There are few feelings better as a fantasy owner than having a rookie break out while on your team. Some of the time it’s easy to spot rookies that are going to bust out. Last year, you didn't have to be a pro scout to see that Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis had chances for big-time numbers. Lillard had one of the best rookie seasons ever, so it’s not fair to this year’s crop to compare them to the Blazers’ star point guard. By the way, he looks amazing so far. What's more, Anthony Davis has looked like the best big man in the NBA so far this season.
It’s a little different this year. The 2013 draft class has been called one of the worst in decades and it’s tough to argue against that. So with the lack of talent, it’s more about opportunity for these rooks. Teams are going to tank down the stretch and that means the bad teams will want to get an extended look at their young player with cheaper contracts. Here’s a list of how I’d rank the players for most fantasy leagues. These rankings are more about upside than anything else. More specifically, players that can bust out after the All-Star break. For instance, a guy like Archie Goodwin doesn't have much value now, but as the Suns start to unload guys, his playing time should rise.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $75,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday, Nov. 6th games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the link.
You can follow me on Twitter for in-game analysis and get some waiver-wire pickups as they happen @MikeSGallagher.
1. Victor Oladipo – He’s a superstar in the making and has the fantasy game to go with it. In four games, the Indiana product played just 28 minutes per game, averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 boards, 4.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 triples. He loves to get to the rim -- a la James Harden -- and 52.1 percent of his shots have come within five feet. On the downside, he’s shot a sub-par 48.0 percent in that range and that’s part of the reason why he’s at just 43.8 percent from the field overall. To round out his negatives, he does have 4.5 turnovers per game. That can’t continue, especially if he wants to get run at point guard.
The Magic have predominantly played him off the ball and not at point guard like in Orlando Summer League and in preseason action. That could change soon. Jameer Nelson is rumored to be traded, which makes perfect sense since the Magic have a surplus at the two and three with Arron Afflalo and Moe Harkless both playing well. Plus, Jacque Vaughn could look to play Tobias Harris at small forward a bit.
Oladipo is going to go off this year. He won’t be as good as Damian Lillard, but that’s not going to happen again for a very long time.
2. Michael Carter-Williams – This might be a bit of shock that he’s only two on this list. Before last night’s game, he was a top-10 fantasy guy in standard league and was leading the league in steals before Ricky Rubio passed him on Monday night. The steals are his foremost asset in fantasy, but he has other areas of strength, as well. MCW is averaging 7.8 assists, 2.3 triples and 20.0 points per game. None of these stats are going to be sustainable, but he has every indication that he’ll be a very productive point guard in the stats department.
Before last night, the Sixers were first in the league in pace and ranked sixth in offensive efficiency. While last night’s debacle against the Warriors didn’t knock them from the top spot in pace, they moved to just 15th in efficiency. The good news is that coach Brett Brown is a bit of a play-calling guru and he should get his point guard in good spots. The Sixers have been using Spencer Hawes as a stretch five, so that should help MCW’s shots at the rim. One last encouraging thing for sad MCW owners is that the Warriors beat the Sixers at their own game. GSW had a ridiculous 36 fast-break points, and also Andre Iguodala having the best 3-point night of his life doesn’t hurt.
3. Vitor Faverani – Let’s start with the bad. Interestingly, Faverani has not played in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter in three of the four games this season. I’m not sure why and hopefully coach Brad Stevens sheds some light on this soon. His rotations haven’t really been like clockwork either. The good news is teams are attacking the rim against the Celtics and they rank fifth in the NBA in opponent shots at the rim. Since Faverani hasn’t been fouling much in the preseason or in this young season, hopefully he can stay out of foul trouble while blocking some shots.
As for offense, he also hit his first 3-pointer against the Grizzlies on Monday and his shot distribution has been a positive. He’s taken 64 percent of his shots at the rim and 24 percent from beyond the 3-point line, which is a great way to get buoy field goal percentage while adding a little value with the occasional triple. Favs is also shooting a sterling 68.8 percent on his shots at the rim as the biggest part of his season 56.0 percent from the field overall.
