During the start of every season, fantasy owners drool over Rookies in search of the next great player. The element of the unknown, in terms of their production, is exciting but, can also hurt your team if a player isn’t quite ready. As we wind down the year, Rookies are starting to get more chances whether they have earned their keep, been thrust into a rotation due to injury, or are playing on a team that can afford losses and they just want to see what they have in a player.
This is also a great time of year to remember that they are still Rookies. Most of these guys are two years removed from high school and asked to carry enormous responsibility whether on or off the court. NBA life takes some getting used to; environment can be just as important as opportunity.
With the playoffs about a month away, we can look back and better project this year’s Rookie class. I will recap a handful of Rookies (in no particular order) that should provide some immediate and future value.
We still do not know what we have in the number one pick of the draft. His year was officially called off due to injury so he will get his chance to outshine this upcoming year’s class in the Rookie of the Year chase. With Philadelphia’s personnel decisions, all signs point to building around Simmons and a few others- his future is still very bright. Grade: Incomplete.
Ingram has produced a fairly predictable stat line from game to game as he averages 8/4/2 in 28 minutes per game (most of which came in a bench role). As he adds strength to his frame in the offseason, he should be more able to impose his will on the offensive end in his Sophomore campaign. He will get every chance to be successful so, don’t be disappointed just yet- superstars aren’t built overnight. Grade: B.
He is shooting better than advertised and is starting to carve out a more prominent role on a solid playoff team. Being drafted into a winning culture where he doesn’t have any pressure to carry or save a team should help him in the long run. He is already the second best player at getting to the rim on Boston’s roster- something that is incredibly important to space the floor for the rest of the team. Brown’s stock is rising every time he steps on the court. Grade: B+.
There may not have been a rookie from this class that took advantage of every opportunity presented than Brogdon. The second round pick (36th overall) has shown that he is NBA ready; he may never be an All-Star or be showered with praise but the writing is on the wall for him to have a lengthy productive career. Averaging 10/3/4 and a steal per game is great stuff from a second round pick over 25 minutes per game (and it appears he is just getting started). He may be overvalued early next year because he has stood out so much this year but he can contribute steadily for years to come. Grade: A.
Dunn, by all accounts, is the Point Guard of the future for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has shown flashes of what made him the 5th overall pick last year serving primarily as Ricky Rubio’s backup. He is on a young team with some future (and current) stars. The team, like Dunn, may take a few years to develop an identity; Dunn is definitely a keeper in dynasty formats though. Rubio appears to be on the way out sooner rather than later which will only help Dunn’s fantasy value. Grade: C+.
Sabonis like much of the Rookie class has had some good moments. He is also a Rookie; he struggles with consistency on a team that features top fantasy player, Russell Westbrook. He has played well enough to remain in a steady role for the remainder of his Rookie contract and beyond; he will never be one to carry your fantasy team but can be a nice option in deeper formats. Grade B.
The fact that a player as athletic as Chris’s gets reps at the Power Forward position gets NBA nerds like myself giddy. He is very entertaining to watch and gives incredible effort night in-night out. Playing on a young, developing team like the Suns has been good for Chriss as experience was what was mostly lacking from his game; he gained plenty of on-court experience this year and should be a main stay on fantasy rosters for the next decade. Grade: A-.
The young, Denver Small Forward has occasionally flashed his potential this year. He is big and smooth as expected when Denver selected him in the middle of the first round last year. Hernangomez has done as expected when he gets to see time on the floor with the moments of brilliance and an appropriate blend of Rookie mistakes. What everyone is waiting for is the Nuggets to trade some of their veterans in the offseason so they can speed up the rebuilding efforts. A full on rebuild would skyrocket Hernangomez’s fantasy value- especially if the likes of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari were moved. Grade: B.
Jury Is Still Out
These were boom or bust picks that we are still anxious to find out about: Dragan Bender and Thon Maker. Both look extremely promising but, neither had consistent playing time this year to make a fair judgement.
More Rookies will get a chance to stru their stuff on the court as the season finishes up. Contenders will rest veterans to give Rookies valuable on-court experience; non-contenders will want to see what they have in the newest additions to their team. Though their averages haven’t been their from a statistical standpoint throughout the year, many young guys are taking advantage of their new opportunities- disect information on them depending on your league format and focus on the recent statistical contributions (since the All-Star break). They could be the key to winning your league down the stretch.
If you would like to hear analysis on more of this year’s draft class, find me on twitter @themainedoug.