2018-19 Fantasy Basketball Top Rookies
Justin Fensterman takes a look at some of NBA's top rookies to seek out in your fantasy basketball drafts.
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- Deandre Ayton-C-Phoenix Suns: Ayton was everything as advertised in Summer League. He drove effectively, used his length efficiently and was able to average a double-double. He joins a Suns team that has had bad luck finding productive big-men. Tyson Chandler is a good defensive option but lacks that offensive ability that the Suns need. Devin Booker has a second option and Ayton won’t have much competition for playing time. Ryan Anderson doesn’t really play in the paint and they’ll use the aging Chandler sparingly. The Suns got Richaun Holmes , but his minutes will be limited. Ayton is way more skilled than any other big man on this team. He’ll be a force inside on defense. Expect a lot of blocks from Ayton. He should easily play 30-plus minutes per game from the start.
- Collin Sexton-G-Cleveland Cavaliers: Sexton is in a great spot and should start as Point Guard from the get-go. He has speed and he’s very acrobatic in the air. He can switch his body mid-air to avoid defenders. He’ll keep the Cavs offense moving at a very quick pace. Sexton will contribute a ton of assists because of all of the spot-up shooters the Cavs have. He’ll make more of an offensive impact in the paint than Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. Sexton is also good at sticking to his man. His agility will help him fight through screens. Expect him to average 12-15 points per game and 6-8 assists per game. After Kevin Love , the Cavs have a bunch of one-dimensional offensive players and that will benefit Sexton even more.
- Luka Doncic -G-Dallas Mavericks: The landscape in Dallas is about to change. The hype behind Doncic is massive. Doncic is a 6’7 listed Point Guard (talk about a match up problem). He’s an excellent ball-handler and he can hit deep three-pointers. He’ll fire away from four feet behind the arc. The Mavericks are going to have a few decisions to make. They have to get Doncic in that starting lineup. It may come down to moving Dennis Smith Jr. either to the shooting guard spot or even making him the team’s sixth man. Another solution could be to put Doncic in at the SG spot. Smith is a solid driver, but his shooting is erratic and that’s where Doncic can take advantage and subsequently the ball out of Smith’s hands. Doncic is just as effective of a lane-driver and his arrival in Dallas could decrease Smith’s role overall. Expect a ton of scoring, especially from long distance and a lot of assists as well.
- Jaren Jackson Jr.-F-Memphis Grizzlies: Jackson Jr. is quick, agile, has good shooting range and most importantly pedigree, as his Dad was also in the NBA. The Grizzlies JaMychal Green experiment needs to be sent to the bench. They need to start Jackson. He’s an excellent complimentary weapon to Marc Gasol . Jackson’s shooting range allows Gasol to play more inside. When Jackson has the ball looking to drive inside, expect Gasol to pop out and get high-percentage shots. Jackson has more skills to his game than Green. With the Grizzlies dealing with a couple of injuries from last season, Jackson (whether he starts or comes off the bench) should have a scoring role early on.
- Marvin Bagley III-F/C-Sacramento Kings: It may take a Month to figure out the situation with the Kings Forwards and how the minutes will be distributed, but Bagley should be able to see a full 20-plus minute commitment from the Kings. Bagley is explosive and it’ll be hard stopping him from getting to the hoop. He uses his size effectively in the pain on both sides of the ball. He’ll benefit most when the offensive pace is quick and will take advantage of slower transition defenses. He’ll drive down the middle and draw a lot of contact. He’s more of an inside banger who will also contribute with blocks.
- Trae Young -G-Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks will regret not keeping Luka Doncic . Young is a very streaky shooter, but the opportunities will be there for him. He tries too hard to be Stephen Curry and it’s irritating because he forces up low-percentage shots. He’ll keep shooting and shooting and shooting. He will have some competition for the starting spot against Jeremy Lin but Lin has proven that he can’t stay healthy and that should automatically give Young a good chunk of minutes per game even if he comes of the bench. Young won’t have too much competition for shots. He’ll be very helpful in dishing assists and he has tremendous quickness. He should take the Lonzo Ball approach and focus more on his driving until the shot improves.
- Kevin Knox -F-New York Knicks: Believe it or not, it won’t take long for Knox to become a top three or even top two scoring option for the Knicks. With Kristaps Porzingis status for the season up in the air, Knox should see heavy minutes early. He has very little competition for a starting role and with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter as the other two main scoring options, Knox could see a lot of shots and time with the ball early. The Knicks want Knox to attack the rim more at first rather than rely on his shot. His driving ability reminds me of Jayson Tatum ’s and he’ll play aggressive inside to give the Knicks second-chance scoring opportunities. Expect a good amount of steals, as Knox is a very disciplined defender.
