clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fantasy basketball: Checking in on the rookies

A look at how the NBA rookies have been faring so far in fantasy.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Let’s take a look at where all the rookies are, fantasy-wise. I’m going to rank the rookies by their ESPN basic player rating on the entire season, as well as include their ranking in my league (more/different stats than basic, I’ll lay those out in just a sec), and where they were chosen in the actual NBA draft. Actually, eff that, let’s list them by their draft order so that Philadelphia looks even stupider for trading up to get Markelle Fultz.

ESPN basic’s statistical categories are: field goal percentage, free throw percentage, 3-pointers made, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and points.

My league’s stat cats are: minutes, field goal percentage, free throw attempts, free throw percentage, 3-pointers made, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, double-doubles, triple-doubles, and points.

Savvy? M’kay, behold:

Markelle Fultz, 76ers

Fultz has a -6.36 player rating on ESPN basic, and he’s a -7.85 in my league. He’s only played in 4 games and the Philly front office is thinking about cutting him (just kidding). Dude’s been hurt, so he’s No Dice in fantasy, so far. Odds are that he’ll be back next season and will be just fine. If you have him in a dynasty league, don’t trade him, or, at least don’t trade him for nada; he was a consensus top 5 pick in the draft, if not top 2, so don’t quit on him just because he’s injured. He may turn into Ben Simmons or Embiid next year.

Lonzo Ball, Lakers (3.87/8.93)

Lonzo gets much more love in my league (he’s a top 50 player) than in ESPN basic, and it’s for this simple reason: he has 5 dub-dubs and 2 triple-dubs in 26 games. Lonzo gets hated on because A) his Daddy, B) his shot looks like the opposite of an actual basketball motion, almost as if he’s aiming for the ground instead of the hoop, god DAMN it’s awful looking, and C) it’s fun to tease losers who think they’re legit, like La La Land, and, really, anyone from Los Angeles.

(I feel like there’s a serious push to repopularize LA, but I don’t know why. Is it really just the weather? The last time one of my friends had to move from NYC to LA, we all consoled them, and told them everything would be alright. Outside of sexual harassment, what does LA actually do? LA feels like Silicon Valley: it’s a place you’d never move to voluntarily unless you were already an asshole.)

Anyway, Ball gets no love in real life, but his fantasy value will be primo down the line, especially if he starts using basketball methods to try and score points, instead of whatever the hell he’s doing with his jimmys right now. His shot honestly looks like a sin, like I wonder if he spends a lot of his money on indulgences in the vain hope that cash can make up for his crimes against basketball-humanity.

Jayson Tatum, Celtics (8.68/11.57)

Were Tatum actually on the 76ers instead of Boston, it’s unlikely that he’d have had as much opportunity to play, since Gordon Hayward’s injury forced Boston to reallocate his minutes to the younguns. BUT, Simmons, Old Man JJ Redick, Tatum/Bob Covington/Saric, and Embiid is a playoff team. Tatum is the shortest of that trio, but he’s definitely better than Saric. Tatum’s been the 30th best player in my league on the season, and the 33rd in ESPN basic. Dude can play. However, he isn’t owned in 90% of leagues, so maybe you could try and buy low on him in fantasy? The four players ranked behind him are all owned in 90+% of leagues, dunno why Tatum ain’t owned likewise.

Josh Jackson, Suns (-3.09/-3.09)

Neither leagues are impressed with JJax, but he’s more of a defensive player right now, so the low fantasy opinion of him is understandable. Jackson needs to improve in all areas of his game, just like most rookies do, but the Suns are so effed up right now that this might just go down as a lost season for him. If someone in your league is looking for youth and is willing to trade a good vet, I’d probably look into moving Josh, Son of Jack. He looks like a player who’s going to take awhile to develop (which is fine), but the Suns aren’t exactly known for their superb player development, yknow?

