3. Does anybody feel a draft?
As a general note, the lack of a Summer League should not be lost upon owners. And depending on whether or not there is a preseason or if games are missed, these rookies could be learning during regular season games. The impact should be that even less rookies will have an impact than normal, or at least that's what conventional wisdom says.
Here we go, pick by pick initial analysis of the top rookie selections:
No. 1 Duke PG Kyrie Irving
, Cavs – He will get 22-26 minutes to start and then eventually play 30+ mpg, which given his upside justifies a late round selection, though somebody else will probably take him too early.
No. 2 Arizona SF/PF Derrick Williams
, Wolves – I'm not convinced that the triumvirate of he, Michael Beasley
, and Kevin Love
will be together all year just yet, but assuming they are, he's a guy that I'll be targeting near Irving. There's just not a very good chance, bust potential aside, that he isn't productive to some degree and he'll have a bunch of upside. In other words, I'm looking at him late, and he'll probably go much earlier than I'm willing to pick him at.
As for Beasley, with the same assumption that all three guys stay and play all year, he'll be a guy that you'll want to draft with the intent to sell immediately. Beasley's value should vary directly with Williams' performance and the Wolves ability to play a small lineup with Love at center. As Williams' minutes increase, Beasley's will be hit accordingly.
No. 3 Kentucky C Enes Kanter
, Jazz – He kicks off a long list of developmental rookies and will only be interesting on draft day if Brian Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune says so. He'll have to be very impressive in a limited window of time to convince the Jazz to move Al Jefferson
to the four under their current roster configuration.
No. 4 Texas PF Tristan Thompson
, Cavs – He will greatly benefit if the Cavs decide to part ways with J.J. Hickson
and/or Anderson Varejao
, and while there are small blips on the trade radar, there aren't enough to project a trade just yet. Without a trade, he will be somebody to look at with a flier pick at the ends of drafts for his blocks and boards, but not much more. However, that could change if positive reports start flying out of Cleveland (duh). After all, Hickson isn't exactly exempt from landing in Byron Scott's doghouse.
No. 5 Lithuanian C Jonas Valanciunas
– He'll have no impact this year because he won't play due to his overseas contract. He'll be back next year to either move Bargnani to the hybrid PF/SG position he has cultivated, or make he'll make Bargnani expendable to a team that's willing to pay part of his remaining 4-year, $40 million contract. This is also good news for Ed Davis
and Amir Johnson
, who will now only have to fight each other for PF minutes, since Sam Amick of SI.com believes Reggie Evans
will not be back.
No. 6 Czech Republic SF Jan Vesely
– The dude put a charge into the NBA Draft by getting to first base
with his girlfriend after being selected, and if he shows that type of initiative in the NBA maybe he can improve on his 44 percent foul shooting. The upside is that Flip Saunders called him a "freak athlete" and most folks in the know agree, and he has just the corpse of Rashard Lewis
, and a couple of raw, defensive players in Chris Singleton
and Trevor Booker
to compete with. He'll be somebody to watch early in the preseason, but his upside right now for fantasy is as a late-round flier pick.
And let's make something clear about Lewis because he has been dead for a few years now. Until he shows that he can be a rotation guy again in the NBA, let alone a starter, my position on him is that he is done. Whether it's his knee, old age, or that he's just no good – despite any good intentions he may have – he's only there to collect a paycheck for the next two years. A $46 million dollar paycheck.
No. 7 Congo PF Bismack Biyombo
– Biyombo is a defensive beast and perhaps the most athletic player in the draft. He struggles with foul shooting, turnovers, and has a lot of room to improve offensively – but don't let national writers who saw one online video of his workout and decided he has no skills fool you – he's not completely raw. He also has good court sense, and it's safe to say his mind moves better than his body will let him. As his skills catch up, he'll show massive improvement offensively. Whether that happens this year or not is completely debatable.
For fantasy purposes, he will compete with Tyrus Thomas
, Boris Diaw
, and Kwame Brown
for time, and I find it hard to believe he can't crack that lineup significantly. He'll be worthy of a late round pick for his blocks and boards in Roto leagues, and in other formats will want to keep an eye on him, too. I would not be surprised at all if he makes an early impact given the Bobcats' lack of depth.
No. 8 Kentucky PG Brandon Knight
– Also an intriguing player given how he fell in the draft, yet nobody had anything truly bad to say about him. He was set to go third to Utah before they settled on big man Enes Kanter
, and the perfect storm sent him falling to Detroit, who had him third overall on their board. The Pistons have a ton of guards, but the point guards they have in Rodney Stuckey
and Will Bynum
have their flaws, and neither will be trusted to run the team long-term. Besides, the Pistons are very high on Knight, with Joe Dumars
saying that they were going to use the combo guard at PG and "give him the ball."
My guess is that they split the ball-handling duties between Knight and Stuckey, which could include Stuckey playing primarily at shooting guard in either a starting or bench role, so Knight starting at PG wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. The question about Knight's upside will be answered when we learn if Detroit will match whatever offer comes down the pipeline for Stuckey, who is a restricted free agent. If Knight and Stuckey share PG duties, the assist totals will necessarily take a hit, though both will have low-end guard value, regardless.
So similar to Jimmer, if I'm drafting ridiculously early, I'm looking in Rounds 9-11 – lower only because I'm halfway expecting the Kings to look like GSW teams of yore, and that Knight is a much less polished player than Jimmer. At 19 years old, I expect him to struggle much more, especially early, but being in a unique position to share ball-handling duties I think his deficiencies can be hidden while on the job.
No. 9 Connecticut PG Kemba Walker
– Charlotte's name was attached to Walker seemingly the entire draft season, and for fantasy purposes it's another turning back of the clock for the Charlotte backcourt, but instead of an underconfident D.J. Augustin
battling Raymond Felton
– Augustin will be the veteran now. There's no real telling who will come ahead until we see the two do battle, and it would be surprising for the rookie Walker to get the job without earning it. This has timeshare written all over it indefinitely. I can't sleep
No really, working as an NBA analyst you're contractually obligated to not sleep, for fear of missing the next piece of breaking news on Twitter. But seriously, though, you won't find any complaints here about the dream job.
And while anybody in the draft could technically be a sleeper, how about two more rookies that have clearer paths than most to fantasy value:
No. 16 USC PF/C Nikola Vucevic
– He is a slower, but bigger version of Spencer Hawes
, and since Hawes has never really been able to put things together – Vucevic will have every opportunity to steal the job outright. He'll need a fast start, however, to deserve draft consideration.
No. 22 Morehead State PF Kenneth Faried
– Fans are going to love this guy, and unless Timofey Mozgov
learns how to not foul on every play, it's likely that the Nuggets trot out a lineup with Faried at PF and Nene at C, assuming they don't resign Kenyon Martin
for near the veteran minimum. For what it's worth, Martin can probably get an extra million changing addresses, so we'll see how he feels.
Faried has good hands on the catch and finishes well around the rim, but don't expect him to do much else. A hustle guy if there ever was one, he rebounds very well and will block a few shots. Eight points, eight boards, a steal, and a block per game seem like a decent starting point should he start and play 30 minutes.