I absolutely love the NBA Draft.
The talent, the picks, the trades, the Bill Simmons. You name it. I mean, the only type of draft I love more than the NBA draft is fantasy ones. And, luckily for you, since the Cavs didn’t screw everything up last night, I am full sane and ready to do some fantasy hoops analysis.
Slow clap that leads to thunderous applause? Slow clap that leads to thunderous applause, indeed.
So, with the NBA Draft in the books, and everyone obviously already planning for their fantasy basketball leagues, who might be the top rookies in fantasy in 2014? Who found themselves land in the most favorable spots? And will the 76ers ever draft a player that can play in the NBA?
All these questions and more.
1) Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers– Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Cavaliers didn’t mess this up, making the most logical pick in Wiggins. Widely considered the best player in this class, Wiggins joins a Cavaliers team an will instantly enter the starting lineup. However, he won’t be my number one fantasy rookie. Last year, Cleveland played at a rather ugly pace (95.7), but most importantly, the volume may not be there for Wiggins. Last year, Kyrie Irving attempted 17.4 shots per game and saw a usage rate of 28.2. Meanwhile, Dion Waiters is definitely a gunner, shooting the ball almost 15 times per game in less than 30 minutes. Wiggins is an awesome player, but I’m not sold he will post the peripherals to be the top fantasy rookie. But Cleveland should have drafted him, and Cavs fans should be happy.
2) Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks– Well, Parker (and the Bucks) got their wish, as the Duke product landed in Milwaukee after all. The most NBA ready player in this class, Parker will be a better fantasy option than Wiggins, if you ask me. Parker was a rebounding machine in college last year, averaging 8.7 boards per game, and now he joins a Bucks team that allowed opponents to average 51.8 total rebounds per game last year, the 7th-most in basketball. The Bucks have flirted with the idea of Parker at the four, and it makes sense for him to alternate between the small forward and power forward. I think Parker is the second-best bet for double-doubles among rookies, and if he plays at the four, Parker can put the ball on the floor and use his athleticism to blow past the bigger defenders. They absolutely love him, and he could lead all rookies in playing time and shot attempts per game, too. Draft Parker over Wiggins in 2014.
3) Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers– I’m not going to get too much into Embiid and the 76ers, because we aren’t sure how much he’ll play. But when he does play, I like the fit in Philadelphia. This was one of the worst defenses in basketball last year that failed to block many shots, ranking 25th in the league in that department (4.0). And Embiid is very nimble for his size, and can get up the floor quickly for a center, which bodes well for the 76ers and their league-leading pace of 101.6 last season.
5) Dante Exum, Utah Jazz– The International Man of Mystery, Exum is obviously an intriguing option. He lands in Utah with guys like Trey Burke, Gordan Hayward and Alec Burks all demanding significant minutes at positions Exum plays. And the Jazz have already stated that they are going to ease him in a bit and get him accumulated to the NBA game. Remember, Exum turns just 19 in July and played in Australia. They don’t seem to urgent to give him a ton of minutes right away.
6) Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics– Well, this is interesting. After drafting two guards in the first round, what does this say about Rajon Rondo? Will he stay? Will he go? Will he get injured? Who knows, but Smart should be a good fantasy contributor regardless. Also, I think it is almost certain that Boston doesn’t bring back Avery Bradley after taking Smart, a similar, higher upside player, as well as another shooting guard in James Young. Smart can contribute in all categories, posting 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 blocks per game last year at OSU. Smart is similar to Waiters or Dwyane Wade, just not as good of a shooter. He can play the one or the two, and that flexibility will be nice for fantasy owners.
7) Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers– After being the top player in college basketball for a period of time, Randle watched his stock fall a bit, but I can promise you he’ll be the top-scoring fantasy rookie in 2014. The fit in LA is too perfect– a team that allowed 57.6 rebounds per game (the most in basketball) and ranked 27th in offensive boards per game. Meanwhile, Randle is arguably the best rebounder in this class, and certainly the best offensive rebounder, grabbing almost 3.5 offensive rebounds per game, while hauling in over 10 total rebounds. We saw a handful of below average talents be fantasy relevant in Los Angeles last year, with the likes of Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman posting strong numbers. Hill averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds in just over 20 minutes of action, and Randle is easily a better player. He is an aggressive rebounder, a savvy player in the post and has the ability to hit that mid range jumper. The current question marks on the Lakers roster could lead to him playing big minutes right away, and the Lakers’ 101 possessions per game last year (2nd) will be fantasy friendly. I love the fit, I love Randle.
Other notes: T.J. Warren is an incredible fit in PHO. A strong scorer on the wing on a fast team that scores a ton of points. Also, Tyler Ennis, originally drafted by the Suns, looks to be heading to Toronto, and with Kyle Lowry not looking to return, Ennis could be in line for major minutes if he can beat out Greivis Vasquez. K.J. McDaniels is also an intriguing name. The 76ers second round pick could easily start next year, and playing in that fast-paced offense, McDaniels could be a sneaky source of points and steals.