Rookies are the ultimate unknowns in fantasy basketball. They are the definition of boom or bust for your team. A lot of times, the top picks from the actual NBA Draft become overrated after being gossiped about all summer long while a rookie on the bottom of the roster takes advantage of an injury or two and works his way into fantasy relevance. Either way, an adjustment period is expected for all.
The 10 guys on this list aren’t the only rookies that will have a fantasy impact next season. Cody Zeller should get all the run he can handle in Charlotte and Alex Len has nightly double-double potential with two-plus blocks as soon as he heals up. My sleeper is Tony Snell, who I tried to get on here badly. Chicago has been in dire need for a two-guard for quite some time and his silky smooth stroke and length defensively should bode well in Tom Thibodeau‘s system. For more on all the rookies drafted Thursday night, read this.
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10. SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD, Minnesota Timberwolves
With the expected departure of Andrei Kirilenko, Muhammad may have the opportunity to start at small forward from day one. It was nearly impossible to live up to the expectations placed on him heading into college, but his ability to put the ball in the hole should bring him success in the NBA. Being set up by Ricky Rubio should be a beautiful thing for Muhammad, who plays just as well off the ball as he does on it. If he starts, he could realistically average anywhere from 12-16 points per game while rebounding above the average for his position, especially if he gets shooting guard eligibility.
9. NERLENS NOEL, Philadelphia 76ers
Noel is going to be out until at least the holidays, but he may lead all rookies in blocks regardless. Even upon his return, it’s possible that the Sixers will bring him along slowly, not wanting a repeat of the Andrew Bynum disaster from last year. The injury may plague his fantasy value, but once he’s fully healthy, Noel should be a force blocking shots and cleaning the glass, and will make for a waiver wire target if you’re in need of those categories.
8. KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE, Detroit Pistons
Caldwell-Pope showed off his impressive scoring ability at a Georgia program not even known for its basketball. He was one of the best scorers in the nation last year, ending with 18.5 points per game, and while he probably won’t approach that in the pros this season, he can easily wind up as his team’s number one option. Caldwell-Pope should be the perfect remedy for the offensive struggles that we saw from the Pistons last year and without any competition for minutes, will average over a trey and a half per game.
7. MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers threw a curveball on draft night, trading their rising All-Star for Noel and a first-round pick. We all saw the freedom that Jrue Holiday had in their offense last year, and we should expect free reign for Carter-Williams too. His unselfishness should get him at least five or six dimes per game, but until he develops his three-ball, his fantasy value will be hindered. Still, with no one in his way for minutes, Carter-Williams has tons of potential as a late round sleeper.
6. C.J. McCOLLUM, Portland Trail Blazers
The only thing standing between McCollum and fantasy success is Wesley Matthews. Matthews may begin the year as the starter, but if McCollum can force his way into more playing time, he could wind up being one of the best fantasy rookies. Not many were better at putting the ball in the hole last year than McCollum, who averaged 23.9 points before having his season cut short to injury. He will take that natural scoring ability with him to the NBA and despite standing at only 6-3, will also help out on the glass. Until we know how the rotation of McCollum, Matthews and Damian Lillard shakes out, I wouldn’t recommend drafting him, but in due time McCollum could be the prefect player for taking the offensive pressure off of last year’s Rookie of the Year.
5. VICTOR OLADIPO, Orlando Magic
The Magic should be focused on Andrew Wiggins next season and since Oladipo represents the beginning of a new era in Orlando, he’ll no doubt be getting plenty of run. Time on the floor is all that a guy like Oladipo needs to put up stats. His endless motor will impact his defensive statistics, and while his offense is far from efficient, the bulk of attempts should inflate his scoring a bit. I wouldn’t recommend drafting him with too high of a pick, but Oladipo is definitely worth looking at after the tenth round.
4. ANTHONY BENNETT, Cleveland Cavaliers
Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are respectable, board dominant bigs, but neither of them even sniff the offensive potential that Bennett has. In the fantasy world, his best asset will be his combination of treys and boards. Bennett is too quick to be guarded by fours, but too strong to be guarded by threes, creating tons of mismatches on the offensive end. It may take him awhile to get his feet wet and adjust to Cleveland’s big man rotation, but over time, Bennett will offer help in pretty much every category except for assists.
3. OTTO PORTER, Washington Wizards
Porter may not have the upside of some of the other guys on this list, but at this point, he’s the safest pick you can make. His game lacks the flashiness of most popular rookies, but the efficiency he showed at Georgetown should translate well to the NBA. Porter may not start from the get-go, but with only Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster (if he decides to return to Washington) standing in his way, it’s only a matter of time before he takes over. He has the one trey, one steal, one block potential that is always sought after in fantasy, and if given ample opportunity, should no doubt average at least 12 points while offering help in the rebounding department. Porter is well worth the late round splash.
2. BEN McLEMORE, Sacramento Kings
If McLemore’s presence means that Tyreke Evans is on his way out, then it’s possible that he could lead all Kings guards in scoring. With only Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette standing in his way, McLemore should get plenty of burn this season, especially once Sacramento fades from the playoff hunt. His picture perfect stroke should equate to tons of treys while his movement off the ball gets him tons of easy buckets. McLemore may not be the best fantasy rookie this season, but down the road he could be the best of this draft class.
1. TREY BURKE, Utah Jazz
Mo Williams says he won’t return to Utah as a backup, which should be music to Burke’s ears. If he gets to run the show in his rookie year, you can expect tons of production. Despite being undersized, a 6-5 wingspan should make Burke a menace in the steals department, and his speed and quickness can easily get him in to the paint, where he can both score or distribute. He may turn the ball over a ton, especially as a rookie, but it’s best for him to learn on the fly. Eventually, Burke will develop into a Kemba Walker-type fantasy point guard.
Who will you be drafting?
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