B/R's 2017 NBA Re-Draft: Who's Going 1st If League Started from Scratch?
Are you sick of watching the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers end up in the NBA Finals every year? Do you crave parity and despise familiarity?
Then this is the re-draft for you!
Bleacher Report has rallied 30 writers, editors and fanatics to participate in the ultimate NBA fantasy draft. This is their chance to stake claims as the best general managers known to man.
How wild did it get? Imagine a world where Joel Embiid is stripped from his current burgeoning squad to start a new Process with the worst team in the league. Think about LeBron James taking his talents to a Kingdom we once thought he'd join back in the day.
Picture Lonzo Ball...exactly where you think he'd land—but much earlier than you might expect.
Creating a new league isn't easy and doesn't come without controversy. If you've ever done a 2K fantasy draft, you know what we went through...and you'll want to tune back in every day until Friday when we reveal our full 2K simulation results.
For now, we have Round 1 to get you started. Think we blew it? Know we nailed it?
Holler at us in the comments.
How It Works
Before we dive into the results and analysis, it's important we lay down a few ground rules.
- The draft order was determined in the most sophisticated manner known to humankind: online randomized number generation
- All GMs are drafting with the 2017-18 season in mind. We're not building a dynasty. We're assembling squads for next season—and next season only
- Every NBA player and free agent is eligible for this draft (with one notable exception explained momentarily)
- All current injuries are healed; however, injury history and injury-proneness are relevant, knowing they impact current skill sets/ability to stay on the court
(The aforementioned exception comes into play here, as Chris Bosh has been excluded from the process with a potentially career-ending health condition.)
- GMs were responsible for making their picks in an allotted five-minute time period. They snooze? They lose. After that five minutes, auto-draft selected the player with the top estimated wins added, according to ESPN.com.
Got it? Let's do this.
1. LeBron James, New York Knicks
Need I explain? LeBron James is still the NBA's greatest player. Period. Even at age 32.
If you're drafting for the next five years, maybe you take Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis. But for just next season? It's LeBron, easily. No other NBA star can provide that combination of elite scoring, playmaking, defense and supreme efficiency.
And I know he'll make everyone on my roster better.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: I considered Durant, of course. He's the NBA's premier scorer and nearly as well-rounded as James. But drafting LeBron meant I didn't have to worry about getting an ace point guard, which freed me to fill out the lineup with complementary two-way players.
2. Kawhi Leonard, Indiana Pacers
Simply put, Leonard is the best two-way player in the league. He elevated a limited Spurs roster to 61 victories and a near shock Game 1 win vs. the unbeatable Golden State Warriors.
Of course, Zaza Pachulia’s oafishness ended that.
In a fairer universe, Kawhi makes my squad a nightmare matchup for just about any offensive player with his length and athleticism. His go-to scoring bona fides skyrocketed last year as he boosted his average to 25.5 ppg while barely losing any efficiency.
At 26, he's still getting better. Scary for the rest of this league—except for whichever team ends up employing Zaza.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: It has to be Durant, who had a transcendent Finals and was going to be the pick here until some steering from his camp for his "Next Chapter."
3. Kevin Durant, LA Clippers
Durant, the Finals MVP, could easily have been first off the board; to get him at No. 3 is a steal.
At the age of 28, he is fully in his prime and raring to go at another chip. His heading to Los Angeles (albeit the Clippers) and winning over a town desperate for a new GOAT would bring out a fire we have possibly never seen from KD.
Logistics-wise, Durant is the perfect player in this new positionless NBA. He'll get a lot of minutes at power forward, and his versatility on defense allows him to match up against most guards.
Oh, there's also no NBA player I'd rather have taking the final shot than KD.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Russell Westbrook just put up one of the most statistically dominant seasons in NBA history and single-handedly carried his team to the playoffs. He may haunt my dreams.
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
When the reigning NBA MVP is on the board at No. 4, it's a no-brainer who you'll build your franchise around.
Mr. Triple-Double showed improved leadership and the ability to make his teammates better this past season with what could be considered an embarrassing roster, and Oklahoma City is ready to give him its keys. With his ability to run an unstoppable pick-and-roll, as well as get to the basket whenever he wants, it'll be easy to find players to help space the floor and make his life easier.
Though ball-dominant point guards aren't for everyone, Westbrook has proved he's in a league of his own.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: There was really no doubt about taking Westbrook, but historically great teams have a great big man. Drafting Davis would have given the Thunder a franchise big man for now and the future.
