• Dicky Fung

Fantasy Basketball: The Very-Early Look at the Top 12 First-Round Selection of the 2017-2018 Season

The Golden State Warriors are the NBA Champions, and they took the NBA by storm even heading into the off-season. The dominance of the Dubs has the rest of the NBA itching to make roster changes, trying to replicate their own version of “position-less” basketball with various NBA stars. Just how will Chris Paul fare with another ball dominant player in James Harden? Or the arrival of Paul George to help the Brodie in Russell Westbrook? The young Minnesota Timberwolves with newcomers of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague? And what the hell is really going on in Cleveland?

Players changing teams are fun, and they have huge implications on fantasy basketball. This upcoming season is going to be fun. The first 8 picks arguably has upside and potential to finish in the top 3 by the end of the year. We should be looking at some very versatile rosters during the fantasy season. We are still about 2 months away from the start of the 2018-2019 regular season, but let’s dive in and take a look at a Very Early Top-12 First-Round selection:

*Note: All picks are based on 9-Category Head-to-Head standard league settings.

1. Kevin Durant

2016-2017 Statistics: 25.1 PPG 1.9 3PTm 8.3 REB 4.9 AST 1.1 STL 1.6 BLK 54% FG 88% FT 2.2 TO

Are we surprised? Kevin Durant finished as the #1 overall player in all of fantasy last season. The reigning NBA Finals MVP is the undisputed #1 selection with elite percentages, stocks, and everything else. There's nothing more to say, the efficiency with his defensive stats in the Warriors dynamic system makes him a borderline cheat code in fantasy basketball. There's really no excuse to lose with Kevin Durant on your fantasy team, he's that good. It's Kevin Durant's world, we're just living in it.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2016-2017 Statistics: 22.9 PPG 0.6 3PTm 8.8 REB 5.4 AST 1.7 STL 1.9 BLK 52% FG 77% FT 2.9 TO

Giannis will be looking to to having another brilliant season. The Greek Freak won Most Improved Player award last season thanks to him doing literally everything on his team by leading them in Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, and Blocks. He is the fifth player in NBA history to lead a team in these categories for a season (Dave Cowens, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James). Not bad company. The crazy thing? Giannis is 22 years old. MVP caliber season isn't a stretch by any means.

3. Karl-Anthony Towns

2016-2017 Statistics: 25.1 PPG 1.2 3PTm 12.2 REB 2.7 AST 0.7 STL 1.3 BLK 54% FG 83% FT 2.6 TO

Karl-Anthony Towns was born to be a basketball player. But give credit when it's due, KAT has been a tremendous workhorse since he has entered the league. Kevin Garnett deserves some credit too, but KAT is always working on his game and bettering himself in transforming himself into a NBA MVP candidate. Want to know how good KAT is?

Towns is the only player in NBA history to tally 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 3-pointers in a season. As a sophomore, he joins Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, and Dwight Howard since 1990 to have 60+ double-doubles in a season. He's truly elite and the arrival of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague won't affect his production. He's 1st option and will eat first in Minnesota.

4. Anthony Davis

2016-2017 Statistics: 28.0 PPG 0.5 3PTm 12 REB 2.1 AST 1.3 STL 2.2 BLK 50% FG 80% FT 2.4 TO

The rumors to Anthony Davis's demise was a bit exaggerated, and quite frankly AD has become the forgotten man in New Orleans. There's no doubt in anyone's mind AD can flat out ball, but he just plays on an extremely boring small market team. It doesn't help that his team isn't good at getting him the basketball. It sucks even more the head coach flat out sucks. With the arrival of a veteran point in Rajon Rondo who truly is a pass first point guard, look for AD to excel in ways we might of not seen yet. The Brow looks like he's a 30 year old entering his prime, when he is really just tapping on his potential at the age of 24.

5. Russell Westbrook

2016-2017 Statistics: 31.6 PPG 2.5 3PTm 10.7 REB 10.4 AST 1.7 STL 0.4 BLK 43% FG 85% FT 5.4 TO

Russell Westbrook has been must-see TV all season, and he was finally awarded a well deserved MVP award. However, in the world of fantasy, the deficiencies of the Brodie is noticeable enough to make a dent to put him #5 on this list. There are just too many nights in which Westbrook will hurt you with 8+ turnovers, or a bad shooting display of 8 of 27 from the field. Still, the popcorn stats and the joy ride is still worth drafting alone.

Move over, Big O.

6. Stephen Curry

2016-2017 Statistics: 25.3 PPG 4.1 3PTm 4.5 REB 6.6 AST 1.8 STL 0.2 BLK 47% FG 90% FT 3.0 TO

Steph Curry is quietly entering the discussing of being one of the best point guards ever, and he isn't even done yet. He is in the midst of his prime and can still win multiple rings before its all set and done. Drafting Curry almost puts you immediately in the discussion of winning 3-pointers every week. He provides elite scoring and 3-pointers with great efficiency. The Golden State Warriors system is tailored made for fantasy, in which Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson carry most of the load, making Curry a very respectable pick at #6 with top 3 upside.

7. Kawhi Leonard

2016-2017 Statistics: 25.5 PPG 2.0 3PTm 5.8 REB 3.5 AST 1.8 STL 0.7 BLK 49% FG 88% FT 2.1 TO

Kawhi Leonard would've won MVP honors if it wasn't for the crazy year James Harden and Russell Westbrook had. Kawhi is the silent assassin in fantasy basketball, where everyone will overlook him on draft day because of the other exciting names that overshadow him. However, by seasons end when they look at where every player finished, they will see Kawhi Leonard is an elite fantasy stud that is always consistent with his production. The stocks will be there. The efficiency and low turnovers will do wonders. Who-What-When-Why-How-Kawhi finished #4 in 9-cat leagues year. Yes, better than Westbrook and Harden.

