The NBA Draft almost always serves as a way teams can help themselves down the road, not right away. That means most rookies enter their first season in the pros having little-to-no fantasy value. However, there are always those gems, those diamonds in the rough. There probably shouldnít be more than 10 or 11 rookies drafted in fantasy leagues this season (depending on your league depth and rules), but that doesnít mean those who go undrafted arenít worth stalking on the waiver wire a couple of times a week.
Each Monday, Iíll be coming at you with a different column evaluating the rookies, the D-Leaguers, the prospects, and any other sort of young person living on the fringes of life Ė okay, scratch that last part. Looking for some cheap fantasy player you can pick up for high value? A rookie might just be the one to help you. Stashing away lesser players and hoping for them to develop? Sounds like a 21-year-old would be perfect for that.
Chances are, youíre not going to win your league on rookies, but they can help. Here is a general overview of how each relevant first-year player can affect the upcoming fantasy season (ranked from best to worst):
The Guys Worth Drafting
Damian Lillard (PG, Trail Blazers): Lillard is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate (and is my preseason pick to win the award) if only because he will have the ball in his hands so often. A point guard with a quick release on his jumper will work seamlessly with a forward like LaMarcus Aldridge in that pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. Meanwhile, someone with his ability to score could end up getting Brandon-Jennings-post-55-point-game media attention in his first year in the league.
He dominated the Summer League, reigning in co-MVP honors and sharing the trophy with Josh Selby Ė yes, Josh Selby being involved does dilute the meaning of the award a little. Lillard averaged 26.5 points per game while playing only 32.8 minutes per game in Vegas and looked remarkably quick. His ability to get by guards was unmatched by any other player in the league. Dare I say he could join Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose forming a trio of the NBAís most explosive guards? Yes, I dare it.
Anthony Davis (PF, Hornets): Davis is clearly on a different level from the rest of the players on this list, but that doesnít necessarily mean he will hold the most fantasy value for the upcoming season. The areas in which Davis excels donít always have tangible value, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He should be able to get blocks against smaller forwards, but he may struggle to get the ball on the other side of the floor with the glue-handed Austin Rivers potentially running the New Orleans offense.
The second worrisome part of Davisí game is his style. He is coming from the SEC, where he was miles ahead of his competition. He could defend everyone. He could dunk on anyone. He could back cut all he wanted and defenders wouldnít be able to guard him once he left his feet for an alley-oop. But most importantly, he could block everyoneís shot.
Not many epic, all-time great, once-in-a-decade shot blockers go first overall in the NBA Draft. Actually, there are always a few great shot blockers in the draft each year, but most obtain Fab Melo status. The last great collegiate shot blocker to go first overall? Greg Oden. Completely taking injuries and every off-the-court issue out of the equation, one of Odenís biggest issues since coming into the league has been dealing with foul trouble. Shot blocking takes maturity, recognition, and intelligence. Plenty of scouts will happily tell you that Davis is already armed with all of those traits and if thatís true, then watch out because he is about to join Drew Brees as New Orleansí most recognizable athlete. But if Davis does struggle with avoiding fouls Ė if he does leave his feet a few times too often on pump fakes Ė it could limit his minutes and thus, limit his production.
Thomas Robinson (PF, Kings): Rebounding tends to translate into the NBA as well as or better than any other stat and oh boy, can Robinson rebound. He has led the Big 12 in each of the past two seasons in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. The problem is that Robinson plays the same position as DeMarcus Cousins. If Cousins can shift over to center for 15 to 20 minutes per game, that means Robinson could be a guy with huge rebounding numbers.
Bradley Beal (SG, Wizards): Beal is a tremendous shooter, who will be a starter from the second that he dons a Wizard uniform. The big question here is, how much can John Wall improve? If Wall is able to slash to the hoop, Beal could be left open for plenty of three-point jumpers.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF, Bobcats): Kidd-Gilchrist is a defensive-minded player, much like Davis. He will have opportunities to score, considering he is on a team with limited offensive options. He also might be able to get Kemba Walker out and running considering his transition game was the best in the NCAA last season.
Harrison Barnes (SF, Warriors): Barnesí measurables at the combine were elite, but the problem is he usually doesnít display that sort of athletic ability during games. If he starts to use his athleticism to his advantage, he could be a productive rookie with the amount of minutes he should anticipate getting.
Dion Waiters (G, Cavaliers): Ignore the fact that Waiters came off the bench in college. That was a decision based on a system, not raw ability. He should be able to work well with Kyrie Irving, who will only improve in his second season. A slashing, Dwyane-Wade-type guard paired with a good, young point guard is the type of player that can put up big numbers in his rookie year.