- Wendell Carter Jr.-C-Chicago Bulls: Carter was an all-around producer in summer league and with Robin Lopez getting taken out of games last season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Carter grab the starting Center spot early on in the season, even if it’s not right from game one. He’ll grab steals and block shots inside and it’s very difficult because of his build to box him out of the game. Carter has tremendous reach. He towers over people and will grab boards even when out of position. He’ll produce mainly on the low-block and he’ll see heavy minutes early. The Bulls have been missing an enforcer-like option to pair with Lauri Markkanen . Carter is a good complimentary piece.
- Michael Porter Jr.-F-Denver Nuggets: Expect Porter to break out towards the middle of the season. The Nuggets getting rid of Wilson Chandler is the best thing that could have happened for Porter. Porter had Back surgery and while it is not locked in that he starts the season active, he should see playing time with the second unit. Expect his minutes to be limited in October and a good amount of November. A lot of analysts thing because of his skill-set, Porter is one of the most complete athletes from this draft class and could be the steal of the draft. If he stays on course and back issues don’t flare up, he could become the Nuggets seventh man. He can shoot and has solid ball-handling abilities. Porter is also good at following up his own shots and fantasy owners will be rewarded with rebounds and steals.
- Miles Bridges-F-Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets forwards are completely out-dated and they haven’t been able to get consistent production at either spot. Bridges has been getting credit for his shooting and defense and that could lead to a consistent role coming off the bench. Bridges will score effectively from mid-range and grab steals. He’s an aggressive defender who doesn’t go for many fakes and he’ll fight for loose balls and boards. If the Hornets decide to start Nicolas Batum at SG, the chances of Bridges starting could increase. Expect him to produce coming off the bench, as he’ll take advantage of the opposition’s second unit. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting on opening night for the Hornets.
- Aaron Holiday-G-Indiana Pacers: When the Pacers look to turn up the tempo on offense, they will rely on the quickness of Holiday. Holiday has tremendous court-vision and he’ll provide assists, steals and he’ll be an excellent driver on the ball when given opportunities. Expect Holiday to come off the bench behind Darren Collison . His main competition for minutes will be Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans . Luckily for Holiday, the Pacers aren’t too deep at the SF spot and Evans can rotate to that spot opening up the rotation a little bit. The speedy Holiday has no fears when he’s driving and he always hustles on both sides of the ball. By the second half of the season, he should be able to get a full commitment of 20 minutes from the Pacers.
- Mitchell Robinson-C-New York Knicks: Robinson makes this list because of athleticism. He can run quickly for a Center and he jumps very high. Kristaps Porzingis being out indefinitely benefits Robinson just like it does Kevin Knox . The Knicks are looking to buyout Joakim Noah and Luke Kornet will rotate to the PF spot. Robinson should be the primary back up behind Enes Kanter and first big man off the bench. Expect a ton of blocks and boards inside. He’ll score off of put-backs and use his lengthy arms to grab steals off of loose balls inside. He should see close to 20 minutes per game early on. The Knicks lack of frontcourt depth should immediately but Robinson in the rotation.
- Harry Giles-F/C-Sacramento Kings: Giles sat out all of last season injured and even though the Kings have a good amount of depth at Forward, Giles hustle and intensity in the game could give him a huge role off the bench early. If he shines in the first part of pre-season, he could steal minutes from rookie teammate Marvin Bagley III. With Willie Cauley-Stein taking the Center spot and Skal Labissiere too inconsistent, Giles could be one of the surprises of the season. Zach Randolph is still there and that will hurt Giles minutes early, but as the season continues, Giles will steadily pick up minutes. He’s aggressive inside and can shoot from the outside. Expect him to get open shots early and he’ll also help out with boards and even assists. He’s good at anticipating the cutter and feeding them as the player cuts inside. His teammates rave about his intensity and he does have experience studying the game at a pro-level while he sat out last season.