4. Trey Burke – No rookie has an opportunity has great as Trey Burke’s. Since he suffered a finger injury in the preseason, the Jazz have been forced to start John Lucas and Jamaal Tinsley at the point. Yeah, those guys.
He still isn’t close to returning to the lineup and the various different timetables have made his situation tough to track. There has been an 8-12 week timetable all the way down to 3-6 week return date. For what it’s worth, it sounds like he could be back this month.
Medical chart aside, Burke’s skills haven’t exactly translated to the next level yet. He shot just 25 percent in 39 preseason minutes to go with an abysmal 24 percent from the floor in Orlando Summer League. Burke really needs to figure out how to combat the larger NBA bodies in the paint if he's going to shoot over 40 percent. If he can do that, there’s a chance he could be even better than Michael Carter-Williams. The Jazz point guards have been in the top half for frontcourt touches per game, which speaks volumes with the lack of production in the stat sheet. He’s worth a stash in just about every league.
5. Kelly Olynyk – He was the best big man in Orlando Summer League this side of Andre Drummond, averaging 18.0 points, 7.8 boards, 1.8 steals and 0.6 triples. The rookie came into camp with a shot to compete for the starting center spot, but he’s fallen behind Vitor Faverani.
Last night’s game in Memphis was not good from a statistical standpoint, shooting 1-of-8 from the field for four points with four boards, four turnovers and three fouls in 25 minutes. Despite the poor shooting, he was taking good shots and they just weren’t dropping. That’s been a trend for Olynyk and he’s just 1-of-14 on shots coming from deeper than five feet. He seems comfortable in the role he’s currently in, and that's not too bad since he played in at least 25 minutes in each of his last two games. It’s fluid situation and Brad Stevens hasn’t quite stuck his guns yet, so there’s some upside with the Gonzaga product.
6. Ben McLemore – Like just about every other perimeter scorer on this list, McLemore couldn’t get it going in summer league. His pretty jumper was on display and he gets off the ground much like Danny Green, but he couldn’t create spacing and get his own shot in July.
He had his coming-out party in garbage time on Saturday with 19 points, four boards, one steal and three 3-pointers on 8-of-17 shooting. B-Mac got to the rim a bit in that game, but he was still taking a few too many long-range, two-point shots. The Kansas product is definitely getting better and the Kings have a good enough coaching staff to help him along the way. Marcus Thornton remains his biggest roadblock and playing Greivis Vasquez at shooting guard doesn’t help either, but he could even get 24 minutes with those guys healthy. Obviously, coach Mike Malone would have to move John Salmons out of the rotation for the most part.
7. Nate Wolters – Luke Ridnour has been dealing with a back issue and Brandon Knight has pulled both of his hamstrings in the past month. Those injuries opened up some playing time for second-round pick Nate Wolters, earning a starting nod on Saturday night. He hasn’t’ disappointed and had a 10:1 assist: turnover ratio in that start. What’s more, he’s taken 3.03 triple attempts per game this season.
It’s no secret that Brandon Knight is not a true point guard. Before he lost his job last year, he ranked dead last among point guards in assist: turnover ratio and that probably won’t sit well with Larry Drew. Wolters has a chance to get a job as the starter even while his team is healthy and that means a lot.
8. Dennis Schroder – He’s one of the most fun players to watch and his quickness has been an attribute that few others possess. He saw 22 minutes of action on Sunday and the Hawks used a two-PG lineup with Jeff Teague. The Hawks don’t have their rotation set and it looks like DeMarre Carroll could be bumped from the starting lineup soon.
The German has a full skill set as a fantasy commodity. He shoots threes, hands out assists and should be able to get steals even though he hasn’t record one yet. If Jeff Teague gets hurt, Schroder would become a near must-add player.
