2019 Las Vegas National Tournament Fantasy Draft
With registration for the Las Vegas National Tournament opening today, I thought it would be a good time to run through a mock of what the National Tournament would look like if it went to a draft format. I didn’t have the time to complete a roster for 24 teams, so I went with a snake draft involving four teams. The order was decided by the number of championships a team has won, so Ball So Hard (four championships), Bulls (two championships), and The Decision (one championship) all make the cut as the only winners of the tournament. That left one slot for the hosts to get a team in, so the Vegas Ballers round out the draft.
1. Ball So Hard – Dermaine Crockrell (AZ)
Career National Tournament stats: 24 games, 18.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 54/43/71 shooting percentages.
There’s no place to start other than with the three-time reigning tournament MVP. If you look at stats and use that as a way to pick out the best player form each tournament, Crockrell wouldn’t impress that much on paper. He had the 32nd best PPR in last year’s tournament, but it doesn’t matter. He is the engine to the best team in the tournament, and on a team with former NBA players, he continually stands out as the star of a stacked team. The most elite players across UH nation come out to Vegas each year, and there’s no other player you’d rather start a team with than Crockrell.
2. Bulls – Paris Kyles (MN)
Career National Tournament stats: 32 games, 20.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 56/34/72 shooting percentages.
There’s an argument to be made that Kyles, a first-ballot Ultimate Hoops Hall of Famer, should be the first selection. Crockrell’s recent run gives him the nod, but settling for Kyles as the second pick is a perfect way to start for the Bulls. He won back-to-back tournament MVPs in 2012 and 2013, and could have a couple more if Ball So Hard wasn’t around. Kyles is a high-level player on both ends, can completely take over a game offensively, and gives his team a great chance to win anytime he’s on the floor.
3. The Decision – John Pichon (CA)
Career National Tournament stats: 7 games, 24.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 69/0/54 shooting percentages.
Pichon has played in two national tournaments and led both of them in PPR. That’s really all that needs to be said about the way Pichon has dominated this tournament. He is the best big man in all of UH because of his combination of size, elite athleticism, touch around the basket and tough defense. He is a someone that can be the best player on a tournament-winning team, but he’s never been on a team that was good enough to go very far. He’s also one of the most-fun player to watch every year, with the possibility of a gym-shaking dunk or confidence-killing block on every play.
4. Vegas Ballers – Juice Hedrick (AZ)
Career National Tournament stats: 7 games, 20.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 47/38/87 shooting percentages.
Vegas starts their roster with someone who broke onto the national scene in last year’s tournament. He was tied for the lead in points per game with 25, which he did so on 54 percent shooting. He also showed off his elite defense, racking up 2.8 steals per game while guarding multiple positions. He’s a Swiss army knife of a player that can score on an opposing team’s best defender and lock down an opposing team’s best scorer; a perfect player for modern basketball.
5. Vegas Ballers – Tony Eackles Jr. (NV)
Career National Tournament stats: 15 games, 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3 assists, 60/35/69 shooting percentages.
Eackles has put together some of the crazier tournaments in recent UH memory. He had the iconic “Hoodie Tony” performance in the inaugural New York National Tournament in 2017, where he led the tournament with a 30.1 PPR, posting a stat line of 26/7/6.7. He followed that up with an absurdly efficient shooting clip of 69/58/90 on his way to the championship game with the Vegas Ballers in last year’s Vegas National Tournament. Pairing him up with Hedrick gives you an athletic backcourt that would be a nightmare to cover for opposing guards.
6. The Decision – Tevin Kelly (AZ)
Career National Tournament stats: 3 games, 25.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 45/39/94 shooting percentages.
Kelly had an impressive National Tournament debut last May, as he finished tied with Hedrick as the leading scorer in the tournament with 25 points per game. He was a part of a talented X-Over roster but still scored 35 percent of his team’s points. Kelly has many impressive skills, but his best is his elite ability to create his own shot. He gets paired with Pichon, which creates preposterous mismatches on pick-and-rolls that the two could exploit at any point.