(Waiters showing up to Summer League out of shape was overblown so Iím not going to mention it. Thatís a lesson some rookies donít inherently know; they have to learn it. Itís helpful that he figured out such a consequential NBA reality at a completely inconsequential time. There have been no reports that he turned up pudgy to training camp, so Iím going to say that story should be in his Ė along with everyone elseís Ė rear-view mirror. And yes, this is me not mentioning it).
Austin Rivers (G, Hornets): Rivers is a talent, but struggled as a decision maker in his sole season at Duke. Each play seemed premeditated. If he was going to pass, he already knew. If he was going to shoot, that choice was already made before the play even started. That is a trait that may not translate to well to the NBA, especially considering he will be playing a lot of point guard in New Orleans. His ability as a natural scorer and shooter, though, should not be overlooked and the fact that many of New Orleansí plays will start with the ball in Riversí hands means plenty of opportunities for him to put up numbers.
Jonas Valanciunas (F, Raptors): Valanciunas struggled in the Olympics and has a reputation for getting into foul trouble. However, many scouts have said that if he were in this past seasonís draft (as opposed to the 2011 NBA Draft, when he was picked sixth overall), he would have been the second overall pick. He can run and jump better than most forwards. Now, the Raptors need to see just how ready he is for NBA play.
The Guys That Might Be Worth Drafting If You Are In An Irrationally Deep League
Jared Sullinger (F, Celtics): Sullinger dropped in the draft not because of talent, but because of questions about his longevity. Could he stay healthy throughout a career? Can he stay healthy throughout a season? Can he stay healthy just for a game?
If Sully is healthy, all of a sudden, he could make an impact and could have fantasy value.
Remember that before NBA general managers red flagged him with back problems, he was supposed to be a top-ten pick. Remember that if he had left Ohio State after his freshman year, he would have gone at least in the top five and maybe in the top two or three. Remember that this was a guy who pretty much out-skilled the entire Big Ten for two straight years. His skills and smarts are actually at a high enough level that he could be able to make an immediate impact, especially playing for a coach like Doc Rivers, who will take advantage of what Sullinger brings to the table.
Jeremy Lamb (SG, Rockets): Lamb is one of the few guards on a team that is building itself as a shelter for forwards. He is still unspeakably skinny, but if he can add some bulk, he might be able to score some points off the bench for Houston.
Alexey Shved (G, Timberwolves): Good advice: Keep Ricky Rubio in mind. That holds true both for Shvedís upcoming season and for every other scenario in life. Rubio was magical as a rookie, but now heís one of three marquee guards thatís been ACLed for the upcoming season (joining Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert in that group). Shved could actually find himself in a starting role from day one in Minnesota. If that is the case and he ends up playing 30 minutes a night at some mix of point guard and shooting guard, he could end up having legitimate fantasy value. If he finds his niche as a big point guard, he could see plenty of playing time on a Rubio-less Minnesota team.
The Guys That Might Have Value On Tanking Teams Late In The Season
Terrence Ross (SG, Raptors): Ross might not fit in right away. He is an athlete and a strong wing shooter but could start the season as the Raptorsí fourth guard, playing directly behind DeMar DeRozan. He is still young and relatively raw. That means he could struggle integrating his game into the NBA.
Kendall Marshall (PG, Suns): Marshall will back up the recently signed Goran Dragic and will provide a pass-first mentality off the bench. He is a magnificent passer in transition, but the problem is that this Suns team isnít really meant to run a lot. With plenty of possessions potentially starting and ending with Michael Beasley in isolation, Marshallís fantasy value might not be too high in the upcoming season.
Andrew Nicholson (PF, Magic): Nicholson will come off the bench in Orlando, a rebuilding team that will probably try to develop its young players. That means he could start to see more minutes nearing the end of the season, but donít expect big minutes at the start of the year.
Maurice Harkless (SF, Magic): Harkless was moved in that Dwight Howard deal and is now stuck behind both Hedo Turkoglu and Quentin Richardson on the Magic depth chart. Unless Orlando is able to move Turkogluís big contract, he may not see too many minutes off the bench this season.
Royce White (F, Rockets): White can play both forward positions, but the problem for him is that this Rocketsí roster currently staffs 12 players that identify as forwards or centers. Thatís right, 12! That means that while White may deserve to get 25 minutes per game, it might be tough for him to get a heavy load of minutes considering Houston will be playing musical chairs with its frontcourt.
Terrence Jones (F, Rockets): Jones has the same problem as White. One team, 2,384,498 forwards doesnít exactly work out well for Jonesí projected minutes total.
Donatas Motiejunas (F, Rockets): Motiejunas actually tore up the Summer League in June, averaging 16.3 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game in his four contests. Meanwhile, he shot 62.2 percent from the field. He, however, will also fall victim to the Rocketsí logjam at forward.
Look, I Really Like You, But Right Now Just Isnít A Good Time For Me. Maybe Next Year?
