For the fourth straight season, Liberty Ballers assembled its NBA player rankings by holding a 10-team draft. While no ranking system can ever be perfect, this is a fun way to get consensus and put some context around the debate of how to rank a star on a bad team versus an elite role player on a good team. The goal is easy: draft the best team for the 2022-23 season only, pretending each team were to be assembled in real life and competing against the other teams. Drafters must take into account everything typically taken into account when assembling a team, such as talent, fit, and injury history.
Speaking of injuries, injured players with no current timeline were ineligible to be drafted. Pending contract players were also ruled ineligible. This group featured Jaren Jackson Jr., Miles Bridges and Colin Sexton,
The drafters were 10 Liberty Ballers writers (ordered from pick 1-10): Bryan Toporek, Steve Lipman, Dan Volpone, Harrison Grimm, Paul Hudrick, Dave Early, Joe DiProsperos, Sean Kennedy, Jackson Frank, and Emily Anderson.
The results of the draft (our 2021-22 NBA player rankings) are shown below. Next to each player is the writer who drafted him, followed by where that player was taken in last year’s draft (LY).
This will be followed by each writer’s explanation of their thoughts on their draft choices. At the end, please vote in the poll to let us know whose team you think will be the best this season, as well as which team in last year’s Liberty Ballers draft was the best in retrospect.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bryan); LY: 1
- Joel Embiid (Steve); LY: 4
- Stephen Curry (Dan); LY: 7
- Luka Dončić (Harrison); LY: 5
- LeBron James (Paul); LY: 3
- Nikola Jokic (Dave); LY: 6
- Kevin Durant (Joe); LY: 2
- Jayson Tatum (Sean); LY: 11
- Kawhi Leonard (Jackson); LY: Ineligible
- Ja Morant (Emily); LY: 36
- Devin Booker (Emily); LY: 17
- Jimmy Butler (Jackson); LY: 13
- Jaylen Brown (Sean); LY: 28
- Paul George (Joe); LY: 12
- Donovan Mitchell (Dave); LY: 16
- Damian Lillard (Paul); LY: 9
- Anthony Davis (Harrison); LY: 10
- James Harden (Dan); LY: 8
- Bradley Beal (Steve); LY: 18
- Trae Young (Bryan); LY: 19
- Khris Middleton (Bryan); LY: 23
- Zion Williamson (Steve); LY: 14
- Anthony Edwards (Dan); LY: 47
- Jrue Holiday (Harrison); LY: 26
- Brandon Ingram (Paul); LY: 29
- Bam Adebayo (Dave); LY: 22
- LaMelo Ball (Joe); LY: 38
- Pascal Siakam (Sean); LY: 33
- Rudy Gobert (Jackson); 27
- Karl-Anthony Towns (Emily); LY: 20
- DeMar DeRozan (Emily); LY: 60
- Darius Garland (Jackson); LY: 65
- Kyrie Irving (Sean); LY: 15
- Draymond Green (Joe); LY: 37
- Mikal Bridges (Dave); LY: 41
- Marcus Smart (Paul); LY: 58
- OG Anunoby (Harrison); LY: 39
- Chris Paul (Dan); LY: 21
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Steve); LY: 25
- Zach LaVine (Bryan); LY: 24
- Evan Mobley (Bryan); LY: 81
- Dejounte Murray (Steve); LY: 69
- Scottie Barnes (Dan); LY: Not Ranked
- Desmond Bane (Harrison); LY: Not Ranked
- Deandre Ayton (Paul); LY: 45
- Tyrese Haliburton (Dave); LY: 88
- Klay Thompson (Joe); LY: Ineligible
- Jarrett Allen (Sean); LY: 79
- Fred VanVleet (Jackson); LY: 40
- John Collins (Emily); LY: 77
- Tyrese Maxey (Emily); LY: Not Ranked
- Cade Cunningham (Jackson); LY: 61
- Andrew Wiggins (Sean); LY: Not Ranked
- Dorian Finney-Smith (Joe); LY: Not Ranked
