Rotoprofessor Roundtable: Who Should Be This Year’s Number One Pick?

It’s not often you get the number one pick in a fantasy draft, or at least I don’t get it very often. If you happen to have the first pick in your draft this season you have a tough choice on your hand with three very good options at the top that I have heard tossed around as the number one pick.

Here at RotoProfessor the writers have some dissenting opinions on the question of who is number one and so we have each taken a different side and will argue the case for each of our guys to be the number one pick. At the end you can decide who you think truly deserves to be number one:

Will Overton: James Harden – Houston Rockets

The race for number one is tight and while I can see the argument for any of these three guys, I have to give the nod to James Harden and I’m going to do so for a few reasons. One of the first things you can do is look at his stats from last season:

38.1 MPG, 43.9 FG%, 86.0 FT%, 29.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 7.5 APG, 2.9 3PG, 1.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 4.6 TOPG

This guy is a stat stuffing machine. And despite how good those numbers are, if you take just his second half numbers it’s even more mind blowing when he shot 46% from the field  and had 30.9 PPG with 8.3 APG. Harden’s numbers jump off the page, but so do the numbers of the other two guys discussed here. Harden is the guy I think is the safest bet to post these numbers again though, or even potentially exceed the numbers.

Over the summer Mike D’Antoni took over as head coach of the Rockets. We know the positive benefits D’Antoni and his up tempo system has on fantasy players, and while the Rockets ran the floor last year, they’re going to be even more up tempo now. It’s already been announced by D’Antoni as well that Harden will be his starting point guard. So he’ll have the ball in his hands even more if that’s possible.

There are questions about Westbrook as far as how well his body can hold up to his style of play. There are questions about Curry and how the addition of Kevin Durant will affect him and whether he sees fewer minutes or even games. There really aren’t questions surrounding Harden. The guy with the highest floor is Harden and his ceiling is just as high as the other two as well. For these reasons I will be taking Harden first overall if given the opportunity.

Ray Lin: Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors

The only two potential knocks against Stephen Curry as the #1 overall pick in fantasy are injury and volume. Both concerns, in my opinion, have been overblown. Rash drafters may eschew Curry for his “injury history” without admitting that Donatas Motiej?nas sweat puddles are unpredictable and in Curry’s case, unavoidable. Consider this — for all of Curry’s early career injury woes, he’s played at least 78 games every year since 2012. Admittedly, he didn’t look like himself in the playoffs after that sprained knee and the production sagged as a result compared to last postseason. But, he’s now back in fully healthy form. According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, Curry’s personal trainer Brandon Payne said last week the defending MVP is “the strongest he’s ever been”.

Harden ranked first overall in minutes played last year while Westbrook logged the 16th most minutes. Still, Curry led the league in scoring (30.1 ppg), True Shooting (66.9%) and 3PM (402) despite ranking just 20th in total minutes played. That’s damn efficient. Even though volume adds to a player’s floor, so does efficiency. In Curry’s case, it’s otherworldly efficiency. Despite playing considerably less minutes than the other two, Curry topped the year-end ESPN Player Rater with an 4.78-point edge over the runner-up in Harden, and a 7.37 advantage over Westbrook (4th place).

Curry will remain the most efficient of the bunch because he’ll be surrounded by potentially the best supporting cast in the history of the league. Harden and Westbrook may outscore Curry with their heavy iso this year, but Curry will be more efficient and well-rounded in coach Steve Kerr’s pace-and-space system. My bold prediction is that The Chef cooks up another season for the ages, threatening a 70% True Shooting Percentage (not done since Tyson Chandler in 2011-2012) and vying for a third straight MVP crown in a contract year.

Ray Kuhn: Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder

You really can’t go wrong with any of the top options; Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, and James Harden. But for me, Westbrook is the option I’m leaning towards at the top of the draft.

All three are going to have the ball in their hands the majority of the time, and that is a recipe for fantasy success. Per John Hollinger’s Usage Rate stat from last season, they made three of the top four (DeMarcus Cousins was number two). Westbrook led the league at 33.3 while Harden followed with 32.2, and Curry’s was 31.6.

What swings me from Curry to Westbrook is one simple factor; Kevin Durant. This season, the small forward joins the Warriors, and while it makes Golden State better, it does shift a small amount of fantasy production away from Curry. Again, all are elite choices, so we really need to nitpick to find an age.

While on paper, the Thunder are worse off for losing Durant, it’s not like they will be terrible this season. Victor Oladipo joins Westbrook in the backcourt, and Oklahoma City will have a dynamic duo that will give opposing defenses fits. But let’s be clear, this is still Westbrook’s team.

To go back to the usage rates, Westbrook’s jumped to 39 last season when Durant was out of the lineup. The year prior, when Durant appeared in just 27 games, Westbrook had a usage rate of 38.3 while scoring 28.1 points with 8.6 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. That is the kind of performance we can expect this season and it is why I’ll be taking Westbrook first overall.


  1. B9 says:

    Anyone have an opinion on the #1 pick in a 9 cat H2H wuth FTmade and Double Doubles instead of FT% and TOs? Harden can be slotted in at PG/SG/SF so that would create all kinds of opportunities for punting

    • Will Overton says:

      That’s an interesting one. I would still lean towards Harden myself, and the FT Made helps that case for sure because Harden gets to the line a ton. Westbrook closes the gap a little in this format though without turnovers and with double-double’s of which he should get plenty.

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