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2016-17 fantasy basketball draft prep: 8-team keeper draft analysis

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dunks during an NBA basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

For those who have fantasy basketball drafts over the coming days, looking at how different formats unfold can help give you a sense of what to expect. Thus, we’ll be rolling out analysis of two different types of drafts: an eight-team, head-to-head keeper league and a 12-team, head-to-head redraft league, both of which use nine categories.

As you’ll see, draft strategies vary wildly between the formats. While redraft owners need only concern themselves with players’ value in 2016-17, those in keeper leagues must be more forward-looking, balancing long-term upside with short-term production. The first few rounds of keeper drafts are particularly challenging since so many top-tier studs aren’t available to select, leaving those who don’t start off with the maximum amount of keepers in a tough spot.

In this particular eight-team keeper league, owners can keep no more than three players, each of whom will count as one of the their picks in the first three rounds. (So, owners with one keeper begin manually drafting in Round 2, while owners with all three keepers don’t start manually drafting until Round 4.) The draft order is based on regular-season standings from the prior year. There are 15 roster spots and one IR spot.

What follows is how the draft played out, with my picks in bold. I’ve included analysis after each round to explain my strategy throughout.

  1. James Harden, Hou SG
  2. LeBron James, Cle SF
  3. Kawhi Leonard, SA SF (K)
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mil SF
  5. Karl-Anthony Towns, Min C (K)
  6. DeMarcus Cousins, Sac C (K)
  7. Kevin Durant, GS SF (K)
  8. Russell Westbrook, OKC PG (K)

It wouldn’t matter where I was drafting in the first round: Russell Westbrook was a rock-solid lock of a keeper. He’s a no-brainer top-two pick, so keeping him at No. 8 overall was the easiest decision I’d make this draft. He’ll give me a huge advantage in points, assists, steals and rebounds, but his high turnover rate and low three-point efficiency meant I’d need to seek help there later.

  1. Damian Lillard, Por PG
  2. Kyle Lowry, Tor PG
  3. Hassan Whiteside, Mia PG (K)
  4. John Wall, Wsh PG
  5. Stephen Curry, GS PG (K)
  6. Anthony Davis, Nor PF (K)
  7. Chris Paul, LAC PG (K)
  8. Kristaps Porzingis, NY PF

In a redraft league, I wouldn’t take Kristaps Porzingis this high, as the odds of him returning top-20 value this year aren’t great. That said, given the Knicks’ high implosion potential — whether Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah get hurt or Rose finds his way out of New York after 2016-17 — Porzingis figures to develop into a keeper-worthy option as early as next year. In the meantime, I’ll gladly take his unique combinations of shot-blocking and three-point shooting 

  1. Paul Millsap, Atl PF
  2. Kyrie Irving, Cle PG
  3. Draymond Green, GS PF (K)
  4. Kemba Walker, Cha PG
  5. Klay Thompson, GS SG (K)
  6. Paul George, Ind SF (K)
  7. Jimmy Butler, Chi SG (K)
  8. Andre Drummond, Det C

As longtime readers know, I’m a staunch proponent of punting free throw percentage in nine-category head-to-head leagues — something you’ll see in the 12-team draft analysis coming later this week, too. When factoring in punting FT%, Andre Drummond was the eighth-best player in fantasy last year, so getting him in the third round is a huge steal for my squad. If he’s able to block a few more shots than he did last year, I’ll have a major advantage in rebounds, blocks and steals, meaning I need only win two more categories each week — ideally points and field goal percentage — to have a dominant team.

  1. Isiaah Thomas, Bos PG
  2. Al Horford, Bos C
  3. J. McCollum, Por PG
  4. Blake Griffin, LAC PF
  5. Kevin Love, Cle PF
  6. Eric Bledsoe, Pho PG
  7. Brook Lopez, Bkn C
  8. Rudy Gobert, Uta C

Rudy Gobert was a minor fantasy disappointment last year, finishing as the 67th-ranked player on a per-game basis, but when factoring in punting FT%, he jumped to 31st. With Derrick Favors already injured heading into the year, Gobert could have a larger offensive role early on, and he figures to only bolster my squad’s ability to win field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks each week. Paired with my next pick, my team is all but guaranteed to have those three categories locked up.