- Jamal Murray (Jackson); LY: Ineligible
- Jerami Grant (Paul); LY: 52
- CJ McCollum (Harrison); LY: 34
- Ben Simmons (Dan); LY: 35
- RJ Barrett (Steve); LY: Not Ranked
- De’Aaron Fox (Bryan); LY: 32
- Michael Porter Jr. (Bryan); LY: Ineligible
- Kyle Kuzma (Steve); LY: Not Ranked
- Robert Williams III (Dan); LY: Not Ranked
- Domantas Sabonis (Harrison); LY: 54
- Christian Wood (Paul); LY: 48
- Jalen Brunson (Dave); LY: Not Ranked
- Myles Turner (Joe); LY: 53
- Malcolm Brogdon (Sean); LY: 42
- Jordan Poole (Jackson); LY: Not Ranked
- Norman Powell (Emily); LY: 80
- Brook Lopez (Emily); LY: 84
- Al Horford (Jackson); LY: Not Ranked
- Tobias Harris (Sean); LY: 57
- Gary Trent Jr. (Joe); LY: Not Ranked
- Robert Covington (Dave); LY: 83
- Terry Rozier (Paul); LY: 78
- Keldon Johnson (Harrison); LY: Not Ranked
- Paolo Banchero (Dan); LY: Ineligible
- Tyler Herro (Steve); LY: Not Ranked
- Jonas Valanciunas (Bryan); LY: 51
- Dillon Brooks (Bryan); LY: Not Ranked
- De’Andre Hunter (Steve); LY: Not Ranked
- Chet Holmgren (Dan); LY: Ineligible
- Josh Hart (Harrison); LY: Not Ranked
- P.J. Tucker (Paul); LY: Not Ranked
- Jalen Green (Dave); LY: Not Ranked
- Franz Wagner (Joe); LY: Not Ranked
- Nikola Vucevic (Sean); LY: 43
- Wendell Carter Jr. (Jackson); LY: Not Ranked
- Jae Crowder (Emily); LY: Not Ranked
- Jaden Ivey (Emily); LY: Ineligible
- Gordon Hayward (Jackson); LY: 59
- Derrick White (Sean); LY: 68
- Patrick Beverley (Joe); LY: Not Ranked
- Anfernee Simons (Dave); LY: Not Ranked
- Mike Conley Jr. (Paul) ; LY: 55
- Jakob Poeltl (Harrison); LY: Not Ranked
- Herb Jones (Dan); LY: Not Ranked
- Bobby Portis (Steve); LY: 94
- Harrison Barnes (Bryan); LY: 99
Bryan Toporek (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, Khris Middleton, Zach LaVine, Evan Mobley, De’Aaron Fox, Michael Porter Jr., Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks, and Harrison Barnes):
Nikola Jokic might (wrongfully) be the two-time reigning MVP, but there wasn’t any doubt that I’d go with Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 1 overall. His well-rounded ability to turn a game on either end of the floor gave me unparalleled flexibility to build out the rest of my roster, especially when a defensive liability like Trae Young fell to me at No. 20.
I might have reached on Evan Mobley at No. 41 since we’re strictly talking about impact in 2022-23, but a Giannis-Mobley frontcourt was too enticing to turn down. Both of them can switch out onto the perimeter and help erase any defensive mistakes from my starting backcourt of Young and Zach LaVine.
I didn’t feel great about taking De’Aaron Fox at No. 60, since his long-range shooting issues could make him a clunky fit with Giannis. But having an explosive, athletic guard like him leading my second unit made me think the reward might outweigh the risks, especially since both of my bigs (Mobley and Jonas Valanciunas) can knock down triples on occasion.
Michael Porter Jr. was my biggest risk at No. 61, but scared money don’t make money. There was no one else with instant-superstar upside left on the board, and his length and high-volume three-point shooting could make him a devastating fit with Giannis and Mobley in limited minutes. Snagging #FutureSixer Harrison Barnes at No. 100 might have been one of the best values of the draft, too.