7. Bulls – Chris Johnson (TX)
Career National Tournament stats: 5 games, 15.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 51/25/89 shooting percentages.
Johnson was another player to make his debut in 2018’s tournament, along with the rest of San Antonio Nation. They made an impressive run to the semifinals in their first-ever tournament, and Johnson was the best player on a talented team. He is an offensively versatile big man who can score in the post, from the midrange or from behind the arc. He also gets to the free throw line frequently (5.6 times a game in last year’s tournament) and converts at a high rate. If he sets an on-ball screen for Kyles, he has the ability to roll for a possible layup or pop for an open jump shot.
8. Ball So Hard – Jerome “JYD” Williams (NV)
Career National Tournament stats: 18 games, 12.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 57/40/68 shooting percentages.
Another big man comes off the board as these teams try to acquire size to compete with one another. JYD is unlike any other player in UH given his size, strength, rebounding, energy and veteran leadership. His teammates feed off his energy and always seem to play harder when he’s on the floor. Speaking of on the floor, JYD literally ends up on the floor at least six times a game diving for a loose ball, taking a charge or barreling to the rim. He can also control an offense, and he would be able to execute lethal dribble-handoffs with Crockrell.
9. Ball So Hard – Mike Bibby (AZ)
Career National Tournament stats: 12 games, 11.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 48/46/87 shooting percentages.
A Ball So Hard teammate for Crockrell and a fellow former NBA player for Williams. Bibby is the perfect guard to pair up with Crockrell, as we’ve already seen in the past two tournaments. His elite 3-point shooting ability makes it impossible for defenders to help off him when Crockrell drives, opening up the lane for easy buckets. He also would be the perfect partner with JYD for dribble-handoffs or coming off his brutal off-ball screens.
10. Bulls – Alex Scales (AZ)
Career National Tournament stats: 18 games, 14.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 48/42/83 shooting percentages.
The same purpose Bibby serves for this version of Ball So Hard is exactly the role Scales would play for the Bulls. Space the floor for Kyles to run the show and be ready to drain an open 3 if someone Is foolish enough to help off. Scales also adds length to clog passing lanes alongside Kyles. Scales’ biggest strength is his 3-point shooting, but he can create off the dribble and be a great second option as a go-to scorer.
11. The Decision – Michael Cox (CA)
Career National Tournament stats: 9 games, 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 68/22/67 shooting percentages.
Southern California has provided the National Tournament with some of the best talent we’ve seen in UH, and Cox is at the forefront of that list. He has been an efficient scorer in the tournament, limiting his outside shots and having his way in the paint. Him and Pichon are athletic enough to play alongside each other and not get in the way, plus they would bring down an absurd amount of rebounds over smaller teams. Cox has the ability to knock down open shots from the outside, so he’s a threat anywhere in a half-court offense. He also pairs with Pichon in the post to create the possibility for a dangerous inside-outside game with Kelly.
12. Vegas Ballers – Anthony Byrd (CO)
Career National Tournament stats: 19 games, 14.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 54/40/65 shooting percentages.
The Ballers add some size, length and athleticism to go along with their already athletic backcourt. Byrd, along with Hedrick, have the ability to switch every screen and cover almost anyone on the court. The defense has to put most of their attention onto Eackles and Hedrick, which will give Byrd plenty of open shots, which he’s more than capable of hitting. Byrd can also take over a game, which his 2014 tournament run is proof of. He scored 17.8 points per game while shooting 63 percent from the field and 58 percent from deep, leading The Decision to a national title and earning Byrd the tournament MVP.
13. Vegas Ballers – Kurtis Koenig (MN)
Career National Tournament stats: 9 games, 16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 59/37/58 shooting percentages.
Koenig, a 6’6” forward who has handles of a guard and can score in the post, gets added to a team that is already position-less. Koenig can create a good shot on any possession and he can score from anywhere within 25 feet of the basket. This team already has elite defenders, which lets Koenig focus his energy on the offensive end where he can dominate.