  1. Nikola Jokic, Den PF
  2. Victor Oladipo, OKC SG
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge, SA PF
  4. Carmelo Anthony, NY SF
  5. Joel Embiid, Phi C
  6. Pau Gasol, SA PF
  7. Serge Ibaka, Orl PF
  8. DeAndre Jordan, LAC C

In a redraft league, this would be a bit early to take Nikola Jokic, but like Porzingis, he could develop into a top-25 fantasy asset as early as next year. Jokic was the 66th-ranked player in fantasy on a per-game basis last year despite playing just 21.7 minutes per game, so he should be a top-50 lock assuming he nudges toward 30 minutes each night. With Kristaps, Drummond, Gobert and Jokic, I’ll feel confident about having field goal percentage, rebounds, blocks and steals locked up, meaning I only need to win one more category — likely points or assists — each week. At this point, I’m ready to start rounding out my roster to account for the holes elsewhere.

  1. Marc Gasol, Mem C
  2. Derrick Favors, Uta PF
  3. Nicolas Batum, Cha SF
  4. Andrew Wiggins, Min SG
  5. Rajon Rondo, Chi PG
  6. Evan Fournier, Orl SG
  7. Gordon Hayward, Uta SG
  8. D’Angelo Russell, LAL PG

If anyone doubted D’Angelo Russell after his up-and-down rookie campaign, this preseason should have allayed most of those concerns. New Lakers head coach Luke Walton is going to play to Russell’s strengths, which means he’s almost certain to average at least 20 points, five assists and two treys per night. Since Westbrook will likely be among the league’s assist leaders, it’s not the end of the world for my squad if Russell doesn’t average eight or more dimes per night — I needed points, treys and steals from him more than anything else.

  1. Devin Booker, Pho PG
  2. Goran Dragic, Mia PG
  3. Dennis Schroder, Atl PG
  4. Nikola Vucevic, Orl C
  5. DeMar DeRozan, Tor SG
  6. Trevor Ariza, Hou SF
  7. Nerlens Noel, Phi C
  8. Jeff Teague, Ind PG

This is another example of a player who would be a slight reach in a redraft league at this spot but makes perfect sense in a keeper league. Booker isn’t by any means a lock to finish as a top-50 value, but given how often Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are sidelined by injuries, he could have a massive offensive role by the All-Star break. Seeing as he averaged nearly 20 points in 26.5 minutes per game throughout the preseason, the Suns would be insane not to run a lot of their offense through him. Like with Russell, I took Booker with an eye on points, treys and steals.

  1. Gorgui Dieng, Min C
  2. Jae Crowder, Bos SF
  3. Marcin Gortat, Wsh C
  4. Mike Conley, Mem PG
  5. Jabari Parker, Mil SF
  6. Ricky Rubio, Min PG
  7. Myles Turner, Ind PF
  8. Chandler Parsons, Mem SF

Chandler Parsons is a high-risk, high-reward middle-round pick, given how he’s ended each of the past two seasons with surgery on his right knee. According to ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon, Parsons “fully participated in the Grizzlies’ last two practices but has yet to be cleared for game action,” although the do-it-all forward told MacMahon, “No problems at all with the knee.” If he can stay healthy — an undeniably huge “if” — his well-roundedness and three-point shooting will help round out my big man-centric roster. 

  1. Dwight Howard, Atl C
  2. Jonas Valanciunas, Tor C
  3. Jeremy Lin, Bkn PG
  4. Jusuf Nurkcic, Den C
  5. Elfrid Payton, Orl PG
  6. Brandon Knight, Pho PG
  7. Thaddeus Young, Ind SF
  8. Rudy Gay, Sac SF

Given my decision to punt free throw percentage, I couldn’t in good conscience pass up Dwight Howard here. Last year, despite barely touching the ball in Houston, he finished as the 17th-ranked player in fantasy when disregarding FT%, so getting him in the ninth round here only further builds my lead in field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks. Howard looked reinvigorated during the preseason, averaging 14.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 24.3 minutes per game, so there’s major boom potential here if he’s able to stay healthy.

  1. Dwyane Wade, Chi SG
  2. Dirk Nowitzki, Dal PF
  3. Julius Randle, LAL PF
  4. Kris Dunn, Min PG
  5. Ryan Anderson, Hou PF
  6. Kent Bazemore, Atl SG
  7. Tobias Harris, Det PF
  8. Reggie Jackson, Det PG

Had Reggie Jackson been healthy to start the year, he’d be ranked just outside of my top 50 overall, so I couldn’t pass up getting him here at the end of the 10th round. He’s likely going to miss the first month of the season — even though he told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press that he hopes to beat his 6-8 week timetable — but there’s no reason to think he won’t hit the ground running when he returns. Since his early-season absence is far more of an issue for roto owners than head-to-head, I had no reservations taking Jackson as my third PG. 

