Despite the 2022 NBA draft class not being that appealing overall, rookies on rebuilding teams will have an easier time getting minutes early in the year and on teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, there will be open rotation minutes. A lot of the rookies will need time to get acclimated to playing on a pro NBA level. Unfortunately, the second overall pick in the NBA Draft Chet Holmgren will miss the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the summer. Here are some of the NBA rookies who could make an impact in the 2022-2023 fantasy football season.
2022 Fantasy Basketball Rookies
Paolo Banchero - Forward - Orlando Magic
The No. 1 overall pick will walk immediately into a starting role. The days of Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba starting together are over as Banchero will take over as the Magic’s starting PF. Once he takes a step in the lane, he’s hard to stop. He’s aggressive in the paint on both sides of the ball and averaged over a steal and nearly a block per game at Duke last year.
Banchero will help speed the Magic’s offense up. He has speed and he’ll benefit especially on transition when he’s running the floor. Banchero can even hit long-range shots as he shot nearly 34 percent from distance last season. He pulled down nearly eight boards and standing at 6’10 and around 250 bounds, it will be hard for opposing big men to box him out. It’s a great landing spot and he’ll have plenty of room to create from the elbow and should be in contention for Rookie of The Year.
Jaden Ivey - Guard - Detroit Pistons
One of the most exciting parts of the upcoming season is seeing what the backcourt of Ivey and Cade Cunningham can do together. Reports are out questioning whether he will start right away, and the Pistons would be stupid to have him come off the bench. They are a rebuilding team and should let Ivey make any adjustments he has to during the transition to playing in the NBA early on so he can be in a groove after a month or two.
Ivey was one of the most attractive prospects because of his speed. He should run the point while Cunningham plays off the ball. In two seasons at Purdue, he scored nearly 15 points per game and shot 44 percent from the floor. He has speed and is an attack-first PG and one of the things he’ll be able to do (which will help his assist numbers) is attack the paint and if the opposing defense collapses on him, he’ll have a couple of kick-out options, or Cunningham himself can cut to the basket.
Jabari Smith Jr. - Forward - Houston Rockets
Smith is a strong shooter and he’ll be very effective at stretching the floor. The third overall pick in the draft shot an impressive 42 percent from deep, but he’s not married to the arc. He’s good at moving around the elbow off the ball and finding openings. On the defensive side, he blocked one shot and recorded one steal per game at Auburn.
Alperen Sengun will control the low block leaving plenty of the lane open for Smith to work. He grabbed 7.4 rebounds per game and the Rockets can use all the defense they can get. Christian Wood didn’t do them any favors last year. Smith showed his effectiveness on both sides of the ball in summer league and pulled down nine-plus boards per outing. He was blocking shots and grabbing steals consistently as well during the summer.
Bennedict Mathurin - Guard - Indiana Pacers
Just like he did in college, Mathurin shot over 38 percent from downtown during summer league play. Mathurin is a solid spot-up shooter, but he won’t be married to the arc. When he has the ball, he’s good at slowly finding openings in the lane and has a good mid-range one-handed tear drop that will keep bigger defenders from swatting a good amount of his shots. He’ll likely start as a reserve behind Chris Durate. Durate can hit shots from the outside as well and both players are the same height. Buddy Hield is very likely a locked-in starter, but Mathurin should be able to lead the reserves in scoring and get plenty of minutes with the Pacers second unit. Mathurin was very aggressive on defense in the summer league and did a great job of shifting through screens and swiping the ball.
Keegan Murray - Guard/Forward - Sacramento Kings
Murray was a monster in the lane at Iowa last season. He swatted away nearly two shots per game and grabbed at least one steal per game. He lifted his rebounding average by three from the previous season and pulled down nearly nine rebounds per battle last year. He was the MVP of the Summer League 9Las Vegas) and scored over 23 points per game and pulled down over 7 boards. The biggest eye-opener about Murray during the summer is that he shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc. Not only is he a bull in the paint, but he can jet out to the arc and hit shots as well.
This versatility should work wonders for the Kings this season. While Murray is a power driver, he ends his drives with good finesse on the ball. He has good awareness of how close he is to the basket and when he clutches the ball it slows down his shot and gives him a few extra seconds to get a better angle on the shot making it a higher-percentage shot. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be the Kings starting PF with Harrison Barnes starting at SF.
