The NBA preseason is an excellent time to see how players and teams look heading into the new year. For those who play fantasy basketball, it's also a good time to check up on players who might potentially be draft targets.
The regular season begins next week, so let's check in with a first-round fantasy basketball mock draft for a 10-team league based on ESPN's standard scoring.
After the mock, we'll highlight three players who will have slightly different situations this year because of new teammates. We'll also provide a few humorous team names that are possibilities for fantasy basketball players with a variety of allegiances.
1st-Round Fantasy Basketball Mock Draft
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (PG)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (SF/PF)
3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (SF/PF)
4. James Harden, Houston Rockets (SG)
5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (SF)
6. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (SF)
7. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (PF)
8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (PG)
9. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (C)
10. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (C)
Fantasy Superstars to Watch
No. 1: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
It's doubtful that Russell Westbrook replicates his monster numbers from the 2016-17 season. With Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joining the reigning NBA MVP in Oklahoma City, Westbrook's shots and overall time with the ball will decrease. Another triple-double average is possible, but not likely.
But the additions of George and Anthony will force opponents to apply less defensive pressure to Westbrook, providing the explosive point guard with more open looks. Westbrook could end up covering for his lower scoring numbers and potentially lower assists per game by improving his shooting efficiency, committing fewer turnovers and stealing the ball more often.
And it's not like Westbrook is going to let his scoring drop precipitously. He did set an all-time record for usage percentage (41.7) last year, per Basketball-Reference, and he's far too aggressive on the offensive end to let that plummet back to human levels in one season.
No. 3: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is going to be a superstar in both fantasy and reality until his body decides it's time to stop being dominant. Of course, James' circumstances in 2017-18 give him even more potential to stuff box scores.
New starting point guard Isaiah Thomas still doesn't have a timeline for his hip injury. Remember, the 32-year-old James put up 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game on 54.8 percent shooting from the field last season as Kyrie Irving paced the team in shots and did a whole lot of the ball-handling. With Irving now on the Boston Celtics and IT continuing his recovery, James will lead his team in shots and assists by a considerable margin.
Sure, new Cavaliers point guard Derrick Rose will also need his touches and shots as the interim starter, but he's not going to carry nearly the load that Irving did. And if James has to pace himself to withstand his huge workload, those concessions will come on the defensive end—that's the side of the ball that has fallen off for him in the last few regular seasons.
No. 10: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic burst onto the fantasy scene last season with a breakout campaign in Denver. Once Nuggets head coach Michael Malone decided to insert Jokic as the team's starting center in December, the 22-year-old exploded for per-game averages of 19.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists in only 29.7 minutes with a shooting slash of 58.7/34.2/82.5.
Jokic has had problems with conditioning in his first two NBA seasons. However, he has gradually slimmed down and could be ready for another slight bump in minutes per game.
As far as actual production, there's no doubt he'll remain the Nuggets' focal point on offense. When he was on the floor last season, the Nuggets averaged 114.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. That was better than the Golden State Warriors' yearlong average (113.2) in 2016-17.
New starting power forward Paul Millsap may take away a few of Jokic's touches. However, due to Millsap's passing and cutting abilities, Jokic's numbers in the points, assists and efficiency categories will continue to be excellent.
Top Team Names
Kyrie on My Hayward Son
Monroe Row Row Your Boat
Harrison Barnes and Noble
Bed, Bath and Biyombo
Beals on Wheels