Fantasy Focus: Rookie Report
One of the more exhilarating draft day challenges fantasy basketball owners face is deciding whether or not to gamble on any of the rookie class. These players present unique consideration. They may have lit up the college boards, but that doesn’t necessarily mean such talents will successfully transfer to the NBA. And the reverse is true as well. It’s a true risk on draft day that can pay dividends or sabotage your efforts.
If rookie talents do end up transferring, so many other factors come into play – injuries, personal development, growth gained in practice and plain ole’ opportunity – that determine what kind of minutes rookies will play or if their contributions will be measured on the stat sheet. In the end, owners weigh the risks in deciding to draft or neglect a rookie.
By this time of the season, the answers proving or disproving the decision have typically revealed themselves. HOOPSWORLD takes a look at those rookies having the most positive effect in fantasy play now at the midpoint of the 2012-13 NBA season. Here’s our list of notable rookie players, in no particular order, thus far:
DAMIAN LILLARD (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Stats: 18.3 points, 6.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 6.5 field goals at .421 percentage, 2.3 three-pointers at .358 percentage, 3.0 free throws at .843 percentage in 38.5 minutes
- Highlights: Three-time NBA Rookie of the Month (out of a possible three), ranked seventh in Total Three-pointers (105), twelfth in Total Assists (297), fourteenth in Assists Per Game (6.5), sixteenth in Total Points (841) and in his opening career game versus the Los Angeles Lakers, he posted 23 points and 11 assists.
Take a look again at the above stat line. Those strong numbers are why Lillard will inevitably be named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year for the 2012-13 season. He turned heads from his very first game (the six turnovers weren’t so good, but he’s knocked that down to an average of 3.0 per game) and has not let up since. The 22-year-old Lillard displays rare maturity and consistency as well as true leadership on a team that craved it. Lessons learned in four years at Weber State (averaging 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists) suggested the 6’3” guard had an NBA game. Fantasy owners who claimed him are delighted with his numbers and shooting percentages. So are the Blazers who drafted him sixth overall. He averages seven minutes more playing time than any other rookie (his 38.5 minutes ranks seventh in the league); further, he leads other rookies in points, assists, three-pointers made, field goals made and free throws made.
ANTHONY DAVIS (New Orleans Hornets)
- Stats: 13.0 points, 7.7 rebounds (2.4 in offensive boards), 1.8 blocks, 1.1 steals, 5.3 field goals at .531 percentage, 2.3 free throws at .712 percentage in 28.6 minutes
- Highlights: League-ranked tenth in Blocks Per Game, has logged eight double-doubles.
The highly-decorated NCAA player (AP Player of the Year, Naismith’s Men’s College Player of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player and John R. Wooden Award) was surely the most talked about player last summer. The Hornets got their man with the first pick in the 2012 NBA Draft with hopes Davis could make fans forget they lost Chris Paul. That actually took a bit longer than projected since the 6’10 forward/center was plagued by injuries at the start of the season and missed 13 of the first 19 games. However, he’s on track now. The above stats reflect season-long averages, which are pretty darn good for under 30 minutes on the floor. As for “Per 36 Minutes” numbers, Davis averages 16.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Since Dec. 11 (his return date after the longest stretch of being sidelined), Davis has averaged 12.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, revealing consistency. In the past nine games, he’s shot field goals at a highly impressive .649 percentage using an array of shot selections. He also has a solid and ranked 21.0 Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Davis doesn’t give you much in the way of free throws (2.3 per game) or, not surprisingly, threes (0-for-4 in total), but he contributes soundly in multiple categories for fantasy owners. Remember in his sole year at Kentucky, he averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and a mind-blowing 4.7 blocks in 32.0 minutes.
DION WAITERS (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Stats: 14.3 points, 3.1 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 5.3 field goals at .380 percentage, 1.3 three-pointers at .320 percentage, 2.5 free throws at .770 percentage in 29.9 minutes
- Highlights: Scored 33 points (at .667 field goal percentage), five assists with no turnovers at Sacramento on January 14th.
To many, Waiters was a surprise high fourth overall pick in the draft. Turns out, the 6’4” 21-year-old guard is seeing more action than expected due to injuries on his team and has added nice numbers across the board. His shooting percentages could stand to improve for fantasy owners, though the free throws aren’t bad. He’s certainly not afraid to hoist the ball, averaging 13.8 field goal attempts per game. He did miss eight games due to injury, and has started in 30 of the 39 games in which he appeared. Waiters provides a good example of a player who didn’t blow your mind with college averages (9.7 points, 2.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds at Syracuse) but his shooting percentages did impress: .453 in field goals, .753 in free throws.
