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 relevant for this exercise.
41. Gordon Hayward — Court Zierk
Having taken Kyrie with my first pick, I needed a wing to balance out what he brings to the table, and I felt Hayward was the perfect choice. He provides good outside shooting, albeit somewhat streaky, a positive temperament and relentless effort. Hayward is best served being the second or third option on a team, and pairing him next to a bona fide star in Irving would put him into a perfect position to become one of the more deadly second options in the league. At only 26, I could see them growing into one of the bet one-two combos around.
Court’s first-round pick: Kyrie Irving
Follow Court on Twitter @CourtZierk
42. Eric Bledsoe — Daniel O’Brien
Bledsoe brings speed, offensive creativity and physical defense to the backcourt. He’s coming off a meniscus injury that sidelined him for most of 2015-16, but at 26 years old, he has plenty of juice left. When healthy, he generated a truckload of scoring (20.4 points) and passing (6.1 assists) while shooting 37 percent from distance last season. Bledsoe’s shiftiness and explosiveness at the point of attack puts pressure on opponents, and he’ll thrive in transition with my first-round pick, Andrew Wiggins.
Daniel’s first-round pick: Andrew Wiggins
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanO_Bball
43. Nikola Jokic — Michael Erler
How is Jokic still on the board?!?! One of the best two or three young centers in the league. He’s going to be a monster. I’d have been happy to take him at 18. Led all centers in RAPM last year. Thank you very much!
Michael’s first-round pick: Kristaps Porzingis
Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelErlerSBN
44. Emmanuel Mudiay — Joseph Nardone
The Club Sate Pool Cleaners are obviously going with a Sam Hinkie-like approach. We want youth, length and the idea of a better tomorrow. When that better tomorrow will be is anyone’s guess, but I am the general manager of this fictional NBA franchise and I want to have the same sort of job security Hinkie was able to operate under. Also, Mudiay — while inconsistent — showed a lot of promise as a rookie. We can add some veterans down the line (maybe, but probably not), but when Club State rolls out one of the lengthiest lineups this side of Space Jam, the rest of the NBA will be cowering in a corner.
Joseph’s first-round pick: Joel Embiid
Follow Joseph on Twitter @JosephNardone
45. Nicolas Batum — Sean Kennedy
After my dreams of obtaining a 21-year-old center who recently dropped 25 points on Team USA were dashed two picks earlier, I resort back to what’s apparently a soft spot for me: a rangy, two-way wing in Nic Batum. First, though, I have to hope whatever talent-draining alien life form that affected Batum in Rio (where the French star passively averaged just 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) is gone, and he returns to the form we saw in Charlotte last season.
Brought over in an offseason trade, the Hornets made it clear to Batum right away that he would be expected to assume a much larger role than the sum-of-the-parts situation in Portland. Acting as the 1A ball-handling option for the offense next to Kemba Walker, Batum recorded a career-high 5.8 assists per game, while also adding a career-best 14.9 points per game and a solid 6.1 rebounds per game. While not a knock-down three-point shooter (34.8 percent last season), Batum does well enough in that area to keep defenses honest and facilitate his drive-and-kick game on the closeouts. Add in the fact that Batum is an above-average perimeter defender still in the prime of his career at 27 years of age, and I’d like to see opposing teams in our alternate reality NBA try to get lane penetration against my Paul George-Batum wing tandem.
Sean’s first-round pick: Paul George
Follow Sean on Twitter @PhillyFastBreak
46. Serge Ibaka — Taylor Smith
Pairing Ibaka with DeMarcus Cousins gives me a super-versatile two-way frontcourt. Somehow still only 26, Ibaka provides extra rim protection and can also effectively space the floor around Boogie in the post. He should find no shortage of wide-open looks with the attention other teams will have to pay to Cousins. Ibaka is still a fantastic finisher inside as well, which means he can play the 5 without much issue. Finding a workable pick-and-pop point guard to play alongside him will be key.
Taylor’s first-round pick: DeMarcus Cousins
Follow Taylor on Twitter @TaylorBojangles
47. Al Horford — Jonathan Asaad
With Chris Paul and Al Horford as my first and second picks, I’ll have two of the smartest NBA players leading my team. In the modern NBA, defense, shooting and passing are essential. Part of what makes Al Horford so valuable is that he’s one of the few big men who possesses all of those traits. His lack of a glaring weakness bodes well for the purpose of team building, as he can adapt to any style of play and fit alongside any player. Al Horford is 30 years old, but I’m in win-now mode after drafting Paul. And similar to Paul, Horford’s IQ and skill set should allow his game to age better than most players.
Jonathan’s first-round pick: Chris Paul
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JohnnyAsada
48. Bradley Beal — Ryan Davis
With Damian Lillard already on board, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to pair him with a quality shooting guard. And with Bradley Beal still on the board with my second pick, that’s exactly what I did. You could argue that Lillard and Beal make not only the best three-point shooting backcourt in our draft, but possibly the best backcourt period. Beal is still just 23 years old and an excellent outside shooter (39.7 percent on three-pointers in his career, knocking down 1.8 per game). He’s also a quality defensive player. There’s a ton of upside here, even if the downside is that he sometimes struggles to stay on the court.
Ryan’s first-round pick: Damian Lillard
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanDavisBP
49. Zach LaVine — Eli Horowitz
After a slow start, Zach LaVine finished his sophomore campaign averaging 14 points and three assists to go along with 39 percent shooting from three and 80 percent from the line. He even finished with a PER of 14.3, showing promise to play way above the league average of 15 in years to come. Under the tutelage of Thibs, LaVine has the potential to become an elite 3-and-D player in this league. You add him next to the prospect with the highest ceiling since LeBron (Simmons), and you have two elite athletes with position flexibility on both the offensive and defensive end.
Eli’s first-round pick: Ben Simmons
Follow Eli on Twitter @CoachHorowitz13
50. Myles Turner — Bryan Toporek
Myles Turner recently told Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy, “I can see myself being a very dominant player in this league one day — and one day soon.” Frankly, I’m inclined to agree. The springy Texas product averaged 3.3 blocks per game during the Pacers’ first-round playoff series against Toronto this past spring, putting himself in the conversation alongside Kristaps Porzingis as the second-best big man in the 2015 draft class (behind Karl-Anthony Towns). Putting him next to Giannis Antetokounmpo gives my team a young, versatile, terrifying frontcourt.
Bryan’s first-round pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Follow Bryan on Twitter @btoporek