Now that the schedule is out, let's rank some rookies for their potential fantasy value!!! Yes, it's triple exclamation-point worthy.
How great is this? It seems like just yesterday we were talking about B.R.I. and escrow and now we’re breaking down back-to-back-to-back games on the NBA docket. Woo hoo!
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Today we're going to tackle the rookie class. Of course there are a lot of things that are subject to change based on how the league year hasn't even started yet and the free-agent signings will be fast and furious. Another reminder, fantasy owners shouldn’t read too much into the preseason stories and drop a proven guy based on a guy like Jordan Crawford dropping 30 points for Atlanta. Use your watch list, friends.
This is a ranking based on where I would draft these rookies in an eight-cat league. Personally, I like rookies as much as anyone, but this year with the shortened schedule and especially the shortened preseason, it’s really going to be tough to be patient enough to stick with these guys. The vast majority guys on this list are for deep leagues. Standard-league owners should certainly put them on their watch list though.
1. Kyrie Irving- One year after Blake Griffin and John Wall were two of the biggest impact rookies of all-time in fantasy hoops, Irving is going to have a tougher time carving out a role with the likes of Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis on the roster. Yes, Sessions is very likely to be dealt and he wouldn’t be more than a backup even with Baron out of the picture.
Irving is an elite talent, but like we always say come NBA/fantasy draft season, sometimes opportunity outweighs talent. Irving does have range as a jump shooter and is quick enough to add some steals, which gives him a big upside. Reports following the NBA Draft stated the Cavs love him, but with all the money Davis is scheduled to make, this is going to be a time-share split for Cleveland as long as B-Diddy is on the team. The Cavs could use the amnesty provision on Baron Davis which would heavily increase the stock of the Duke product. Don't hold your breath though.
2. Kemba Walker- Kemba has a pretty solid opportunity in Charlotte. D.J. Augustin fizzled out last year down the stretch a bit and hasn’t really done anything to assert himself as a starting NBA PG. If he can’t knock off DJA, he’ll likely serve as a sixth man to spell Augustin and a healthy Gerald Henderson (hip). The former M.O.P. of the NCAA didn’t set the world on fire from the field with a pedestrian 42.8 percent from the floor. That numbers projects to be a disaster from a fantasy perspective and he could have a Jennings-like impact on FG% at a smaller clip. On the plus side, he did shoot 82 percent from the line at 7.7 free throws per game. Walker also had 2.0 SPG in his last two seasons at UConn and played a hefty amount of minutes with 37.6 MPG in his senior season. The Bobcats are really thin in the backcourt and Walker should be a safe bet for at least 25 MPG by the time February rolls around.
3. Derrick Williams-Derrick Williams was one of the most impressive players during the NCAA tourney and the noise he made took away all of the suspense that he wouldn’t be playing in Tucson for another year.
Williams can shoot the rock from distance with his ridiculous 57 percent from beyond the arc. That 57 percent was on a fairly nice sample size of 42-of-74 on the season, so it does hold some weight. Just to be clear, Williams should not be drafted as one of your main 3PM contributors to your team. When it comes to rookie forwards, an area of concern is always both shooting percentages. D-Will passes the eye test with a free throw percentage of 75 percent and a field goal of 60 percent. Very, very nice. Of course he did come out of the Pac-10 and it’s not like they preach defense there, so take that field goal percentage with a grain of salt.
4. Brandon Knight - There's a lot to like about the rookie Wildcat. Knight has the ability to hit triples at a high level. He made a name for himself in the first weekend of the tournament with a game-winning bucket against the boys from the 08540 (Princeton) and a huge 30-point line against the West Virginia Mountaineers. His 38 percent beyond the arc with a clip of six shots per night headlines his attributes as a fantasy talent. Knight was also a great shooter from the line with an 80-percent conversion rate. He wasn’t quite as aggressive as Kemba, but 4.5 attempts from the line is enough to suggest he has some impact on the category once he cracks the rotation.
Knight wasn’t too much of a thief on the defensive end with just 0.7 SPG, which is enough to knock him down a bit on the fantasy draft board. There’s a lot riding on the Pistons signing Stuckey (seems inevitable), which delegates Knight to a sixth man-type role. His all-around game gives him some nice upside though.
