Read below for roto draft tiers
Every year around this time, people ask me about tips and tidbits and any other morsels of advice they can use during their fantasy basketball drafts.
"What is the one thing you'd recommend?" they often ask.
I always come back to one thing: the need for every fantasy manager to get a good sense of the talent at every position.
If you're going to have a strong draft you need to know this, there's no getting around it.
You need to know if this is a year when there are a ton of great point guards or a year where the point guard talent drops off sharply after the first are off the board.
If you do nothing else to prepare for your fantasy basketball draft, setting aside some time to write down the tiers for each of the five positions -- even if it's just 15 or 20 minutes -- opens your eyes and naturally helps you come up with a game plan for your draft.
That small effort, I've found, will set you apart from the vast majority of other fantasy managers.
I encourage you to take some time and create your own draft tiers. If you prefer, though, you can use mine as a starting point.
Here are my draft tiers (using ESPN ADP as a guide) at each of the five positions for standard category roto leagues heading into the 2019-20 NBA season:
We are classifying Harden at shooting guard in this writeup, since that's his primary position in our game, but it's important to note that he also qualifies at point guard. Aside from Harden, Stephen Curry stands in a class by himself among the point guards. The two-time MVP will have the ball in his hands more than ever in Golden State with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson expected to miss most of the season, and it won't be surprising if he shatters some personal records. ... Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook make up Tier 2, with each being available between picks 10-15 in most drafts. If you miss out on these three, in addition to Curry and Harden, you're in position where you have to bank on Kyrie Irving -- who stands alone in Tier 3 -- or the likes of De'Aaron Fox, Jrue Holiday, Trae Young and Kemba Walker in Tier 4 to be your primary point guard. ... Terry Rozier sees his role expand as he begins a new chapter in Charlotte, joining the Denver's score-first guard Jamal Murray and Oklahoma City's aging future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in Tier 5. ... Some solid options remain in Tiers 6 in the form of veterans Kyle Lowry and Eric Bledsoe, who are going right around pick 71 in most ESPN leagues; both are strong secondary options, but you don't want Lowry or Bledsoe to be your main point guard going into the season.
Harden's multiposition eligibility adds to his value, and he's coming off the board a pick or two before Curry in most ESPN leagues this season, but you also have to consider that Westbrook could eat into his touches. ... If you miss out on Harden, Bradley Beal -- who played like a first-rounder after John Wall went down last season and will again play without Wall this season -- is a great consolation prize. The same is true of the other Tier 2 shooting guard, Luka Doncic, who took the league by storm on his way to Rookie of the Year honors last season. Doncic stuffs the stat sheet and is probably undervalued if he can improve upon his incredible rookie numbers (21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.1 SPG and 2.3 3PG) or bump up his efficiency. ... Scoring is the name of the game with the Tier 3 trio of DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell; each is going in Round 3 in most drafts. Just keep in mind, DeRozan still is a complete nonfactor from 3-point range, especially compared to Booker and Mitchell. ... The next crop of SGs make up Tier 4 -- Buddy Hield , D'Angelo Russell and CJ McCollum -- and are all sliding to the end of Round 4 or early Round 5 in most leagues. Each can help carry a team in the 3-point category. ... Zach LaVine stands alone in Tier 5 after a career-best season during which he showed more efficiency than many thought possible out of the bouncy swingman, but he is still falling past pick No. 70 in most ESPN drafts.
Antetokounmpo is the first player off the board in most leagues, and his value is strengthened by the lack of depth at small forward this season; only eight players with an ADP currently in the top 50 are SFs. If Giannis adds the 3-pointer to his game this season, as has been rumored, there is truly no weakness to his game. LeBron James is the other Tier 1 small forward, coming off the board with the fifth or sixth pick in most leagues despite playing a career-low 55 games last season and adding MVP candidate Anthony Davis as a teammate this season. ... Kawhi Leonard stands alone in Tier 2, as he gets set to begin his first season with the Clippers. He's a mid-second-rounder in most leagues and probably will begin the season without Paul George, whose offseason shoulder surgeries are expected to cost him the early part of the regular season and drops him to Tier 3. Jimmy Butler joins PG-13 in the third tier, as he is set to be the main man in Miami and qualifies at both SF and SG. ... Jayson Tatum enters his third NBA season as one of the more well-rounded young swingmen in the game. He stands alone in Tier 4 and can be had at the end of the third round in most leagues if you missed out on any of the higher tier SFs. ... Stat-stuffing veterans Khris Middleton and Robert Covington are solid Tier 5 options, and Tier 6's Joe Ingles always tends to go overlooked despite being a steady source of 3s, steals and assists from the SF position.
Davis has the second-highest ADP in ESPN drafts, trailing only Antetokounmpo. He has shown more durability in recent years, playing 75 games in two of the past three seasons, and strengthening his case as an elite fantasy option as he gets set for his first season with the Lakers. ... Pascal Siakam's emergence as a do-everything forward last season moves him all the way up to Tier 2, but this is a significant drop-off from Davis in Tier 1. Make sure you take note of that. Siakam is going high in Round 2 in some leagues, which feels high considering the other options at that range. ... Prized rookie Zion Williamson leads the notables in Tier 3, joining John Collins, LaMarcus Aldridge and Julius Randle, but each of them comes with questions; Williamson has enormous expectations on him before ever playing in an NBA game, Collins doesn't contribute much in terms of blocks and steals, Aldridge has played a ton of minutes at this stage of his career, and Randle will need to share minutes with a plethora of big men in the Knicks' crowded frontcourt. ... If you can't get Davis, it might be best to wait until Rounds 4 or 5 to address PF. That's when the likes of Blake Griffin, Tobias Harris, Draymond Green, Montrezl Harrell and Kevin Love are going in most drafts. The Tier 6 trio of Lauri Markkanen, Marvin Bagley III and Kristaps Porzingis are all going right around pick No. 60-62 in ESPN drafts, and each presents lofty upside.
The names in the top two tiers are very appealing and difficult to pass up on, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic both going in the top half of Round 1, and Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid both going in the lower half of Round 1. However, the depth at center this season should give fantasy managers pause before using a first-rounder on a center -- particularly one like any of the four above who qualify at only one position. ... Tier 3's Rudy Gobert and Nikola Vucevic are both solid Round 2 options, and Tier 4's Deandre Ayton and Clint Capela are sliding to Round 3 in most leagues. Ayton and Capela might be a tad overhyped in roto leagues, since their games are not as well-rounded as those in the higher tiers. For that reason, it might be worth addressing a different position at this area of the draft and holding off for a Tier 5 center like Myles Turner, Marc Gasol or Jonas Valanciunas or even a Tier 6 option like DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside or Mitchell Robinson who can dominate a category like blocks or rebounds. Many of these big men will be available in the 50-70 range, so plan accordingly.