I didn’t quite pull off Masai Ujiri’s Project 6’9”, but the versatility of Giannis, Khris Middleton, Mobley, Porter and Barnes paired with the high-volume scoring of Young, LaVine and Fox should make my squad a nightmare matchup on both ends of the floor.
Steve Lipman (Joel Embiid, Bradley Beal, Zion Williamson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dejounte Murray, RJ Barrett, Kyle Kuzma, Tyler Herro, De’Andre Hunter, Bobby Portis.):
I’m really happy with how the draft shook out for me. The ping-pong balls fell great for me, as I landed the No. 2 overall pick. I knew Giannis would go first, and then the decision was clear. I went ahead and grabbed the should-be back-to-back MVP, Joel Embiid second overall as my team’s offensive and defensive fulchrum. He will be beloved in my fictitious city from day one, and he’s been growing as a leader on and off the court exponentially each year. Next up, I took Bradley Beal, my second star, who should develop a deft two-man game with Jo immediately. Beal is practiced at playing with the ball in his hands and also at running off screens — just imagine how deadly he’d be capitalizing off the gravity drawn by Embiid post-ups.
With my third pick I took a slight risk by choosing Zion Williamson, who didn’t play last year due to injury. But I believe in our medical staff and in Zion’s will to win in our environment next to these two stars. Remember Sam Hinkie talking about “violence at the rim”? Yeah, that’s Joel and Zion at the 5 and the 4. Just imagine the playmaking and scoring potential between Joel, Zion, Beal and then throw in budding star point guard (with high-level defensive potential) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. My fifth starter can vary. Murray is technically a guard and his jumpshot is iffy but he guards any living wing creature. RJ Barrett is coming off a breakout season where his jumper improved, he has good size and he guards consistently, and Hunter is a beast on defense, plus he flashed improvement from three (albeit on low volume). Herro’s minutes will be tied to Joel’s to take advantage of his scoring gravity and mask his defensive warts, and Portis is my ideal Embiid backup to stretch and switch some.
This is the team, folks.
Dan Volpone (Steph Curry, James Harden, Ant Edwards, Chris Paul, Scottie Barnes, Ben Simmons, Rob Williams, Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Herb Jones):
I’m very happy with how my team turned out. I think I may have assembled the greatest starting backcourt of all time with Finals MVP Steph Curry and James Harden, who is about to have a big bounce back this year. I was also thrilled to get Chris Paul, who I still view as a top-20 player, at 38 in this draft to be a guard off the bench.
With some older stars on the roster, I wanted to take a chance on some young breakout players. It’s easy to see Anthony Edwards making a leap this season. He’s a great athlete who continues to improve his shot and his defense. Scottie Barnes is already a great defensive forward, and I don’t think anyone would be shocked if he took a huge step forward this season. Late in the draft, I took a shot on the two top rookies, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren. My hope is at least one of those two can be really good this year.
To round out my starting lineup, I took Robert Williams. He’s a great defensive center who was a major piece on the Eastern Conference champs this season. With my final pick, I took Herb Jones, who proved himself to be one of the league’s better perimeter players and a nearly-league-average three-point shooter in his rookie season. I was excited to be able to add so many good defensive wings around Curry and Harden.