5. Anthony Davis, Atlanta Hawks
First-round picks should possess maximum malleability, and Davis is basically a play dough incarnate. Building a team around him is a far easier process than the New Orleans Pelicans have made it look, since he can serve either as a defensive centerpiece or an offensive wrecking ball and is similarly able to line up at either power forward or center.
Plus, just in case we've all forgotten, the unibrowed big man is only 24 years old. Playing in a world that magically heals all injuries should be the perfect stepping stone for his inevitable quantum leap into unabashed superstardom.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: A little part of me will inevitably die in the most excruciating fashion possible each time Stephen Curry knocks down a three-pointer.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Sacramento Kings
An All-Star for the first time in his age-22 season, Giannis Antetokounmpo needs, what, a six-percentage-point increase in his three-point accuracy rate to be completely unstoppable?
Count me as a believer in the Greek Freak's capacity for (at least) modest improvement. He was already one of the league's best players last year, and short of LeBron, I'm not sure anyone is as viable a threat to play all five positions capably. He's a superstar cornerstone if he gets no better, but the upside is still massive.
Also he dunks wrong-footed a lot. That was the clincher.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Passing on Curry clove an irreparable rift in my soul.
7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
I ran to the podium when Curry fell to seventh, just like the Warriors did in the 2009 NBA draft.
Steph's offensive genius only makes his teammates' lives easier. His off-the-charts shooting ability forces defenses to account for him anywhere on the court.
I'm hoping the double-teams he draws will open up lanes and shots for his supporting cast.
Sure, Steph isn't a defensive stalwart. But who cares? This was an easy pick for a team hoping to run a free-flowing motion offense like the real-life Light Years Warriors.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: No player who made me think twice.
8. James Harden, Dallas Mavericks
The chance to build around one of the transcendent players in the league made this choice as easy as could be.
With all due respect to Davis and Antetokounmpo—two of my absolute favorite players—we are building a team designed to win next season. And no one was more impactful this past year than James Harden. He put up 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game in his first season as a full-time point guard.
He enables me to construct an offense that revolves around his creative brilliance.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: No sweat—just Harden.
9. Chris Paul, Cleveland Cavaliers
I needed someone who played both sides of the ball, was a proven leader and preferably played a guard or wing position. Chris Paul checked all of these boxes, as he's arguably the second-greatest point guard of all time and will walk straight into the Hall of Fame.
He can score, defend at a high level and remains one of the best passers in the game. The nine-time All-Star elevates the play of those around him, a must-have for a first-round pick.
A natural leader and Olympic gold medalist, Paul was a perfect fit.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: I considered both Paul George and Karl-Anthony Towns. In the end, Paul (not of the George variety) is the better leader who elevates his teammates.
10. Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns
Once upon a time, Isaiah Thomas was a miscast sixth man for the Phoenix Suns. Since then, he's emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate for the Boston Celtics.
How fitting is it, then, for IT to return to Arizona as a full-blown superstar?
Thomas is still among the shortest players in the NBA, listed generously at 5'9". But what he lacks in size, he's more than made up for in scoring ability and sheer guts. Last season, he averaged 28.9 points per game—the third-highest mark in the league (behind Westbrook and Harden) and the second-best single-season output in Celtics history (behind Larry Bird in 1987-88).
That uptick was, in part, the result of his outstanding late-game performance. According to NBA.com, Thomas ranked second in fourth-quarter scoring (9.8 points) and second in clutch scoring (5.1 points), just behind Westbrook in each category.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: George was tough to pass up, but as great a two-way player as PG-13 is on the wing, he registers more as a superb second-in-command rather than the singular cornerstone Thomas has become.
11. Nikola Jokic, Chicago Bulls
At 22 years old, Nikola Jokic is an analytics darling (fifth in box plus/minus, per Basketball Reference and sixth in ESPN.com's real plus-minus). Entering his third season, he is primed for another massive jump in productivity.
Jokic can space the floor and is supremely efficient (64.0 percent true shooting percentage) for a multidimensional threat. Most importantly, his Denver Nuggets were 17 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, so his value goes beyond his individual stats.
Jokic is one of the most fun, unselfish players in the league. He's a treat to watch, and in Chicago's market, he'll finally evolve from a cult favorite into a fully bloomed superstar.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: It was extremely tough to pass on Jimmy Butler in an exercise that would've shown it's possible to build a championship contender around, not with, the two-way superstar.
