Welcome to the 2017 edition of the FanRag Sports NBA Franchise Player Draft. In this draft, 10 FanRag Sports contributors will select a starting five of current NBA players based on the idea that we’re starting the league from scratch and crafting teams with both short- and long-term excellence in mind. Age, injury history and roster construction are to be considered, but current contract situation is not.
Here are picks 11-20 in the draft. Click here for the first-round picks and explanations.
11. Zach Harper — Draymond Green
Versatility and defense are the two greatest currencies in the NBA right now. The versatility of having big men who can stretch the floor and shrink it at the same time make all the difference in trying to rule the NBA land. While I initially wanted to take Russell Westbrook, because it’s hard to believe he’s still on the board, I decided that point guard is too deep, and I want to make a wrecking crew. Green can play big and small. He can protect the rim and the perimeter. He can live at the basket and stretch it out to the 3-point line. You want to try to score on a lineup of a cyborg-enhanced Joel Embiid and Green? Good luck with that.
Not to mention, we want to demoralize our opponents. We want to have our mail forwarded to their heads, where we will implant ourselves and get the opponent out of the game. Nobody is going to beat a combination of Embiid and Draymond talking trash to everybody in their way. They will beat you and let you know about it until your ears bleed. You can’t mute us in real life.
First-round pick: Joel Embiid
12. Jared Johnson — Jimmy Butler
Here’s a statistic that tells you everything you need to know about how poorly the Bulls built a roster around Butler while he was in Chicago: In 2016-17, Butler’s total Win Shares (13.8) sat at 9.5 more than the next-highest player on the Bulls (Robin Lopez, at 4.3). No other player in the league had that much of an advantage over his best teammate. Not James Harden. Not Russell Westbrook. Not Kawhi Leonard.
And somehow, Jimmy Buckets still dragged that trash heap of a roster to the playoffs.
Next to Nikola Jokic, the 27-year-old Butler will find his best form as a player, rediscovering his roles as a master cutter and defensive specialist that he had to sacrifice somewhat when he became Chicago’s clear-cut No. 1 option. Butler will still be a huge part of my offense, but his role won’t be so big that it precludes him from doing some of the things he does best.
First-round pick: Nikola Jokic
13. Bryan Toporek — Kristaps Porzingis
As much as it pains me to pass on Russell Westbrook here, point guard is by far the NBA’s deepest position, so I’m confident I can land a franchise-caliber floor general later on. Instead, I’ll double down on unicorns by taking Porzingis here. Paired with Karl-Anthony Towns, I now have a duo of dynamic 7-footers that can rain down 3s on one end of the court and block shots on the other. Once both players get a bit more seasoning, my twin towers will wreak havoc on all challengers.
Even if Westbrook drops triple-doubles on me until the end of time, at least I did the NBA a solid and freed Kristaps from the Knicks. You’re welcome, everyone.
First-round pick: Karl-Anthony Towns
14. Jack Winter — Paul George
A LeBron James team needs to win now, and no player left on the board helps accomplish that goal, in addition to a big-picture one, like George. He’ll be one of the most overqualified second bananas in basketball next season, an existence that would prove even more fruitful if it was James rather than Westbrook playing alpha dog. George is one of the game’s most versatile defenders, too, and a lineup with James next to him up front is big enough to play up against lineups featuring no true big man.
Just as important, he can shoulder more of an offensive load when – or maybe if? – James finally starts to slow down. George is only 27, and his only experience playing deep into spring came when he was several years away from his prime. Recent evidence suggests that his game goes to another level in the playoffs, too. What if George reaches an even higher one with a championship on the line? As James’ teammate, he’s almost guaranteed to get the chance to play for one.
First-round pick: LeBron James
15. Keith Smith — Russell Westbrook
In no reasonable world should the reigning MVP still be on the board. Are there really 14 players better than Westbrook, even factoring in his age and injury history?
I don’t think so, but I’m happy to tell Russ that. Let’s keep him angry and motivated. He’ll pair nicely with Anthony Davis as one of the more athletic twosomes so far. Add a shooter, which we’ll handle later, and we’re set up for a lot of success.