  1. Danilo Gallinari, Den SF
  2. Greg Monroe, Mil PF
  3. Zach LaVine, Min PG
  4. Bradley Beal, Wsh SG
  5. Enes Kanter, OKC C
  6. J. Redick, LAC SG
  7. Avery Bradley, Bos SG
  8. Jordan Clarkson, LAL SG

Given the uncertainty surrounding Chandler Parsons’ early-season availability, Danilo Gallinari was a no-brainer here for me. The oft-injured Italian may not make it through the season, but when healthy, he’s going to pour in points and three-pointers, helping make up for my deficit in those categories. Gallinari has never been a high-efficiency scorer — he’s a career 41.5 percent shooter — but Drummond, Gobert, Jokic and Howard give me some breathing room in terms of players with poor FG%. At this point in the draft, I’m comfortable believing I’ll win points, field goal percentage, rebounds, blocks and steals most weeks, so from this point forward, I’ll look to add some three-pointers and assists.

  1. Jahlil Okafor, Phi C
  2. Kenneth Faried, Den PF
  3. Otto Porter Jr., Wsh SF
  4. Aaron Gordon, Orl PF
  5. Brandon Ingram, LAL PF
  6. Alex Len, Pho C
  7. Darren Collison, Sac PF
  8. Eric Gordon, Hou SG

With Patrick Beverley set to miss roughly 20 games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Eric Gordon figures to slide into the Rockets’ starting lineup alongside James Harden. Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni plans on using Harden as the team’s full-time point guard, but Gordon told Bleacher Report’s Maurice Bobb that he expects to have opportunities as both a playmaker and a shooter. He’s a huge injury risk, but this late in the draft, his upside justifies his selection here.

  1. Robert Covington, Phi PF
  2. DeMarre Carroll, Tor SF
  3. Buddy Hield, Nor SG
  4. Monta Ellis, Ind SG
  5. Steven Adams, OKC C
  6. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Det SG
  7. Harrison Barnes, Dal SF
  8. Al-Farouq Aminu, Por SF

Before going into your drafts, you should compare the pre-draft rankings of whichever site your league uses to the expert consensus rankings of FantasyPros. There, for instance, you’ll see that Robert Covington is the 96th-ranked player in terms of ECR, but he’s 144th in ESPN.com’s default ranking. Seeing as Covington finished last year as the 63rd-ranked player on a per-game basis despite shooting below 40 percent from the field by virtue of his 2.5 treys and 1.6 steals per game. Since I have buffer in field goal percentage with my bigs, Covington’s contributions in steals and threes made him a must-draft this late.

  1. George Hill, Uta PG
  2. Derrick Rose, NY PG
  3. Markieff Morris, Wsh PF
  4. Dario Saric, Phi SF
  5. Tristan Thompson, Cle PF
  6. Emmanuel Mudiay, Den PG
  7. Jrue Holiday, Nor PG
  8. Wesley Matthews, Dal SG 

Now a full 19 months removed from his devastating Achilles injury, Wesley Matthews should be in line for a bounce-back year with the Mavericks after averaging just 12.5 points on 38.8 percent shooting last year. Even if his field goal percentage hovers in the low 40s, his three-point shooting (2.4 treys per game last year) when added with Russell, Booker, Gordon and Covington suddenly gives me a chance to be competitive in that category, while my lead in points should only grow. 

  1. Ben Simmons, Phi PF
  2. Rodney Hood, Uta SG
  3. Marvin Williams, Cha PF
  4. Brandon Jennings, NY PG
  5. Mirza Teletovic, Mil PF
  6. Ish Smith, Det PG
  7. Tyreke Evans, Nor SF
  8. Luol Deng, LAL SF

With Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown recently suggesting to reporters that Ben Simmons could be back in January, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, I had to grab him with my final pick here. Since this league has an IR spot, I’m willing to punt that spot for the first two months — keeping the injured Jackson active on my bench in the meantime — given the potential upside of Simmons once he returns. He’s not going to contribute much in terms of treys or defensive counting stats, but he’ll be a boon in points, rebounds and assists. On the off-chance he has a Karl-Anthony Towns-esque eruption, he could work his way into my keeper conversation for next season.

All 2015-16 rankings via Basketball Monster and are based on nine-category leagues. All ADP and ECR data via FantasyPros and are current as of Sunday, Oct. 23.

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