In-Season Strategy: Week 6 Rookie Check-In

In-Season Strategy: Week 6 Rookie Check-In

This article is part of our In-Season Strategy series.

As we near the quarter mark in the NBA season, it continues to become more and more clear which rookies can be trusted, particularly in weekly lineups. As sample sizes grow, it's easier to separate early-season hot or cold streaks from longer-term trends. And with more than a calendar month's worth of data to pull from, we're starting to get a better sample from which to project each rookie's role.

While the likes of Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic have already solidified themselves as top-100 fantasy contributors, other big-name rookies still face question marks. How will the return of JaMychal Green impact Jaren Jackson, Jr.? Will Marvin Bagley eventually overtake Nemanja Bjelica in the starting lineup?

The answers to those questions aren't explicitly clear just yet, but they're among the storylines to monitor midway through Week 6.

Jaren Jackson, Jr., Grizzlies
Owners who took a chance on Jackson in drafts got a fortuitous break when JaMychal Green went down with a broken jaw in the second game of the season. The injury thrust Jackson into the starting lineup, sparking a run of fantasy viability that some thought wouldn't come until much later in the season. Jackson put up 12.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks over a 13-game sample, during which he averaged 24.8 minutes per game. That last figure likely would've been higher had he been able to avoid foul trouble, as Jackson averaged four personals per game and picked up at least five fouls on six occasions.

In Green's first game back against Minnesota on Sunday, Jackson played only 19 minutes to Green's 21. But in Monday's win over Dallas, Green saw 15 minutes of action off the bench, while Jackson played a season-high 36 minutes, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks.

Given how the Grizzlies are playing -- they're currently 11-5, good for second in the Western Conference -- J.B. Bickerstaff is unlikely to switch up the starting lineup in the short-term, but Jackson's minutes could continue to vacillate on a nightly basis. Green had 12 points and nine boards Monday night, and more often than not, Bickerstaff could simply opt to ride the hot hand. Where Jackson has the advantage, though, is his ability to back up Marc Gasol at center. Green offers some versatility, but he's two inches shorter than Jackson and doesn't have the same defensive chops the Grizzlies covet when Gasol is off the floor.

Luka Doncic, Mavericks
With each passing game, Doncic looks a little more comfortable as the Mavs' number one offensive option. He struggled from the field in Monday's loss to Memphis (6-20 FG), but that came on the heels of an excellent performance in a win over Golden State on Saturday, in which he scored 24 points to go with nine rebounds and four assists. Doncic leads all rookies in scoring (19.2 PPG), and he ranks second in assists (4.1 APG) and third in rebounds (6.8 RPG). His percentages are fantastic for a high-usage rookie -- 45.3% FG; 37.5% 3PT -- and the only real criticism at this point is a relatively high turnover rate -- but even that feels nitpicky.

Trae Young, Hawks
As most expected, Young has had his ups and downs through the first month of the season, and he's currently mired in a rough shooting stretch. Young has hit just one of his last 19 attempts from three over the last four games, and he's a combined 15-of-56 from the floor over that span. As a result, Young's season-long field goal percentage has dipped to 39.1 percent, while he's down to a ghastly 24 percent from three on nearly six attempts per game.

Obviously, those numbers were a significant disappointment for fantasy owners in Week 5, most of whom were encouraged by a seven-game stretch from Oct. 30 to Nov. 11 during which Young averaged 18.7 points on 45.5 percent shooting. But while Young hasn't been the volume three-point producer we expected -- he's shooting 14.6% from three in November -- he's been able to salvage some fantasy value with his assists production. Young already has six games with at least 10 assists on the season, and he topped out with a career-high 17 in Monday's loss to the Clippers. Young was 1-of-5 from three in that contest, and 8-of-22 overall, but he got to the line nine times and finished with 25 points.

Marvin Bagley, Kings
The emergence of De'Aaron Fox and an overall shockingly competent start to the Kings' season have pulled headlines away from Bagley, who's off to a solid-yet-unspectacular start to his NBA career. Bagley continues to come off the bench behind Nemanja Bjelica, but he's a near-lock for 20-25 minutes, and he's proven he can be a productive points/rebounds/blocks contributor, even in fairly limited playing time.

The No. 2 overall pick had 16 points, eight rebounds and a block in Saturday's matchup with Houston and followed up with 15 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 26 minutes Monday against OKC. Bagley hasn't been much of a three-point threat, however -- he's 0-of-6 from three over the last six games -- and he's handed out two assists or fewer in 16 of 17 games thus far.

Harry Giles, Kings
After essentially redshirting last season, the hope was that Giles would return at 100 percent and look like the player who was once the near-consensus No. 1 player in his high school class. He's shown some flashes, but Giles has struggled to earn consistent minutes, due in large part to his world-class ability to rack up fouls.

Giles picked up five personals in 16 minutes against the Spurs last week, four in seven minutes against Memphis, and four in 14 minutes Monday against Oklahoma City. the 2017 first-rounder still has some intrigue in dynasty formats, but he can be safely ignored in the vast majority of season-long leagues.

Wendell Carter, Bulls
Even with Robin Lopez working his way back into the mix of late, Carter's workload, and fantasy production, have remained constant. He's played at least 22 minutes in every game since Oct. 26 and continues to look more like a 30-year-old veteran than a 19-year-old rookie. Carter's scoring efficiency hasn't been great (46.5% FG; 27.8% 3PT), but he holds averages of 11.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in the month of November and has at least one swat in all but one game this season.

The big question for Carter's fantasy owners is what happens when Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis return from their respective injuries. It's hard to imagine Fred Hoiberg pulling Carter from the starting lineup, but his night-to-night ceiling could be a bit lower. Markkanen will command touches and was an underrated rebounder as a rookie, while Portis ranked among the highest-usage bench players in the league last season.

Quick Hits

Mitchell Robinson, Knicks: Since taking over the starting job from Enes Kanter, Robinson flashed his immense potential, but in terms of fantasy contributions, he has to be viewed as a blocks specialist. Robinson has failed to score in double-digit in seven straight games, and he's grabbed more than six rebounds just once in that span. Meanwhile, his workload has been inconsistent, due in large part to foul trouble. That was most prominently on display Sunday against Orlando, when he was tagged for five fouls in just nine minutes of action. With Kanter returning to the starting lineup Tuesday night on what looks to be a semi-permanent basis, Robinson should be on the chopping block in most leagues, if he wasn't already.

Mo Bamba, Magic: Bamba's upside remains capped as long as he's playing behind Nikola Vucevic, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the week. Bamba played 16 minutes or fewer in each of the last four games, and until the Magic are willing to extend that number into the low-20s, Bamba, despite his shot-blocking, is simply not on the floor enough to warrant starting in weekly leagues.

Landry Shamet, 76ers: Shamet has topped 20 minutes in back-to-back games and could be set for a slightly increased role with Markelle Fultz's status very much up in the air. Shamet shouldn't be considered in most standard-sized leagues, but in deep formats he could be worth a look as a three-point specialist. The Wichita State product has the green light to bomb away when he's on the floor, and he has eight made threes over his last five contests.

Collin Sexton, Cavaliers: While the Cavs continue to sink to new depths on a near-nightly basis, Sexton has quietly emerged as a legitimate scoring threat. He has at least 15 points in each of the last five games, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 69.2 percent from three. That latter number is wildly unsustainable, but Sexton has serious terrible team/good stats potential going forward -- mostly as a points specialist -- as the Cavs look more and more like a team in full-on tank mode.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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