5. Nikola Vucevic- The Sixers grabbed the former Trojan with the 16th pick in the draft. The 6-foot-10 big man shot a very respectable 35 percent from beyond the arc in his senior season on 2.4 attempts per game. His percentages were also of the eye-catching variety with 50.5 percent from the field and 75.5 from the charity stripe. Add the block stats of 1.6 per, and you’ve got all the makings of a sleeper.
There’s not a whole lot in his way from becoming a contributor with just Spencer Hawes ahead of him. Hawes has been in doghouses more than Bill Clinton and all it takes is one slip for Vucevic to leapfrog him. There’s a lot to like here, folks.
6. Ricky Rubio- The first thing you have to remember when it comes to drafting Timberwolves is: KKKKKKAAAAAAAAHHHHHHNNN! David Kahn has been a bull in a china shop with the way he has built his teams with reckless abandon in his stint. This is the last year of Kahn's contract and I'm sure that Wolves fans would give their left pinkie to trade that expiring contract. But I Digress. The Wolves got pretty thin at point guard fairly quick by essentially cutting bait on Jonny Flynn and his perpetually hurt hip. The job should be Luke Ridnour’s to lose and Rubio will need a hot start to usurp those duties. The Spaniard shot a.. gulp.. 23 percent from the floor in EuroBasket and will obviously need to develop that shot in order to have fantasy-starter capabilities. We all know about his passing prowess and he'll really need a lot more than that to make him a player to target in the early-late rounds. Someone in your league will reach for him.
7. Iman Shumpert- D’Antoni can be quite a fickle beast. In fact, do you know who led the NBA in three-point shots made after the break? Toney Douglas. The NY offense can be quite a fantasy goldmine with the way they push the rock and attempt treys. The Knicks were second in the league in three-point attempts, but Shumpert wasn’t all that great with only 27.8 percent made from distance. The GT product is what many would call a "volume shooter" with 14.1 attempts per game and he was only able to make 40.6 percent of those. The attraction to Shumpert is all about the systemand how he can take the starting gig.
8. Kenneth Faried- Faried is the best rebounding prospect since Paul Millsap and seems like a great fit for Denver. He is capable of getting out and running for Karl and Co., plus he should be able to defend most NBA fours. His offensive game might never exist, but for every five impact players on the offensive end, there are only about a couple guys that can become true defensive stalwarts. He is a phenomenal leaper and his 2.3 BPG rate last year is enough to give him a nice floor for fantasy value. The Nuggets will reportedly attempt to sign Nene, if they’re unable to do so, then Faried quickly becomes a guy to target in deeper leagues.
Side Note: A part of me is rooting for Chukwudiebere Maduabum to crack the the rotation for Denver. Partly because I took the time to remember how to spell it and he has one of the coolest nicknames: Chu Chu. It's probably not going to happen though.
9. Bismack Biyombo- Biyombo draws the easy comparison to fellow countryman Serge Ibaka. Like Serge, he plays a heck of a lot bigger around the paint and has an uncanny knack for eradicating shot attempts. Biyombo stole the show at the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit with a triple-double that included 10 blocks to go with his 12 points and 11 rebounds. Biyombo is a freak athletically and has the upside to eventually become a top-50 asset, although that tag can be applied to any player with his shot-blocking gift. Kwame Brown had value with the Bobcats last year and was a part of the championship puzzle for quite a few fantasy teams. Kwame Brown. If he can have value, Biyombo at least has a chance to make a splash. He's staying overseas this year. Expect to see a heavy dose of Boris Diaw and Tyrus "The Virus" Thomas.
