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Category Strategy: Rating the Rookies

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

At the beginning of the season, I predicted Blake Griffin would win Rookie of the Year. (Of course, in that column I also made some incorrect predictions, which I'll conveniently leave out for obvious reasons.) I can't see any scenario where Griffin doesn't win the award, but is he as obvious of a candidate for the fantasy Rookie of the Year? Heading into Wednesday's games, here's what the top-4 rookies have done per game:

Blake Griffin
22.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, .7 steals, .5 blocks, seven three-pointers made, 50.9% FG, 62.6 FT%

John Wall
15.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.6 steals, .4 blocks, 29 three-pointers made, 41.0% FG, 73.8% FT

Landry Fields
9.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, .3 blocks, 63 three-pointers made, 50.9% FG, 76.8% FT

DeMarcus Cousins
13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, .9 steals, .8 blocks, three three-pointers made, 42.6% FG, 66.2% FT

Based on the numbers, it's hard to say Griffin was not the best fantasy rookie this season. But the blocks, steals, treys and free-throw percentage were nothing special and by taking 8.7 free-throw attempts per game (fifth in the league) he really killed that category for you. The 3.6 assist per game (second to only Boris Diaw for the position) from Griffin are surprisingly high considering he's a power forward. In real life Griffin has a lot to work on defensively, so there should be an uptick in steals and blocks next season. The overall perception of Griffin has been much better until you look at all his stats this year; I'm not sure if he's a top-25 pick next year, which is how high he'll go. That said he wasn't taken typically in the first four or five rounds, so he's paying nice dividends to his owners.

My next pick is John Wall, who should be drafted higher than Griffin next season. Wall missed some time, which likely won't hurt him too much in the ROY voting because averages typically are taken into account rather than cumulative stats. The 40.6 percent from the field sounds alarming, but he only averages 13.9 attempts per game (41st in the league). To put the percentage in perspective for point guards, only 10 point guards in the league shoot above 45.1 percent, and most of those don't shoot threes. Wall shouldn't be available after the second round in most formats next year.

Next may be the most unsung hero of the group, Landry Fields. Fields would actually challenge Griffin for the overall title if he shot a lot more. This would obviously lead to more points, and that he's made 63 threes while shooting 50.8 percent from the field is amazing. He also had the best free-throw percentage of the four but, again, doesn't get the charity stripe often enough to that stat count when compared to the others. Finally, Landry averages five minutes less than Wall or Griffin, which doesn't help his overall averages.

Lastly, we have DeMarcus Cousins. I actually feel bad because his average would be much better had he received more playing time to start the year. His overall numbers improved once the calendar hit 2011 (17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds in January, 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds in February), and the increase in playing time is obviously not a coincidence. Keep in mind that both Cousins and Wall still can't legally enjoy a beer until this summer so the upside for both is immense.

MINUTES

Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but at the very least offers some players to put on the radar.

James Johnson, F, TOR
It's an easy call to make the Minutes section when you go from being buried on the Bulls depth chart to a rebuilding team like the Raptors. That's the case with Johnson, who has played 26, 28, 36 and 21 minutes since the trade. Johnson has put up modest averages nine points, five rebounds, three assists and 1.8 blocks. He's worth keep an eye on in his new environment and someone to keep in mind when drafting in deep leagues next year.

Carlos Delfino, F, MIL
Delfino has been a workhorse lately, averaging 38 minutes over his last four games. He's averaged 13 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks/steals and made a total of 10 three-pointers during those four games. If he qualifies at guard in your league, it's hard to find someone who rebounds as well as he does. He's been pretty consistent with the aforementioned averages and could keep up that kind of production if he continues to get those type of minutes.

CATEGORIES

Each week we'll look at certain players who can help your fantasy team in the nine categories most leagues use. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee they will contribute in other areas.

Rebounds and Blocks

Jon Brockman, C, Larry Sanders, F, MIL
Both will have some value for at least the next week while Andrew Bogut is sidelined with a rib injury. Both can rebound with Sanders being the better shot blocker. Sanders averaged 1.9 blocks during December despite playing only 17 minutes per contest. That included an eight-block effort Dec. 1 against the Nuggets. For the block factor, I'd consider Sanders before Brockman if you need big man help.

Scoring

Anthony Morrow, G, NJ
Morrow has been on fire lately, averaging 19.7 points over his last three games. He's made a total of nine three-pointers over that span and shoots an excellent number from the field (46 percent) and the free-throw line (91.1 percent). Getting an upgrade with Deron Williams might be doing Morrow a lot of good and should give him a small bump.

Will Bynum, PG, DET
To say things are in a state of chaos in Detroit may be a vast understatement. The minor mutiny led by some of the veteran players may be resolved soon, however, according to some reports out of Detroit. Heading into Tuesday night's game, he had averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 assist and 1.5 steals over the last four games. The rotation got deeper on Tuesday and a quick four fouls did Bynum no favors. Monitor the volatile situation in Detroit before grabbing Bynum.

ELIGIBILITY

Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.

Darko Milicic, MIN
Now eligible at power forward