Last season, a group of Today’s Fastbreak contributors got together to conduct a Franchise Player Draft, which involved picking 30 NBA players based on who’d be best to start a franchise with. The Today’s Fastbreak Franchise Player Draft is returning for 2016, but this time it’s expanding to an entire starting five of players and is in a snake draft format.
Again, these players are being selected based on both current play AND their long-term potential. Furthermore, current NBA contracts aren’t considered for this exercise.
So without further ado, here are the top 10 picks in the 2016 Today’s Fastbreak Franchise Player Draft.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns — Cray Allred
This felt like a no-brainer, which speaks to how promising KAT is at just 20 years of age. There’s no guarantee that he ever reaches the stratosphere occupied by still-young Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry (the only two players I was tempted to select instead), but he is already one of the game’s best post players with the versatility to adapt to and thrive in the modern NBA’s stretch-y space-y style of play on both ends of the court. He’s not quite the athletic marvel that Anthony Davis is, but he’s already shaping into a better all-around player. Health is the final component of Towns’ portfolio that separates him from Durant, Curry and Davis; things can change, but playing all 82 games as the fulcrum for his team’s play in his rookie season is reassuring.
Follow Cray on Twitter @crayallred
2. Anthony Davis — Keith Smith
If you can’t get Towns, Davis is the next best thing. He’s a young big who can play 4 or 5 and can defend almost any position. He’s equally as good on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. And he’s only 23 years old. Sure there are health concerns, but you overlook that for supreme talent.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithSmithNBA
3. Andre Drummond — Sara Peters
Drummond offers all the benefits of youth with none of the risk: he just celebrated his 23rd birthday, but he’s already got four years of battle testing in the NBA. Rookie injury aside, he’s an iron man who’s only missed two games in the past three seasons. Better than all of that, he’s an incredibly athletic big man, who can not only power his way to the bucket for a rim-shaking slam, but drive-and-dodge, bob-and-weave his way to the hoop for a slick little lay-up.
Drummond is all hustle — no way a man could tear down a ridiculous 14.8 rebounds a game if he wasn’t. He protects the rim, picks pockets, scrambles for loose balls, generally makes life miserable for opponents, racks up 16.2 points a game and looks good doing it. The only reason not to pick him is for that dismal free throw shooting, but by the time he reaches his prime, the league will probably have changed the Hack-a-Whoever rules, so why worry?
Follow Sara on Twitter @3fromthe7
4. Kevin Durant — Donnie Kolakowski
With the three selections before me all skewing younger, I decided to grab one of the best players in the league right now who has several years of superstardom still ahead of him. The mileage on LeBron left me with a choice between Durant and Stephen Curry, and despite the foot issues, I trust Durant’s health more. Also, when he ages, Durant will still have a ton of value as a seven-footer who is one of the best shooters in the league. Durant’s even seven months younger and, at 27, will be my franchise player for years to come.
Follow Donnie on Twitter @donniebuckets
5. Stephen Curry — Jack Magruder
The last we saw of a noticeably injured Stephen Curry was a flailing and errant three-point attempt that punctuated a stunning Finals collapse. Since then, things haven’t improved much, as Curry has released shoes reminiscent of the footwear that geezers wears on the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, and had his shot blocked by a teenager.
When starting an NBA franchise, however, Curry must be in the starting five. His shot is a thing of scientific beauty (not hyperbole; the trajectory of it is considered perfect), and this skill ages far better than pure athleticism (ask Amar’e). Curry is less than a year older than Durant and Westbrook, with much less tread on his tires. He’s also an underrated defensive player, especially compared to other potential picks at No. 5, and his playoff injury was not the result of chronic string cheese ankles but because Houston has no janitor.
Curry is already the greatest shooter of all time. The stats are unequivocal. Three-point attempts have been rising drastically in recent years, and there’s no indication the pace-and-space game will be in retreat anytime soon. With Curry at the helm, you can pencil in 25+ PPG, a bunch of thrilling moments punctuated by awkward celebrating and almost a sure playoff berth.
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackMagruder
6. Kawhi Leonard — Dave Leonardis
I was holding out hope that Anthony Davis would drop to No. 6, but I’m more than OK with grabbing Kawhi Leonard with my first pick. Offensively, his scoring has improved every year since arriving in 2012. He’s getting better as an outside shooter, including shooting above 40 percent from three last season. Defensively, he’s the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Oh, and he’s only 25 years old. It’s not inconceivable that he’s the best small forward in basketball in a couple of years.
Follow Dave on Twitter @FrontPageDave
7. James Harden — Jackson Sanders
I couldn’t have asked for a better choice between Harden and Russell Westbrook at seven. I went with Harden because he’s the superior all-around offensive force and has a game that should age better than Westbrook’s style of play. Getting a wing who can draw fouls, drain three-pointers and create for others is a great base to build a team from, especially when that guy is of scoring-title caliber.
Follow Jackson on Twitter @6thManHoops
8. Klay Thompson — Jeff Berest
When it came time to turn the hypothetical draft card into the hypothetical commissioner, I went with Klay Thompson because he checks all of the boxes in a franchise player and will only appreciate in value during this current “pace-and-space” era. Klay is a generational shooter (maybe the best EVER) and is an unselfish two-way player who can lock down the opponent’s best wing scorer night after night. Just the threat of Klay stretches the defense a ton and makes it incredibly easier for others on the court.
Of course it was hard forgoing possibly the greatest player of all time in LeBron James, who would certainly keep my fictional team in Finals contention for a couple more years, but looking towards the future is of utmost importance. Klay, who is 26 and just entering his prime, is the unique centerpiece my franchise is salivating for. I will take Klay and trust my GM (it me) to fill out the roster around him with complementary players to maximize his talents. (Players also considered at this spot: Russell Westbrook/Ben Simmons)
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_berest
9. LeBron James — Jared Mintz
Okay, I took the bait. We keep talking about this inevitable decline of LeBron James, and I’m not naive enough to pretend it isn’t coming, but the NBA Finals were proof that it isn’t here quite yet. Sure, the LeBron that we saw average 36.3 points (on 50.6 field goal percentage), 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists over the last three games of the Finals with his team’s back against the wall isn’t sustainable over 82 games the way it was just a few seasons ago, but it’s arguable that there isn’t a player in the NBA who can take over games the way King James still does. On top of that, LeBron still makes everyone around him better, and if I want to build a winner, there’s no better player right now to build around than him.
Follow Jared on Twitter @JMintzHoops
10. Russell Westbrook — Colby Giacubeno
Trying to make the decision for the long-term in this position left me with many questions, but considering the unstoppable force Russell Westbrook is, I couldn’t pass up on taking him. Sure, his style of play may keep you up at night in terms of worrying about getting injured, but he’s already had multiple knee surgeries that haven’t impacted his production whatsoever. In fact, since the surgeries, Westbrook has posted career-high averages in the past two seasons: 38.7 MPG (2014-15), 28.1 PPG (2014-15), 10.4 APG (2015-16), 7.8 RPG (2015-16). Seeing how he produces next season will indicate how successful my team can be for the long haul led by the most explosive point guard in NBA history.
Follow Colby on Twitter @ColbyGiacubeno