Which NBA Rookies Should You Keep An Eye On In Fantasy Basketball?
If you’re one who enjoys doing a mock draft before the various professional leagues select players in their draft, Major League Baseball is rather unpredictable, the National Football League has several teams trading up and down, and the National Hockey League? Well, not many pay too much attention to that draft. It was completed this week, too. Did you know that? However, if you enjoy doing mock drafts for the National Basketball Association, forget it. It is a lost cause. There are so many Draft Day trades, twists, turns, rights being shipped from one team to the other, etc.
It is nearly impossible to keep up with who is landing where on Draft Day. In fact, we have photographic evidence of guys like Kentucky C Nerlens Noel, wearing a New Orleans Pelicans hat, or UCLA SF Shabazz Muhammadwearing Utah Jazz swag. It’s perhaps something to remember for a trivia contest sometime down the road. Their rights were shipped elsewhere, along with a handful of other players. And don’t forget about the giant deals that went down, including the Boston Celtics-Brooklyn Nets trade. We’ll break that down in a later column. For now, let’s focus on the rookies, and who will have the biggest Fantasy impact in their initial season.
Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City: The Thunder pulled the trigger, moving to the No. 12 spot to nab the center out of Pittsburgh. Adams has a big frame at 7-foot-0 and 255 pounds, more than ready for the nightly beatings down low in the contentious Western Conference. Only C Kendrick Perkins stands in his way from having a huge impact sooner rather than later.
Trey Burke, PG, Utah: Burke was one of those players who saw his Fantasy appeal change in the blink of an eye on Draft Day. He was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team certainly in need of budding, young stars, but potentially coming off the bench behind PG Ricky Rubio was no bueno. As the evening progressed, Burke’s rights were dealt to Utah, and he will have a much bigger impact in Salt Lake City, especially if the team does not bring back free agent Gs Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson and Mo Williams. Burke has a chance to step right into the starting lineup and produce huge stat lines immediately, which is exactly what Fantasy owners want to see.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Detroit: Caldwell-Pope steps into a favorable situation in Motown…well, Auburn Hills. The hometown fan base, at least those who support that Maize and Blue team from Ann Arbor, might have been a bit disappointed to see the team pass on Burke. Their needs a huge improvement on the wing, and KCP can stretch the floor nicely, and he is a bigger shooting guard which general manager Joe Dumars (and so many other league executives) have come to covet recently. The Pistons are intent on re-signing PG Jose Calderon, and they have G Brandon Knight. There are reports the team linking the team to swingman Andre Iguodala already. Still, there is no doubt Caldwell-Pope gets plenty of minutes out of the gate.
Sergey Karasev, SF/SG, Cleveland: The Cavaliers pulled off a shocker at No. 1, drafting PF Anthony Bennett from UNLV. He is a big body that the team feels can help out immediately. However, the pick of Karasev with their second pick is the one to watch. Karasev could come in and immediately help out the team’s long distance shooting, which was woeful from everyone not named PG Kyrie Irving.
Shane Larkin, PG, Dallas: Larkin was another player who had his rights passed around on Draft Day. It looked like a potential good fit in Atlanta when he was selected at No. 18, but later in the evening his rights were shipped to the Dallas Mavericks. That’s even better. PG Darren Collison was a huge disappointment for the Mavericks last season. Larkin filled it up last season with Miami (Fla.), posting 14.5 points per game (ppg). He showed he is not a one-trick pony, posting 3.8 rebounds per game (rpg), 4.6 assists per game (apg) and 2.0 steals per game (spg). He is also a threat from behind the arc. The Mavericks were looking to trade out of this draft entirely, but when Larkin became a possibility, they were pulled right back in. The son of MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin has the potential to be an impact player right out of the gate.
C.J. McCollum, SG, Portland: McCollum was the Patriot League’s all-time leading scorer at Lehigh. Remember them? Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski certainly does from the 2011 NCAA Tournament. McCollum can fill it up with the best of them, and he can grab boards and dish out the dimes, too. McCollum has a nice stroke from behind the arc, and he will pair with PG Damian Lillard to make the young backcourt in Rip City one of the best upcoming guard tandems in the NBA.
Ben McLemore, SG, Sacramento: Two-time NBA champion, Miami Heat F LeBron James couldn’t contain himself on Twitter as Draft Night went on, posting: @King James “They sleeping on Ben McLemore. Just watch” Not a bad guy to have in your corner. The Kings were apparently paying attention, swooping in at No. 7 overall to grab the former Kansas standout. Depending on what the club decides to do with swingman Tyreke Evans (re-sign or let him walk), McLemore could be Rock, Chalk, Jayhawking all over Sleep Train Arena this coming fall.
Nerlens Noel, C, Philadelphia: Noel’s (knee) name was bandied about as the top overall pick, but that never came into fruition. Then, the Orlando Magic passed on him. And then the Washington Wizards. And then the Charlotte Bobcats. And then the Phoenix Suns. Eventually, Noel landed on his feet in New Orleans with the sixth pick, but he was quickly shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers for All-Star PG Jrue Holiday and a pick. Wow. It was a rough and bumpy ride. Now, Noel will rehab his torn anterior cruciate ligament, try to get back between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and “Make them pay,” referring to those teams who passed on him. And, if you’re scoring at home, that’s four Eastern Conference teams that he will see frequently once he hits the court. It will be interesting to see if he lives up to his words.
Victor Oladipo, SG, Orlando: The Orlando Magic selected Oladipo with the second overall pick, and many lauded the addition. The add of Oladipo might mean the subtraction of SG Arron Afflalo, although that will be determined in the summer in Las Vegas. The team plans to have the former Hoosier play both point guard and shooting guard. If he proves he can handle duties at the one, the team might be inclined to keep the talented Afflalo. If not, he is likely to be shipped off for a point guard, opening up a starting role for Oladipo. Either way, the No. 2 overall pick will be in the starting five either as the one or two, and he will see plenty of minutes and plenty of Fantasy appeal.
Otto Porter, Jr., SF, Washington: Porter stays home in D.C., after playing his college ball at Georgetown. He joins SG Bradley Beal and PG John Wall to form one of the best, young triumvirates in the Eastern Conference. O.P. can contribute across the board, but he still needs to supplant SF Martell Webster in the starting five before Fantasy owners use anything more than a late-round pick on Draft Day. If he is able to start from Day 1, he could be quite a steal.
LONG-TERM KEEPER OWNERS, PAY ATTENTION
I am a huge fan of the selection of SF Giannis Antetokounmpo by the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 15 overall. However, this is more of a long-term investment by the team, rather than help for the right now. If you’re a fan from Cream City, think back to 2005, when the Bucks invested a pick in PF Ersan Ilyasova, then 18 years old and in Turkey. Antetokounmpo was playing in the second division in Greece, and not even the top level in his own country, but he showed glimpses of brilliance and talent that has the scouts more than excited about his potential. He might get into games in the 2013-14 season, but a minimal impact is expected. He won’t even be with the team in the summer league in Las Vegas, but he will compete for the Greek National team at the Under-20 championships in Estonia. Still, long-term Fantasy owners with plenty of patience will want Antetokounmpo. He has the potential to be one of the Top 5 players selected in this draft if he reaches his ceiling.
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