Finally, I need to talk about my selection of Ben Simmons at pick 58. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t vindicating to be able to select Simmons at pick 58 of this draft. I have long been labeled a Ben Simmons hater. While its true I’m not a fan of how Simmons handled things in Philadelphia even before he refused to play the 2021-22 season, my evaluation of his game never stemmed from hatred. For years, I have made the case that Simmons is an elite role player – a luxury for a team that already has stars rather than a star himself. That’s exactly what he will be on this imaginary team. Most of my fellow drafters disagreed with my Ben Simmons position a few seasons ago, but I was still able to get him much lower than the rank I had him at in his prime Sixers years (somewhere in the 25-35 best players in the league) that originally had my fellow Sixers fans calling me a Simmons hater. Simmons’ elite perimeter defense makes my team better and hopefully shows people that while I have never been a Simmons fan, my criticism of his numerous shortcomings (not just his lack of a jump shot!) has always been reasonable and has never come from a place of hatred. Once considered radical for my opinion of Simmons, I now view him even lower than I did before but still higher than anyone else, apparently. I’m fine with having the relative opposite position now. Ben Simmons will look like a good pick at 58 when it’s all said and done.
Harrison Grimm (Luka Dončić, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, OG Anunoby, Desmond Bane, CJ McCollum, Domantas Sabonis, Keldon Johnson, Josh Hart, and Jakob Poeltl):
I was gifted the fourth overall selection in this draft — which turned out to be a tough pick to make. I didn’t expect Jokic to fall to me, but I envisioned a plan that involved Luka Doncic. I ended up going with Doncic; he’ll likely be in the MVP race this season and history has shown that perimeter players are essential to winning most titles. Luka is incredible and makes those around him better. My goal was to build up on two-way talent. I wanted Luka to be the weakest defender on my team.
Anthony Davis had a rough year last season; plagued by injuries, inconsistency, and a poor fitting roster. When he fell to me at pick 18 I just had to take him. I highly doubt he’ll look like NOLA AD next year, but I’d imagine he bounces back with something like 23-25 points and 9 rebounds a night. He’s an excellent fit alongside Luka — he can pick, pop, roll to the rim, etc. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be forced to play center with the starting group.
I snagged two excellent two-way talents with Jrue Holiday and OG Anunoby. Jrue is arguably the most underrated player in the NBA. He’s a great fit alongside Doncic and will be able to take most defensive tasks. I might’ve reached with OG, but two-way forwards with size were flying off the draft board at this point. He might not want to be in Toronto, but he’ll love being a part of this team.
My next two picks, Desmond Bane and CJ McCollum, focused around offense. My team needed a quick trigger shooter and they got one in Bane. He had a tremendous sophomore season, and I think he’s solid enough defensively to fit right in with this group. I wasn’t planning to draft McCollum at all with this group but he was arguably the best talent by far still left on the board. He was excellent in his limited time with the Pelicans, and this pick might end up being the steal of this draft if that production carries over into this coming season.
Much like McCollum, Domantas Sabonis was probably the best talent available where I got him. He’s one of the more underrated players in the NBA and that’ll only become more true now that he’s in Sacramento. My team needed rebounding and size at this point in case AD was too afraid to guard centers. While he’s far from a lockdown big, he’s a big body that will fair well against most centers not named Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic.
I went back to my original plan with the next two picks; just getting guys that can play on both ends. Keldon Johnson is one of the NBA’s best kept secrets. He averaged 17 a game on efficient shooting with the Spurs last season. He’s a talented shooter with size — which was pretty hard to find at this point in the draft. I went on to pick Josh Hart with my next pick. He balled out with the Blazers, and he’ll have the biggest role of his career this year. He helps with the rebounding need and is another excellent fit alongside Luka and company.
I rounded out my draft with another Spur; Jakob Poeltl. He probably tops out as a very capable starter in the NBA, but he was by far the best remaining rim protector — which was the final area that needed to be addressed. He’ll rebound well, block shots, and finish around the rim — which is as much as I could ask for at this point in the draft.
Overall, I like how things panned out for my squad. Luka made Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson, and some guys look incredible in their prior postseason run. I can only imagine what he could do with this abundance of two-way talent.
Paul Hudrick (LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Brandon Ingram, Marcus Smart, Deandre Ayton, Jerami Grant, Christian Wood, Terry Rozier, P.J. Tucker, Mike Conley):
If the premise here is putting together a team to win a championship this season, how many players can you say you’d take over LeBron? The guy nearly won a scoring title at 37. I don’t foresee much slippage from The King.
