We tend to see at least one stellar rookie emerge each year.
Last year, we had Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. In 2011-12 Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard burst onto the scene. Three years ago, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins made a splash.
The list keeps going. There's at least one quality rookie every year, someone that can be a legitimate fantasy starter.
Is this the year that trend finally breaks?
This year's draft class was overly criticized. In 10 years, we probably won't look back on this year's draft and say, "Man, there weren't any good players in that draft." Actually, it's quite the opposite. There could be a bunch of quality NBA players out of this year's crop of rookies. We're just not sure which ones will stand out.
A player like Shabazz Muhammad could become a decent role player, but is Shabazz going to provide fantasy value as a rookie? Probably not. Is Trey Burke going to pull a Lillard, or is Zeller going to pull a Davis? Again, probably not. These guys are role players, not stars.
With that said, here's a look at this year's potential impact rookies in the order they were drafted:
Anthony Bennett (PF, Cavaliers)
Sure, it was shocking when we heard Bennett's name called first, but that doesn't mean he can't contribute at the NBA level. The Cavs' frontcourt is going to be one of the most talented frontlines in the NBA this year, but it would be prudent to expect some injury issues. Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao never seem to stay healthy, and if either of them goes down, Bennett, who can probably play at either forward spot, will be ready to step in.
Victor Oladipo (SG, Magic)
Oladipo might be the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, but that mostly has to do with his defense. Unfortunately, playing brilliant on-ball defense and making every possible defensive rotation your team needs doesn't get you any fantasy points. He still has a slowly developing offensive game. He can hit open shots, but he doesn't love to create off the dribble and has a particularly slow release. Because of that, he might not be a top-five fantasy rookie even though he's poised to be a top-five overall rookie.
Otto Porter (SF, Wizards)
Porter is the Swiss Army Knife of this year's draft, and he might be the most NBA-ready rookie who was taken in the first round. His biggest adjustment will come in learning how to play off the ball. Porter touched the ball a lot at Georgetown in John Thompson's Princeton offense. The NBA offense is going to be a different animal.
Cody Zeller (PF, Bobcats)
Zeller has been typecast as an unathletic forward, but in reality, he's one of the most athletic big men in this year's rookie class. He posted a 36-inch standing vertical at the combine and had the highest max vertical of any player working out with the centers. If he can develop some semblance of a mid-range jumper (he only attempted 24 of those at Indiana last year, when he played almost always on the inside), he could put up some nice production in a rudimentary Bobcats offense.
Alex Len (C, Suns)
Len had major surgery in the offseason, so he probably isn't worth taking in your fantasy draft. Wait him out, see how he does, and then maybe make a midseason waiver wire pickup. Len is a bigger, developing player, and it might take him a little longer to adjust to NBA talent and game speed.
Nerlens Noel (C, 76ers)
Noel is still recovering from his ACL injury. Once he returns (we're still not sure exactly when that will be), he might actually be able to provide some fantasy value with blocks and steals. That said, we probably won't see Noel on an NBA court until December or January at the earliest, so drafting him in non-keeper leagues is probably out of the question.
Ben McLemore (SG, Kings)
McLemore can score, and lord knows he can shoot, but for someone so talented, he has this ridiculously odd habit of making himself look terrible. He had an assist-to-turnover ratio of exactly 0:18 at the Las Vegas Summer League, and he did nothing to dispel the image that he disappears from games in crunch time while in Vegas. McLemore is one of the toughest rookies to evaluate this year. He could win Rookie of the Year. He could also be a bust.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG, Pistons)
Caldwell-Pope, like Porter, is someone that handled the ball and mostly created off the dribble in college. In Detroit, he'll have to adjust more to working off the ball with a ball-dominant point guard running the offense in Brandon Jennings. He's an interesting rookie to keep an eye on during the preseason because there's a good chance he could come away with the starting shooting guard job.
Trey Burke (PG, Jazz)
Burke should be one of the front runners for Rookie of the Year, not because he'll be the best rookie this season, but because he has the best chance at putting up crooked counting stats. Burke will have the ball in his hands and will get the chance to run the Jazz offense. Because of that, he has a chance to put up decent enough numbers to warrant a late draft pick.
C.J. McCollum (PG/SG, Trail Blazers)
McCollum is another guy like Burke. He's a volume shooter, but he was remarkably efficient at Lehigh, where he posted a 63 percent true shooting percentage as a senior. Lillard will still run most of the offense, but don't be surprised if McCollum runs the bench unit and acts as a combo guard in the Blazers' offense.
Michael Carter-Williams (PG, 76ers)
Carter-Williams has good court vision and is tall enough (6-6) to see over a defense, but he still can't shoot, even with his high release. If he can't make shots from the outside, that will be a problem, but the 76ers' roster is so limited that he has a chance to put up decent counting numbers because of significant playing time.
Steven Adams (C, Thunder)
Adams is a project. He had a nice freshman season at Pittsburgh, but he was just that – a freshman. Once he develops, he's athletic enough to become a quality NBA center, but for now, he holds minimal value.
Kelly Olynyk (C, Celtics)
Olynyk turned a bunch of heads in the Orlando Summer League, but he's still someone that is overly reliant on the mid-range jumper. If he can't finish around the rim on offense and can't protect the rim on the other end, he's going to have a hard time staying on the floor as a center. However, there is talk of him being used as a stretch four, in which case he could be worth a lateiround flier.