10. Klay Thompson- Thompson was one of a few guys that saw his stock rise at the combine with his fantastic jump shot in conjunction with some secondary skills. The Washington State Cougar shot the lights out last year with a 39.8 three-point percentage on 5.4 shots per night. Thompson played big minutes as well with 34.7 in his junior year and scored 21.6 PPG in the Pac-10. Klay "Nucky" Thompson was also a bit of a thief on the wing with 1.6 SPG. Nobody calls him Nucky, but they should. Well, one would think that the Warriors would not re-sign restricted free-agent Reggie Williams, so that would make Thompson likely the next in line behind Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry to fill in at the two. Furthermore, Stephen Curry has one of the weakest ankles in the league and Monta has an ACL injury and the infamous Grade-3 ankle sprain (complete tear of ligament) from his moped accident on his resume. There's a decent chance Thompson finds his way into the rotation.
11. Norris Cole- Cole won’t have much upside with the Heat based on how Wade, LeBron and Bosh will do all the heavy lifting. Cole does boast some impressive features to his game with a sterling 85.3 percent made from the line, 2.2 steals per night, 5.8 RPG and 5.3 APG in 35.7 minutes per game. Cole also converted on 34.2 percent of his attempts from downtown. Cole’s bread and butter for fantasy will be with steals and threes with some dimes mixed in as well. He can provide some sneaky value as long as he gets over 25 MPG, which shouldn’t be too tough with the struggling incumbent Marion Chalmer ahead of him. Oh, and Mike Bibby.
12. Tristan Thompson- The Longhorn is thrust into an interesting situation in Cleveland. The Cavaliers arguably had the weakest frontcourt rotation in the entire league last year with guys like Samardo Samuels playing heavy minutes (pun intended). T-squared sort of resembles a guy like Derrick Favors since he has the right body and quickness to be an offensive big in the league. Thompson shot 55 percent from the field at Texas last year and really felt at home in the paint. By comparison, Derrick Favors shot 61 percent from the field in the softer ACC, then he shot a respectable 52 percent on the season as an NBA rookie. Thompson, like most young big men, really struggled at the line by converting on just 48.7 percent of his free throws. He probably won’t have much value in the first half of the season based on how extremely rare he is. Although, Antawn Jamison’s expiring contract is as good as gone come trade-deadline time and Thompson might be able to play 24 MPG while getting a double-double or two in the last month of the season.
13. Marshon Brooks- The Nets made a lot of their fans pretty happy when they traded for Marshon Brooks on draft day. Brooks scored 24.6 PPG on 48.3 percent shooting in his last year at Providence. He brought the fantasy goodness all over the place in his senior year with 1.2 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.1 3PM per game and shot 77.2 percent from the line on top of all that. Brooks was responsible for a lot of the Friar O, and with great responsibility, comes a great amount of turnovers (3.1 per game). Or something. The injury of Travis Outlaw’s hand certainly hurts Outlaw's chances of being an impact guy despite his five-year, $35 million deal he signed last year. The Nets could slide Anthony Morrow to the three and allow Damion James and Brooks to split time at the two. Brooks' fantasy toolbox is fully equipped for a guard and he'll just need minutes to become an asset in some deeper formats.
14. Jimmer Fredette- There are a lot of guards in Sacramento. Tyreke "Skinny" Evans figures to be the focal point of the backcourt while the Kings figure to re-sign restricted free-agent Marcus Thornton. Thornton resurrected his career with 21.3 PPG in his 21 games with the Kings last season in impressive fashion. Sacramento probably won’t bring back unrestricted Pooh Jeter, but they do also have another rookie PG in Isaiah Thomas. As for Jimmer, everyone knows all about his skills and ridiculous range. It still seems very unlikely for him to get consistent minutes with his ineptitude on defense. Someone will reach for Jimmer in your league. Don’t let it be you.
15. Daniel Orton- Orton was the last of the Kentucky Wildcats taken in the record draft of 2010. The one-and-done big tore his ACL in high school and had knee surgery last year to prevent him from seeing NBA action. The surgery of December 2010 was just a scope, so it really serves as a reminder that ACL injuries are the worst type of injury out there for NBA player (Achilles is an honorable mention). The book on Orton has yet to be written with only 13.2 MPG in Lexington for his freshman year. Although 1.4 BPG in that limited amount of time shows some potential for the 6-foot-10, 255-pound Oklahoman.
Obviously, the allure of Orton is based solely on how Dwight Howard basically has one foot out the door in Orlando. Orton is the next man up should D-12 get a one-way ticket to St. Elsewhere. Even though the blocks are nice, I highly doubt Orton will play more than 24 MPG under any scenario. Plan accordingly.