And with so much playmaking out of the four spot, I selected a prolific scoring guard in Damian Lillard and a strong iso scoring wing in Brandon Ingram to complement it. Dame had a down season that was cut short by injury, but I expect him to bounce back. Ingram was terrific in his first playoff action (27 points on 58.7 true shooting against a stout Suns team) and I expect him to build off that entering his age-25 season. Getting Marcus Smart at 44th overall felt like strong value. The Defensive Player of the Year seems an ideal pairing with Lillard. Smart was also excellent on both ends in the postseason for the Celtics. Deandre Ayton rounds out my starting unit as a traditional five. Ayton was in the 71.6 percentile with a 65.5 effective field goal percentage as a roll man last season. That’ll play with the other four guys on the court that are all capable as pick-and-roll ball handlers. And I feel good about LeBron and Smart anchoring my defensive coverages.
Now, the bench is where things get fun. With Grant and Tucker I have two versatile defenders that can contribute on the offensive end. If I need playmaking I can go Conley. If I need scoring I can go Rozier. In Wood I have a big that can roll AND pop to back up Ayton, but we have so much versatility that we can get real weird. LeBron was effective as a center last year. A lineup of Smart, Ingram, Tucker, Grant, and James is so funky and switchable, I imagine teams would have a tough time matching up. I can go big with a Smart, Tucker, Grant, James, and Ayton lineup. James’ positional versatility and playmaking kind of allow me to do whatever I want. Just for kicks, imagine something like Dame, Rozier, Conley, Ingram, and LeBron. This is a squad that fits the modern NBA to a T.
Dave Early (Nikola Jokic, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton, Jamal Murray, Jalen Bruson, Robert Covington, Jalen Green, Anfernee Simons):
I didn’t expect to get Jokic when I drew the sixth pick, but I had to stop the VORP King’s draft day slide. I briefly considered KD, Tatum, and Kawhi first, but I figured Jokic, a still ascending two-way MVP level unicorn, would allow me to draft for talent over fit in the backcourt.
Next two picks were much trickier. I allowed myself to dream Paul George would slip back but there was a run on SFs. I really wanted to take Anthony Davis, but in the end, I felt his health is a big risk so I “reached” on Donovan. I was planning to reach again on Ant with my third pick, but Dan surprised me by beating me to the punch, and that made Bam an easier selection. I love how Dan balanced his reaches (Ant, Barnes) with value picks like CP3, Ben and Rob. He played this board masterfully. With Bam, and his ability to guard so many positions, I can stagger his and Joker’s rests, I’ll have athleticism and size, and can now wait on another big for a long time.
This year’s draft was far sharper than prior versions we’ve done. In 2021, I was able to hit on breakout candidates like Book, and Trae, or Ja and Garland in 2022 very late. This time there was no screaming star values plummeting to prey on at all. So I took Mikal who’ll hopefully give me a second All-Defensive Teamer in my starting unit, and he won’t hurt me much offensively.
By the fifth, I started to realize that stud fives were dropping and I could have waited on a guy like Jarrett Allen or Rob Williams. If I could do it again, I might have done everything differently, beginning with KD, and hanging on The Fro who Sean shrewdly scooped. One of the best picks of this whole draft.
Selecting Jamal Murray saves me from having to trek out to a Serbian Horse farm to assuage Jokic. If Murray heats up by May, this will return value for me. Otherwise, the opportunity cost was a possible All-Star like Simmons or MPJ.
My final picks were tricky as well. My best defensive lineups will feature Bam, Mikal, and Cov. Bam will be heavily involved as a screener as well for Donovan, JB, or Hali, and even some big-big PnR w/ Jokic to attack mismatches. Shooters everywhere too.
