Hello everyone, welcome to the first installment of the 6th man, a weekly column devoted to fantasy basketball. I know it's a long way until the season starts but might as well start early. Just like playing and coaching in The NBA is 12 month job, so is fantasy sports-if you want to win your league you have to prepare early. This week's column is devoted to analyzing the fantasy potential of the rookies in the league. Normally rookies aren't sought after in fantasy however if your in a deep league there are always some good rookies who can be sleepers especially if injuries hit. Furthermore if you're in a keeper league some of these players are worth taking for future use.
1) Blake Griffin-F-Clippers: This one's a no brainer. Definitely a worthy fantasy pick, especially in keeper leagues. Will probably start right away considering the Clippers traded away Zach Randolph to make room for him. Griffin will be productive right from the start however he still plays for the Clippers and anything can go wrong with that franchise. So barring a torn ACL, MCL, Achilles, Mike Dunleavy's incompetence or anything else that can strike the Clippers Griffin will be a worthy pick. In most drafts there will be someone who will overvalue him and draft him to early. He is not a top 2 round pick, I expect him to go somewhere in the 3-5 round range. Last year he averaged 22.7 ppg and 14.4 rpg. He WILL NOT get those numbers this year, I expect him to get around 15 and 8, with a shooting percentage in the mid to high forties.
2) Hasheem Thabeet-C-Grizzlies: A fantasy stay away, no offensive game in sight for this guy. His biggest asset is his ability to rebound and block shots which he did to the tune of 10.8 rpg and 4.2 bpg last season at UCONN. Offensively his is not polished at all, maxing out at 13.6 ppg last season in college. He did shoot a high percentage but a lot of his points came off putbacks and garbage baskets, which can get you by in college but in the NBA you need some post moves. Throw in the fact that he's probably not starting due to the fact the Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are on the team and minutes might not be plentiful for the number 2 pick. An added obstacle is that now that AI is on the team, along with Randolph and OJ Mayo, we might have a record for fewest assists by a team in one season. All this goes to say that you should be wary of drafting Desagna Diop Vol. 2 in your fantasy draft.
3) James Harden-G-Thunder: I actually like this pick for fantasy purposes especially if he starts which it looks like he will. He's a guy who can get points efficiently (20.1 ppg on 0.489% last season), and he shoots well from the three (35%). This is a guy I can definitely see average double digit points or close to it from the get go, especially if he adjusts to the NBA 3 point shot quickly. One downside could be turnovers (3.4 last season) but he probably won't handle the ball as much as he did in college with Russel Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green as the big dogs in OKC.
4) Tyreke Evans-G-Kings: The big question: is he a PG or is he just someone who brings up the ball to take up shots. My money is on the latter. Had a pretty decent freshman year at Memphis, but looking at those important PG stats (AST, TO, AST/TO) doesn't show him in a good light. 3.9 APG, 3.6 TPG, and an assist to turnover ratio of 1.1. However if he does improve his ball handling he can put up better stats. Since he will probably start right away, and that Sacramento is a pretty bad team, he'll have his opportunity to showcase his skills, I'm predicting a similar season to OJ Mayo last season, just a few less points, more like 15 ppg.
5) Ricky Rubio-G-Timberwolves: Next!
6) Jonny Flynn-G-Timberwolves: The second of the Minnesota back to back PG picks, Flynn looks to pick up right where he left off in college directing Syracuse's offense. Now he gets to set up guys like big Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. He averaged 6.7 apg last year , I don't expect him to reach that figure just yet but a realistic expectation from him is around 7-8 ppg, 4 apg with decent steals and percentages.
7) Stephen Curry-G-Warriors: What a shame, if he goes one pick later to the Knicks fantasy owners would be salivating, Curry in Mike D'Antoni's offense would be a sight to behold. Unfortunately Curry landed in Golden State, where Don Nelson's hatred of rookies is well known. The result will be that Curry will be sitting most of the year, definitely not starting and probably fighting for shots with Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Anthony Randolph. All this to say that Curry will not even come close to the 28.6 ppg he averaged last season, but when he gets the rock he usually makes the shot, he shot 45% last season including 38% from 3, and that was as the focal point of the offense, if he gets open shots hell bury them, now all Don Nelson has to do is play him.
8) Jordan Hill-F-Knicks: Supposedly the Knicks weren't that upset that Curry was gone because they were just as high on Hill, ya right- He did average a double double last season at Arizona (18 and 11) and he does have the size to make an impact at 6'10 and 232. The question remains can he run the floor in the D'Antoni offense and finish, the stats say he can, as he did shoot over 60% from the field in 2 of his 3 seasons in college. However the Knicks lineup is in too much flux, and playing time may be an issue. At the time this column was written David Lee has not resigned with the team, however sources say he will in the coming weeks. Therefore it's hard to predict what Hill will do in his rookie season but I'd say 9-10 ppg and 7 rpg are good estimates.
9) DeMar Derozan-G-Raptors: Interesting prospect has good size (6'6) and athleticism for the SG position, however he did only spend one year at USC so he is pretty raw. Must improve free throw shooting (64.6%), three point shooting (16.7 %) and assist to turnover ratio if he is going to become a quality NBA guard. Right now he is not slated to start and I'm predicting that he has a rough adjustment to the pro game. I don't see him averaging more then 7 ppg on 42% this season unless he discovers a jump shot.
10) Brandon Jennings-G-Bucks: Very interesting case base on how you interpret his Euro league stats. He averaged 7 ppg in 19 mpg. However the Bucks seem intent on handing him the starting point guard job after his impressive summer league performance. If he can avoid Coach Scott Skiles's doghouse, which is hard to do, he can put up impressive numbers. I'm predicting 12 ppg, 3 rpg and 3.5 apg with low shooting percentages as he struggles shooting the jumper. I'm also predicting that if he does well, were going to see a whole slew of high school kids go to Europe over college.
So there you have it, the top ten draftees in an especially weak draft. Out of the ten the three I like the most are Griffin, Harden and Flynn. Again, rookies don't usually get drafted in fantasy however in the deeper leagues, the 12-16 team ones, some of these rookies could be gems. This is especially true if teams start tanking for lottery positions or injuries hit.