where players will land their game-changing superstars as the 2017-18 season approaches. With that in mind, here is a look at the top player rankings and a first-round mock draft for a 12-team league.

                 

Top Fantasy Players for 2017-18

1. Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

2. Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors

3. James Harden, G, Houston Rockets

4. Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

6. LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

7. Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves

8. Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

9. Chris Paul, PG, Houston Rockets

10. Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors

11. Jimmy Butler, G/SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

12. Nikola Jokic, PF/C, Denver Nuggets

13. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards

14. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

15. Paul George, F, Oklahoma City Thunder

16. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers

17. Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz

18. Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat

19. Kyrie Irving, PG, Boston Celtics

20. Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C, New York Knicks  

                

Mock Draft

1. Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

2. Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors

3. James Harden, G, Houston Rockets

4. Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

6. LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

7. Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves

8. Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

9. Chris Paul, PG, Houston Rockets

10. Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors

11. Jimmy Butler, G/SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

12. Nikola Jokic, PF/C, Denver Nuggets

             

The Race for No. 2

Russell Westbrook may not be the best overall player in the NBA when factors such as championships are taken into consideration, but the reigning MVP is the top choice for fantasy players this season.

All he did in 2016-17 was break Oscar Robertson's record of 41 triple-doubles in a season while averaging a head-turning 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. He stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis and has been durable the past two seasons, missing just three games total.

Even if the scoring numbers take a dip with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony now on the Thunder, Westbrook led the league with a 40.8 percent usage rate last season (for players who played more than 15 minutes a night), per NBA.com. He will remain a high-usage player and dominate fantasy circles as a guard who can rebound like a big man and post a triple-double on any given night.

That means the real race is for the No. 2 spot, and the thought here is Durant will assume the mantle.

There was plenty working against Durant as a fantasy superstar last year in his first season with the Golden State Warriors. There was an early adjustment period as he grew accustomed to playing alongside the likes of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. He also suffered a knee injury that limited him to 62 games.

Still, he averaged 25.1 points and 8.3 rebounds a night and bolstered his fantasy stock by drilling 53.7 percent of his field-goal attempts, 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts and 87.5 percent of his free throws.

The thought process here is that Durant asserted himself as the go-to option on the loaded Warriors by the end of the season, winning the NBA Finals MVP by averaging 35.2 points per game. He demonstrated he is fully comfortable playing in Golden State's system, and the dominance he showed in the Finals will continue in 2017-18.

What's more, opposing defenses cannot focus the lion's share of their attention on Durant the way teams can against Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs or Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

It is no accident Durant shot the highest percentage from the field of his career with defenders having to lock in on Curry and Co.

Look for him to continue being an efficient playmaker who takes advantage of openings created by his teammates, but his ascendant role as Golden State's clear-cut No. 1 option after his Finals performance means he is the No. 2 fantasy player entering the 2017-18 campaign.