Fantasy Basketball 2021: Top NBA Player Rankings and 1st-Round Mock Draft
With less than a month until NBA tipoff, fantasy's moving parts are most certainly moving.
No one knows if Kyrie Irving will be playing on Day 1 (per the man himself in an ESPN interview), no one knows where Ben Simmons will be playing, and no one knows when a variety of injuries across the league will get rehabilitated.
Here, we'll take a look at each of the major positions and finish with a first-round mock draft.
For ranking context, these are based on expectations for performance in 12-team, nine-category head-to-head leagues. When ADP (average draft position) is mentioned, it's based on FantasyPros' expert consensus rankings.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
3. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
4. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
5. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
6. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
7. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
8. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
9. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
10. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
It may go without saying, but Irving and Simmons are both hard to project this season due to their uncertain situations. Past them, the most intriguing areas involve Chris Paul and two younger players: De'Aaron Fox and Ja Morant.
Compared to consensus rankings, Fox and Morant are both far above ADP here. Their presence pushes CP3 down to No. 11, which doesn’t feel right. The veteran has been on a Tom Brady tour, outproducing and outperforming expectations from someone of his age. Still, the 36-year-old's ceiling feels more limited than Fox and Morant's.
Fox, 23, and Morant, 22, both averaged over 19 points, seven assists and three rebounds last season. Their shooting percentages have largely held them back in fantasy discourse, but they are obvious talents on the court with the youth and skills to become more consistent and warrant higher projections.
1. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
2. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
3. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
4. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
5. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
6. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
7. CJ McCollum Portland Trail Blazers
8. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
9. Caris LeVert, Indiana Pacers
10. Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets
Like Irving, it's hard to know which arenas Bradley Beal will be allowed to play in. Still, shooting guard is a less-stacked position for fantasy, so it's equally hard to keep him outside of the top two.
Past the stat-stuffing James Harden and Beal, the field opens up considerably. Zach LaVine is coming off a productive year, but he may cede opportunities to DeMar DeRozan. And, conversely, Anthony Edwards wasn't spectacularly productive in 2020-21, but he showed the flashes for a big step up this year.
The two obvious bumps against ADP here are Devin Booker and Kevin Porter Jr. The former's ranking is based on the ceiling seen during last year's postseason, while the latter is simply belief in the eye test that he can not only maintain but also improve upon a surprise campaign.
1. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
3. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
4. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
5. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
6. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
7. Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
8. OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
9. Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
10. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
It's hard to know what you're getting with the small forwards.
Paul George looked like a star in the playoffs and will carry a larger load during Kawhi Leonard's rehab, but he has burnt managers before. LeBron James is LeBron James, but load management is always on the table for the 36-year-old.
After the first five well-rounded small forwards, you can take your shots with the rest based on team statistical builds and risk aversion. Michael Porter Jr. most certainly falls into the latter category, as a history of health concerns belies a potential $200 million-plus contract.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
5. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
6. Julius Randle, New York Knicks
7. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
8. Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
9. PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets
10. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
At power forward, the top three are superstars, the next three are stars and the final four have big ceilings with questionable floors.
Zion Williamson is a fan favorite, but his range of contributions on the box score is relatively limited. At the opposite end of the spectrum, despite just a two-spot difference, P.J. Washington may not have eye-opening potential, but he does hit an interesting array of categories for the position.
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
4. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
5. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
6. Christian Wood, Houston Rockets
7. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
8. Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
9. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
10. Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
The big three centers are unbelievable first-round picks, but the rest are more dependent on your team's preferred categories.
However, while some sacrifice shooting and some sacrifice defensive numbers, the most interesting player is Christian Wood.
After averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 threes and 1.2 blocks for the Houston Rockets last season, the 26-year-old has the type of versatility to earn wild production if Houston improves and he stays healthy.
1st-Round Mock Draft
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
3. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
5. Giannis Antetoukounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
6. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
7. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
8. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
9. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
10. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
11. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
12. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
For the first round, you basically just need to go with your heart as most players will fit any strategy. The biggest exception is Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose owners may want to consider punting threes, but even then, you can make his output work in practically any build.
Past actual basketball concerns, some first-round players have other question marks. Joel Embiid's health and Beal's availability stick out, but there's likely to be resting talk for guys like Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic throughout the season.
Still, at this moment in time, these rankings feel most comfortable given statistical ceilings and expected opportunity. Media Week is underway, the regular season is slated for October 19 and there's a ton of news to keep an eye out for in the meantime.