What’s better? An older phone model that you know what you are getting from, or an exciting, fresh phone that brings a sense of uncertainty and thrill?
If you went with the latter, congratulations. You are normal.
It’s the perfect analogy for rookies entering the NBA. Each year, there is a brand new crop of talent, and while you aren’t quite sure what you are going to get, everyone wants the next big thing, including fantasy owners. 2013, for instance, is one of the more exciting class of rookies I’ve seen in a while. There isn’t a set superstar in this group, but rather a boatload of very sound players, who will be fantasy relevant, for sure. So, with the season set to begin in less than two weeks, who are the top freshman that fantasy owners should be targeting on draft day?
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic: Oladipo is my favorite player in this year’s class, and I strongly believe he will be the first of this crop to make an All-Star team. He’s that good. Drawing comparisons to Dwyane Wade, Oladipo can do a little bit of everything. An excellent finisher around the rim, Oladipo should sport a very strong field goal percentage. He’ll grab a fair share of rebounds, but he’ll really make his mark in the steals department. During his final year at Indiana, Oladipo averaged a ridiculous 2.2 steals per contest. His jump shot is improving, and if he can continue to progress as a shooter, his value will skyrocket. Oladipo already can put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim with ease. Also, Orlando is going to give him playing time at point guard, as well as shooting guard. That means assists will be there on top of everything else he is already going to give you. He wasn’t the first pick in the draft, but Oladipo is the best rookie in this year’s draft class.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers: I bet not too many people slated Carter-Williams to enter his rookie season as a starting point guard, but after a draft day trade that sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, the 76ers went with the Syracuse product in the draft. MCW is a terrific playmaker, averaging 7.3 assists per contest during his final year at Syracuse. The problem is, the Sixers don’t necessarily have any dominant scorers for him to get the ball to, and considering Carter-Williams is an atrocious shooter (.393%), scoring buckets won’t come easy. Still, he will log a large amount of minutes as the starter, should post 7-8 assists per contest, and is length and skills as an on-ball defender should result in a significant amount of steals. There may be a fair share of turnovers along the way, but Carter-Williams needs to be drafted in all leagues.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers: You won’t see immediate fantasy production out of this year’s surprising number one draft pick. He is a terrific player, but the Cavaliers frontcourt is very deep right now, consisting of Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. Bennett will likely start his career coming off of the bench, logging around 20-25 minutes per game. But when (yes I said when) Bynum fails to stay on the court, Bennett will see his playing time increase. At 6’8″, 240 lbs, Bennett has the size and athleticism to play either the small forward or power forward position for the Cavs this season. The supporting cast in Cleveland has vastly improved, which should help the rookie’s fantasy prospects. His fantasy upside is through the roof, and if he gets enough playing time to matter, he will be one of the top fantasy rookies in basketball, for sure.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats: It was a bit surprising to see Zeller selected as high as fourth overall in the draft, but the Bobcats must have saw something out of him that got the nod over guys like Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore. Zeller is expected to start the season as the starting power forward, ahead of Josh McRoberts. The fact that Charlotte brought in dominant big man Al Jefferson bodes well for Zeller, as Jefferson should see a ton of double teams, opening up scoring opportunities for the rookie. At 7’0″, 240 lbs, Zeller will have a size advantage on a handful of opposing power forwards, presenting legitimate double double threat for the entire season.
Other rookies to monitor (Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Kelly Olynyk, Trey Burke).
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.