Today’s Fastbreak began its Franchise Player Draft on Monday with the first five picks: Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and DeMarcus Cousins. Now it’s time for the next five picks. Remember, this draft isn’t a straight ranking of players in the league. It’s picking who’d be best to start a franchise with.
6. Russell Westbrook by Phillip Taggart
Perhaps the most athletic point guard of all time, Westbrook combines his elite athleticism with unrelenting drive. Westbrook is one of the last players who has that ’90s edge, that mean streak, that sneer at your opponent and give them everything you have. I need a player that’ll do whatever it takes to win.
Westbrook is a multi-dimensional offensive threat with the playmaking ability to get his teammates wide open looks, and he consistently puts pressure on defenses with his unrelenting nature. Not only is he an elite talent on the offensive end, but he has the ability to be a lockdown guy on defense as well.
Did I mention that Westbrook has led the league in rebounds for a guard almost every year of his career? I think I can hear my city celebrating in the background.
7. Karl-Anthony Towns by Court Zierk
Remember that one Christmas when you were 10 years old, and you came downstairs to find the bike you’d so desperately wanted sitting next to the tree, adorned with a giant red bow, chrome wheels sparkling like freshly polished diamonds, and Spider-Man emblems emblazoned across the titanium frame? The second that beauty entered your eager, youthful vision, you became so overwhelmed with the simultaneous existence of joy, excitement and anticipation that you instantly forgot about the other presents sitting idly under the Christmas tree.
At that moment, you had no idea whether that bike would become yet another inanimate object cluttering up your parents’ garage, or whether it would be used so frequently that it would become an embodiment of your youth. All you knew is that the bike that sat before you offered up all the possibilities in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, Karl-Anthony Towns is that bike. He has all the potential in the world, and could become the league’s next dominant player, but he could also waste away in the cluttered garage that is the Timberwolves. I’ll go ahead and take that risk.
While others chose the much safer route, deciding to begin their teams with much more established players who may have three to five more years of dominance at most, I chose to bet on that shiny, new bike fulfilling the promise it offered on Christmas morning. I hope all of you enjoy the next few years. I’ll be sitting here, relishing a decade of dominance.
You can follow Court on Twitter @CourtZierk
8. Andrew Wiggins by Steve Lee
The goal of this assignment is to draft a Franchise Player. Of course you want to select someone with obvious talents on the court, but we are talking FRANCHISE. Therefore I look at it as someone who you can market off the court, someone who can bring in a crowd and a demographic can identify with. I also look at it as someone who has room to grow.
At only 20 years old, Wiggins has room to improve his game. Is he still raw for the NBA, yes, but his ceiling is higher (in my opinion) than some of the players who are left. Am I building this franchise to win this year? No….and chances are not even next year, but a couple of years down the road is reasonable.
Of “superstar rookies” to win a chip their first season in the league, only Magic Johnson comes to mind. It took both Jordan and LeBron multiple years to get their teams through the playoffs and claim a title, so expectations of Wiggins to do it immediately in Minnesota are far fetched. If it were the case of taking a win this season Franchise Player, I’d probably take Tim Duncan, who despite his age is still putting up stats, knows what it takes to win and is a good locker room guy.
To be honest, I was torn between Wiggins and Kawhi Leonard, however, I feel that the Spurs forward has benefited greatly from the veteran franchise (Duncan, Ginobli, Parker and Pop), where he didn’t have to come in with expectations of being a star, unlike what Wiggins has had on him prior to and during his NBA career
At 6’8″, 200 pounds, Wiggins still has room to grow physically into a body that’s already able to contribute both offensively and defensively. Possessing a 44-inch vertical, Wiggins has the ability to not only go through the defense, but go over it (as seen with poster dunks on Rudy Gobert and Omer Asik. Add in a quick first step and natural athletic ability, and buckets will soon come easy for the young Canadian wing.
When Wiggins isn’t attacking the hoop (and this could be a knock against him), he’s more than happy to involve his teammates, something that, come crunch time, he’ll have to pass up (excuse the pun) and be more selfish. As a rebounder, man-to-man defender and shot blocker, he has all the tools and talent to be one of the better wing defenders in the league.
When you consider that Wiggins has had the weight of his country on his back since high school and through college (hell, TSN actually played every Kansas game during his one and done year…and they rarely play NCAA regular-season games), and now expectations of both a franchise and a national team, the 20-year-old hasn’t wilted (OK, yes, maybe a bit in the FIBA Semifinals, but that was an entire team combustion).
Off the court, Wiggins has endorsement deals with big-name companies such as Adidas, Bank of Montreal and Biosteel, to name a few. In interviews and media sources, he comes off as a fan-friendly individual, which is important in terms of marketing and promoting for your franchise. As the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, the sky is the limit for Andrew Wiggins, and the future is that much brighter in Minnesota.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @thesportswireca
9. James Harden by Chris Terzic
To say the least, I was pretty shocked to see the MVP runner-up fall into my lap at pick No. 9. In my mind, there was no scenario in which I envisioned Harden falling any further than No. 7. I had thought about drafting the likes of Blake Griffin, or maybe a bit of a sleeper like Kawhi Leonard, but having Harden available at No. 9 was a complete no-brainer.
Seriously, do folks realize he *just* turned 26? He’s hitting his peak while simultaneously entering his prime. Not to mention, he just led an injury-ravaged roster to the Western Conference Finals. Saying he’s one of the more gifted and talented offensive players in the league today isn’t enough: James Harden *is* an offense. You put James Harden on your team — your identity and brand of basketball has been established.
Everyone knows about his vaunted propensity for getting to the free throw line. He’s essentially the ideal modern perimeter player in terms of shot selection. And to top it all off, his assist rate and usage rate were both above 31 percent last season, which only LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade also accomplished. So in other words, Harden’s the quintessential modern playmaker, and quite frankly, the steal of this draft.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @cterzz
10. Blake Griffin by Dale Redman
When thinking of who to draft when starting a franchise, a few factors came to mind. Whomever I took needed to be highly talented, have proven experience (ideally in the playoffs), be young and have star power. Blake Griffin hit all those checkboxes for me.
A proven offensive powerhouse, Griffin undoubtedly is capable of leading a team. He’s averaged 21.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his career. The power forward has been in the top 10 in scoring, PER and Win Shares three times in his five-year career. A former Rookie of the Year, five-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA Team member, Griffin has been the focal part of the most efficient offense in the NBA the past two seasons.
Griffin’s success isn’t limited to the regular season either. Last year in the playoffs, Griffin posted three triple-doubles, including two against the defending NBA champion Spurs. His 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game in the 2015 NBA Playoffs had the Clippers on the verge of the Western Conference Finals.
Griffin’s massive resume is even more impressive when considering he’s only 26 with his best years ahead of him. Fans love the high-flying moves of the 2011 Slam Dunk champion. Griffin also is one of the more visible NBA players, from his Kia and Subway commercials to his possible appearance in Space Jam 2. A true superstar in all senses of the word, Griffin was an easy choice for me at No. 10.
You can follow Dale on Twitter @DTRedman