De’Aaron Fox, Kings (0.28/-0.45)

Fox plays for the Kings, so get real, who cares how he’s doing. But, in the interests of mankind and the poor bastards who actually have Fox on their fantasy team, let’s talk about him. He turns the ball over as much as Kristaps Porzingis and Goran Dragic, even though they both play more minutes and handle the ball more than Fox does. His true shooting sucks, his efficiency sucks, his offense sucks, his defense is fine. He’s 40th in assist-to-turnover percentage out of all point guards. Meh. His season line is 10 points on 40% shooting, with 4 dimes and 3 boards. That’s not dreadful! But, the Kings are (they’re 9-18, with a -9 point differential, lol). ZBo, who I love, is the points leader on Sacto. Good Lord, that team sucks. I find it hard to believe that De’Aaron Fox will excel so long as he’s on the Kings roster. But, y’know, things could be worse. Which is the exact same thing you could say to someone who’s drowning in the middle of the ocean. “Hey, count your blessings because things could be worse! You could be on fire while you drown or the water could be made of acid like in NeverEnding Story II!” If only Falcor could fly Fox away from all this Nothing. Alas.

Jonathan Isaac, Magic (-1.84/-2.99)

Isaac’s been injured for the past 16 games. We still don’t know what we have here, so I’d hold onto him for now in fantasy. Orlando has a bunch of intriguing players but the sum is less than the parts. Let’s see what happens as they (presumably) trade players before the deadline and open up more minutes for their younger players.

Lauri “Baron” Markkanen, Bulls (4.46/7.33)

Like I’ve said before, if you drafted Baron Markkanen, I hate you. This is the dude I was excited about in the draft. He’s the 60th best player in my league, right in between Gary Harris and Old Man Redick. He’s averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds on the year with a couple of made threes per game. He’s from Finland and plays in Chicago by way of Arizona. No one in human history has ever done that before. His is a unique CV. Since the Bulls are a trash fire (they’ve won 3 in a row, though!), the Red Baron will have all the time in the world to shoot his shot. This Bulls season is about trying to accumulate assets, nursing the ex-Timberwolves players back to health, and developing Markkanen into the next Dirk. The Baron is 60th overall in my fantasy league, and the 5th most valuable rookie. If you can trade for him, effing do it.

Frank Ntilikina, Knicks (-0.60/-2.08)

Frank Ntilly is beloved in New York and by his Knicks teammates. His defense and his tough attitude have ingratiated him into the hearts of the Mecca fans to the extent that Knicks fans dismiss LeBron coming to New York in free agency because “he wouldn’t get along with Frankie.” This is parent-ese for “your awful, uncouth, American child was mean to my wonderful, sensitive, French child.” Frank, the Unicorn, and Enes Kanter all read Sartre to each other before games, just to get Euro-pumped. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing Avec Moi, Le Knickerbockers! during 4th quarters. Ntilikina’s offense has looked better as the season proceeds, but his season line right now is 6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and a couple steals per game. I don’t care. I love him. I think his nickname should be the French Resistance because his defense is fer real. Unlike the name “Knickerbocker,” which is the pseudonym used by Washington Irving in his A History of New York, and later became a catchall phrase for Dutch settlers to New Amsterdam. So, “Knicks” really means European immigrants to New York. Zut alors, zat is, how you say, apropos, haw haw haw haw!

Dennis Smith, Jr., Mavericks (0.49/-0.55)

Before getting injured a few games ago, DSJ had scored in double digits in 7 games in a row. He had a bit of a slump in November but he’s still top 5 in scoring for the rooks (including Ben Simmons). I would NOT trade him if someone’s trying to vulture him from you in fantasy. No one’s sure what Dallas will look like next season if Dirk isn’t there (if he’s still playing, then Dallas will continue to look dreadful), but odds are that a non-Dirk starting five will include heavy minutes for DSJ, Wes Matthews (who continues to improve), and Harrison Barnes.

Zach Collins, Trail Blazers (-5.41/-7.25)

Collins was drafted because he’s 7 feet tall and he had a good NCAA tournament. He’s been a complete non-factor in the pros, so far, but he played 25 minutes against Golden State on Monday (Nurkic has been out with an injury) and did just fine. Unclear what his path to playing time is, unless Nurkic has to sit for a long time. Regardless, there are better dudes worth rostering. I’d drop him, unless he’s a family member.