But how do you slow down Steve’s Team Pure Sweat Dynasty or Jackson’s group if they’re healthy? I think if I picked where Sean or Jackson did I would have wound up with an eerily similar team as the one they each drafted, pick for pick. What if Paul’s team develops Ingram into an MVP candidate this year, or if Sean can get the 2018 Celtics to get along better in 2023? What if Dan is the Simmons whisperer? Joe’s team has like 56 total rings. With all of that, I might need a coach’s draft so Pop can solve these riddles for me but I still love our chances.
Joe DiProsperos (Kevin Durant, Paul George, LaMelo Ball, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Myles Turner, Gary Trent Jr., Franz Wagner, Patrick Beverley):
Picking in the back-end of any fantasy draft is obviously not the greatest situation, especially in a draft as competitive as this one. Missing out on the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Steph Curry, and LeBron James is far from ideal. Thankfully, the NBA has a ridiculous amount of elite-level talent, so picking up one of the most dominant scorers in the game in Kevin Durant with the seventh pick is an outcome that I was more than content with settling for.
With two-way ability being the name of the game in the modern NBA, I wanted to place a strong emphasis on guys with those kinds of traits to fill out the rest of the starting lineup. Paul George would not only provide legitimate three-level scoring to supplement Durant, but he can also defend an opponent’s best perimeter scorer. Add in a young, electric lead guard in LaMelo Ball, an elite connective defender in Draymond Green, and a still-productive Klay Thompson, and this starting five has an ample amount of versatility on both ends of the court.
I adopted a similar approach when constructing my bench. There’s Dorian Finney-Smith, who had yet another great year as a floor spacer in helping the Dallas Mavericks reach the Western Conference Finals. Myles Turner offers a more traditional option at center with his rim protection and rolling ability while also providing some untapped shooting ability. Gary Trent Jr. and Franz Wagner can offer scoring juice both on and off the ball. And to wrap up my draft, I decided to take a flier on Patrick Beverley just to add a little more edge to the second unit.
All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with how my roster looks. There are plenty of lineup combinations to work with and it’s filled with guys possessing skill sets that mesh very well. Is this team a lock to win any accolades? I won’t go that far, being that my fellow writers all put together some pretty awesome rosters. But I’d give my squad a fighter’s chance against anyone.
Sean Kennedy (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Pascal Siakam, Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Allen, Andrew Wiggins, Malcolm Brogdon, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, and Derrick White):
Did I enter the draft with the intention of assembling as much of Boston’s roster as possible? No. But hey, you see how things unfold and the Celtics are coming off a Finals appearance and are the odds-on favorite to win the title heading into this season, so...not the worst foundation for my squad.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the kind of elite two-way wings that make everything hum — no major holes in any area of their games, able to adapt to different roster and lineup constructions. I’ve also assured Jaylen I have no intention of throwing him into any trade discussions, no matter what. I was very happy Pascal Siakam was still available at pick 28, coming off an All-NBA third team season where he really looked to have made another sizable leap towards the end of the campaign.
Kyrie Irving is rejoining his 2018-19 teammates and there are no vaccine mandates in our fictional draft universe. He will be a big help against some of the elite defensive squads that get constructed through this exercise, as the type of isolation scorer who can create his own shot in nearly any situation. Jarrett Allen rounds out the starting five as an excellent rim runner and rim protector who slots in perfectly alongside my very ball-dominant lineup.
The bench is a bunch of rangy, two-way guys who can interchange with any number of combinations within the starting group. Andrew Wiggins was the best player on the court in an NBA Finals game this past season. And he’s my sixth man? Sign me up. Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White are both solid defenders who can operate on and off the ball - I still can’t believe Boston added Brogdon IRL without losing a rotation player. Tobias Harris quieted a lot of the naysayers this past season, working as well as he ever has as a catch-and-shoot option and looking at times like a primary wing stopper. Finally, Nik Vucevic gives me a different dimension than Allen from the backup five spot with his ability to stretch the floor; nearly every other player on my roster being a plus defender should help alleviate Vuc’s defensive limitations.
