Fantasy Basketball: Rookie Difference Makers
  • Matt Sinkewicz

Fantasy Basketball: Rookie Difference Makers


As a rookie, it’s tough to contribute right away. Generally speaking, I tend to shy away from drafting rookies in the early rounds. Even if they put up solid counting stats, they are likely to be inconsistent, and kill you on the efficiency categories (FG%, FT%, & TOs). That being said, it’s not unheard of for rookies to come in and take the league by storm. MJ, Wilt, Duncan, Kareem, and…. Michael Carter-Williams all had historic rookie seasons.

Most rookies do not have the right combination of talent and opportunity necessary to become a reliable fantasy asset. Often times, they get stuck fighting for minutes until tanking teams let them loose after the all-star break. Rookies frequently get over drafted in hopes to find the next diamond in the rough. Last year, Brandon Ingram (#316 overall player), Kris Dunn (#276), and even Ben Simmons (N/A) all had a higher ADP than proven vets like Jrue Holiday (#52) and Patrick Beverly (#58).

5. Josh Jackson: F, Phoenix Suns

Josh Jackson is a do-it-all player with a high motor, and can rack up defensive stats in bunches. Coach Earl Watson believes he can play all 5 positions, so he will find minutes for Jackson even if he doesn’t end up in the starting lineup.

The former Jayhawk immediately becomes the best defender on the team, but he won’t be asked to do too much on the offensive end with budding superstar Devin Booker taking most of the shots. Instead, he will do most of the dirty work like bringing down contested rebounds, jumping passing lanes, and guarding the paint. Jackson won’t help you too much with scoring, but he could end up being one of those rare 1+ 3pt/stl/block types of players.

2017-18 Prediction: 8.1 points | 5.2 rebounds | 1.7 assists | 1.5 steals | 1.1 blocks | 0.9 3-pointers | 49% FG | 56% FTs | 1.8 Turnovers

4. De’Aaron Fox: PG, Sacramento Kings

Fox projects to be the King’s starting point guard from day one. He has little to no competition for minutes on a rebuilding team. With only a fizzling Darren Collison to compete for minutes, he should be a good bet to play 32+ minutes per game.

He is one of quickest players in the draft, and has no trouble attacking the basket. The only thing holding him back is his lack of a reliable jump shot. Defenses will most likely sag off of him forcing him to launch jump shots or force tough passes resulting in a poor FG% and high turnovers early in the season. If he can figure out how to attack NBA defenses, he could be an elite scoring threat with solid peripheral stats.

2017-18 Prediction: 14.2 points | 3.4 rebounds | 4.8 assists | 1.6 steals | 0.3 blocks | 0.4 3-pointers | 43% FG | 74% FTs | 3.2 Turnovers

3. Markelle Fultz: PG, Philadelphia 76ers

For the second year in a row, the Sixers could have 2 Rookie of the Year candidates. Fultz is certainly the most talented rookie, but his situation is a cause for concern. There are a lot of mouths to feed on this revamped Sixers team. Simmons will run the offense, and Embiid commands a ton of touches. Fultz’s time with the ball in his hands will be limited. That being said, he can still operate effectively off the ball as a spot shooter.

On the ball, Fultz is a tremendous pick and roll facilitator. Pairing him with a partner that can catch lobs, score at the basket, or pop and hit the midrange shot *cough cough Joel Embiid* would do wonders for his fantasy production. It remains to be seen how he will be used in this exciting new offense, but his ceiling is as high as anyone.

Fultz should be a solid contributor of points, assists, and 3-pointers. His poor FT% and turnovers are the only things that could bring him down.

2017-18 Prediction: 15.8 points | 4.1 rebounds | 4.9 assists | 0.9 steals | 0.4 blocks | 1.6 3-pointers | 46% FG | 67% FTs | 3.7 Turnovers

2. Lonzo Ball: PG, Los Angeles Lakers

This big baller is helped tremendously by the D’Angelo Russell trade, and Nick Young opting out. He will be asked to take on more responsibility, and will most likely be the primary ball handler. However, all that will go down the drain if the Lakers manage to sign Paul George.

Vegas currently has him as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and it’s hard to argue that. Lakers President Magic Johnson is already calling Lonzo the “new face of the franchise.” That is a lot of pressure to put on a 19 year old, but he has the right combination of talent, opportunity, and confidence in the coaching staff to make a real impact his rookie season.

The only question mark in his game is his crazy jump shot. If it translates to the NBA… Watch out. He could be a steady source for assists and 3-pointers. His FG% might be low, but it will be on low enough volume to not hurt too badly.

2017-18 Prediction:

11.2 points l 4.3 rebounds | 6.8 assists | 1.1 steals | 0.3 blocks | 1.8 3-pointers | 43% FGs | 73% FTs | 3.3 Turnovers

1. Ben Simmons: F, Philadelphia 76ers

Ok this might be cheating, but technically he is a rookie. It’s hard to ignore the hype surrounding this specimen of a human being. This guy is 6’10”, 240 lbs. with a 7’1” wingspan and a 42” vert. Not to mention his incredible vision and passing ability. Seriously, how is this man even the same species as me?

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and dub Simmons the next Giannis Antetokounmpo, but let’s pump the brakes on that. The only NBA game experience we have to go off of is the 2016 Summer League in which Simmons averaged 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in 6 games against questionable competition. He continuously made awe-inspiring passes look easy, but he was often too timid in his shot selection, and when he did shoot, it wasn’t pretty. He also regularly went for highlight reel passes which resulted in needless turnovers.

He has the ability to help out in the 5 counting categories, but he will hurt you in 3s, FG%, FT%, and TOs. Think Nic Batum with more blocks and turnovers, worse FT%, and a greater injury risk. He is a good bet to get over-drafted again this year, but he could help you out if you are punting any efficiency categories.

2017-18 Prediction: 13.2 points | 7.4 rebounds | 5.2 assists | 1.1 steals |1.1 blocks | 0.3 3-pointers| 41% FGs, 65% FTs, 3.1 Turnovers

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