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.
61. Dragan Bender — Cray Allred
This was a reach. Bender hasn’t played a minute in the NBA, and I was torn between him and another relative unknown in Dario Saric (who does have some professional chops). But I’m not picking for another 60 picks, and this year’s No. 4 pick wouldn’t be around that long. So I have a 7’1”, 19-year-old power forward/center to pair with my 7”, 20-year-old center (KAT). Tobias Harris is a natural small forward, and now he’ll be backed by a giant any time he slides to power forward. We’ll be raw for a couple years, but if Bender can handle the ball and develop his shot as expected, we’ve got a forest of a frontcourt that should terrorize on defense without giving up much offensive spacing or ball movement.
First-round pick: Karl-Anthony Towns
Second-round pick: Tobias Harris
Follow Cray on Twitter @crayallred
62. Isaiah Thomas — Keith Smith
With Davis and KCP in the fold, you need someone who can initiate offense and provide some scoring himself. Isaiah Thomas provides both of these in spades. He can work off Davis and their pick-and-roll ability would be magic. Thomas is also a leader. With Davis being a little more low key, IT can take on the leadership role. His defense isn’t great, but KCP can handle the better offensive guard, while Thomas hides on the lesser player.
First-round pick: Anthony Davis
Second-round pick: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithSmithNBA
63. Bobby Portis — Sara Peters
Portis is a 6’11” forward who can run the floor with the guards — creating a much deadlier fastbreak offense, and a much more frustrating fastbreak defense. He’s got hustle on both ends of the court — drawing fouls, battling on the boards, holding shooters to 4.4 percent below their average field goal percentage. He’ll match up with Andre Drummond’s hustle and athleticism, and bring a somewhat longer range shot and plenty of double-doubles along in the bargain.
First-round pick: Andre Drummond
Second-round pick: Jordan Clarkson
Follow Sara on Twitter @3fromthe7
64. Steven Adams — Donnie Kolakowski
Adams proved he’s a legitimate force in important games against Golden State. He can do everything a modern big needs to do, as he excels in the pick-and-roll on both sides of the ball and rebounds well. He has good vision, and he’s only 23. I’m thrilled to get him here to solidify my defense and rebounding.
First-round pick: Kevin Durant
Second-round pick: Rodney Hood
Follow Donnie on Twitter @donniebuckets
65. Nikola Vucevic — Jack Magruder
During the 2015-16 season, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins and Brook Lopez were the only starting centers who averaged more than Nikola Vucevic’s 18.2 points per game. Vucevic, who also averaged 8.9 rebounds, may lose some playing time after Orlando acquired Serge Ibaka on draft night and signed Bismack Biyombo for more than $70 million. Maybe Evan Fournier should send him Crying Jordan pics on Twitter, and not the other way around.
Since my first two picks were guards, I have no such issue taking the 25-year-old Montenegrin. He remains an elite offensive force in both the paint and from the mid-range. His 21.15 PER last season exceeded stars like Paul George, Kryie Irving and Carmelo. Vucevic is hardly an elite rim protector, as opponents shot 54 percent against him last year, but he has a nice touch from 15-16 feet. There are also reports he has added a three-point shot to his arsenal. He will be better-served playing away from the paint.
First-round pick: Stephen Curry
Second-round pick: Victor Oladipo
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackMagruder
66. Brook Lopez — Dave Leonardis
Wilt Chamberlain was “The Big Dipper.” Shaq was “The Big Aristotle.” Brook Lopez is “The Big If.” IF Lopez can find a way to stay healthy, he offers 20 and eight production with some underrated interior defense. Obviously, that’s asking a lot out of a guy who hasn’t played a full season since Obama’s first term. Still, he’s only 28, and with the run on centers in this round, I knew I needed to act fast on a big man.
First-round pick: Kawhi Leonard
Second-round pick: Justise Winslow
Follow Dave on Twitter @FrontPageDave
67. LaMarcus Aldridge — Jackson Sanders
LaMarcus Aldridge is 31 years old, but I’m not sure he should have fallen this far. We’ve seen skilled bigs impact the game offensively deep into their 30s, and Aldridge’s ability to live in the mid-range (as opposed to the punishment of the paint) should make sure he’s a useful player, even as he ages. I wanted to make sure I got at least one excellent scorer to go with James Harden, and his ability to stretch the floor — albeit not quite consistently out to the three-point line — should make Aldridge a nice piece to plug in as my third starter alongside Harden & Nerlens Noel.
First-round pick: James Harden
Second-round pick: Nerlens Noel
Follow Jackson on Twitter @6thManHoops
68. Mario Hezonja — Jeff Berest
We’ve yet to really see too many glimpses of Mario Hezonja’s true potential in the NBA thus far. Part because of him being buried on the bench in Orlando playing behind Oladipo and Fournier, and part because Scott Skiles tried his best to crush Mario’s spirit and destroy any type of confidence he may have had by only letting him play within the team’s system.
But nobody puts Mario in a corner! Hezonja was dubbed as the Euro J.R. Smith, a sharpshooter who can also play above the rim and who is a flashy player with an edge and personality to his game. None of what makes Mario great and what made him a top-five pick was able to be on display last season, but I wholeheartedly believe in his talent, skill set and ability to reach his lofty potential. Put him on the floor with Klay and Kevin Love and you’ve got three legitimate deep threats, and a team that should have no problem putting up points. The spacing should also provide Hezonja plenty of room to get to the rim and exhibit that unseen playmaking ability.
First-round pick: Klay Thompson
Second-round pick: Kevin Love
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_berest
69. George Hill — Jared Mintz
With my forward slots filled with superstars who are ready to win now in LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, it was clear that I needed to focus on defense, and who better to do that with than George Hill? In the last five seasons with Hill as the starting point guard, the Indiana Pacers posted the ninth-, first-, first-, seventh- and third-best defensive rating in the NBA. Of course that can’t solely be attributed to Hill’s prowess, but he’s a tone-setter and someone who doesn’t mind sacrificing offense for defense, which is important for my starting backcourt.
I also loved Hill in this spot because he isn’t a ball-dominant point guard, and he has proven to be comfortable playing off the ball, which we saw last year when he knocked down 44.5 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-point field goal attempts. Having shot over 40 percent from downtown off catch-and-shoot attempts for the last three seasons and playing lockdown defense makes Hill the perfect point guard to pair with James and Melo.
First-round pick: LeBron James
Second-round pick: Carmelo Anthony
Follow Jared on Twitter @JMintzHoops
70. Jae Crowder — Colby Giacubeno
To me, this was a no-brainer. In a league that treasures 3-and-D players, Jae Crowder has become the perfect choice. He blossomed in Boston last season with career-high averages of 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and shot 44.3 percent from the field. His ability to play the passing lanes is second to none. He’s also a dependable finisher in transition whether it be attacking the rim or pulling up for a three.
The pairing of Crowder and Westbrook would mean for an extremely active duo on defense. Crowder could play off Westbrook’s playmaking ability as he showed this past season with Isaiah Thomas. At 26, Crowder is just touching the peak of his game. That in itself got me excited to draft him not only for now, but for the long haul as well.
First-round pick: Russell Westbrook
Second-round pick: Julius Randle
Follow Colby on Twitter @ColbyGiacubeno