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NBA Waiver Wire: Rookies Stepping Up

Charlie Zegers

Charlie has covered the NBA, NFL and MLB for RotoWire for the better part of 15 years. His work has also appeared on,, the New York Times, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo. He embraces his East Coast bias and is Smush Parker's last remaining fan.

In fantasy terms, the rookie class of 2010 has been a major washout. Sure, Blake Griffin has put together some pretty impressive performances... but his dismal free-throw shooting really hurts his fantasy value in most formats. As my esteemed colleague Carson Cistulli pointed out in his column this week, Griffin's season-to-date value is roughly equal to Jose Calderon's or Andrei Kirilenko's.

(In other words, selling high after that 47-point explosion might not be a bad idea.)

Griffin aside, which rookies have really given fantasy owners a major return on investment? John Wall (95% owned) has been electric when healthy, but "when healthy" has been a very important caveat. And Landry Fields (68%) has emerged as the league's best rebounding guard. DeMarcus Cousins (79%) has given owners some return on investment too -- but not half what was expected after his performance in the summer league.

And that's about it.

But our assessment of this rookie class could turn around in the second half, as several other first-year players are showing signs of life.

This might be a good time to take a flyer on players like Ekpe Udoh (1% owned), who could step in to Golden State's long-running void at center soon.
Detroit's Greg Monroe (38%) has been posting consistent double-doubles of late.
Indiana's Paul George (1%) seems to be earning Jim O'Brien's confidence and could have a larger role down the stretch.
Gary Neal (7%) has earned a consistent role in San Antonio's rotation and gives the Spurs a nice scoring option off the bench.
Al-Farouq Aminu (3%) has drawn criticism for settling for too many three-pointers; his value will improve if he starts getting to the basket more often.
A rash of injuries have given Cleveland's Christian Eyenga (0%) and Manny Harris (8%) a chance to get some run. That could continue - it's not like the Cavs are playing for anything but the future this spring.
Evan Turner (41%) has been held back, to some extent, by the fact that he and Andre Iguodala don't play well together. If Iggy is traded, Turner's value could take off. And speaking of trades...
Derrick Favors (18%) could have a much larger role if he is shipped to Denver as many expect.

Don't make the mistake of using full-season numbers when making decisions on these rookies. Now that they have their professional feet wet, several of them could really take off in the second half.

Picks for the Week:

The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who may be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers.

All "percent owned" stats are taken from Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball - your mileage may vary.

Standard Leagues:
Drew Gooden (49% owned) - Seems to be back at full strength and productivity after missing time with a foot injury.

Reggie Williams (33% owned) - Warriors coach Keith Smart is reportedly looking to give Williams a more substantial role in the offense, even if it means cutting down on Stephen Curry's playing time a bit.

Jason Thompson (18% owned) - Sacramento's frontcourt rotation can be tough to predict, but Thompson has started the Kings' last two games and produced pretty good numbers.

Deep Leagues:

Brandon Rush (16% owned) - Indiana's shooting guard situation can be about as fluid as Sacramento's power forward spot -- but Rush has gotten the call to start two of their last three games.

Sundiata Gaines (0% owned) - Gaines' seven point/six assist outing on Monday is more impressive when you consider the fact that he's been a Raptor for all of 20 minutes. With Jose Calderon nursing a variety of injuries and both Leandro Barbosa and Jerryd Bayless out, Gaines could win a job beyond his current ten-day contract.

Dante Cunningham (1% owned) - When Marcus Camby left Monday's game with an ankle injury, it was Cunningham, not Joel Przybilla, that picked up the slack. Camby isn't expecting to miss any time, but this apparent change in the pecking order is worth noting.

Follow Charlie on Twitter - @charliezegers