BRADLEY BEAL (Washington Wizards)
- Stats: 13.2 points, 2.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 4.7 field goals at .389 percentage, 1.5 three-pointers at .357 percentage, 2.2 free throws at .786 percentage in 31.0 minutes
- Highlights: Two-time NBA Rookie of the Month.
Beal’s season averages are solid, but they warrant closer inspection. His scoring and scoring percentages spiked in the five games after the return of starting point guard John Wall on January 12th (19.0 points, .558 field goal percentage in 35 minutes); however, they’ve plummeted over his past five games (8.0 points, .335 field goal percentage in 26 minutes). This is directly tied to a wrist injury (shooting hand) sustained in a game versus the Denver Nuggets about two weeks ago. After playing through it in those last five games, the Wizards are now wisely resting the 6’3”, 19-year-old guard. Beal is currently day-to-day as the issue is addressed; reports estimate a few more missed games. We should expect to see the return of those impressive numbers in due time. Beal was the third pick in the NBA Draft after a one-year stint with Florida (14.8 points, 2.2 assists, 1.7 three-pointers, 6.7 rebounds).
ANDRE DRUMMOND (Detroit Pistons)
- Stats: 7.5 points, 7.6 rebounds (2.9 offensive), 1.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 3.3 field goals at .609 percentage in 20.2 minutes
- Highlights: League-ranked sixth in Defensive Rating, thirteenth in Total Blocks (77), sixth in Block Percentage, second in Offensive Rebound Percentage and fourth in Total Rebound Percentage.
Drummond’s name has been on everyone’s lips with his impressive rookie numbers. In addition to recording eight double-doubles so far, the 19-year-old center is logging an unreal 22.7 PER which is good for eleventh in the league. Thankfully, his playing time has increased a few minutes lately, but why is he not playing even more? It boggles the mind. In a “Per 36 Minutes” format, Drummond has 13.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. His scoring does vary but all the other contributions make up for that. Yahoo! Sports shows just 43 percent ownership – we suggest you make sure he’s not available in your league. It seems the ninth draft pick is not quite as raw as previously thought. In just one year at the University of Connecticut, he averaged 10.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks.
TYLER ZELLER (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Stats: 8.1 points, 1.2 assists, 6.1 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 3.2 field goals at .411 percentage, 1.8 free throws at .762 percentage, 1.4 turnovers in 27.7 minutes
Zeller, the 17th pick in the NBA Draft, got his chance when Anderson Varejao went down. In fact after that date, Zeller has averaged 9.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. At first glance, you wouldn’t think these are the numbers of a seven-footer (.411 in field goal shooting?), but he has guard tendencies. Zeller ranks third among rookies in rebounds.
ALEXEY SHVED (Minnesota Timberwolves)
- Stats: 10.9 points, 4.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 3.7 field goals at .380 percentage, 1.5 three-pointers at .319 percentage, 1.9 free throws at .740 percentage in 28.5 minutes
The Russian guard, who signed as a free agent with the Timberwolves last July, was certainly not expected to contribute these numbers. But he got a chance early and performed, causing coach Rick Adelman to give him more playing time. His size (6’6”) allows him to play both guard positions which is useful indeed for this injury-plagued team.
MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST (Charlotte Bobcats)
- Stats: 9.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, 3.8 field goals at .473 percentage, 2.0 free throws at .759 percentage in 26.7 minutes.
Theoretically, the second pick in an NBA Draft should provide good fantasy numbers, and MKG has done that. He’s not particularly consistent offensively, but he’s proven to be solid on the defensive end and overall, his numbers work for owners who drafted him. He was named NBA’s Rookie of the Month in November.
Other rookies have caught our attention this season as well, such as Jared Sullinger (regretfully, he’s now out for the season with the back issue), starter Harrison Barnes (9.0 average points for the seventh draft pick) and Jonas Valanciunas (now returned after an 18-game absence due to a broken finger; was averaging 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks). It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the season plays out for the rookie class in fantasy basketball.
Which rookies in fantasy basketball have caught your attention this season? Tell us in the comments section below.