It’s hard to “win” these things picking towards the end of a snake draft, given the talent bell curve of the league. But I feel good about my versatility, defensive acumen, and ability to operate the offense from a variety of different sources.
Jackson Frank (Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, Darius Garland, Fred VanVleet, Cade Cunningham, Jordan Poole, Al Horford, Wendell Carter, Jr., Gordon Hayward):
After the first seven picks saw every MVP winner/finalist off the board and Sean snagged Tatum eighth overall, I rolled the dice on Kawhi, who is coming off a torn ACL, but has consistently peaked as a top-three player over the past half-decade or so.
Kawhi is a dominant isolation scorer, improved passer and excellent pick-and-roll creator. While his defense is not of DPOY-caliber anymore, he’s still rather good. I liked pairing him with Jimmy Butler in round two, snagging a borderline top-10 guy 12th overall who is highly versatile on both sides of the ball.
Butler can’t space the floor as a spot-up threat, yet he’s a dynamite cutter and slasher who can bend defenses aptly as a passer. Neither are turnover-heavy initiators either, so I liked building my offense around two superstars who typically maximize offensive possessions. Conversely, they’re excellent prying takeaways from teams, so I feel my first couple picks did well to win the possession battle of any given game.
Already equipped with a pair of stout wing defenders, I next opted for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. He’s a brilliant drop coverage defender who can also switch from time to time, as well as a dominant screener and play-finisher out of pick-and-rolls. His diminished defensive impact in the playoffs stems more from insufficient perimeter insulation, but I liked how Butler and Kawhi complement him there. Dribble penetration won’t come as easily.
The bigger issue for Gobert in the playoffs has been his complete lack of self-creation, particularly against switching and small-ball lineups. But by nabbing Darius Garland in the fourth round, an All-Star guard who excels in ball-screens and setting up lob threats, I like the creation trio of him, Butler and Kawhi to ensure Gobert is constantly getting easy looks inside.
From there, I went for another first-time All-Star in 2021-22, selecting Fred VanVleet, a premier defensive guard and shooter who slots well as a complementary creator. He wore down over the course of last season because of a monstrous two-way workload. That wouldn’t happen on this roster and I like him taking the most pressing guard assignments defensively, even if Garland is rather solid on that end.
I then added another two-way wing, Cade Cunningham, who I think is primed for a stellar second season. Detroit’s context was #notgood for him last year but he’d be flanked by endless talent here. He’s a good off-ball player, high-level playmaker and versatile defender. He’d rock in this situation.
Jordan Poole should enjoy another step forward next season and is already a very malleable scorer whose playmaking continually progresses. I like him a lot as a reserve creator who fits in alongside a couple offensive bedrocks in most units.
I wanted some floor-spacing from my frontcourt, so I opted for Horford, who is a reliable big man shooter. He’s a good connective option as well, setting gnarly screens, attacking closeouts and finding others. Defensively, he can switch and drop, and touts nifty dexterity. I really like the value in round eight.
Wendell Carter Jr. is in a similar mold to Horford. He’s a versatile pick-and-roll defender who spaces the floor, passes well from the elbows and is a good driver. I expect big things in 2022-23 after a breakout year five. He’s great and can play with both Horford or Gobert on the frontline.
After taking wings with my first two picks, I’d largely neglected reinforcements there. So, I drafted Gordon Hayward to round out my team. He has his notable health worries, but he’s a great secondary creator who spaces the floor, cuts well and creates for his teammates aptly. Diminished mobility has hurt a lot of his defensive exploits, but I feel I can protect him, given my options with Kawhi, Butler, Gobert, Cade, FVV, Horford and WCJ. Lots of lineups can render him the lone defensive concern.
Emily Anderson (Ja Morant, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, John Collins, Tyrese Maxey, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Brook Lopez, Jae Crowder, Jaden Ivey)
For the past two years of the exercise, I’ve held the Golden Ticket, Joel Embiid. Due to extremely bad luck, or a fix that was put in, he went to my dear friend Steve Lipman and I had to rethink my entire strategy. I started by picking two of the best young guards in the game, known scoring threats who can go OFF at any given moment.