First-round pick: Anthony Davis
16. Shane Young — John Wall
This comes after going back and forth in my mind between drafting Wall and a young, defensive center. But, I’ll take my chance with a quality center being available later. Another option was pairing James Harden and Damian Lillard for a dynamic scoring backcourt, but I considered the following: Wall is entering his eighth season, while turning only 27 in early September. Lillard is entering his sixth at the same age. This is Wall’s prime, coming off the best season of his career, and there’s hope that he can revert to the really good defender that he appeared to be a couple of seasons ago. The last two, he’s definitely slacked defensively and still gets a bit lazy, but that naturally comes with greater offensive production. Just ask my first pick — he’ll agree.
Wall is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, with a gap between him and Kyrie Irving, in my view. I’m going all in on a Wall-Harden duo, since Wall can really help alleviate pressure off The Beard and create him more open looks. Harden was able to put together an MVP-caliber season last year, without another quality distributor on his team.
People forget — Wall generated 3,776 total points last year through his scoring and passing. It was third in the league, behind only Harden’s 4,554 and Westbrook’s 4,482.
I now have two of those three guys. Deal with it, everyone! Our scoring is going to be lethal if we just surround these dudes with adequate shooting. Also, Wall has played in 316 of the possible 328 regular season games since 2012-13. Yeah, he’s durable. Let’s go.
First-round pick: James Harden
17. Nekias Duncan — Klay Thompson
My next choice will be Mr. Clip-On Goatee himself, Klay Thompson.
He’s the second-best shooter on the planet, which is a necessity with Giannis Antetokounmpo as a cornerstone. He’s shot north of 40 percent from 3 on healthy volume in every season of his career, and can get me points in a hurry as a secondary option.
He can also credibly defend three positions, fitting into my switch-heavy scheme. We’re cooking up a fierce squad over here.
First-round pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo
18. Tom West — Rudy Gobert
I already have Kawhi Leonard to lock up my opponent’s best wing scorer, so the chance to add Gobert behind him was too enticing to miss. It’s going to be hell for anyone who tries to drive past Leonard and take on Gobert at the basket. Gobert defended 10.2 shots per game at the rim last season and allowed a measly shooting percentage of 43.8, better than anyone else defending at least five such shots per game (bar Joel Embiid in his 31 appearances).
Gobert is the league’s best defensive center, and there’s no question about it. The fact that he just led the NBA in Defensive Real Plus-Minus helps reinforce that. He’ll alter so many shots, block a ton, and intimidate players from shooting inside as often altogether, not to mention rebound at an elite rate.
All of that is good enough. But when you add in Gobert’s offensive improvements last season, his two-way impact is massive. His hands got better, he finished more effectively around the rim (a jump from 55.9 percent shooting in 2015-16 to 66.1 while taking on a bigger role is impressive) and established himself as the NBA’s second-best roll man behind DeAndre Jordan, which will help pull in defenders and free up shooters. At just 25 years old, his future is seriously bright, too. Have fun against a team with two of the game’s best three defenders.
First-round pick: Kawhi Leonard
19. Andrew Bailey — DeMarcus Cousins
Legitimately devastated that my plan to pair Stephen Curry with Gobert has been foiled, I’m going with DeMarcus Cousins here. Maybe he just needs to have fun playing basketball, and how could one play with Curry and not have fun?
These two are going to be a pick-and-roll (or pop) nightmare. Boogie has never played with a point guard who commands near as much attention off a ball screen as Curry. And when defenders try to run Curry off the line, because they’ll have to, Cousins will be rumbling toward wide-open lanes or scrambling mismatches. If, on the other hand, defenses collapse on the rolling Boogie, Curry will dismantle them from the outside. Even with only two players in place, this is already a devastating offense.
First-round pick: Stephen Curry
20. Kelly Scaletta — Kyrie Irving
If Curry and Kevin Durant can work together, why not Irving and Durant? There are some slightly different challenges here, but Irving is an excellent spot-up shooter, and he can get to the hole nearly at will. With Durant there to draw defensive attention, he’ll have it as easy as he did in Cleveland with James. I’m not as concerned with his passing because Durant is such a great secondary playmaker. I’ve got some defensive issues I’ll have to face down the line, but as a 1-2 scoring punch, you’re not going to do much better.
First-round pick: Kevin Durant