Malik Monk, Hornets (-3.79/-4.70)

Ugh. The Mad Monk was my rookie draft pick this year (I picked 11th; Baron Markkanen went right before Monk; remember, I hate you if you drafted Markkanen). I had this idea that he’d turn into the best shooter of the class, even if he wasn’t the best player overall. Well, fudge my buttons, but that hasn’t been the case. Monk’s shooting, sweet Jesus, 33% on the year, and things ain’t getting better. He’s on a team that could use scoring but...uh...he can’t score. Like, he has a worse field goal percentage than a mediocre baseball player’s batting average (this is hyperbolic, his FG% has been .250 over the past two weeks, which is a just fine batting average in the new Three True Outcomes MLB, so long as you get homers or have a good OBP, but I’m still pissed that my draft pick is so underwhelming so far).

Also, Malik’s maybe not on the best team for him to showcase his skills. Charlotte has Kemba Walker, Michael Carter-Williams, Jeremy Lamb, Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and something called a Dwayne Bacon, all listed higher on their depth chart than Malik Monk. Monk’s played the ninth most minutes on the season for the Hornets, and he takes the seventh most shots per game, but he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn right now. In fact, no one on Charlotte can hit a long distance shot; Uncle Marv Williams has the best 3PT% on the team, and he plays the 4 most of the time. The Hornets only have 10 wins this season, and if they don’t go on a winning streak soon, they should start trading players. Is there a chance that Malik Monk is the primary ball handler next season for the Hornets? Yup. But, it won’t matter if the guy can’t hit his shots. I’m going to hold onto him in fantasy just to see what occurs around the trade deadline; if minutes open up for Monk, then I think I’ll keep him. But, if they don’t, then he’s probably not worth a roster spot until he improves his aim. Oh, and he hasn’t scored in double digits in over 10 games. More like Sad Monk, amirite?

Luke Kennard, Pistons (-2.52/-3.63)

Oy. Oookaaay, so the Pistons have lost 7 in a row, the coach is out of ideas other than “our best players have to play better,” and this overhyped Dukie was supposed to bring some much needed scoring to Detroit. Well, he’s shooting 42% on five shots a game. Great. He’s averaging 16 minutes per game and he’s fine. He’s a great (well, “great”) reminder that most rookies aren’t All NBA in their first season. I have every confidence that Dukie Lukie will have a solid career, and will be a useful bench player for, like, seven different teams over 16 years or something. But, unless you’re a Blue Devil, or any devil, really, you should feel fine dropping him to waivers. He’s not as low in value as the Sad Monk, but how the hell is that encouraging?

Donovan Mitchell, Jazz (6.99/6.88)

Now, here we go! Donovan Mitchell looks like one of the steals of the draft so far, and he’s ranked as the 63rd best player in my league. He’s averaging 17 points on 41% shooting on the season, along with three assists, three rebounds, and two steals+blocks per game. He’s been even better recently, too, scoring 24 PPG over the past two weeks. He’s played in every game, he’s taking the most shots on the Jazz, and he’s mucho fun to watch. I dunno what the hell the Jazz are going to look like in the future, but right now they’re a playoff team (8 seed in the West). A super small lineup of Ricky Rubio, Donovan, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert would be fun to watch, too, but they’d probably get bludgeoned on defense.

Bam Adebayo, Heat (-1.15/-1.44)

Wham Bam Adebayo was a strange pick for Miami, but, then again, Miami’s a strange team. While Hassan Whiteside’s been out, Bam’s been playing more, and he’s had some good games. Personally, I think he’s better than Kelly Olynyk, and Bam plays well on defense, but I don’t know what the plan is for him. I think he’s either insurance should Miami trade Whiteside, or he was just the best available on Miami’s draft board. He can be a valuable player (he’s had a 5.28 player rating over the past two weeks in my league), but he needs the minutes to do it. I wouldn’t drop him until Whiteside returns, but if someone wants to take a flier and trade for him in your league, I’d do it since his ownership is so low and there’s a good chance you’ll end up dropping him to waivers, anyway. Man, the Heat are weird. Did you know Udonis Haslem is on the team? They’re .500 right now, and if they stay that way, they’ll probably miss the playoffs again. It’s hard to believe that someone would trade for Waiters Island, so what are the trade values for Whiteside and Dragic?

Justin Jackson, Kings (-4.46/-5.39)

He’s been in the G League and doesn’t do much when he’s been called up. Feel free to drop him until he’s playing actual minutes on a consistent basis.

Justin Patton

Patton’s been injured and is now in the G League for Minnesota. No need to roster him until/unless he gets PT in the NBA.

