Fantasy Basketball: Which Rookies Should You Draft?

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Rookies often throw a wrench into the fantasy game. Some of the more prolific ones may never sniff the court, while a late first or even second rounder may blossom into a future star. You never know takes who is going to break out, but this post should offer some guidance. It is as originally posted on DimeMag.com. Kevin writes as Dime Magazine’s Fantasy Doctor. For more extensive fantasy basketball advice, follow him on Twitter at @DimeFantasyDoc.

The 2013 NBA Draft was shocking to say the least, with two of it’s projected top picks (Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore) dropping out of the top five. It takes a lot for rookies to have fantasy value right away, but like always, anything is possible in due time.

The biggest winner of the draft was Jrue Holiday, who’s on his way to New Orleans to throw lobs to Anthony Davis and kick out to Eric Gordon. Holiday showed incredible efficiency in the paint last season and should only improve upon his numbers with a better supporting cast around him. Here’s what you need to know about the guys who were actually drafted.

ANTHONY BENNETTCleveland Cavaliers

With a backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, and a frontcourt ofTristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao already locked up, Cleveland rounded out their roster by taking Bennett with the first overall pick. He’s the highest drafted Canadian ever, but is the polar opposite of Steve Nash. At 6-7, he uses his explosiveness to blow by bigger defenders and his strength to overpower smaller ones. In Cleveland, Bennett should see time at both forward positions, getting plenty of run from day one.

VICTOR OLADIPO, Orlando Magic

Oladipo’s hustle should have an impact on the defensive end of the floor right away, and since he represents the first step of the post-Dwight, he’ll have plenty of time on the floor to do it in. His offense may struggle as he becomes accustomed to a higher level of basketball, but his heart will keep him on the floor, collecting hustle stats. Oladipo is the kind of guy that might be worth taking in the late rounds of your fantasy draft, and may put up stats lines akin to the ones of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

OTTO PORTERWashington Wizards

Porter will do a little bit of everything at the three for Washington and could start from day one if he beats out Martell Webster over the summer. He may not be the most explosive athlete, but he’s certainly one of the most efficient, shooting 48 percent from the field last year while upping his scoring average by over six points. Porter still has a lot to learn, but his high motor should make him a great fit in Washington. He’s definitely worth a late-round flyer.

CODY ZELLERCharlotte Bobcats

Zeller dominated the measurables at the draft combine, but might struggle initially against the amount of athleticism in the NBA. His fundamentals indicate that he should translate well to the NBA, but there are the same worries about his ceiling in the fantasy game as there are in the real one. Zeller should get plenty of opportunities in a Charlotte frontcourt headed by Byron Mullens and Bismack Biyombo last year, but I still wouldn’t waste a fantasy draft pick on him.

ALEX LENPhoenix Suns

Len won’t have an immediate impact on the fantasy game (especially because he’ll miss the beginning of the year due to injury), but down the road he could morph into a stud. He has the size to play the five and should be effective on the glass from day one. Len is only 20 years old, so there’s plenty of time to build on his already massive 7-1, 255-pound frame. If he shows the same progression in Phoenix that he did at Maryland, then the Suns have a legitimate center for years to come. For now though, his injury makes him undraftable in fantasy.

NERLENS NOELPhiladelphia 76ers

At first it was going to be a Kentucky Wildcat block party in New Orleans, but as part of theHoliday deal, Noel landed in Philadelphia. The 76ers lost Andrew Bynum for the entire season last year because of recurring knee injuries, but they still weren’t afraid to make the splash on the torn ACL of the nation’s best shotblocker. While Spencer Hawes will man the five to start, Noel will be eased into the rotation. Certainly the 76ers will be more cautious with Noel than they were with Bynum, making him unworthy of a fantasy draft pick.

BEN McLEMORESacramento Kings

After speculation of him landing among the top-three picks, McLemore slipped all the way to seven, where the Kings were happy to snatch him up. As long as he stays aggressive, he’ll be able to put the ball in the hole and keep things spread for DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. Expect him to roughly have a fantasy season like Bradley Beal had last year. With the futures of Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton in Sacramento up in the air, he should get plenty of run and is worth a late-round selection.

KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPEDetroit Pistons

Caldwell-Pope is a lethal shooter and has a lanky body that should make him a staple in the steals department. He’s not the type of fantasy player that you want to target on draft day because shooting guards and small forwards who only hit threes and steal are a dime a dozen, but with the lack of offense in place in Detroit right now, Caldwell-Pope could develop into their best scorer. His impact might be minimal this year, but don’t rule him out in the future.

TREY BURKEUtah Jazz

Burke earned his draft spot by leading Michigan to the national championship game, and he’ll need to play with that same intensity while manning the show for the Jazz. A 6-5 wingspan and tons of energy should equate to tons of steals for him. If he improves his efficiency and shows he can distribute at the next level, Burke can become a fantasy force. Think Kemba Walker, but remember how he looked in his rookie year.

