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.
You can see the first 10 picks along with explanations here. Now it’s time for picks 11-20.
11. Giannis Antetokounmpo — Bryan Toporek
I was torn here between Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMarcus Cousins, but a few things swung it in favor of the “Greek Freak.”
1) He’s only turning 22 in December.
2) I’m a sucker for 6’11” point guards.
3) As much as I love Boogie, it’s difficult to build around a center who’s inconsistent on defense.
I honestly don’t know what Antetokounmpo’s ceiling is, but after seeing him nearly average a triple-double following the All-Star break, I’m excited to find out over the next 15 years. If he becomes more consistent from beyond the arc, he has the potential of a top-five NBA player some day.
Follow Bryan on Twitter @btoporek
12. Ben Simmons — Eli Horowitz
When you have the opportunity to select a 20-year-old phenom who has the most hype since LeBron James, you don’t pass on that opportunity. Especially not selecting 12th. Ben Simmons has a chance to be the type of player that makes you an instant contender and drag talentless teams to 50-win seasons. We know about his passing and ability to attack the basket, but Coach Thorpe of ESPN recently said he has the fastest hands he’s seen since Jason Kidd. With the potential to be an All-NBA-caliber defender as well as a point forward, he has the highest ceiling of any young player in this league.
Follow Eli on Twitter @CoachHorowitz13
13. Damian Lillard — Ryan Davis
Lillard has established himself as one of the true rising stars in the NBA. It’s hard to imagine turning down taking one of the top point guards in the game, especially with how the league has really transitioned toward guard play being so integral. With LaMarcus Aldridge no longer in Portland, Lillard really took over last year as the best player on the team. He raised his scoring average from 21.0 points to 25.1 points per game while averaging the same amount of minutes per game. He also averaged 6.8 assists and knocked down 229 three-pointers, which was a career-high — despite missing seven regular-season games.
To put it simply, Lillard at 25 years old last season had a season similar to Derrick Rose’s MVP year, only as a capable outside shooter and a player whose game will likely age well. He may not win an MVP, but Lillard is developing into one of the best players in the NBA.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanDavisBP
14. Chris Paul — Jonathan Asaad
I’m one of the few team owners who’s looking to contend right away, so I took the best available player in Chris Paul. Despite his age, Paul is still pretty durable; he only missed eight games last season and was a top-two point guard despite popular belief. With arguably the best distributor and mid-range shooter in the league, I’m almost guaranteed to have a top-10 offense, along with the rarity of having a point guard who can guard his own position effectively.
Furthermore, Paul’s game should age well given his IQ and non-reliance on athleticism. His stat line of nearly 20 points and 10 assists per game on incredible efficiency last season shouldn’t drop too precipitously over the next several years.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JohnnyAsada
15. DeMarcus Cousins — Taylor Smith
Cousins went fifth overall in this draft last year, so getting him 10 spots lower feels like a total steal. Though his locker room reputation is a bit dicey, he was still the league’s fourth-leading scorer and fifth-best rebounder a season ago. Unsurprisingly, the Kings collapsed on both ends of the floor when Boogie was on the bench in 2015-16. Letting the game’s best overall center slip past No. 15 wasn’t happening. He’s only 26, added a viable three-point stroke to his arsenal recently and is completely unstoppable on the block.
What more do you want?
Assuming Vlade Divac doesn’t appear at my door, steal my job and instantly draft Rajon Rondo, I’m confident I can build a winning roster around a happy Boogie Cousins.
Follow Taylor on Twitter @TaylorBojangles
16. Paul George — Sean Kennedy
Still just 26 years old, in a league where two-way wings are more valuable than ever, getting a player who is elite on both ends of the court midway through the first round seems like a steal. Here were Paul George’s averages through 13 November games last season: 29.5 points on .475/.490/.847 splits, 8.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists, with a 96 defensive rating. Those numbers tailed off some, partially because the short list of players who have kept those averages up over the course of a season include names like Oscar, Wilt and Kareem, and partially because he was coming off a year of missed action following one of the more gruesome nationally televised leg injuries we’ve ever seen.
Now fully healthy, and coming off a summer in Rio where he was arguably the most consistent player on Team USA, George is the perfect guy to build a team around, primarily because there is no weak area of his game you have to account for in subsequent roster decisions. George’s nickname is PG-13, but his prolific game is suitable for all ages.
Follow Sean on Twittere @PhillyFastBreak
17. Joel Embiid — Joseph Nardone
Small ball is overrated, Sam Hinkie died for our sins and Joel Embiid remains the most intriguing big-man prospect coming out of college for some time.
Yes, injuries should change that to some degree, as most big men don’t get healthier as they get hurt and older, but Embiid is not exactly aging like Yao Ming (at least not yet). It is just funny that all the hype he had coming out of Kansas is a wash because he is no longer the shiniest new thing in the car lot.
If I am building my franchise — known as the Club State Pool Cleaners, mind you — I want to at least have the idea of a centerpiece on my roster. Who in the hell knows if Embiid will live up to his billings from college or the craziness we see from his Vines, but the people really love the dude.
So…uh, yeah — he’s picked here as much for the ability to move tickets as he is to be a really good basketball player. And yes, I do think he will be a very good center in the NBA.
Follow Joseph on Twitter @JosephNardone
18. Kristaps Porzingis — Michael Erler
KAT, Brow and Kawhi are long gone and so is everyone else I’d possibly consider, so I’ll happily take the guy who might be the next Dirk Nowitzki. Frankly, this is a no-brainer. I love Porzingis and think he’s going to average 25 a night in a couple years. He’s going to be completely unguardable and will protect the rim decently, too.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelErlerSBN
19. Andrew Wiggins — Daniel O’Brien
At No. 19, Wiggins arguably has the best mix of youth, versatility and explosiveness remaining in this draft. He already has two seasons under his belt and hit the 20-point-per-game mark last year, but he’s just 21 years old and has loads of room for growth.
Per 82games.com, Wiggins was a +6.7 points per 100 possessions for the Wolves during his sophomore campaign. It’s exciting to think about how he could influence the game throughout his prime. He’ll be able to attack offensively in myriad ways while effectively checking up to three positions on defense.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanO_Bball
20. Kyrie Irving — Court Zierk
Taking someone with the 20th pick who has more accolades than the great Steph Curry (dripping with sarcasm) was a no-brainer. It’s hard to believe Kyrie is only 24 years old when you think about how much he has accomplished, and just how good he has become.
Sure, you can say that he needs to pass more, or point out that his three-point percentage dipped significantly last season, or that his defense is less than formidable, but what you can’t deny is that when it counted most, he put the dagger into the heart of the Warriors. Give me a clutch player with the heart of a champion any day to start my team. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that we still haven’t seen the best of Kyrie, who should be entering his prime over the next two seasons.
Follow Court on Twitter @CourtZierk