D.J. Wilson, Bucks (-5.86/-7.55)

I LOVE DJ Wilson. He doesn’t play (yet), and there’s no need to roster him, but I thought he was great at UMich and I think he’ll fit great on Milwaukee (next season) as the backup to Jabari or Giannis. No need to roster him now, though.

T.J. Leaf, Pacers

Make like a tree and get outta here. (Back to the Future jokes? Yes? No?) Anyway, Leaf barely plays, so no need to roster him.

John Collins, Hawks (3.27/4.10)

Collins was playing really well before getting injured, and it’s a shame because he may have been able to steal the starting job from Dewayne Dedmon if he’d been able to keep playing. He averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds on 59% shooting, so if you have him stashed, I’d keep him. No one knows what the hell the Hawks will look like going forward (they don’t seem to have a plan, either), but Collins is one of their good, young guys. Hopefully, he heals quickly and gets back on the court. I’d like to see more Herr Schroder, Taurean Prince and Collins, please.

Harry Giles, Kings

Here’s the Sacramento “Kings” depth chart. Wow. Look at all that...depth. First of all, Giles is a stash player for the Sacs: he’s injured and he’s young and he probably won’t play until February, if then. Second of all, this team has a crowded front court AND a crowded backcourt. Why did they sign ZBo and George Hill again? They have two rookie point guards, an overpriced veteran (Hill) who’s blocking Vivek Ranadive’s “Steph Curry 2.0” Buddy Hield, two rookie small forwards who are blocked by Garrett Temple (which is 1.7 more blocks than his career average on the court), and about a jazillion bigs, none of whom may be good. The “Kings” are 9-18. I just can’t stand this team, I really can’t. They’re the Cleveland Browns of the NBA, except the Browns draft better. Oh yeah, the “Kings” average the least amount of points per game, too, and they have a -9 point differential. If I were in charge of the Kings, I’d call up Milwaukee and see what they want for Jabari. And, then I’d pay it, whatever it was, and clear out some of this brush. Sacramento doesn’t have their 2019 first round draft pick, so it’s VERY, VERY IMPORTANT THAT THEY NOT EFF UP THE 2018 DRAFT!

Terrance Ferguson, Thunder

I like Ferguson, even though he’s barely played. He played pro ball in Australia rather than spend a year in college, and I kiiiiinda respect that (get your money, always get your money), but I also just think that he fits on OKC. His spot-up shooting would be nice to spell Andre Roberson (Roberson’s a much better defender), and remember, the dude’s 6’7”, so his length could help make up for defensive inefficiencies, at first. Regardless, he SHOULD be used in a scoring role on the second unit. He’s gotten a little bit of run over the past two weeks, but the Thunder are still scoring less than they should, so maybe try and give the young man some more opportunities, Sergeant Westbrook?

Jarrett Allen, Nets (-1.10/-1.61)

I like Jarrett Allen, too. He’s improving and playing more minutes as they season goes along, and he just moves well, y’know? Sometimes, you watch a big run and you think to yourself, Damn, that dude looks like he’s in pain. But, Allen doesn’t have that, he moves like a normal person, if normal people were nearly 7 feet tall (he’s 19 and may not be done growing).

Brooklyn, as many have noted, is all about the assets this year (the “assNets,” if you will). The Nets have already traded for D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor—the #2 and #3 picks in the 2015 draft, both of whom are younger than 23 years old—and they’re clearly ready to take on money or make a trade if it behooves their future. Only two guys are on the Nets’ books in 2020: Caris LeVert and, surprise, Jarrett Allen. They’re 24th in payroll right now, even though they’re in New York City, and they have cheap, solid guys like Professor Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, hell, even Quincy Acey, who capped-out teams might find attractive. (They’re still paying DWill which is just simply incredible. The Nets’ neighbor to the north, the Mets, are still paying Bobby Bonilla, who hasn’t played for them since 2000, over $1 million per year UNTIL 2035.) Jarrett Allen’s slightly buried behind Tyler Zeller and Timofey Mozgov, but he’s played 20+ minutes in three of the Nets’ last four games. I like Allen more as a long term dynasty player, but if you have an open roster spot, treat yourself and roll with the kid for a hot second. (BTW, Timofey Mozgov costs around $47 million over the next three seasons. Yeesh, great job, Lakers. Excuse me while I kiss the sky: Mozgov makes how much?! Talk about an assNyet!)