14. The Decision – Brensley Haywood (MN)
Career National Tournament stats: 36 games, 15.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 51/44/70 shooting percentages.
Not only does this move help The Decision by pairing Haywood with Kelly to form a dynamic scoring backcourt, it also robs the Bulls from being able to have the iconic Kyles-Haywood duo. Haywood has won two national titles alongside Kyles, but he’s been much more than just a sidekick. He played just as well as Kyles in the 2012 tournament, scoring 21.3 points per game while shooting 60 percent from the field and 56 percent from deep. He has the ability to run point or also play off the ball, which is a role that would suit him well running alongside Kelly.
15. Bulls – Chase Skinkis (NV)
Career National Tournament stats: 25 games, 9.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 53/21/58 shooting percentages.
The Bulls complete their backcourt with another Hall of Famer to play alongside Kyles. Skinkis’ main role on this team would be to cover the opposing team’s best guard, which is a strength for him. He’s shown the ability to not only guard the perimeter at an elite level, he can also guard players bigger than him in the post, so switching is a possibility. He wouldn’t be asked to do too much on the offensive end, and with other dangerous options around him, the defense is likely to fall asleep and have someone find Skinkis open for a thunderous alley-oop.
16. Ball So Hard - Justin Dentmon (CA)
Career National Tournament stats: 9 games, 27.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 47/42/89 shooting percentage.
A third guard gets added to the Crockrell and Bibby mix. Dentmon is one of the most prolific scorers UH has to offer, as he ranked first in scoring in the 2016 tournament (31.0) and fourth in 2017 (24.0). He’s the closest thing UH has to a James Harden replica, as he has a lethal step-back jumper and defenders often get baited into fouling him when he shoots from deep. He makes it a habit to get to the free-throw line, as he’s averaged 7.2 attempts per game in his National Tournament career, converting on 89 percent of those. He or Crockrell can be the main ball-handler on this team, and he can work effectively off the ball once the defense gets distracted by one of the other scoring guards.
17. Ball So Hard – Ryan Jansen (MN)
Career National Tournament stats: 20 games, 5.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 50/38/43 shooting percentages.
Ball So Hard knows a thing or two about championship pedigree, so adding a player with 17 UH championships makes perfect sense. He becomes the defensive anchor for a squad full of offensive threats. There’s a chance that Jansen gets about two shots a game with this team, and he wouldn’t mind at all. He’ll do whatever is needed from him for his team to win, and he fits in perfectly with the “defense wins championships” mantra that has helped Ball So Hard win four straight national titles.
18. Bulls – Aaron Hendricks (CA)
Career National Tournament stats: 7 games, 23.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 43/34/84 shooting percentages.
When you have a point guard that demands the kind of attention that Paris Kyles does, the best thing you can do is surround him with shooters to create space. Having Hendricks and Scales on the same floor puts two of UH’s best shooters surrounding terrific passers in Kyles and Skinkis. Hendricks could serve as this team’s Klay Thompson, dribbling rarely and getting open shots frequently.
19. The Decision – Johnnie Brown (MI)
Career National Tournament stats: 29 games, 12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 48/30/52 shooting percentages.
Another Hall of Famer comes off the board, as Brown adds athleticism and versatility to round out this roster. Brown is a combo guard who can slot into the frontcourt for this team and do damage in transition. He’d be able to work without the ball and provide some needed perimeter defense to an offense-first roster.
20. Vegas Ballers – Adam Hoven (MN)
Career National Tournament stats: 11 games, 11.2 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 53/32/81 shooting percentages.
The position-less, switch-everything Ballers complete their roster with a 6’4” forward who can run point or play the five in small-ball lineups. He’s the perfect player to slot into this team, as his length and switchability fits with the identity this team is going for. On offense, Hoven is comfortable putting up over 30 points or taking less than five shots. He already has chemistry with Koenig, as the two won a Dream League title together with the Griffins in 2018. Hoven is the type of player that can fit into any team and help make them better, but this roster was made for a player like him.
Ball So Hard
Jerome “JYD” Williams
Tony Eackles Jr.