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NBA Waiver Wire: The Compressed Schedule and the Rookie Wall

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.

I tend to avoid rookies in fantasy NBA leagues - for a variety of reasons. Their playing time can be hard to predict. First year guards tend to struggle with turnovers - a big problem in some leagues. And the NBA game can be a major learning experience for rookie fours and fives; many are used to getting by on size and strength alone and have to learn how to compete against players they can't simply out-muscle.

This season, I was even more skeptical of the rookie class. On top of the normal challenges first-year players face, this year's rookies didn't have the Summer League or much of a training camp to get ready for the NBA. And the compressed, lockout-shortened schedule means teams have very little in-season practice time. As such, I missed out on some rookies that have been absolutely outstanding to this point, including Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, and MarShon Brooks.

Regrets? I have a few. But then again... missing out on Irving and company might not turn out to be as bad a decision as it looks right now. The rookie wall is looming.

In a normal NBA season, we typically start to see rookies hit "the wall" in late January and February. Many recover in March and finish their first pro seasons on a high note. This season didn't start until late December, which could push the onset of crushing rookie fatigue back a bit. On the other hand, this year's rookies have had practically no downtime since the season tipped off on Christmas Day.

Irving and Rubio have been outstanding this season, and haven't shown any signs of hitting the wall just yet... but selling high on either of them might not be a horrible idea at this point. Brooks and fellow rookie Iman Shumpert have already missed significant playing time; it wouldn't be at all surprising to see other first year players missing time with tendinitis and similar over-use injuries as the season goes on.

I'd be a lot less worried about rookies that didn't emerge as legit fantasy options until recently - like the Kings' Isaiah Thomas (52%/93.7%). I'm also high on Golden State's Klay Thompson (4%/0.3%), who could have a much bigger role in the second half if the Warriors' trade Monta Ellis or if Stephen Curry continues to struggle with injuries.

I'll take a look at a couple other rookies in this week's picks.

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.

I'll give percent owned stats for both Yahoo! and ESPN/ leagues with each pick - first number is Yahoo, ESPN/NBA is second. If you play some other league/format, let me know in the comments and I'll do what I can to accommodate.

Standard Leagues

Jordan Crawford (40%/69.3%) - Crawford went into the break on a red-hot streak - five straight games with double-figure scoring, including a 32-point outburst against the Kings last Wednesday. Is it sustainable? Of course not. But it should solidify his spot in the Wizards' rotation for the time being.

Marreese Speights (31%/61.0%) - It seems Speights has settled in with his new team; he's riding a streak of five straight games with double-figure scoring. He should be a pretty solid option until Zach Randolph is ready to return.

Marco Belinelli (25%/30.7%) - Hornets coach Monty Williams benched Belinelli to light a fire under his guard. Apparently, it worked; Belinelli has responded with a string of very strong games, and should continue to be a good option with Eric Gordon sidelined.

Kenneth Faried (16%/6.0%) - He's a bit of a specialist, and his value could tank if and when Denver's frontcourt gets healthy, but Faried has the potential to put up really excellent rebounding numbers given regular playing time.

Deep Leagues

Markieff Morris (15%/5.5%) - A resurgent Channing Frye has pushed Morris to a smaller role, but the rookie has played pretty well when given the opportunity. He's a good "pick up and stash on the bench" guy if you have a roster spot available.

Nikola Vucevic (5%/6.6%) - Philly's rookie center played the best game of his young career just before the break, dropping 22 points on the Houston Rockets. With Spencer Hawes' health a question mark, Vucevic's role could expand in the second half.

A.J. Price (1%/0.2%) - Price played well enough in George Hill's absence that it appears he'll hang on to a regular role. Price scored 11 points with six assists in 23 minutes in Hill's first game back from an ankle injury.

Gerald Green (0%/0%) - The Nets signed Green - who has been lighting up the D-League as a member of the Los Angeles D-Fenders - during the all-star break. New Jersey has gotten very little production from the small forward spot this season, and just lost Shawne Williams to a season-ending injury. Green could easily become the latest D-League success story.

Follow Charlie on Twitter - @charliezegers