12. Karl-Anthony Towns, Washington Wizards
Everyone expected greatness from Towns after he went no. 1 in the 2015 NBA draft, but few could have foreseen the expedited transcendence we saw last season.
KAT emerged as a top-20 player and a true franchise cornerstone in year two and figures to jump into rarified company in year three. His inside-out game, shooting precision and passing acumen make him a model building block, the kind of player who can work with virtually any complementary skill sets.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Draymond Green is a proven winner, the jack of all trades who makes teammates better with the NBA's most undercelebrated skills: hustle, unselfishness and defensive IQ. He'll make another team very happy.
13. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert is a defensive system unto himself. If he's on your team, you instantly have an identity, a culture and a reason for opposing coaching staffs to wonder how their team will score.
Gobert led the NBA in ESPN.com's defensive real plus-minus last season, outpacing Green by nearly half a point. He trailed only Harden in total win shares, despite taking just 7.7 shots per game. And he led the league in block percentage, per Basketball Reference.
But even that doesn't fully capture Gobert's value. As one of the game's best rim-rollers, he also offers plenty on the offensive end, where he led the NBA in true shooting percentage and finished third in Basketball Reference's offensive rating.
Simply put, he's the blueprint for how a non-shooting center survives in today's league: dominate the paint defensively and force opponents to crowd it on the other end.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Butler, who can absolutely be your No. 1 on both offense and defense.
14. Jimmy Butler, San Antonio Spurs
Picking Butler verged on a no-brainer. The goal from the onset was to build a hyper-switchy team dominated by wings, and with Antetokounmpo off the board, steering into a power 3 such as Butler made too much sense.
He was clearly one of the NBA's 10 best players in 2016-17, yet he doesn't have the functional baggage attached to other alphas. He's a self-sufficient scorer, but he works as a secondary playmaker and spot-up shooter beside the right talent.
Gift wrap all this in Defensive Player of the Year chops, and the decision practically makes itself.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: There's a significant chance I'll regret assuming someone already selected Draymond Green when in fact no one selected Draymond Green.
15. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
I may sound like a broken record, but it looks like Carmelo Anthony is setting himself up for a revenge year. He's one of the most maligned superstar talents I can remember, and whether he has a fresh start somewhere or stays in New York, he'll be out for blood.
At worst, he'll average over 20 points in his sleep in his return to the Denver Nuggets. Playing in a free-flowing system will pump up his already stout numbers, just as it will if he ends up with the Houston Rockets in real life.
Maybe being free of Phil Jackson's system will unleash vintage Melo? That, or maybe I'm watching entirely too many Instagram workout videos. I'm a sucker for those.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: John Wall was a player I wanted at this spot, but he just got paid handsomely this year. He won't regress, but in a one-season draft, I'll go with the player with the most to prove.
16. Joel Embiid, Brooklyn Nets
We know you can't win a title without one of the few best players in the NBA. For teams picking in the middle of the first round, that fact forces a tough choice: To (A) bank an All-Star who can anchor a good team, or (B) try to find someone with enough upside to carry you to glory.
I'll go with the latter, which is to say I'll go with The Process.
Embiid is, of course, an injury risk, but, on a careful schedule—say 65 regular-season games to leave juice for the playoffs—he offers dreamy upside. He could be the best player on a title team. That makes The Process a steal at No. 16.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Damian Lillard, who's capable of getting hot enough to march the right team into the Finals.
17. Paul George, Detroit Pistons
No need to sugarcoat it: This was the steal of the first round. Let's not forget PG13 once went toe-to-toe against LeBron James and the Heatles when his best teammate was Roy Hibbert.
The most important position in today's NBA is a wing who can play and guard multiple positions. That's Paul George. You can put him anywhere from stretch 4 to shooting guard.
When I'm facing LeBron, KD and Kawhi, I know they also have to try and keep PG under 25. And the Detroit fans will love him. He's been on the cover of NBA2K, he has great-selling Nikes and his jersey will be a must-have Christmas gift.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: John Wall was still on the board, but I decided to value the best wing available over the best point guard because of depth.
18. Damian Lillard, Houston Rockets
Green was there as a better overall player. Wall was tempting. But Lillard was my choice at No. 20 for two reasons.