Karl Anthony Towns was my third pick, the reigning three-point contest champion, and All-NBA Third Team Center. If I need more size under the basket, Brook Lopez gives me an extra inch or two and KAT can play PF. DeMar DeRozan had an impressive 2021-2022 season, a return to All-Star form after a change in scenery in Chicago. I’m rounding out my starting five with John Collins, who at 25 (when the season starts) should be coming into his basketball prime.
I wouldn’t be the shameless homer that I am if I didn’t do this, so I had to draft the guy with the best smile in the NBA, Tyrese Maxey. Maxey handled the PG position well prior to the James Harden trade, and even after when asked to step up. Although I’m firmly in the camp that he probably should be a starter on any team, he is set up for Sixth Man of the Year duties on my team. Jae Crowder is my veteran leader, as well as a defensive presence for my bench unit. Plus, I couldn’t be happier to have this moment recreated on my team.
Rounding out my bench is Norm Powell, who has been a bit of a traveling man the past few seasons but manages to put up solid numbers everywhere he goes. Rounding out my team is the wild card, Jaden Ivey. I was shocked when he dropped to Detroit in this year’s draft, and I feel like he has ‘it’. Whether it’s my bias toward his Notre Dame connections or his admiration for women’s basketball that draws me to him, I’m not sure. I expect big things from the rookie this year.
Do I know how exactly my team will gel? No. Or what sets they will run? Also no. But I do know that they all seem like good people and they are also all handsome.
For the first time ever we anonymously polled the entire drafting crew post-draft to see where everyone’s opinions on their colleague’s teams. Here are the results for those questions:
4 votes — Jackson Frank
2 votes — Bryan Toporek
2 votes — Sean Kennedy
1 vote — Dave Early
3 votes — Emily Anderson
2 votes — Dave
2 votes — Steve Lipman
1 vote — Paul Hudrick
1 vote — Sean
Biggest steal (w/ position drafted):
4 votes — Chris Paul (pick 38)
1 vote — CJ McCollum (pick 57)
1 vote — Jamal Murray (pick 55)
1 Vote — Jordan Poole (pick 69 )
1 vote — Klay Thompson (pick 47)
1 vote — Tyrese Maxey (pick 51)
2 votes — Jaylen Brown (pick 13)
1 vote — Rudy Gobert (pick 29)
1 vote — Donovan Mitchell (pick 15)
1 vote — LaMelo Ball (pick 27)
1 vote — Ja Morant (pick 10)
1 vote — Brandon Ingram (pick 15)
1 vote — Zion Williamson (pick 22)
1 vote — LeBron James (pick 5)
Most surprising inclusion:
2 votes — Bobby Portis
1 vote — Herb Jones
1 vote — Jaden Ivey
1 vote — Jakob Poeltl
1 vote — Jalen Green
1 vote — Norman Powell
1 vote — Patrick Beverley
1 vote — Robert Covington
3 votes — Julius Randle
2 votes — Clint Capela
1 vote — Aaron Gordon
1 vote — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
1 vote — Kevin Love
6 votes — Dan Volpone (Stephen Curry, James Harden)
2 votes — Emily (Ja Morant, Devin Booker)
1 vote — Harrison (Jrue Holiday, Luka Doncic)
2.5 votes — Jackson
2 votes — Dave
2 votes — Steve
1.5 votes — Sean
1 vote — Joe DiProsperos
Most talented team:
4 votes — Jackson
3 votes — Dan
2 votes — Harrison
Best fitting team:
3 votes — Harrison
2 votes — Jackson
1 vote — Paul
1 vote — Emily
1 vote — Sean
1 vote — Dave
Below is a summary of this year’s top 100:
Vote here to let us know who has the best team for the 2021-22 season!
Who assembled the best team?
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