C.J. McCOLLUM, Portland Trail Blazers

Portland continued their small-school scorer trend by taking McCollum with the 10th overall selection. Despite playing against lesser competition, McCollum was considered one of the nation’s best at putting the ball in the hole. His ability to score should translate to the pros and he’ll have the pressure off of him while defenses scheme around Damian Lillard. McCollum’s presence on the glass makes him more intriguing to draft in fantasy than most other rookie shooting guards.

MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS,Philadelphia 76ers

After shipping their All-Star point guard off to New Orleans, the 76ers selected Carter-Williams to take over the reigns. He’ll be learning the NBA on the fly and his unselfish style and defensive tenacity make him a potential fantasy sleeper. Who else is going to run the show? He may turn the ball over a lot, but it’s worth taking the shot on a point guard with a secure job in the late rounds.

STEVEN ADAMSOklahoma City Thunder

Kendrick Perkins won’t be playing forever so the Thunder used their 12th overall pick on someone he can mentor. Adams stands at seven feet tall and has a wingspan of 7-5 to help him rebound and block shots. He’s a bit of a project so he holds no fantasy value for this season, but down the line he could become a threat for defensive stats.

SHABAZZ MUHAMMADMinnesota Timberwolves

I think that Muhammad dropped a little lower than he deserved to, and liken it to the same situation Harrison Barnes found himself in. Barnes was among the best in his recruiting class prior to entering college, and never lived up to expectations. Because of this, his stock dropped a little. Barnes was a little inconsistent last year as a rookie, but we all saw the potential was there. Muhammad went to the Timberwolves in a trade for Trey Burke, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to score the ball while being set up by Ricky Rubio. He probably won’t be fantasy draft worthy right away, but Muhammad will certainly could be intriguing as a pickup if he shows immediate success.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPOMilwaukee Bucks

Antetokoumpo is a ways off from finding NBA success, but he has the body to be a fantasy stud down the road. At 6-9 and with a 7-3 wingspan, he has the size to become a legitimate point forward, given he can add a few pounds to his frame. He might stay overseas initially, but he has the potential on both sides of the floor to be a nifty utility fantasy player.

DENNIS SCHROEDER, Atlanta Hawks

Comparing him to Rondo in his game style is fair, but saying that in the fantasy world is mighty bold. Schroeder may get his chance to prove what he can do right away if the Hawks don’t re-sign free agent and current starter Jeff Teague, but given the German’s age (only 20 years old) and unfamiliarity with the NBA lifestyle, it may be better to ease him in to play. He probably won’t have a fantasy impact right away, but he could develop into a great steals and dimes play.

SHANE LARKINDallas Mavericks

Despite being undersized, Larkin showed off supreme athleticism leading up to the draft. Still, he probably won’t be turning heads in fantasy circles next season. He certainly has all of the intangibles, but those don’t win any fantasy championships. Depending on how the Mavericks look, or if they even keep him (Dallas was all over the place concerning draft trades), he still could find a way to a fantasy roster in deep leagues.

SERGEY KARASEVCleveland Cavaliers

Karasev was considered by some to be the best foreign prospect, but he fell all the way to the Cavs at 19. He’ll be used mostly as a floor spacer initially, but he has shown the willingness to distribute overseas, and could become an out of position source of dimes with a few years of development.

TONY SNELLChicago Bulls

Snell has a beautiful stroke, but Tom Thibodeau has to be salivating over his defensive capabilities, too. Standing at 6-7 with a wingspan of almost 7-0, he has the chance to excel on both sides. Still, it’s the defensive side of the court that will earn him consistent rotation minutes.

TIM HARDAWAY JR.New York Knicks

After his father broke hearts of Knicks fans for years, Hardaway Jr. fittingly has a chance to redeem the family name. There’s no way he can replace what J.R. Smith did last year, but if Smith signs somewhere else, a tandem of Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert may be asked to do just that. Still, I wouldn’t expect him to have a fantasy impact anytime soon.

REGGIE BULLOCKLos Angeles Clippers

With older guys like Caron Butler and Matt Barnes getting the bulk of the minutes at the three for the Clippers last year, Bullock will provide some fresh blood and sharpshooting ability. If a couple guys go down with injury, which is very possible given who’s in front of him on the depth chart, Bullock may get a chance to prove his worth.

GORGUI DIENGMinnesota Timberwolves

Dieng found himself in Minnesota as part of the Trey Burke trade and while his immediate fantasy impact shouldn’t be much, he might blossom into a reliable shotblocker. He also has an underrated passing game and can shoot better than most players of his nature. Still, Dieng is nowhere near draft worthy.

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