9. Steven Adams – He’s the best rebounder on the team, but the team hasn’t quite given him minutes. Adams isn’t much of a scorer, but who needs another scorer with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook around? He’s a strong guy down low and his quick hips have put him in a good position for rebounds. In his 16.7 minutes per game, he has 5.0 boards per game this season. Kendrick Perkins isn't what he used to be while the Thunder have finally realized that Hasheem Thabeet is never going to develop into a key rotational player.
10. Gal Mekel – This one is pretty simple: Jose Calderon doesn’t have strong hamstrings. In fact they’re almost as weak as fellow Dallas athlete Miles Austin’s. OK, that’s not true.
The Mavs gave him some run on Friday and he was solid in 23 minutes. Mekel totaled 11 points, one board, six assists, one 3-pointer and one turnover in 23 minutes. The most impressive part is the lack of turnovers and the game is starting to slow down for him. The Israeli had an eight-dime first half in a summer-league game and has some creativity in distributing the ball.
11. Alex Len – His ankles are ruined, but maybe they’ll be better in the second half of the season.
12. Archie Goodwin – Goran Dragic could be traded and that would open up some playing time for the Suns at the two guard.
13. Cody Zeller – The Bobcats like Josh McRoberts as a stretch four and Zeller’s progress has leveled off a bit.
14. Rudy Gobert – If Enes Kanter does down, Gobert could be an interesting guy. He has a 7’9” wingspan and would rack up the blocks.
15. C.J. McCollum – The Blazers are going to be without McCollum (foot) for a while, but they’re not going to need him with the way Wesley Matthews is playing. He took more shots than anyone in summer league, so the team could push him along should their record go south.
16. Otto Porter – He’s hurt just too often and Trevor Ariza is off to a nice start.
17. Anthony Bennett – He looks terrible and is 0-of-15 from the field.
18. Giannis Antetokounmpo – The Bucks are starting to play him and he has some upside for blocks and steals.
19. Tim Hardaway Jr. – J.R. Smith coming back figures to hurt his value.
20. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – He got bumped from the rotation with Brandon Jennings back. As soon as one of the four guys ahead of him goes down, he’ll be getting playing time.
21. Dionte Christmas – There are a lot of Suns on this list for good reason.
22. Dwight Buycks – Kyle Lowry can’t stay healthy.
23. Jeff Withey – The Pelicans don’t have much depth behind Anthony Davis.
24. Arinze Onuaku – Ditto.
25. Luigi Datome – If the Pistons could get some 3-point production from a forward spot, that would really help.
26. Nemanja Nedovic
27. Robbie Hummel
28. Nerlens Noel
29. Hollis Thompson
30. Phil Pressey
31. Shabazz Muhammad
32. Reggie Bullock
33. Ian Clark
34. Tony Mitchell
35. Ricky Ledo
36. Gorgui Dieng
37. Peyton Siva
38. Brandon Davies
39. Solomon Hill
40. Shane Larkin
41. Allen Crabbe
42. Elias Harris
43. Nick Calathes
44. Andre Roberson
45. Pero Antic
46. Tony Snell
47. Erik Murphy
48. Sergey Karasev
49. Glen Rice Jr.
50. Mason Plumlee
51. Ray McCallum
52. Matthew Dellavedova
53. Ognjen Kuzmic
55. Isaiah Canaan
56. Jamaal Franklin
57. Ryan Kelly
Random: There are a lot of questions about Lance Stephenson’s value. Every other member of the Rotoworld team has chimed in, so I thought I’d get in the mix.
Stephenson should be fine upon Danny Granger’s return. Orlando Johnson saw 14.0 minutes per game off the bench and those are going to be the main minutes that would go to Granger. Solomon Hill also has played 9.0 minutes per game.
The fact is Stephenson has looked like the frontrunner for Most Improved Player and Granger wasn’t very good before getting injured makes his pace seem somewhat sustainable. Obviously, he won't be this good though. The Pacers are going to manage him big time.