I love rookies.
It started with all the baseball card wheeling and dealing I did as a child. (I blame my cousin Fabio for this. Yes, that's his name.)
There's something exciting about discovering that special thing before everyone else. The trials, the tribulations, the heartbreak, the feeling of jubilation when he finally succeeds (you knew it all along)...
In a particularly good year for NBA rooks, I thought I'd analyze the future household names - and the future household jokes.
To be completely candid, I didn't expect so much production so quickly from the NBA's freshmen, but it's certainly made it more exciting from a Fantasy Basketball manager standpoint...
So without further ado, let's meet the men who are breaking hearts and realizing dreams... (We'll look at the first 7 picks of the 2015 NBA draft - since these are the men making the bulk of the first year headlines anyway...)
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN, PF/C
If 'stud' were a word in Sanskrit, it would be transmogrified into an image that would look eerily like Karl-Anthony Towns.
At 16 PPG, 10.4 REB and 2.4 BLK after playing 13 games in the world's best basketball league, KAT has #1 overall Fantasy value potential in the next 2/3 years. I think you really gotta think hard about Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony as the #1 overall pick in a dynasty league. I know that's bold to write, but I just did.
He just turned 20.
2. D'Angelo Russell, LAL, PG
D'Angelo started the year as a disappointment. Then people remembered that's he's 19 years old. Then they decided they didn't care, and started prematurely labeling him a 'bust'.
I scooped him at #8 overall in a rookie draft (for a dynasty league!) because of all the early slander. I will proudly rub that in people's faces when Russell beasts in the next 2-3 years...
While nowhere close to Towns' current level of production, Russell has shown signs of emerging recently. Games of 13, 17 and 13 points scored the last 3 games (with plenty of counting stat goodies) betray a future stud waiting to happen...
Be patient, friends. He's a month into his NBA career, and he's a teenager.
3. Jahlil Okafor, PHI, C
A little under the radar - due to major breakouts by Karl-Anthony Towns and Porzingis (I'll get to him shortly) - Okafor would be the clear ROY favorite in most NBA seasons. Already at 17.9 PPG and 7.7 REB, Okafor looks like a star. He could be DeMarcus Cousins to Towns' Anthony Davis, and that's not bad company to keep...
The logjam of stud big men on Philly is a little weird (if you think Joel Embiid still has a career), but Okafor is a very nice piece. Barring any more dumb trades, Philly is starting to build up a nice talent pool. Okafor and Nerlens Noel could anchor that frontcourt for the next 10 years...
4. Kristaps Porzingis, NY, PF/C
If you don't love Porzingis, you don't have a soul.
Check out his performance last game: 24 points (on 8/12 shooting), 2 3PM, 14 REB, 7 BLK.
He's 14 games into his career, and he's putting up video game numbers.
He's the real deal, but still struggles with consistency (as most NBA rookies do). His 42.7% from the field should increase as he learns to take better shots, but he sandwiched his 2 major games with a 7-point stinker. As the year progresses, the stinkers should appear less and less - but they WILL appear...
Porzingis is going to be a monster though. That much is clear.
Hope you took him in your dynasty league rookie draft. Cuz he's not a player anybody is going to trade...
5. Mario Hezonja, ORL, SG/SF
In Mario's native Croatia, there is a poignant saying: "All guys name Evan Fournier can go to hell."
Hezonja was being positioned as the next big thing in Orlando, then Fournier decided to remind the league that he's really really good now. At 19.2 PPG, Mario will be forgiven if Evan is ahead of Hezonja in the hierarchy of things (considering they essentially play the same position).
Mario is doing nothing statistically significant, and as the 5th overall pick, he looks really bad next to all the rookies giving epic performances right now.
Still, there is upside here. I'm not banking on anything from Mario this season really, but track his progress. There is talent here... I think.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein, SAC, C
Slightly enigmatic, Willie has been unpredictable.
He is producing though. Just in spurts.
In only 19 MPG, WCS is scoring 5.1 PPG and grabbing 5.7 REB. Pretty efficent too at 62.5% from the field. Throw in 0.8 STL and 1.1 BLK, and it's not hard to see why the Fantasy community is so interested in this future stud...
But playing behind the beastly DeMarcus Cousins on the depth chart isn't good for anybody's career.
Really hard to know if Willie will be any sort of real Fantasy asset this year. He's an essential stash in dynasty leagues, but I'd file him beside Clint Capela right now - as bigs who need something bad to happen to the superstar ahead of them that takes the bulk of the minutes...
7. Emmanuel Mudiay, DEN, PG
Mudiay's last game tells you everything you need to know about him: 17 points (good), 6/21 from the field (bad), 8 assists (good), 3 turnovers (bad). (Alright, the 3 TOs to 8 assists is decent, but I was illustrating a point.)
Emmanuel has talent. No question. But shot selection has destroyed many careers before his...
Even after Emmanuel's studly 26-point game the other day, I tweeted out my dissatisfaction with his field goal %. Dude was at 33.3% for the YEAR. Unbelievably - as if to prove my point - his 6/21 performance took it DOWN further to 32.8.
I know he's a rookie - and rookies should be forgiven for inconsistency - but 32.8% from the field is pretty terrible. At that rate, you're probably hurting your team more than you're helping.
Also, his 6.3 assists per game are really great for an NBA frosh, but at 4.3 turnovers, you're really going 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
The tools are ahead of the skills at this point, and that should correct itself over time, but the intellectual part of the game is vitally important at the point guard position. There are many athletically-minded PGs backing up smarter 1 guards...
So there's analysis of the top 7 picks in the 2015 NBA draft (in order, no less!).
It's a good idea to start tracking them now - as they're likely the next generation of NBA superstars.
Remember that inconsistency is to be expected during rookie campaigns, but so are breakouts.
It's too late to get a deal on Karl-Anthony Towns or Porzingis (best name in the league), but many of the others could be available cheaper. Might be worth a trade negotiation while somebody like D'Angelo Russell's stock is down.
Just don't try to trade with my cousin Fabio.
He'll take all your rookies and you'll end up with a near mint Wayne Gretzky 3rd year card.
Damn he's good.