8. James Harden

2016-2017 Statistics: 29.1 PPG 3.2 3PTm 8.2 REB 11.2 AST 1.5 STL 0.5 BLK 44% FG 85% FT 5.7 TO

There's plenty of offensive firepower down in Houston, and the arrival of point god Chris Paul makes the Houston Rockets a threat to dethrone the Golden State Warriors.(See what I did there?) With that said, CP3 coming to the Rockets isn't necessarily the best thing for James Harden owners next season. Surely, there are reasons to be excited about from a real-life standpoint, but the thought of 2 dominant guards who has the share ball-handling duties isn't the best recipe for success in fantasy basketball. Harden will still be really good, and his efficiency and turnovers will most likely improve, but the assists will surely go down. I'm confident they can make it work, but asking James Harden to be the same James Harden a year ago seems a bit farfetched. Harden finished #7 in last year's 9-cat rankings.

CP3 or not, Harden's fantasy value will still be elite because he plays for Coach Mike D'Antoni. Think the Rockets played fast and shot the ball with no hesitation this past season? They're likely to eclipse that this season.

9. Nikola Jokic

2016-2017 Statistics: 16.7 PPG 0.6 3PTm 9.8 REB 4.9 AST 0.8 STL 0.7 BLK 57% FG 83% FT 2.3 TO

For those who hasn't truly seen Nikola Jokic play, tune in this season. The Joker is not only one of the best passing bigs in the league, he IS one of the best passers in the league. His combination of size, agility, shooting touch, and a full repertoire of passing is why the Denver Nuggets has him as an untouchable asset. Jokic isn't an imposing big like a DeMarcus Cousins. He's not truly a shot blocker like DeAndre Jordan. He is a center who will have an enormous impact on the game with his skill set. Jokic will take advantage of mismatches, sprinkle in hooks with either hand, beat aggressive defenders with an array of fakes and superb foot work, or simply face-up and shoot over the top.

Jokic averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists in only 28 minutes last season, and that’s due to the fact he wasn’t a starter to begin the year. As a starter, those numbers rise to 17.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 28.8 minutes. In the 31 games he eclipsed 30 minutes, Jokic averaged 22.7 points, 12.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists. To put that into perspective, only Wilt Chamberlain has ever met or exceeded those averages for an entire season. Let's hope the Denver Nuggets unleash him this season and let him play more than 30 minutes, yeah?

10. LeBron James

2016-2017 Statistics: 26.4 PPG 1.7 3PTm 8.7 REB 8.7 AST 1.2 STL 0.6 BLK 55% FG 67% FT 4.1 TO

LeBron James isn't new to drama. The Cleveland Cavaliers has had one of the worst off seasons in every facet since losing to the Warriors in the NBA Finals. They didn't get any younger assets, didn't assess their athleticism as a team, fired their General Manager whom LBJ liked, and their All-Star point guard suddenly has a change of heart and doesn't want to play along side LeBron James anymore. Oh and he even joined in on a little fun with Steph Curry in a video poking some fun at his teammate. If I am drafting LeBron next season, I will be confident this off season will motivate him to play even better. Sure LeBron is getting old, but he isn't past his prime. He's still the best player on planet Earth and I'm willing to bank on him having yet another fantastic season, with sights on a 5th MVP award. The Cavaliers not getting any better is good news for LeBron owners too, where rest and the DNP's will play a factor at LBJ's value. LBJ's reportedly already working out in Las Vegas with Russell Westbrook. Careful what you wish for, Kyrie.

11. Isaiah Thomas

2016-2017 Statistics: 28.9 PPG 3.2 3PTm 2.7 REB 5.9 AST 0.9 STL 0.2 BLK 46% FG 91% FT 2.7 TO

Good thing is Isaiah Thomas probably won't need hip surgery. However, we need to monitor his recovery process as we edge towards training camp and the season. That said, if Isaiah is able to start the season healthy, there should little reason why he won't be able to replicate last year's numbers, even with Gordon Hayward now in Beantown. Hayward is the perfect player to defer to another star, in which case Isaiah Thomas will have no problem still being the Batman. IT's value lies in his ability to get to the line and hitting them at an elite clip (91%), at nearly 8.5 attempts per game. It's also contract year for IT, with plenty to showcase he deserves max money in the summer of 2018.

12. Damian Lillard

2016-2017 Statistics: 27.0 PPG 2.9 3PTm 4.9 REB 5.8 AST 0.9 STL 0.3 BLK 44% FG 89% FT 2.6 TO

Damian Lillard deserves this spot because of his iron man ability to stay on the court. He has been fortunate to play 82 games in his 1st 3 seasons and 75 games in his last 2 seasons. Dame also has improved his scoring in every year since he has entered the league. His health together with his upside to light it up on long stretches of the season makes him deserving of the #12 pick in first round selections. When Dame gets hot, he gets hot. Not many point guards outside of the top 10 can have top 5 upside in crucial stretches of the season, but Lillard can and has proven that in the past. Damedolla finished #16 overall last season.

Lillard tends to get hot during the months of fantasy playoffs...which is vital to success.

Honorable Mentions:

Rudy Gobert

John Wall

Kyrie Irving

Paul George

DeMarcus Cousins

Chris Paul

Stay tune for more fantasy basketball coverage in the upcoming months. If you are new or interested to fantasy basketball, be sure to check out my yearly Fantasy Basketball 101 for Beginners, including draft guides, players to target, busts, sleepers, strategies, and much more ! All coming soon in the upcoming months!

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