Shabazz Muhammad (SG/SF, Timberwolves)
Muhammad is someone that's been overly criticized because of what people thought he should have become. He was the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school, but guess what: because we were wrong in evaluating his high school performance, it doesn't make him any worse now. Muhammad can still shoot and can be effective knocking down shots from the outside. He's going to take his fair share of threes playing for the team that finished dead last in the NBA in three-point percentage last year.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (SF, Bucks)
One of the weirder developments from the draft (aside from Antetokounmpo's name-spelling change) is that the Bucks aren't stashing the Greek product in a foreign league. He's still only 18 and seems far too skinny to make any sort of impact next season, but he'll still be in Milwaukee, learning mediocrity at its finest.
Lucas Nogueira (C, Hawks)
Nogueira could become a good shot blocker and rim finisher, but he'll be staying in Spain this year to continue developing his game. He's athletic and intelligent as a defender, but he's still one of the more raw players from this year's draft. He could develop into a quality rotation player down the road.
Dennis Schroeder (PG, Hawks)
In terms of style, there isn't a better NBA doppelgänger than Schröder for Rajon Rondo. The two of them couldn't be more similar, especially on the defensive end. But Schröder is still only 19 years old and has a 168-pound listed playing weight that will have NBA players throwing him through walls. We'll have to wait a couple years for the Nogueira-Schröder connection to develop.
Shane Larkin (PG, Mavericks)
Unfortunately, Larkin won't be worth a draft pick in most formats. Not only will he be playing behind Jose Calderon, but he is starting the year injured. If he comes on strong toward the end of the season, he might be worth a waiver wire add.
Sergey Karasev (SG/SF, Cavaliers)
Karasev is a good sleeper. He's super intelligent, knows where to be on the court, and can catch fire from long range. If he's someone that becomes a dominant shooter off the bat, he might be able to garner enough playing time to have some fantasy value.
Tony Snell (SF, Bulls)
Snell is the definition of a right-team guy. If he had gone to the wrong team, he probably couldn't have made it. Send him to the Bucks and his prospects as an NBA player become much worse. But Snell lucked out. He's in the perfect organization for his long, wing-defending style. If he can make his jumpers, he has a chance to play and hold some small fantasy value for this season.
Gorgui Dieng (C, Timberwolves)
Dieng is a multitalented center, but he's still skinny and doesn't finish particularly well around the rim. He's a good passer, and you can even run some nice plays for him out of the high post, but he won't get enough minutes to warrant consideration on draft day in most leagues.
Mason Plumlee (C, Nets)
Now we're starting to get to the guys who aren't going to play this year. Plumlee is the first one. He has a shot to see the floor more if Kevin Garnett goes down with an injury, which is actually supremely possible, but aside from a situation like that, the contending Nets aren't going to be playing their rookie center much.
Solomon Hill (SF, Pacers)
Hill was the weirdest pick of the draft. Not necessarily the worst; just the weirdest. The Pacers could've traded down and probably could've taken him in the second round. Instead, they elected to draft someone who won't help their team much with the 23rd overall pick. The Pacers' front office and coaching staff have said that Hill will play from jump street, but it's hard to see where he'd get minutes if Danny Granger is healthy and the Pacers' newfound depth creates the minutes squeeze we're anticipating.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, Knicks)
Hardaway could provide some shooting for the Knicks' second unit, but J.R. Smith is already the well-established first shooting guard off the bench. If Iman Shumpert doesn't improve as a point guard and has to play off the ball, that means Hardaway is all of a sudden the Knicks' fourth guard at best. That's not going to mean much in the fantasy basketball world.
Reggie Bullock (SG/SF, Clippers)
Bullock is a strong shooter and a plus defender, but he doesn't really fit into the Clippers' plans in 2013-14. The Clips have four guards and two small forwards that are slated to get more time than him this year. Think of 2013-14 Bullock as playing the role that 2012-13 Grant Hill did. That means he's not worth throwing on your fantasy roster unless you think he'll be an impact player in a dynasty league three years down the road.
Andre Roberson (PF, Thunder)
Roberson has one elite skill: he can rebound. He posted a rebound rate of better than 20 percent in his collegiate career at Colorado, but he doesn't do much else. Because of that, he's not going to get a ton of playing time for a Thunder team that's contending for a championship.
Rudy Gobert (C, Jazz)
Gobert is a physical freak. He has a 7-foot-9 wingspan, the longest in the history of the NBA combine, and a palindromic 9-foot-7 standing reach, also the longest in the history of the combine. That said, he's probably the rawest player in the draft. As a future investment, Gobert was a great one at the 27th pick, but in a one-year, 2013 fantasy league, he's not worth a roster spot.
Livio Jean-Charles (SF, Spurs)
How Spurs is it for Jean-Charles to play overseas after being taken in the first round? The Spurs, they're the ultimate stashers.
Archie Goodwin (PG/SG, Suns)
Goodwin struggled playing off the ball at Kentucky but impressed as a point guard at the Las Vegas Summer League. He's still raw and isn't a great decision maker, but there's a chance he could get some decent playing time if he's able to leap Kendall Marshall in the rotation. All the Suns want to do is rebuild, and playing Goodwin should be part of that process.
Nemanja Nedovic (PG, Warriors)
Nedovic is a big pick for the Warriors, who lost Jarrett Jack to Cleveland in the offseason. He's an athletic point guard that has a chance to get legitimate minutes if he impresses, but let him show that he can contribute in the NBA before you draft him.