Elite Fantasy Basketball’s 2021-2022 Preseason Top 150
These rankings are meant to show how valuable I think a player will be and are not intended to be used as a cheat sheet that you blindly follow during your draft. If you use these rankings in that way, you will likely end up taking some players earlier than you needed to. This list is best used as a tool that helps you identify players that you will want to target and players that you will want to avoid. It is only one piece of the puzzle. You cannot build a strong team by just looking at rankings. You will need a strong team-building strategy as well. You have to consider fit and not just a player’s ranking or z-score. As in real basketball, not all players fit well together and a less than optimal fit can lead to your team underachieving. Because of this, I have added team-building recommendations for each player. The strategies listed underneath each player are not the only strategies that a player would work in. They are just the strategies that I feel the player is the best fit for.
These rankings will differ from my projections for a variety of reasons. The projections are meant to be my best estimate of how players will perform this season. They do not take into consideration risk, upside, and a player’s fit for each punting strategy like these rankings do. I put a heavy emphasis on upside when devising the final third of this list. The late rounds are not about playing it safe. If you draft what turns out to be the 128th-ranked player with the 132nd pick, you have failed. You need to be swinging for the fences late. Selecting a mid-round player with a late-round pick can win you your league. There is no downside to making risky picks at the end of your draft. If you whiff, no big deal. Now you have an open roster spot that you can use on one of the many quality free agents that will pop up during the first month of the season.
All rankings and comments are for nine-category head-to-head leagues unless otherwise noted. All player positions are taken from Yahoo Fantasy Basketball.
1) Nikola Jokic (PF/C) – Usually there are two or three viable options for those lucky enough to have the first pick. This year there is only one in both eight- and nine-category leagues. When a player is coming off of one of the best fantasy seasons of all time and is one of the most durable players in the league, you take him at one every time. Jokic was so dominant last season that he finished as the top overall player in the punt assists build. If the Nuggets were fully healthy, I would expect some regression due to Michael Porter Jr.’s development, but since we probably won’t see Jamal Murray until after the All-Star break this year, the MVP should be able to approach last season’s numbers. Due to his all-around excellence, Jokic is a strong fit for almost every punting strategy, but he does make more sense in the punt points, punt threes, and punt blocks setups. He gains value in punt threes and punt blocks and provides elite numbers in the categories that all three builds tend to struggle with. Of those three punting strategies, I lean towards punt threes as being the best option for a Jokic-led team. The big man gains a fair amount of value in that setup (1.3 3PG) and punt threes tends to be a little easier to pull off than punt blocks and especially punt points. However, when it comes to deciding between those three strategies, I recommend mocking and using EFB’s Team Building Tool to figure out which build allows you to create the strongest team. If you think you can build a better Jokic-centric team by punting points or blocks, then go for it.
Best Builds: Punt Points, Punt Threes, Punt Blocks
2) Stephen Curry (PG/SG) – Curry at two isn’t quite as obvious as Jokic at one, but it’s not far off. If you are fine with having limited team-building options, then Giannis Antetokounmpo is reasonable in the two spot. You could also make an argument for James Harden here in eight-category leagues, but that feels like a stretch with the Nets likely to make the health of their big three more of a priority this season. Curry gets this year’s silver medal for a couple of reasons. The first is that his production is worthy of it. Curry finished second in both the eight- and nine-category rankings last year. The second is that no other elite guard offers as much team-building flexibility. Steph is a starting point that allows you to wait until the middle rounds to make the final decision on your punting strategy. Besides punt threes, Curry is a solid starting point for every punting build. Despite being a solid contributor in assists (5.8 APG) and an elite weapon in FT% (91.6 FT% on 6.3 FTA), the two-time MVP is a great centerpiece for both the punt assists and punt FT% builds. In 2020-2021, Curry just missed finishing atop of the punt assist rankings in nine-category leagues, and HE made it to the top of the mountain in eight-category leagues. Steph obviously loses a fair amount of value in punt FT%, but he still makes a lot of sense there as his elite points (32.0 PPG) and threes (5.3 3PG) are a godsend for a build that is going to have a hard time being better than average in either category.
Best Builds: Punt Assists, Punt Blocks, Punt FT%
3) James Harden (PG/SG) – This is where the draft is going to really start in most leagues. Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Damian Lillard are all reasonable choices here. Some would argue Kevin Durant as well, but I would prefer someone more durable in the three slot. Harden is likely going to get some nights off this season, but he is unlikely to rest as much as his more injury-prone teammates. While the look of Harden’s line did change quite a bit in Brooklyn, his overall value remained elite. In his first year with the Nets, Harden finished as a top-five player in nine-category leagues, a top-three player in eight-category leagues, and a top-two option in punt FG% in both eight- and nine-category leagues. While punt FG% remains an obvious option for Harden-led teams, I would not overlook punt points or punt threes. Harden averaged only 24.6 PPG in Brooklyn despite playing beside both Kyrie Irving and Durant for only a handful of games, and his strong threes (2.7 3PG in Brooklyn) and elite FT% impact (85.6 FT% on 7.3 FTA in Brooklyn) make him an excellent starting point for a build that needs to keep an eye on both categories. While the punt FG% strategy may be more straightforward than the punt points strategy, the latter has a higher ceiling. I like Harden quite a bit in punt threes as well due to his FT% impact. Punt threes teams are going to be big-heavy and usually a little light on FT% impact. Harden doesn’t guarantee a strong finish in the category, but he does make it easier to take on bigs later in the draft who dominate the big-man categories and struggle at the line. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but mocking relentlessly and brainstorming teams using the Team Building Tool is going to be essential if you plan on drafting Harden. Your best strategy may end up being one that wasn’t obvious at first glance.
Best Builds: Punt Points, Punt Threes, Punt Steals, Punt FG%
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