16. Alec Burks- It’s been quite a while since the Jazz had a penetrating shooting guard. Burks has good size and was a very efficient guard by making 50 percent of his attempts in his two years in Boulder. He’ll draw some comparisons to Dwayne Wade since he doesn’t quite have the three-point shot just yet. Although that could be coming quickly with the way Utah tends to live in the paint. A scorer that doesn’t hit the three isn’t exactly the way to win over the hearts of fantasy owners and he will need a lot to go his way to have an impact.
17. Kawhi Leonard- Leonard certainly has an NBA body at 6’7" 225 and showed his cardiovascular system off with 33 MPG at power forward in San Diego State. Leonard is right up Pop’s alley for being a hustle-type player and the minutes are likely the least of his worries. On the other hand, his fantasy game doesn’t have a lot to it. He only blocked 0.6 shots per game and shot a paltry 44.4 percent from the floor. He might be able to get some boards and some points to spice up his value a bit. Tex-Mex.
18. Jan Vesely- Jan Vesely is athletic as some shooting guards and comes in a seven-foot package. This could really be a home run for them and he could be used to just wear out teams and stick to the we’ll-score-more-than-you ideology based on the defensive lapses of Washington last year. Vesely will draw some comparisons to Dirk for his well above-average perimeter/three-point game and attacking the basket could also leave Wizards fans salivating like a Pavlovian dog. He is going to struggle in creating his own shot with his long strides and underdeveloped ball skills. Vesely has some nice upside and is someone to watch in the preseason.
19. Enes Kanter- In short, the Jazz are absolutely loaded at forward. They have a top-three combo at the four and five with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as well as an improving Derrick Favors waiting in the wings. Not to mention they also have Mehmet Okur. Kanter is arguably the most talented big man in this year’s rookie class, but there’s absolutely no doubt he is in the worst possible scenario. Sure, he has some keeper value, but re-draft leagues might want to stay away from this one until further notice.
20. Jeremy Tyler- Tyler was one of those guys that most fans would want while most scouts would be extremely apprehensive to put on their team. Tyler is a prototype in every sense of the word at 6-foot-11 with a 7’5" wingspan and tips the scales at about 260. He also holds a vertical leap of 34", so while there really isn’t much info on him as far as stats go over in Japan, Tyler projects to be a beast in blocks per 48 with the Warriors. The Warriors still haven’t figured out their center spot with Mr. 16.6 Percent (Biedrins’s free throw percentage from ’09-‘10) struggling to stay on the court and Ekpe Udoh looking lost on the court at times. Tyler needs a lot to go his way to have value.
21. Justin Harper- Harper is another guy that could be in a nice position. Orlando appears hell-bent on trading Hedo Turkoglu’s contract in a Dwight deal which would create a vacancy at the three. There really are not a lot of capable threes on the roster with Ryan Anderson playing at the four most of the time, Quentin Richardson being Quentin Richardson and Earl Clark lacking an all-around game. Harper lit it up in Richmond with 44.8 percent from three-point land and 53.4 percent from the floor. He also added 1.2 blocks on the defensive end in his senior year. Keep an eye on how those numbers translate in the preseason.
22. Markieff Morris- While the Suns got the shaft on acquiring a twin the last time around with Robin Lopez, they got the better Morris in 2011. Well, at least for fantasy. Morris had 1.1 blocks last season and even added some range from deep. The Suns might be crazy enough to play him at the five since he’s 6-foot-10 and capable of running the floor with Steve Nash. He’ll need Channing Frye or Marcin Gortat to go down to even draw your attention in fantasy leagues though.
23. Marcus Morris- Let’s keep this simple. The Rockets are in talks with Nene and should they come to an agreement, Morris loses most of his luster as a sleeper. Not to mention the way Patrick Patterson showed off his skills down the stretch. Morris doesn’t have too much upside with lack of blocks on defense and no real signature category.
Thanks for reading! We're going to be super busy over the next few weeks and we're going to do our best to help you win your league!