If you do nothing else to prepare for your fantasy basketball draft, do this one thing: set aside 20-30 minutes to write down the draft tiers for each of the five positions.
This one simple exercise will pay major dividends, because without even knowing it, you will come up with a game plan for your draft. That effort, I've found, will set you apart from the vast majority of other fantasy managers.
It will help you find value in the middle rounds because -- unlike most others in your league -- you will have a strong understanding of which positions you can safely wait to address and which you must fill in the earlier rounds.
Put another way, your road map will be there for you.
For instance, when pick No. 45 comes up and you've already drafted both guard and forward positions, you will still be set up nicely with quality center options like Dwight Howard, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and DeAndre Jordan still on the board.
I encourage you to take some time and create your own draft tiers. If you prefer, though, you can use mine as a starting point.
Heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, here are my draft tiers at each of the five positions for standard category roto leagues:
Westbrook and Curry remain at the top again this season, with Westbrook carrying more upside since he has less star-power around him. The concern is that he is also recovering from a knee procedure and could miss the first part of the season. Curry has called his offseason training the best of his career, so keep that in the back of your mind. ... Lillard and Holiday stand atop Tier 2, and their durability makes them safer than Paul, who, at age 33, is entering his 14th season after missing at least 21 games each of the past two seasons. Wall, coming off an injury-marred and disappointing season, and Simmons -- a superstar who doesn't shoot 3s -- are right there with Paul as point guards worthy of selection in the first two rounds. ... Veterans Walker, Irving and Lowry enter the fray next, and all will be gone by Round 3. Irving has the talent to be higher on this list, but the knee issues that have plagued him throughout his career are worrisome and potentially crushing for fantasy managers. ... Tier 4 is made up of players who will go between the mid-30s and mid-50s in most leagues, while Ball, Dunn and Young are three younger options with serious upside in Tier 5. All in all, point guard is a deep position this season, so don't sweat it if you miss out on Westbrook, Curry or Lillard in the early rounds.
Harden is the cream of the crop here on the heels of an MVP season that saw him lead the league in scoring. Miss on The Beard and you have four options in Tier 2 -- Oladipo, Butler, Booker and Beal -- who will all be gone by late Round 2/early Round 3. ... Thompson (more star power in Golden State), DeRozan (new team), Mitchell (still only in second season) and McCollum (took step backwards last season) all come with more questions but will all likely be taken by the end of Round 3. ... Doncic is the big-name rookie, and he won't slide on draft day, so you'll have to pick him by Round 4 if you want any chance at him. The others in Tier 4, Williams and Harris, have a higher chance to be available in Round 5. ... Fournier, Gordon and Batum are all worthy starters in fantasy lineups and can be had in Round 6 and beyond, but the talent drops off quickly from there. ... LaVine, Brown and Evans are all better options in points leagues than roto leagues and are better served as backups if they're on your fantasy roster. ... Bottom line here: Make sure you land a shooting guard from one of the first four tiers or else you'll be playing catch-up at shooting guard all season long.
This is the most top-heavy position this season, with James and Durant again at the top but only only 11 players in the top five tiers. ... Leonard and George make up Tier 2, with Leonard healthy and now on the Raptors and George back in Oklahoma City. ... Middleton can carry teams in the roto format, but the secret is out with the veteran Bucks forward, and it will take no later than a third-round pick to get him. Hayward joins Middleton in Tier 3 but is a question mark after missing the final 81 games last season due to a serious leg injury sustained in the season-opener. He's a risk until he proves otherwise. ... Porter, Tatum and Barton all struggle with consistency, but each is worthy of consideration from the end of the fourth round on. ... Covington and Ingles are two extremely useful options in roto leagues and both tend to slide on draft day, making them potential steals again this season. ... Looking at other tiers, Knicks rookie Kevin Knox (Tier 7) shined in summer league and has filled it up again during preseason. He's worth a flier after pick 80.
If you don't end up getting Davis or Antetokounmpo with a top-five pick, all four options in Tier 2 (Love, Green, Griffin, Aldridge) are worth thinking about from the end of Round 2 on. Griffin and Aldridge are more likely to come off the board in Round 3. ... After that, the next batch of power forwards (Harris, Saric, Randle, Gordon) can be had after pick 60. ... Tier 4 (Millsap and Barnes), Tier 5 (Mirotic and Markkanen) and Tier 6 (Warren and Parker) are mostly just scorers, with Millsap being the one real exception. ... Keep in mind that Markkanen sprained his elbow and could be out until December. ... This is a position to address early in the draft, and it makes selecting Davis or Antetokounmpo all the more appealing if you have a top-three pick. Taking a top power forward and coming back to get Middleton or Hayward in Round 2 is an idea that could pay off, setting you up to address the deeper positions from Round 3 on.
Towns stands alone in the top tier, even with two uber-talented big men behind him in Jokic and Embiid. If Butler's days in Minnesota are in fact over, as is widely believed, Towns becomes an even bigger part of the Timberwolves' offense and may even be worthy of being a top-five pick. ... What's interesting about the center position is how incredibly deep and talented it is this season. If you miss out on Towns, Jokic and Embiid, the next best options are Gobert and Drummond, two players who will likely be gone by the end of Round 2. ... You can wait until closer to the beginning of Round 4 to land Vucevic, Marc Gasol, Cousins (expected to be out until December) and Horford -- four quality options in the next tier. ... With the depth at this position, holding out until Tier 5 is not the worst idea. It would allow you to address the shallower positions like small forward and power forward and still have the chance to come back and land the likes of Capela, Howard, Ayton, Jordan or Kanter. ... Adams, Whiteside and Nurkic are other strong options who you can wait even longer for on draft day.