Who should go No. 1 in fantasy drafts: The Beard, The Brow or The Freak?

James Harden has the beard and the game, but does he have a claim to the No. 1 overall pick in roto and points leagues? Photo by Erik Isakson/Icon Sportswire

The amazing depth of elite fantasy basketball talent right now means there is no consensus No. 1 pick in drafts this season, regardless of format.

Who do our experts believe should go atop roto and points leagues: James Harden, Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Points leagues

James Harden, Houston Rockets

Eric Karabell: Harden might not end up the top scoring option on points leagues, but I still regard him as a safe pick because he is durable and offers peace of mind in that respect, plus he boasts a high statistical ceiling. What is the worst that can happen to Harden's numbers? We know he will score a ton of points, hit many 3-pointers and get to the free throw line like few others, and his rebounds and assists already declined last season from the year prior. I do not see them getting worse.

Look at the other Rockets. Harden has a set role. Sure, so does Antetokounmpo and several big men worthy of the top points pick, and the turnovers are important, but the other top picks have not played at this level for four seasons like Harden. A few of them miss games too. Regardless of format, I am sticking with Harden first.

John Cregan: I shy away from points-based leagues. Points forces one away from the next-level statistical emphasis that attracted me to fantasy hoops in the first place. But when drafting in a points league, I look for pure, unvarnished production. I don't care where or how it arrives: I just want the player who can pour on numbers in waves.

This season, there are three players in any reasonable conversation for No. 1 in points leagues. But Harden at No. 1 makes the most sense for me. Picking Harden above say, Davis isn't about thinking Harden will be demonstrably more valuable. For me, Harden represents molding a draft mindset. Harden sets a tone for the draft. Not to mention Harden will fill it up in myriad ways and do it with efficiency (29.87 PER in 2017-18).

In points leagues, I pay extra attention to team stats. I want players on teams with high paces and/or offensive ratings (points scored per 100 possessions). Houston was middle-of-the-pack in pace (97.6) last season, but No. 1 in offensive rating (114.7).

Joe Kaiser: The reigning MVP is coming off the best statistical season of his career and led the league in scoring with 30.4 PPG while shooting a solid 44.9 percent -- the third-best mark in his nine-year career.

His history of being very durable gives him a slight nod over Davis, as Harden's high assists totals help make up for the advantage Davis has over him in terms of rebounds and blocks.

If Russell Westbrook didn't have preseason arthroscopic knee surgery that could cost him the early part of the season, he is another who would be in the discussion for the No. 1 pick in points leagues.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Jim McCormick: Not to bore you with his rich collection of opportunity stats, but isn't that what points leagues are all about? Volume is king, so it's worth mentioning that Davis was tied for third in the NBA with 19.5 shots per game last season, a rate that spiked to a league-leading 21.9 shots once DeMarcus Cousins was injured in January.

Davis was fourth in free throw attempts per game after Boogie's injury, hitting nearly 84 percent of his freebies. Davis ranked 10th last season with 18.7 rebounding chances per game (within 3.5 feet of an available rebound). With 75 games played in consecutive seasons and a real shot to lead the league in both scoring and blocks, Davis is due for another historic statistical season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

André Snellings: Antetokounmpo challenged for the top ranking in points leagues last season, and projects to lead the league this season.

Let's note some trends in each of the past four seasons:

  • Antetokounmpo's scoring average has increased by 5.9, 4.2, 6.0 and 4.0 PPG per season, respectively. A similar 4.0 PPG increase this season would result in Antetokounmpo averaging more than 30.0 PPG.

  • Antetokounmpo's rebounding has increased by 2.3, 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 RPG per season, respectively. Again, a similar increase in rebounding would move him up past 11.0 RPG.

In addition to that two-category dominance, Antetokounmpo has demonstrated potential to average five assists, two blocks and two steals while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and nearly 80 percent from the line.

This combination of volume and efficiency is unmatched in today's NBA, and makes Antetokounmpo clearly the top overall prospect in points leagues this season.

Roto leagues

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

John Cregan: In roto, I'm looking for a foundational player who can form the statistical floor for a well-balanced squad. I don't punt. I want a durable player who can provide a solid baseline without hurting me anywhere. A player who gives me options in later rounds. Davis is now reasonably durable (75 games played in each of the past two seasons) and statistically versatile.

I prioritize scarcity in roto situations; which positions and categories can I try to corner the market on? While there is plenty of depth at center in the late first round (Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid), there isn't a another center in the top five. Looking at the center options in later rounds, I want to lock down the 5-spot early.

At the same time, I also want a player who is elite in one of the scarcer categories: Davis' 2.6 blocks per game checks that box. He's also sneaky good in three atypical stats for a big: assists (2.3 per game in 2017-18), 3s (0.7 per game) and free throw percentage (84.8 FT%).

Joe Kaiser: Davis has played in 75 games in back-to-back seasons, quieting those who doubted he could ever stay healthy over the course of a full season. Last season, the Pelicans' star big man put up career-highs in scoring (28.1 PPG), assists (2.3 APG), steals (1.5 SPG) and 3s (0.7 3PG), all while leading the league in blocks by a wide margin (2.6 BPG).

On top of that, he shot 53.4 percent from the field and a career-best 82.8 percent from the free throw line. He doesn't have a weakness, and as he enters his seventh NBA season, the 25-year-old still has a chance to improve upon his numbers, especially with Cousins no longer on the Pelicans to cut into Davis' points and assists.

Jim McCormick: Satisfying the scarcer statistical categories, particularly steals and blocks, is one of the more consistent challenges in rotisserie competition. Davis, meanwhile, laughs at our silly scarcity stress -- last season saw him deliver the only line on record (dating back to 1973 when blocks were first officially recorded) with at least 28 PPG, 1.5 SPG and 2.6 BPG -- like ever!

There have been seven seasons with a player averaging at least 2.5 BPG since the 2013-14 campaign, with Davis accounting for three of them. In taking Davis first overall in a roto format, you net a player who will challenge for the scoring and swat titles, approach a dozen rebounds per night while producing awesome field goal and free throw rates on significant volume.

James Harden, Houston Rockets

Eric Karabell: Nothing against all the other great players worthy of consideration for the top pick, but Harden is the best, safest statistical option to me. I love getting a point guard early, and Harden not only scores the most points, but he is among the leaders in assists and 3-pointers, while stabilizing your free throw percentage by heading to the line 10 times per game and making 85 percent.

Sure, it was nicer when he averaged double-digit assists, but that cannot occur with Chris Paul around. It would also be nice if he made half his field goals, but that cannot occur when one averages double-digit 3-pointers per game. It does not matter to me. Harden is the durable, all-around talent I covet first in points and roto leagues.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

André Snellings: Giannis is 23 years old and coming off a season during which he established new career highs in points, rebounds, shots made and field goal percentage.

Here are his "best ball" numbers from his past two seasons: 80 games played, 26.9 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 52.9 FG%, 77.0 FT%, 0.6 3PG

Antetokounmpo has improved overall in each of his five NBA seasons, and the Bucks built this season's team to enhance his strengths. Khris Middleton (shooter/scorer) and Eric Bledsoe (scoring lead guard) make good lieutenants, while Brook Lopez stretches the floor and gives Antetkounmpo both an assist target and easier driving lanes.

Giannis is eligible at power forward and small forward, and if he improves his jump shot at all, then 3-pointers could become another strength. On defense, the team will rely on his dynamism to block shots, disrupt passing lanes and grab rebounds.

While Davis is also peaking, he can't match Antetokounmpo's versatility or history of durability, and thus Antetokounmpo projects as the top roto prospect this season.