What do you want your team to look like?
This is a question that you should really ask yourself before your draft, and you should enter the draft with an answer in mind. Because the reality is, most of the people in your leagues aren't going to really go into the draft with much of a plan and will instead just hope for the best. So if you come in prepared, with an idea about what the talent looks like at different parts of the draft, it will give you a leg up on the competition right from the opening tip.
There are lots of ways to build a championship-caliber squad, and ultimately you'll need to come up with the strategy that works best for you. In my experience, I like the old "practice makes perfect" adage, so I like to do mock drafts before my real drafts to get a feel for which players should be available and when.
Will my sleeper picks be there, or does everyone know about them, so they go earlier than expected? Similarly, are there really good players who are just ranked lower than expected in the draft software and thus likely to go later than they should? Having answers to these kinds of questions, beforehand, is very valuable when it comes time for your real drafts.
To that end, here's a quick look at how drafts have been shaping up so far. Utilizing Average Draft Pick (ADP) data, I've gone through and looked at the types of players who are going at different spots in the draft. Here are some of the players who catch my eye at different spots in different rounds, given their ADP slots.
Your draft slot is going to shape the entirety of your draft, but this season, the draft is unusually deep in franchise-changing talent. You can get potential top overall pick quality all throughout the round, so picking late isn't the disadvantage that it can be in some years. With that said, I have been very clear that I think Antetokounmpo is in for an absolutely monster, historic-caliber season. Anthony Davis is also peaking and would be my clear No. 2, but if I'm picking, first I'm going to have The Greek Freak on my squad.
In the middle of the round, I'd be very happy to get Towns in his fourth season. His scoring slowed a bit last season, as the team built around Jimmy Butler, but if there's any truth to the ever-louder rumors that Butler could be on his way out the door, it just increases Towns' ceiling to 30 PPG territory.
In the later parts of the first round, Jokic is another young player who could be in for a historic season. He is a true center with legit triple-double potential every night and should average 20 points and 10 rebounds with a bunch of double-digit-assist games tossed into the mix as well.
Again, draft slot is key. The best value with ADPs of early second rounders are Simmons and Kawhi Leonard. If he takes the logical next development step this season, Simmons is a first-round talent. And if Leonard is healthy and locked in for the Raptors, he has the potential to get back to his former top-five status.
Drummond was one of the most dominant players in points leagues last season before Blake Griffin's arrival cut into his touches. Griffin is still around, but Drummond's dominant interior game plus sneaky passing ability continues to make him a threat.
Wall was a late first-round talent two seasons ago, then struggled with injuries last season. A return to form would make him a bargain at the end of the second.
Love was one of the dominant producers in the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves, before coming to Cleveland to team up with LeBron James. With LeBron now in Los Angeles, Love has the potential to return to that form.
Booker has improved dramatically every season, and the plan in Phoenix is to develop him into a version of the role that James Harden plays in Houston. His wrist injury knocked his ADP back to the end of the third round, but when healthy, he has first-round upside.
The value in the early part of the round is on the perimeter, with McCollum and Khris Middleton both projecting to be mid-20s scorers, even as the second option on their given teams.
The late part of the round is driven by big men, with the excitement of top overall pick Ayton competing with the proven capabilities of veteran Marc Gasol.
Gobert has grown-man double-double potential at excellent efficiency from the field, he's going to block a lot of shots, and he is still improving. Collins is a bit of a wild card, but he was arguably the best player to play in this year's Las Vegas Summer League and looks ready to step up big time in his sophomore campaign. Honorable mention to Lonzo Ball and Luka Doncic, both of whom have high ceilings due to their ability to distribute the rock on potentially successful offenses.
Conley was a clear top-50 player two seasons ago, then lost last season to injury. If he returns to form, he's a value here. Horford is quietly the most consistent producer on the seemingly stacked Celtics, but he's also the only of their front-court players who can play center, which makes his production reliable. Check Enes Kanter too. He flashes extended periods of near 20/15 points/rebounds upside when Kristaps Porzingis is out.
Round 7: Paul Millsap
Millsap was a perennial top-40 player with the Atlanta Hawks, but last season (his first as a Denver Nugget), he lost much of the season to injury. He is healthy now and plays a game very complementary to what the Nuggets want to do in running their offense through high-post big men.
Round 8: Elfrid Payton
Payton has shown extended periods of triple-double potential over the past few seasons, but he has also struggled to find a fit that works. This season, he slots into the Rajon Rondo role of do-everything distributor for the New Orleans Pelicans, where scoring isn't expected. This fits his skill set to a T.
Honorable mentions to Myles Turner, who everyone expected to break out last season before nagging injuries and Domantas Sabonis ate into his production, and to Sacramento Kings De'Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein, who could produce good numbers on a bad team.
Late rounds and fliers
Round 9: Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic has nightly double-double potential, and in each of the past two campaigns, he has gone on spurts late in the season during which he teased near 20-10 point-rebound upside.
Round 10: Kris Dunn
Dunn joined the Chicago Bulls around the midway point of last season, as he recovered from knee surgery. He played well but has a lot of upside as he gets healthy and more comfortable.
Honorable mention to Gary Harris, a high scoring guard on an up-and-coming Nuggets squad, and to Dennis Schroder in his unknown role as a combo of Russell Westbrook's understudy and offensive spark plug off the bench.
Fultz was the top overall pick in the 2017 draft and will be playing essentially his redshirt rookie season. Predecessors Joel Embiid and Simmons used that role to springboard into high value over the past couple of seasons.
Thomas was a top-five MVP candidate during the 2016-17 season, but injuries slowed him dramatically last season. After hip surgery this spring, can Thomas parlay his sixth-man role in Denver into front-line production?
If healthy, Porzingis and DeMarcus Cousins would have been easy high-round picks. With both dealing with major injuries, they might be available as last-round stash prospects in deeper leagues that could pay some dividends later in the season.