First, outside of Curry, there isn't anyone in the league as capable of executing a pace-and-space offense as well as Lillard, who can effectively hit the pull-up three or drive to the rim. Second, Lillard has the maturity and leadership ability I wanted in my top pick.
I know that the best player on my team is also the hardest working and has led teams to the postseason before.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Green's overall game was tempting, as was Wall's superior defense at the point.
19. John Wall, Boston Celtics
As a Los Angeles Lakers fan, I was tempted to tank this exercise completely, just to make myself laugh. But I didn't feel like writing 100 words on why Darren Collison was my No. 1 pick. I'm sure you didn't feel like reading that either.
I'm still seething about not getting Embiid, which I imagine is a feeling my esteemed colleague Mr. Maurice Peebles shares (we'll hear from him next). I'm old-school and love the idea of building around a big, but let's be real. This is a point guard's league, and Wall was the most talented guy left on the board at that position.
You could make a case for Kyrie Irving or Kyle Lowry here, but Irving's defense is still lacking and Lowry feels like a very hit-or-miss player a lot of the time. Wall's explosiveness is nearly unmatched. Easy choice.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: I wanted Lonzo Ball, because as a fellow Big Baller, it seemed appropriate.
20. DeMarcus Cousins, Philadelphia 76ers
The pick is DeMarcus Cousins because Embiid was taken. That's what I get for doing this with a bunch of NBA insiders. They know JoJo is the best center in the NBA—so I chalked it up to the game and took the second-best center in the league.
Boogie was built for Philly. He's nasty, and that tiny remaining percentage of stereotypically mean Philly fans—the "wearing Philadelphia Eagles-branded pajama pants in Wawa" crowd—will love his toughness and fire.
AND he shot 36 percent from three last year? Easy decision.
Also, yeah, I mean, Embiid was already taken.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Almost took Kristaps Porzingis, but then I thought about who I'd hate playing more if I were an opposing player in the NBA, and it was an easy decision.
21. Draymond Green, Milwaukee Bucks
When the reigning Defensive Player of the Year falls to you at No. 21, you don't think twice. I wanted defensive versatility to be the foundation of my team, and the linchpin of the Golden State Warriors' "Death Lineup" gives me that in spades.
Perhaps my fellow re-draft owners believe Green's excellence is a product of Golden State's system, but I have full confidence his stat-sheet-stuffing ways will translate to Milwaukee. His elite passing ability was likewise attractive, as I had no interest in building around a ball-dominant point guard.
While Green might not be a superstar scorer, he can guard all five positions and function as a secondary floor general. Need I say any more?
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Marc Gasol. Passing up a former Defensive Player of the Year who's coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 19.5 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent from three-point range on 3.6 attempts was painful. But Green's defensively versatility set him apart.
22. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers fell victim to the dreaded auto-draft. They were ready to take the best player available, per EWA, but then something strange happened.
Our inner LaVar Ball kicked in, and we as commissioners couldn't resist.
Lonzo Ball is officially a Laker, and quite frankly, we weren't sure he'd be around for L.A.'s next pick. The next Magic Johnson? Probably not. The next great Laker? Quite possibly...and that's something we couldn't deny NBA fans—even in this fantasy draft.
You'll hear from the official Lakers GM later on, and you'll see how he plans on building around his new franchise cornerstone. Until then, direct your thoughts toward the commissioners of this league.
Lonzo = L.A.
The Player Who Made Us Sweat: DeMar DeRozan was the default pick, and not a bad one considering his scoring habits and L.A. ties. But...Lonzo...
—B/R Re-Draft Commissioners
23. Kyrie Irving, Portland Trail Blazers
Irving wants to be in Lillard's situation? He's got it.
At this point in the NBA offseason, no player has rocked the Association's world like Irving. He's ready to move on from Cleveland, he wants to escape LeBron's shadow and he has his eye on the prize of leading his own team.
In Portland, there won't be any question about whose team this is. Irving will be the focus of the offense—and in turn will be the focus of every opposing defense.
Twenty-two GMs passed on a player who at 25 years old may not be capable of owning that responsibility. But 22 GMs might also be underestimating how motivated he is to thrive on his own terms.
Risky pick? You bet. But who ever won big playing it safe?
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Porzingis was a real option here. Unfortunately for him, the prospect of making Irving eat his own words (and, of course, seeing what he can do as a true No. 1) was too good to pass on.