John Henson (PF, Bucks): Henson could develop into a nice shot blocker, but he might be too skinny right now to make a big impact on defense. He will be coming off the bench as a rookie and could pull down some rebounds, but that will probably be it.
Marquis Teague (PG, Bulls): Teague is basically the same player as his brother, Jeff, except he is younger and less developed. That means hold off on drafting him in your fantasy league for another couple of years.
Meyers Leonard (C, Trail Blazers): Though Leonard does have talent, he might just be too unpolished right now to make any sort of impact as a rookie in Portland. His fantasy value will come in later years, once he begins to build strength and fully develop all his moves around the basket.
Andre Drummond (PF/C, Pistons): Drummond might be the rawest player taken in the first round. His jump shot needs loads of work. His free throw percentage at UConn last year was a diminutive 29.5 percent. His hands need improvement. He might be an impact player someday in the future, but it is hard to imagine that being the case in his rookie season in Detroit.
The Guys You Should Look At On the Waiver Wire, Check All Their College Stats, And Then Decide, ďYou Know What? Iíll Wait For Him To Have a Few More Good Games Before I Pick Him Up.Ē
Perry Jones III (SF, Thunder): Are we sure that Sam Presti didnít spread that rumor about Jonesí knee on draft night just so he could steal him with the 28th pick? Jones is going to have to play behind Kevin Durant, so unless Durant slides over to power forward as often as he did in Olympic play, Jonesí minutes may not be too high. If he does get a chance to play, though, he could end up being the best value pick in Juneís draft.
Tyler Zeller (PF/C, Cavaliers): Zeller will most likely be the immediate backup to Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. Though he wonít see a ton of time, he could end up sneakily getting a few points per game in transition, which could really help his overall value.
Arnett Moultrie (PF, 76ers): Moultrie was an underrated scorer in the SEC and could work his way into seeing time later in the season. Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen are hardly impossible to pass on the depth chart. If his moves around the basket work at the NBA level, this could be a sneaky waiver wire pickup in fantasy leagues.
John Jenkins (SG, Hawks): Jenkins is a great shooter, but struggles to create for himself, and playing on a team with Devin Harris, Jeff Teague, and Lou Williams doing most of the ball-handling means he may not see many shots. Plus, Atlanta already has Anthony Morrow, a more experienced version of what Jenkins actually hopes to become.
Stop It. Leave Me Alone. Donít Even Think About It. Iím Not Picking You Up.
Evan Fournier (SG, Nuggets): Denver might be the deepest team in the league, and that means Fournierís chances of playing a significant amount of minutes are low.
Jared Cunningham (G, Mavericks): Cunningham might not see a lot of playing time as a rookie, as heíll probably be listed behind Darren Collison, Delonte West, Rodrigue Beaubois, and O.J. Mayo on the preseason depth chart.
Tony Wroten Jr. (PG, Grizzlies): For now, Wrotenís value will be on the defensive end of the floor, which wonít be too helpful to fantasy owners. He doesnít have any sort of shot and will most likely struggle to score in his rookie season.
Miles Plumlee (PF, Pacers): The Ian Mahinmi trade means there is one more player Plumlee has to jump for playing time. The Pacers are a contending team that is trying to win now. Giving Plumlee a significant amount of minutes probably should not and will not be a part of the plan.
Festus Ezeli (C, Warriors): Ezeli could develop into a quality shot blocker, but that is about it. He most likely wonít have much fantasy value in the upcoming season.
Fab Melo (C, Celtics): The defending Big East Defensive Player of the Year probably wonít see the floor often as a rookie. His offensive game just isnít there yet.
NOTABLE SECOND ROUNDERS
Jeff Taylor (SF, Bobcats): Taylor is a knockdown three-point shooter and actually has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create. Playing on a team like the Bobcats means he might actually get to see a significant amount of minutes.
Bernard James (C, Mavericks): James was a dominant blocker in the ACC and at age 27, has the body to be a strong NBA player right now. Plus, he is backing up the always-frail Chris Kaman, which means 30 starts next season might not be out of the question.
Draymond Green (F, Warriors): The Warriors are a young team in rebuilding mode and that means Green could see time on the court. The offense wonít run through him like it did at Michigan State, but he has a consistent mid-range jumper, and if he plays enough minutes, he could be an impact rebounder. Plus, Golden State tanks better than any other team in the league, which means Greenís value could shoot up in the final month and a half of the season.
Will Barton (SG, Trail Blazers): Barton averaged 18 points per game on only 12.9 field goal attempts per game as a sophomore last season in Memphis. He is wildly efficient for someone his age, and playing on a team that might give a decent amount of time to its rookies could end up making him the second-round pick that stands out most from this draft.
The Rookie Prospect Report will run every Monday on RotoWire.com. You can contact Fred Katz on Twitter (@FredKatz) or on email (FKatz26@gmail.com).