While technically, the season still has a handful of games remaining, for all intents and purposes, we are done for another year. Outside of a few still alive in their roto leagues, it's time to start looking back at the season that was. To get things moving, let's look at which players stood out this year when comparing Average Draft Position to final rank (total value). Simply put, who was the best-performing player that was available in each round?
Let's dive in:
Round 6: Lauri Markkanen
ADP: 76 / Rank: 15
With the hype building in the lead-up to the season, Markkanen was viewed as a player who could provide solid top-70 value, given that's what he was able to do in the season prior. The Jazz were considered a team that would likely shut it down at some point, allowing some doubt to creep into managers' minds. It was clear that Markkanen would be the Jazz's primary offensive option out of the gate, which has held true all season. He has not only taken his scoring from 14.8 points per game last season to 25.6 this season, but he has managed to shoot at a career-high clip from both the field and the stripe. Add to that career-best numbers in rebounding and 3-pointers, and it's easy to understand why he has been such a Fantasy stud. After faring much better than many expected, the Jazz appear invested in Markkanen as a key piece for the future, meaning this season could be the first in a string of top-30 campaigns.
Round 5. Mikal Bridges
ADP: 73 / Rank: 5
Durability remains a massive point of difference regarding Bridges' Fantasy value, given he has yet to miss a game in his entire career. While this alone gives him a bump in total value, his per-game production can't be overlooked, especially over the past two months. After being traded to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant deal, Bridges has taken his offensive game to another level. Since being dealt, he has scored at least 30 points on 11 separate occasions, eclipsing 40 points three times. This level of production would not have even been considered before the trade, so managers rostering Bridges can count themselves lucky. On the downside, his defensive numbers have taken a small hit recently, averaging just 0.8 steals per game over the past month. Looking ahead to next season, the Nets may make a few moves before opening night. It's hard to see Bridges being in a more favorable position, meaning there is a chance he is slightly over-drafted.
Round 4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
ADP: 45 / Rank: 2
Little needs to be said about the season Gilgeous-Alexander has put together. Having played a total of just 91 games over the past two seasons, managers were well within their rights to exercise caution when it came to projecting his 2022-23 campaign. Saddle that with the fact he suffered an injury in the preseason, and his ADP justifiably fell into the fourth round. From that point, it became clear he was in for a breakout season, scoring at least 30 points in five of his first seven games. He has tallied at least 20 points in all but two games, averaging 31.5 points per game with 2.7 combined steals and blocks. He is shooting nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line, averaging 10.9 attempts. The Thunder are positioned to play postseason basketball, and let's be honest, Gilgeous-Alexander has been the driving force on both ends of the floor. Still only 24 years of age, we could be looking at someone who has the potential to put up multiple top-5 seasons, with the top spot certainly not out of the question.
Round 3. Donovan Mitchell
ADP: 31 / Rank: 7
Like Gilgeous-Alexander, Mitchell was red hot to begin the season, topping 30 points in five of the first six games, quickly laying to rest any concerns managers had regarding his fit in Cleveland. As someone who has been locked in as a top-30 player for the majority of his career, managers were playing it safe, selecting him toward the back end of the third round in most drafts. Playing alongside Darius Garland, it was hard to project Mitchell would round out the season averaging a career-high 28.0 points per game. While his assist numbers have fallen slightly, he has maintained 1.5 steals per game while increasing his field goal efficiency from 44.8 percent to 48.1 percent. The Cavaliers will feature in the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James departed, and much of the thanks should be attributed to what Mitchell has accomplished. Yet to turn 27, Mitchell is hitting his prime, meaning his production this season could be sustainable for at least another few years. Given his consistency, managers may have to reach into the second round to secure his services next season.
Round 2. Domantas Sabonis
ADP: 21 / Rank: 8
The Kings are another team who will be playing postseason basketball, a welcome sight for long-suffering fans. Despite many questioning their decision to trade away Tyrese Haliburton, the proof is in the pudding regarding the impact of Sabonis. While his per-game numbers have been very similar to the 2020-21 season, his durability has boosted his overall value. Despite suffering a broken thumb just prior to Christmas, Sabonis missed only one game as a result. He has missed only two games all season, easily a career-best mark. While his defense remains questionable, what he does offensively cannot be overstated. Playing a role similar to Nikola Jokic, Sabonis is second in the league in rebounds per game and 13th in assists. He has been mediocre from the charity stripe but provides elite efficiency from the field (61 FG%). Also yet to turn 27, Sabonis has formed a dynamic partnership with De'Aaron Fox and should be able to churn out top-30 seasons for at least another couple of years.
Round 1. Jayson Tatum
ADP: 7 / Rank: 4
While Jokic would be the obvious name to have in the top spot, Tatum's continued improvement and his ability to stay healthy make him my top pick this season. Coming into the season, he was typically available in the middle of the first round after the big names came off the board. Managers were bang on when considering his per-game value, although given he was coming off a 76-game season, his perceived health should have been a bigger factor when drafting him. Unlike most players on this list, when we look at Tatum's per-game numbers, he has improved his output in every category compared to the 2021-22 season. He will likely be available again at a discount when the 2023-24 draft season rolls around. If I had to guess, he will come off the board at around pick six or seven, after names such as Jokic, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic. If I'm selecting anywhere after about pick three, I will consider Tatum.