24. Kristaps Porzingis, Minnesota Timberwolves
I sweated drafting in the dreaded no-man's land once the biggest names disappeared but couldn't have been happier when Porzingis fell to me. The Unicorn has lived up to the hype the last couple of years, though a few questions persist over whether he can be No. 1 on a good team.
Except, he'll now be free of Anthony's ball hoggery and the Knicks' skullduggery in this universe, so expect routine 20-and-10 nights with a couple of threes, blocks and highlight dunks while I properly build around him. Sounds like a No. 1 option to me.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: I really wanted Klay Thompson's sweet shooting on my team, but Porzingis offered a clearer five-tool building block despite Klay's many other skills.
25. Klay Thompson, Memphis Grizzlies
My eyes kept widening as Thompson's draft-day slide continued, but I assumed picking 25th I still had no chance to land a premier two-way guard who also happens to be one of greatest shooters in league history.
I couldn't be happier to be wrong.
Now we finally get to see Klay with his own team and 20-plus shots a game, while my Grizzlies get an All-NBA player and proven defender who will make our opponent's top perimeter player earn every point. Thompson's ability to guard 1 through 4 provides the great lineup and switching flexibility I sought.
Thrilled to have you, Smokey. Don't forget to pack the toaster.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Mike Conley—the NBA's most underrated point guard who has the defensive ability I hold dear but lacks Klay's versatility.
26. Mike Conley, Miami Heat
An elite point guard is the best bet to set the tone for a great offense. There were two available at No. 26, and Conley had the slight edge.
Conley is peaking right now at the swell of his athletic prime. Snagging someone capable of being the best scorer and passer on your team at the end of the first round is a steal, especially when he's at worst a neutral defender.
Conley posted career highs in points, three-point, field-goal and assist percentage, win shares, box plus/minus and value over replacement player in 2016-17.
He's unbeatable at 26 and probably should have gone around 20.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Lowry. While he's two years older than Conley, a worse defender and more turnover-prone, he's still a fantastic shooter, all-around scorer and has made himself into a solid leader. It wouldn't have been hard to justify selecting him.
27. DeMar DeRozan, Charlotte Hornets
One word: buckets. Though to be honest, this pick was made before the Hornets' previous general manager, Mr. Auto Pick, was relieved of his duties (see his second-round choice to learn why).
Still, I was more than happy to take over a team led by DeRozan. Is he a perfect player? Far from it. But the dude can score with the best of them. He dropped 27.3 points a game last year and this season will be just 28 years old. He gets to the line almost nine times a game, meaning he can get you easy points when you need them and put pressure on opponents.
Snagging a guy who can lead your offense 28th overall? I'll take that any day.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Griffin. When healthy he's a top-10 player. That's a lot of upside to pass up.
28. Kyle Lowry, New Orleans Pelicans
At No. 28 overall, there weren't any must-have wings on the board. Lowry stood out as the best player available, and it doesn't hurt to have an All-Star lead guard.
His presence as a point guard who can also bring defensive toughness made it easier to find a compatible shooting guard, and I'd already had one targeted knowing I'd select again five picks later. I also knew I'd want to draft a young, athletic supporting cast.
This was a good opportunity to land a veteran leader still performing in his prime.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Passing on Kemba Walker wasn't easy, but Lowry's superior defensive ability makes him easier to build around.
29. Gordon Hayward, Orlando Magic
Gordon Hayward couldn't be a better fit for O-Town.
One, all due respect to Hedo Turkoglu, Hayward is the best offensive player in a Magic uniform since Tracy McGrady. Two, the city of Orlando notoriously celebrates stars like they're superstars. Three, his eccentricity and family values will alternatively play well both with the "real" Central Florida and Orlando's jersey sponsor, Disney.
I wasn't sure a true premier scorer would be available at No. 29, so I'm pumped to get a player of Hayward's caliber. Welcome to superstardom, Gordon.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: I'm sweating from the central Florida humidity, not this draft pick. I briefly considered going big with Hassan Whiteside or Gasol, but feel great about Gordon.
30. Devin Booker, Toronto Raptors
Oh, that's not enough of a reason for you? How about he's only 20 years old and is already developing into one of the more dynamic scorers in the NBA. His efficiency could improve, but put him on the floor and he will get you buckets.
With the upper-echelon players in the league already drafted, getting a potential superstar in Booker at 30 is a steal.
The Player Who Made Me Sweat: Griffin. If he stays healthy, he's an elite player. But that's a big if.