The 2022-23 NBA season is almost here, which means fantasy basketball is right around the corner.
For all you fantasy junkies who are still knee-deep in fantasy football, it may catch you by surprise that basketball has come this quickly. The Sporting News has you covered with all things fantasy hoops as you prepare for your draft, from top 200 player rankings and the top 20 players at each position to one sleeper for all 30 NBA teams heading into the new season.
As you begin to find out your draft order, it can be an intimidating decision to try and make the right selection with so many talented players on the board. If you land the No. 1 pick, who should you take? What about picks Nos. 2-5?
Below, we tier the top players available to give you an idea of how the early first round of your fantasy draft may shake out.
Fantasy basketball 2022: Who should go No. 1 overall?
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
To make things abundantly clear, there is only one player you should consider with the No. 1 overall pick: Jokic.
It’s more than just being the back-to-back MVP and No. 1-ranked fantasy player. Jokic’s ability to contribute to every stat category sets him apart from the field by a wide margin.
Last season, Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks while shooting 58.3 percent from the field, 81.0 percent from the free throw line and knocking down 1.3 3-pointers per game. If you play in a fantasy league that also uses double-doubles and triple-doubles as categories, he led the NBA in both with 66 and 19, respectively.
Most importantly, the best ability is availability, and Jokic is historically available for his team. In an era where so many star players rest for no reason throughout the year, Jokic has never played fewer than 70 games in a season.
Don’t overthink it. Jokic is the No. 1 pick regardless of your league’s format.
MORE: Ranking top 30 players heading into 2022-23 NBA season
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
If for whatever reason you’re not thrilled about taking Jokic, Antetokounmpo would be my clear No. 2 option.
The Greek Freak is a fantasy monster, averaging 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals per game last season, filling every stat category you could possibly look for in fantasy.
He used to be a negative for 3-pointers made and free throw percentage, but Antetokounmpo has even improved in those areas. He knocked down 1.1 3s per game last year and bumped his free throw percentage up to 72.2, which wouldn’t force you to punt any categories.
He has stayed relatively healthy compared to others on this list, playing in over 60 games every season of his career.
You can’t go wrong with Antetokounmpo, and I wouldn’t let him fall past the second pick in any draft.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Doncic was a popular No. 1 overall pick in some fantasy circles last season, as everyone is trying to anticipate when his seemingly inevitably first MVP season might come.
While I wouldn’t take him over Jokic or Antetokounmpo, Doncic is still very worthy of a top-three selection in all fantasy formats. The 23-year-old averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season, providing a nightly triple-double threat while racking up boards from the guard position.
He knocked down a career-high 3.1 3s per game last season and although his field goal percentage dipped to 45.7 percent, that number isn’t going to force you to punt that category.
Doncic’s 4.5 turnovers per game may be a cause for concern, but with how much he contributes elsewhere, it shouldn’t shy you away from selecting him.
Sooner rather than later, Doncic is going to have his MVP season and it’ll be a sweet year for his fantasy owners.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid just sneaks into Tier 2 for me. The thing that separates Jokic, Antetokounmpo and Doncic from Embiid is durability, even though Embiid is coming off of the healthiest season of his career.
When the star center is available, there is no doubt he is a top-tier fantasy player. In a career-high 68 games last season, Embiid became the first big man since Shaquille O’Neal (1999-00) to lead the league in scoring with 30.6 points per game. He also averaged 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals while knocking down a career-best 1.4 3s per game on .499/.371/.814 shooting splits.
All of those numbers scream that he is worthy of a top-five pick, but can he remain that healthy again? If you’re willing to take the risk that Embiid may miss more time than he did last season, he’s worth as high as the No. 2 or 3 pick. If you’re a bit more skeptical, he’s probably more like a No. 4 or 5 pick.
MORE: Atlantic Division Preview: Sleepers, X-factors and burning questions
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Durant is a sure-fire top-10 fantasy player when he’s healthy and available, but can he play enough games to obtain that end-of-season ranking?
While Durant played in only 55 games last season, he was insanely valuable when he suited up. Averaging 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, a career-best 6.4 assists, and 0.9 steals and blocks per game, Durant filled the stat sheet on a nightly basis. He nearly shot 50-40-90 with .518/.383/.910 splits while burying 2.1 3s per game.
Now two years removed from sitting out an entire season as he recovered from a torn Achilles, Durant will hopefully be ready for a heavier workload when it comes to games played.
While I wouldn’t take him in the top three, you could make a case for him over Embiid as early as No. 4 based on preference.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry is coming off of another NBA championship run where he was rewarded with his first Finals MVP. The greatest shooter of all time doesn’t look like he’s slowing down any time soon, averaging 25.5 points, 6.3 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 4.5 (!) 3s per game last season.
His scoring and 3-point shooting can single-handedly win you those categories or help your team take over a matchup in a points league.
On top of the numbers, let’s not forget what this is all about. Curry just might be the single most fun player to own in fantasy, capable of morphing into the Human Torch on certain nights where you can get the group chat going and heckle the person you’re going up against because “Steph gonna Steph.”
Like Durant, I wouldn’t take him in the top three, but feel free to fire away on Curry as early as the fourth pick.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum is coming off of an impressive run to the Finals of his own, beginning to cement himself as a top-10 player in the NBA today.
Tatum earned his first All-NBA First Team honor last season, averaging career-highs with 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.0 3-pointers made per game. Most importantly, he has played in 70 or more games in three of his five NBA seasons and logged almost the most total minutes in the league last year, proving to be one of the more durable stars to choose from.
As he looks to lead the Celtics to meet their lofty preseason expectations as title favorites, he will once again be one of the best fantasy players in the league this upcoming season.
As stated for both Durant and Curry, I wouldn’t take Tatum over the likes of Jokic, Antetokounmpo or Doncic, but he’s fair game after that.
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