Week 1 (and some change) of the 2018-19 fantasy basketball season is in the books, and there’s already been some early fireworks in L.A. But no one really cares about Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul spitting on each other and throwing hooks, right? The real juicy stuff has been watching the exciting NBA rookies who’ve come to play early in their careers.
The NBA Draft is one of the most intriguing moments of the year for any sports fan. We get so jazzed about all the high-flyers who’ll wear our favorite team’s uniform come October. For fantasy, however, there’s usually only a few players who manage to make it onto our rosters… in redraft leagues, of course; dynasty is a whole different story.
This rookie report will be featured throughout the year and will continue to update owners on who’s rising and who is falling among the current crop of NBA rookies.
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The Top 6 NBA Rookies
1. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks – Young was famously dealt for for Luka Doncic on Draft Day, much to the chagrin of Hawks fans who felt Doncic was the top talent in the draft. But while Doncic has lived up to the hype, Young has bested him, at least from a fantasy perspective. The former Oklahoma Sooner has been a deadly scorer (23.9 points, 3.7 treys) and leads all NBA rookies with 8.3 assists per game, which happens to be fifth overall in the NBA. Young fell a bit in fantasy drafts, and his enterprising owners are reaping the early rewards.
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks – The “Next Dirk Nowitzki” (it seems like every European superstar is given this title) has lived up to the billing so far. At only 19 years old, the Mavs rookie has already taken over the team’s offense, averaging 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.3 3-pointers. His knack for being able to do a little bit of everything is very handy for fantasy owners, however he does get dinged a little for his 43.5 FG%, 61.5 FT%, and 4.3 turnovers per game.
3. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings – Sacramento passed on Doncic to take Bagley with the second overall pick in the draft, and they’ve been getting crapped on ever since. The Kings will be the Kings, as they’re prone to constant front office flubs, but Bagley has actually been really good. The big man is averaging 14.5 points (on 60 FG%), 7.3 boards, 1.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks, which includes a 20-point, 9-rebound, 5-block performance vs. Denver on Tuesday night. The Kings are bad and Bagley should continue to get every opportunity to showcase his stuff.
4. DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix Suns – The third member of the “Big Three” fantasy rookies has fallen to fourth in my initial rankings, but there’s plenty of time for him to move up. Ayton leads first-year players in rebounds (10.7), is fifth in scoring (14.3), and has provided his owners with awesome percentages (55.2 from the field and 91.7 from the line). He’s gotta get those blocks up, though, if owners want to cash on his early round draft status.
5. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies – Jackson has played very well so far, scoring 15.0 points with 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks in three contests. Many predicted it’d take a month or two for this rookie to start paying off, but an injury to JaMychal Green has thrust Jackson into bigger minutes, playing 26.7 per game.
6. Allonzo Trier, New York Knicks – Not the Knicks rookie we expected to see here, but it’s well deserved. Trier was great in Summer League, averaging 17 points and 5.5 boards, but few expected him to make the Knicks final roster. However, with an equally impressive preseason, Trier accomplished just that. He’s made a mark in his first four regular season games, too, scoring 15 points vs. both the Hawks and Celtics. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, as he put up just eight and four points in his other two contests. Trier has been fun for a Knicks team in need of that, but he’s also a prime candidate to regress pretty quickly.
Other NBA Rookies to Keep An Eye On
Omari Spellman and Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks – Unlike the Kings last year, who played Zach Randolph, George Hill, and Kosta Koufos ahead of Willie Cauley-Stein and De’Aaron Fox, the Hawks have a handful of young players and very little standing in their way. Spellman and Huerter were Atlanta’s “other” first round picks and should get ample opportunity to strut their stuff this season. The beefy Spellman has already performed well, averaging 12.0 points and 2.5 threes per game, and Huerter came out of nowhere to rack up nine points, 10 rebounds and three treys against the Cavs on Sunday. These two aren’t rosterable in standard size leagues, but keep an eye on them.
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers – Sexton hasn’t been all that great so far, but fantasy owners also didn’t invest much in him, so no harm no foul. That said, he did show some promise with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting vs. Minnesota and big minutes will be headed his way as the Cavs continue to lose games.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers – As one of the more trendy rookie picks in fantasy drafts, Gilgeous-Alexander has been a little bit of a disappointment so far. Coach Doc Rivers has said he anticipates playing SGA big minutes at some point, but owners may have to wait a little bit for that. He’s been holding his own with averages of 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, but a crowded backcourt has left the rookie playing just under 25 minutes per game. With Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, and Avery Bradley handling most of the touches, it’ll be difficult for SGA to make a big enough impact in the fantasy world to make him worth rostering outside of leagues of 14 teams and up…for now.
Kevin Knox, New York Knicks – Knox has been ruled out for the next week or more with a badly sprained ankle. We all know the upside is there, and many owners have dropped him, making him a worthy add if you have the bench space or an IR spot.
Wendell Carter Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Miles Bridges, Mitchell Robinson, Harry Giles – Preseason hype left fantasy owners drooling over the potential these NBA rookies possessed, but preseason is preseason for a reason, and it doesn’t always translate to the games that count. All five of these guys have fallen on hard times, and for varying reasons, but all play on poor teams, which means each one of them should have a chance at expanded minutes as the season progresses. Bamba is probably worth owning right now in roto leagues due to his 2.0 blocks per game, but we’re looking at waiver wire quality players at this point.
Also check out our the latest and greatest Waiver Wire Pickups for Fantasy Basketball!