Malaki Branham - Guard - San Antonio Spurs
With Devin Vassell being 6’7, there is a chance that he can shift up to SF and let Branham play as the Spurs starting SG. The Spurs don’t have a lot of reliable offensive weapons and we saw Branham show off his smooth shooting stroke at summer league and he shot over 41 percent from long-range at Ohio State last season. Branham also showed his ability to drive the lane and hitting tough turn-around shots as well.
Branham has very good awareness of where he’s at on the court both on and off the ball. He was showing his defensive IQ off a bit by hesitating and then poking the ball away from the opposing driver. He’s also good at hitting the bailout shooter at the arc. He’ll pick up his dribble when in the middle and look at both sides of the arc. Showing strong fundamentals will motivate Coach Popovich to give him more minutes early. This is not like the Spurs teams of old with the same key pieces and swapping in and out contributors. They are looking for go-to scorers and Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Jakob Poeltl will certainly need more support from others and Branham can provide that offensive spark early.
Tari Eason - Forward - Houston Rockets
Eason is another player for Rockets to be excited about and while the competition at summer league isn’t nearly as strong as it is in the NBA regular season, but Eason faced up his assignments on defense and barely gave them any room to move on the ball. He averaged a double-double during summer league and after transferring to LSU last season, Eason upped his steals production to nearly two per game while blocking at least one shot per game during his college career. He scored nearly 17 points per contest at LSU last season.
He also improved his outside shooting at LSU. The Rockets have enough offense-only type of players and they should consider starting Eason over Jae’Sean Tate. Even if Tate gets the start, Eason should then see plenty of minutes coming off the bench and the Rockets were horrible defensively last season and Eason will help stop the bleeding a bit when it comes to opposition scoring, and even if he doesn’t start, he should still play 20-25 minutes per game rotating between both forward spots. Fellow rookie Jabari Smith Jr. can always shift to center if Alperen Sengun needs relief min-game making room for Eason at PF.
Ochai Agbaji - Guard - Utah Jazz
Agbaji was part of the Donovan Mitchell trade, and the situation improves for him in Utah because they are completely rebuilding with Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Bojan Bogdanovic traded. He’s coming off a season in which he shot over 40 percent from downtown in Kansas and scored almost 19 points per outing. He grabbed 4.4 rebounds per game in college and even posted a steal per contest. His strong shooting should put him in contention to start at SG for the Jazz. Malik Beasley or even Collin Sexton can end up starting over him at that spot.
The Jazz can potentially go small and try him out at SF, but he’ll likely draw a bigger assignment on offense and that could cause him to take lower percentage shots if hands are constantly in his face. He scored 15 points per game in the summer and Utah has a lot of question marks when it comes to who will provide consistent scoring besides Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, and Lauri Markkanen. He’s good at operating the pick and pop and doesn’t need a lot of time to shoot.
Walker Kessler - Center - Utah Jazz
Standing 7’1 and 245 pounds, the Jazz could have potentially found their Rudy Gobert of the future in Kessler and even though he might not start right away, it’s only a matter of time before Cody Zeller gets hurt, Kelly Olynyk isn’t the best defender and Udoka Azubuike is unproven, and he’s currently banged up and could be behind some of his teammates when it comes to conditioning when getting ready for the season.
Kessler blocked 4.6 shots per game last year (not an exaggeration). He’s a hard guy to box out and he doesn’t sell out on the pump fake as easily when posted up down low. When he gets beat up high by a good ball-handling guard or forward, he’s good at reacting and chasing down the driver and blocking him from behind. He struggled shooting from the outside, but that’s why he’s a good compliment to other Jazz big men like Lauri Markkanen who can stretch the floor. Kessler can primarily focus on his inside game. Even if he doesn’t start right away, he should still see 20 minutes per game.
Jalen Duren - Center - Detroit Pistons
Luckily for Duren, the Pistons have frontcourt openings for minutes and they played Isaiah Stewart fewer than 26 minutes per game last season. Marvin Bagley III could be in line for a starting PF role versus Bojan Bogdanovic and that should leave Duren to get a good amount of reserve minutes behind Stewart. Duren blocked over two shots per game at Memphis last year standing nearly seven feet tall and he scored 12 points per outing.
He pulled down over eight boards per game and was very impactful in keeping plays alive for the Tigers last season ripping down three offensive boards per ballgame. Duren may even have more to his game than Stewart as we saw good court awareness and passing ability from him and can help Detroit keep the ball moving. It’s hard to determine whether Stewart will be unleashed this season, but Duren is bigger than Stewart and can certainly move quicker than him.
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