- Mo Bamba-C-Orlando Magic: The current situation isn’t great in Orlando for Bamba as he will have to fight for minutes early. He could end up becoming the best defender statistically of anyone in this draft class, but playing behind Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic will hurt his chances of getting a full roster commitment early on. The Magic do have Timofey Mozgov as well, but let’s be real, it’s Timofey Mozgov ! The Magic may give Mozgov the upper hand at the start of the season for back up big-man minutes, but then they’ll soon realize how much of a force Bamba is and he’ll grab a ton of boards and blocks and score from the low block. It’ll be hard boxing him out of the lane. Bamba could blossom more next year if Vucevic doesn’t re-sign, but once he gets consistent minutes, he’ll be able to stick in the rotation. He should become the primary back up Center but it’s not locked in.
Player AlarmsView All
M. Wagner - SF
Wagner (knee) has been participating in some non-contact drills and some controlled contact post work in practice, Mike Trudell of the Lakers' official site reports.
Wagner was forced to miss the whole preseason due to a knee contusion, although it's good to see that he's been getting some work in during practice. His status for the season opener Thursday against Portland has yet to be revealed, but he's expected to be reevaluated in the next few days to determine his availability moving forward.
Added Yesterday 7:31 pm (EST)
R. Gay - SF
Gay (heel) is expected to play in Wednesday's season opener against the Timberwolves, Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News reports.
Gay sat out the team's preseason finale over the weekend with a heel injury, though he's on track to play in the regular season opener after fully participating in Monday's practice. The veteran averaged 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds across 21.2 minutes per game last season.
Added Yesterday 6:31 pm (EST)
B. Simmons - PG
Simmons (neck) returned to practice Monday after sitting out Saturday's session with stiffness in his neck, Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philly reports.
Simmons' absence Saturday was more precautionary than anything else, and all indications are that he'll be fine for Tuesday's season-opener against the Celtics. The 22-year-old is among the best young talents in the league and is coming off of a monster rookie season in which he averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks in 81 starts.
Added Yesterday 5:56 pm (EST)
M. Harkless - SF
Harkless (knee) went through most of Monday's practice but remains questionable for Thursday's season opener against the Lakers, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports.
Harkless was held out of all five preseason games due to a sore left knee, but his participation in Monday's session is a major step in the right direction. Nonetheless, coach Terry Stotts didn't provide much insight into Harkless' status for the opener. "He doesn't have a status right now," Stotts told the media. For the time being, consider Harkless optimistically questionable, but he appears to be trending in the right direction.
Added Yesterday 5:49 pm (EST)
D. Arthur - PF
Arthur was waived by the Suns on Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.
This was the expectation all along when the Suns acquired Arthur back in July, but the team decided to keep him around through training camp and the preseason. The veteran will now become a free agent and look to catch on with another team in need of frontcourt depth.
Added Yesterday 5:30 pm (EST)
S. Harrison - SG
Harrison was waived by the Suns on Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.
Harrison was thought to be in competition for minutes at point guard for the Suns, who don't have a reliable veteran at the position, but the two sides will part ways and Harrison will become a free agent. With Harrison out of the picture, Devin Booker will likely slot in as the immediate starter, with rookies Elie Okobo and De'Anthony Melton battling veterans Isaiah Canaan and Jamal Crawford for reserve minutes.
Added Yesterday 5:28 pm (EST)
L. Nance Jr. - SF
Nance (ankle) signed a four-year, $45 million extension with the Cavaliers on Monday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports.
Nance joined the Cavaliers at the trade deadline last season, and following some impressive showings in the second half of the season and playoffs, the 25-year-old has solidified his second NBA contract. Nance is expected to serve as the first backcourt player to come off the bench for the Cavaliers this season, and while his offensive game is still somewhat limited, he's shown plenty of promise with his versatility on defense. Nance, however, is currently questionable to play in Wednesday's season opener in Toronto due to a right ankle sprain.
Added Yesterday 5:08 pm (EST)
K. Caldwell-Pope - SG
Caldwell-Pope (knee) took part in practice Monday and worked with the starting group, Bill Oram of The Athletic reports.
Caldwell-Pope was held out of the preseason finale Friday due to tendinitis in his knee, but the issue doesn't appear to be anything of great concern, even though he was held out of the final scrimmage Monday as a precaution. "In my medical opinion I think he's going to be just fine," head coach Luke Walton said after the session. Perhaps the more relevant news is that Caldwell-Pope worked as a starter alongside Rajon Rondo in the backcourt, which could be an indication of how Walton is leaning in advance of the regular season opener Thursday in Portland. Caldwell-Pope has been in competition, primarily, with Josh Hart for the starting shooting guard job, and Walton said Monday that he'll continue to evaluate the position on a daily basis.
Added Yesterday 5:04 pm (EST)