As this year’s shortened NBA season approaches the quarter-way mark I figured it’s as good a time as any to take a look at where the leagues Rookies stand this fantasy basketball season. This year’s draft class wasn’t the strongest (or deepest) we’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t talent coming into the league and it surely doesn’t mean we aren’t excited to see how these young stars perform. Over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen rookies such as Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love come into the league and blossom into stars for their respective teams. This year’s draft class may have lacked depth and the fact that there wasn’t a clear-cut number one draft pick always makes the draft class appear weak, but those things don’t necessarily mean that there isn’t star power coming into the league; because there is… a lot of it. Players such as “Jimmer”, National Championship winner Kemba Walker, Kyrie “Heir to the Throne” Irving and Flashy Spanish League Star Ricky Rubio all came into the NBA this year with something to prove. Although it’s a tough transition from the college game (or International Game for that matter) to the NBA game (partially because most of these top picks are accustomed to having the ball in their hands for the majority of the game), let’s take a look at how the top rookies are adapting so far, point out which rookies you should be picking on your fantasy basketball team and determine the early frontrunners for NBA Rookie of The Year.
5. Jimmer Fredette, G, Sacramento Kings – The Man known only as “Jimmer” became an American Icon last year when he lead the collegiate nation in scoring averaging 28.9 points per game while establishing the now infamous “Jimmer Range” (named for his habit of routinely taking 3-point shots from way beyond the arc). Jimmer hasn’t really found his role on his new team yet but fantasy owners should not be worried, actually you should be rejoicing that hes flying so far under the radar because he’ll stay affordable and it’s only a matter of time before his fantasy points go up. Fredette is currently only averaging 7.8 points per game and 2.2 assists, but the number that sticks out is his 23.8 minutes per game, which indicates the Kings are giving him a chance to grow by giving him playing time. I believe that by season’s end if fantasy owners stick with picking Jimmer he will work his way up to a 12 to 15 points per game scorer along with his ability to help you if your fantasy league rewards for 3-point shooting. Ultimately you’ll come out looking like a stud for selecting him on your fantasy squad.
4. Iman Shumpert, G, New York Knicks – “I-MAN SHUM-PERT” The Garden crowd yells as the young guard drives the ball to the rack. As one of the most underrated picks of this year’s draft, Shumpert has come into the league and impressed many, including myself. I profiled him in the Knicks opener vs. the Celtics (See: NY Knicks Help Make It A Merry Christmas) where I pointed at his aggressiveness as a huge attribute. Shumpert is currently averaging 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.4 assits and an eye-catching 2.2 steals per game. His ability to read passing lanes and score by himself makes him very valuable to a Knicks team which is in need of scoring (a surprise I know). If Shumpert continues to develop and gets his scoring and assists numbers up just a bit he could be this year’s Rookie of The Year. If you’re looking for a real fantasy sleeper pick for you daily fantasy basketball leagues or if you play in a keeper league PICK I-MAN SHUM-PERT NOW!
3. Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte Bobcats – The UConn standout is constantly ridiculed for his lack of size, but Kemba doesn’t let that bother him. After being drafted 9th by the Michael Jordan owned Charlotte Bobcats, Kemba has started this season averaging 11.1 points and 3.0 assists per game while earning 22.2 minutes. The Bobcats are still a young team (much like the Kings) which is great for a young star trying to adjust to the NBA, because Walker will have opportunities to grow and learn through experience. He will find his groove and start scoring prolifically very soon. Don’t miss out on him or you may regret it especially when he may be on waivers in many fantasy basketball leagues or can be attained for very cheap in daily fantasy basketball leagues.
2. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers – Let’s get one thing straight…. he’s no Lebron, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a damn good ball player. Irving came into this year without much of a track record, playing only 11 games last season with Duke, however he was drafted with the number one overall pick in this year’s draft…and quite frankly his moves have looked brilliant. Irving has seemingly been getting better with every game he plays. He’s the starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and is currently averaging 17.1 points and 5.1 assists per game. Those are pretty solid numbers for a rookie on a team with not much offensive firepower (which means teams can afford to slide an extra defender over onto him). Irving will have a great chance to become a star with the Cavs and I hope he can fill the void LeBron James made when he shipped out to Miami. If he continues to work hard (something he’s always been praised for) I can see him becoming a 20 point and 8 assist guy this year which would be incredible for a rookie guard and fantasy basketball owners. If you can get Irving in your daily fantasy basketball league take a chance on him as his potential is enormous and picking him early while he’s affordable could pay huge dividends.
1. Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves – Rubio has teased us over the past few seasons regarding his NBA future…but this season he finally gave us a taste of what we’ve been missing out on. Rubio has stormed into the NBA this year averaging 11 points, 8.3 assists and a respectable 4.1 rebounds per game coupled with 2.0 steals. Rubio has also shown an improved jump shot (something many experts considered a major weakness in his game) and the ability to create highlights with his creative passing. If the voting for rookie of the year were today this guy would get my vote by a far margin despite Irving’s much higher scoring average. Rubio has quickly become the orchestrator for a rising Timberwolves team and his knowledge of the game is quite frankly incredible for such a young guy. The only problem I’d have with giving him rookie of the year is the fact that he’s played pro ball before in Spain. It’s a situation much like the one that occurred when Ichiro Suzuki joined the MLB way back when. In short Ichiro had a stellar rookie year, won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, but because he had played pro-ball for years in Japan many felt he was undeserving of the award which is supposed to be for “rookies” to the professional level. Rubio is in a similar situation and I feel despite this fact, Rubio is our rookie of the year for the first quarter of the season and a no brainier pick for fantasy basketball owners this NBA season.
In The Hunt:
Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix Suns – This guy’s size and ability to score down low should translate well to the NBA game. He hasn’t dominated so far with his new team but in a league where big men aren’t abundant I believe Morris has a good shot to become a force in the future. Consider him while he’s still affordable for your daily fantasy basketball league.
Derrick Williams, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves – Some people have already forgot about the number two pick overall pick which scouts called “the most NBA ready”. Williams has teamed well with fellow rookie Ricky Rubio and the two have created a few nice highlights. Williams may take a while longer to develop because of the presence of Kevin Love on the team, but in the long run I think Williams will be a very solid NBA fantasy basketball power forward.
Which Rookie Has Impressed You? Is Irving The Next Lebron? Let Me Know!