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The popular opinion these days, at least on the fantasybball subreddit, is that the top eight picks in fantasy basketball are Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard. So if we take this group of players as the "top tier", who is the leader of the "second tier"?

Several players come to mind, but we will take a look at three options in particular. LeBron James, John Wall and Nikola Jokic are all viable options at this spot and they have a chance to crack the top eight. But which one of them is your best bet?

Welcome to the ninth pick conundrum as we try to answer the question of who to take at number nine.

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LeBron James

Let's start of with the best player of the three. Actually let's start with arguably the best player in the world and one of the best of all time. Now if you take a look at the season leaders of the NBA in different fantasy relevant categories (Points, Assists, Rebounds, Blocks, Steals, Three-pointers made per game, Field goal % and Free throw %), LeBron is not in top 5 in any of them. But despite that, he is #4 in Fantasy points per game. That speaks volumes about how well rounded his game is.

But still, I wouldn't take James out of the three. Don't get me wrong, he will score around 25 points, grab 7 or 8 rebounds and dish out the same number of assists. He will get you over a steal and over a three, and maybe even close to a block per game too. He will hit over 50% of his FGs. He also will turn the ball over 3-4 times a night and struggle from the charity stripe at around 70% on 7 attempts per game. So King James will contribute heavily to your fantasy team each time he is out on the court. The problem is how much will he be on the court?

Last year he played in 74 regular season games and was occasionally rested in March and April. And that was when Cleveland was in pursuit of the first seed in the East which in the end went to Boston. Now, with Boston giving so much up for the youth and talent of Kyrie Irving, and Cleveland getting even stronger with the addition of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Jeff Green and Derick Rose, it is probable that they will clinch the #1 spot in the East long before the Fantasy playoffs are over. That spells "rest threat" for Bron's owners.

Also, with the addition of the above-mentioned players, and the rumors that Dwayne Wade might get bought out and rejoin his old buddy in Cleveland, LeBron might selflessly decide to cut back on his usage and let his new teammates shoulder more of the responsibilities. That way he makes everyone happy, the chemistry in the team remains good, and the only thing on the King's mind (beating the Warriors in the NBA Finals) becomes a reality. James won't care if his fantasy owners get screwed if he gets another ring for his troubles.

LeBron is a great player, and a great fantasy player, but with the crowded rotation in Cleveland, and more importantly the very real threat of him being rested (despite the new, more player friendly schedule and no resting players in away games rule being enforced) make him a risky pick at number nine.


John Wall

With two of the top four passers from last year, Chris Paul and James Harden, joining up in Houston, and Westbrook probable to surrender some of his usage to his new teammate Paul George, it is a very real possibility that John Wall finishes this season as the top assistant in the NBA once again.

Wall just turned 27 last week, but it feels like he's been around forever. He is elite in assists and steals, and he has never averaged less than 0.5 blocks in a season--which is great for a PG. His 45.1 FG% and 80.1 FT%, along with 1.1 3PM and 4.2 REB per game last season make for great all around production. He does turn the ball over 4 times a game, but we will certainly excuse him for that. He has averaged double-digit assists in three straight seasons and there is no reason to expect anything less from him this year.

He played in 78 games last year and his knee troubles seem to be behind him. Wall is not in that much jeopardy of missing games due to rest, as the Wizards will probably be in the battle for playoff seeding to the very end of the regular season. With no depth at all behind him, he will see as much time as he can handle. However, that was already true, and I don't see too much room for Wall to improve from last season. His stats for the past few years have been roughly the same, and as much as it is great to have a consistent player like that, the lack of insane upside is the reason I have Wall behind Jokic in this race for  the 9th pick.


Nikola Jokic

LeBron James is one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball. John Wall is a top-3 player in both assists and steals and all that with a lot of contribution in other stats as well. And I would still take the Joker before them both. The biggest reason for this? Upside!

First of all, Jokic is the centerpiece of a young Denver team which is set to build their team around him. With the addition of Paul Milsap, Denver will be a legitimate playoff candidate in the Western Conference. All this will ensure that Jokic gets a lot of minutes as long as he's healthy. Moreover, Milsap's arrival next to Jokic makes for a very creative and dangerous frontcourt duo which could result in a lot of assists and easy buckets for the pair so they both could see a rise in assists and FG%. As if Jokic wasn't already great in both those categories...

Nikola Jokic is a rotisserie dream. With season averages of 16.7 PTS with 0.6 3PM on 57.8 FG% and 82.5 FT%, 9.8 REB, 4.9 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.8 BLK and just 2.3 TO per game it's easy to see there is no apparent flaw in his game. He contributes in every fantasy category and does it while being hella fun to watch. His vision and the feel for assists is not matched by any frontcourt player currently residing in the NBA.

Furthermore, Nikola got even better as the season progressed as he upped his averages after the All-Star break to 17.7 PTS on 57.5 FG% and 84.2 FT%, 11.6 REB, 6.1 AST and 1.0 STL. He did lose the ball more, 2.8 times a game to be exact, and his block numbers went down a little to 0.6 per contest, but the improvement is obvious.

And that potential development in the season before us is what, for me, makes the Joker worth a pick before the other two top-notch players we have discussed above.


More 2017-18 Fantasy Basketball Analysis

By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.

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