I spent the better part of two hours last night browsing the web in search of a jacket that could somehow upstage the majestic floral-print blazer worn by Andrew Wiggins – and so far all I found was this. But in the midst of all that I also took time to write up five fantasy-related takeaways from the NBA Draft, and I will share them with you right now:
1. As excited as I am to see them play in the NBA, I’m happy to let someone else draft Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker in fantasy leagues this year. To be clear, I think both players have a good chance to produce fantasy-relevant stats this season, and obviously there’s a lot of upside in both cases, so you’ll want to plan accordingly in keeper leagues. With that said, owners in re-draft leagues should be careful about setting early expectations too high.
As for what to expect, if forced to play a guessing game right now, I’d put the over/under on Wiggins somewhere around Bradley Beal’s rookie year (13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.6 3s). Obviously it’s not a perfect comparison, but Beal and Wiggins had fairly similar numbers during their one season in college (Beal: 14.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.4 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.7 3s / Wiggins: 17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.2 3s), and it’s easy to see Wiggins having some big games while inconsistency keeps his overall numbers in check as a rookie.
Meanwhile, Parker looks like the more polished NBA scorer/rebounder right now (19.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg at Duke), and I can picture him producing somewhere in the 15 and 7 range immediately. To me, the big question for Parker is how much he’ll contribute in steals, blocks and 3s. There’s certainly some hope there considering that he posted 1.1 spg, 1.2 bpg and 1.1 3s in college, and because of that I’d happily take the gamble in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts. However, my guess is Parker (and Wiggins) will probably go earlier than that in a lot of leagues, and I’m fine with letting someone else draft them before me.
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2. With or without Rajon Rondo in Boston, I’m planning on drafting Marcus Smart. Obviously it will be tough for Smart to put up exciting PG stats if Rondo is around putting up his own fancy stats at the same position. However, if Rondo gets dealt (or injured), Smart is a multi-category dynamo waiting to break out (18.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.9 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.6 3s as a sophomore at Oklahoma State). Smart is still not an accurate shooter (42.2 percent from the field, 72.8 percent from the line, 29.9 percent on 3s last year), but I would bet on his talent winning out at some point this year, and it sounds like he could get some minutes at shooting guard. And even if Smart does start the season as Rondo’s backup, he’s a bench stash with a ton of upside in fantasy leagues.
3. Noah Vonleh has an intriguing opportunity in Charlotte. With Josh McRoberts an unrestricted free agent, and Cody Zeller having hit double-digit rebounds exactly once in 82 games as a rookie, there’s potential here for Vonleh, who looks like a player who can score in the post and on the perimeter as a pro. This depends a lot on the status of McRoberts, but if he’s gone, and if it’s Vonleh vs. Zeller with the starting PF job at stake, I like Vonleh’s chances. His numbers at Indiana weren’t all that exciting (11.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.4 bpg, 0.5 3s), but the 18-year-old has some pretty interesting potential.
4. Speaking of potential, I like Dante Exum, but don’t expect big things this season. Exum looks like an exciting prospect, but it’s hard to see how he’ll get a major chance early on with Trey Burke, restricted FA Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks all demanding minutes at positions Exum would potentially play. I also think these comments from Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey are telling: “I want the fans and you guys to be excited about what we did, and I think we did some solid things. But, really, the valuation will be years from now on how Dante develops…” The key words here: years from now. Exum is still just 18, and it doesn’t look like there’s much urgency (or opportunity) for big minutes right away.
5. And your 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year is… Elfrid Payton? Maybe not, especially if Jameer Nelson stays in Orlando, but if Nelson is gone, Payton should have significant value in fantasy leagues. With Arron Afflalo traded to Denver, it appears Victor Oladipo will be playing much more shooting guard than point guard, setting up Payton (19.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.9 apg, 2.3 spg and 0.6 bpg at Louisiana-Lafayette last year) to potentially get a lot of minutes at PG. And even if Nelson is back in Orlando, Payton should still get a chance to make an impact given that Nelson, now 32 years old, has missed an average of 20 games the last two years.
Other Draft-Related Thoughts: Aaron Gordon has monster athletic ability, but he’s been labeled a tweener with a questionable outside shot who’s a bad free throw shooter (42.2 percent at Arizona). Add in the fact that Orlando should be giving a lot of minutes to Moe Harkless and Tobias Harris at the forward spots, and it’s hard to envision the No. 4 pick making a significant fantasy impact as a rookie. … All the questions on the Lakers roster could lead to Julius Randle playing big minutes, but my concern is he may really only be an asset in points/rebounds/FG percentage after posting limited defensive stats (0.5 spg, 0.8 bpg) at Kentucky. … One deep sleeper to keep in mind: K.J. McDaniels, Sixers (No. 32 overall pick). Philly gave a combined 52 minutes per game last year to James Anderson and Hollis Thompson, so there’s certainly a chance for the 6-foot-6 McDaniels to earn a significant role. If he does, some spicy stats could follow: McDaniels averaged 17.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.1 spg, 2.8 bpg and 1.2 3s for Clemson last year.