OG Anunoby, Raptors (-0.65/-0.79)

Hmmm, I like OG, too. Maybe I should stop watching midround picks play... OG Anunoby was another one of my faves in the draft (and, yup, he’s on my fantasy team). I just like the way he plays, and I like the way he passes, and I like the way he sees the court. I REALLY like the way he plays with Lowry and DeChozan, just hard as hell on defense and basically trying to not eff up on offense, which is totally good and natural for a rookie. He’s averaged 25 minutes a game over the past two weeks, and he’s a starter on the 3rd best team in the Eastern Conference. He’s not scoring yet, but that’s somewhat a function of the Raptors’ offense: they’re whipping the ball around more, but it’s still the DeChozan and Lowry Show. OG’s (the best name in the NBA, by the way) plus-minus is 5.5, which is tops on the team, and over the past 15 games Anunoby is 4th in minutes per game (but, only 9th in field goal attempts). If you can trade for OG, or pick him up off waivers (he should be avails), and it doesn’t cost much, I’d do it. I think he’ll continue to show improvement throughout the season and might help Toronto be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. He’s got a 7’2” wingspan! Toronto might have stolen a lottery pick here.

Tyler Lydon, Nuggets

Lydon’s in the G League. Plus, you’re not even sure whether “Tyler Lydon” is a real person or not. I might have put him here just to trick you.

Anzejs “It’s Spelled How It Sounds” Pasecniks, 76ers

He’s in Europe this year, so no need to worry about him until he makes it over to our welcoming country.

Caleb Swanigan, Trail Blazers

Swanigan has played one minute since Thanksgiving. One minute total.

Kyle Kuzma, Lakers (3.90/6.63)

And, heeeeere we go, the best pick in the draft (well, most valuable, anyway), the one, the only, Koooooooze! It’s unreal that the Lakers got him (by accident). He’s been the 69th best player in my league, with averages of 16 points and 6 rebounds. He’s been the 5th most valuable rookie (NOT including Ben Simmons) in my league, and hell, that might just be accurate to say about real life, too. Now that you’ve seen him play, would you rather have him or Fultz? Him or Baron Markkanen? Him or Dennis Smith, Jr.? I absolutely adore him and I hope he gets traded to the Pistons. The Lakers can have anyone they want in return, so long as it’s only Luke Kennard and all three of Stan Van Gundy’s middle fingers.

Tony Bradley, Jazz

Tony Bradley, who is a Reno lounge singer (his name sounds like someone from the 1960s but he was born in 1998, which makes him 9 years younger than Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which is an alarmingly prescient film) in his early 50s, is playing in the G League, so never you mind until he gets called up. Or, until you catch his stage act, Tony Bradley: Tony Bradley sings Tony Bradley, Live! At Lake Tahoe.

Derrick White, Spurs

G Leaguer this year, but you never know with the Spurs...I’d put him on my watchlist, just in case.

Josh Hart, Lakers

Hart was getting some minutes, but it doesn’t seem like he’s bringing too much to the table, so the Lakers may send him back to the G League soon. In the Lakers last 10 games he’s taken 25 shots total. I think you can safely leave him on waivers.

There have been several second round picks that seem like good players: Frank Mason III, Semi Ojeyele, Dillon Brooks. Plus, “rookies” technically includes Ben Simmons (#8 overall player in my league) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (who is blocked by George Hill for some unknowable reason, but who seems fine when given a chance to play, and he’s averaging over a steal a game), as well as Markelle Fultz. So, let’s list them in (my league’s) fantasy order now that we’ve gone through them, just to see where we are for the season:

  1. Ben Simmons
  2. Jayson Tatum
  3. Lonzo
  4. Baron Markkanen
  5. Donovan Mitchell
  6. The Koooze
  7. John Collins
  8. Dennis Smith, Jr.
  9. OG Anunoby
  10. De’Aaron Fox
  11. Frank Ntilly
  12. John Collins (decreased due to injury)

Were we to redo our fantasy rookie draft in my league, it would probably look something like this, with Fultz replacing Simmons’ spot (since the Chosen One was actually drafted last year). The rest of the rookies can probably be picked up via waivers or traded for rather cheaply. All in all, there are five top-75 players that are rookies from this year’s draft (at least, in my league).