by Marc Roberts
Rookies are the biggest wildcard in our fantasy drafts every season. We all want to be the person in our league who was smart enough to draft Kristaps Porzingis, but the fear of overdrafting players like Emmanuel Mudiay looms large.
To help us find this season’s version of Porzingis I’ve taken the college stats (or foreign league stats) of each rookie prospect and “translated” them into NBA stats. The statistical techniques that I used are described in painstaking length here.
The one thing to keep in mind with these projections is that they are based on each rookie playing 30 minutes per game. While this assumption is unrealistic it allows us to see which rookies are poised to help our fantasy teams next season, if they end up in the right situation.
Top (Real Life) Prospects
1. Ben Simmons
Player Comps: Darius Miles – 2001, Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2014, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – 2014
Notes: Simmons projects to be a top 100 player mainly because of his contributions in the rebounds, assists, and steals categories. Poor FT% and lack of three-pointers project to be his weaknesses.
2. Brandon Ingram
Player Comps: Rudy Gay – 2006, Harrison Barnes – 2013, Luol Deng – 2004
Notes: The good news is that Ingram’s projection suggests he has the potential to become a 1-1-1 player (3s, stls, blks). The bad news: aside from blocks, his projected counting stats are close to replacement level. His shooting percentages drag him down from there.
3. Jamal Murray
Player Comps: Bradley Beal – 2012, Mike Miller – 2000, Evan Fournier – 2013, Joe Johnson – 2002
Notes: Murray’s projection lacks a single category in which he is noticeably better than a replacement level player. Murray’s projected shooting percentages drop him further.
4. Kris Dunn
Player Comps: T.J. Ford – 2005, Jason Terry – 1999, Michael Carter-Williams – 2013
Notes: Dunn projects to contribute significant fantasy value in the assists and steals categories, which should be enough to boost him into the top 100 despite poor shooting/scoring.
5. Marquese Chriss
Player Comps: Chris Bosh – 2003, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – 2012, Marvin Williams – 2005, Aaron Gordon – 2014
Notes: Chriss has an intriguing projection, particularly in the blocks category. However, his lack of scoring and rebounding will likely keep him off of many fantasy rosters during his rookie campaign.
6. Dragon Bender
Player Comps: Nikoloz Tskitishvili – 2002, Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2013, Jerami Grant – 2014
Notes: Bender did very little during the limited minutes he played last season in the Euro League. You will surely hear about his potential, but I’m not investing a fantasy draft pick until he proves he isn’t Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
7. Jaylen Brown
Player Comps: Rudy Gay – 2006, Metta World Peace – 1999, Harrison Barnes – 2012
Notes: Rookies almost always have poor shooting percentages. Brown’s projection, however, is nearing Emmanuel Mudiay territory. I’d stay away in roto leagues, and even in head to head leagues, there isn’t a lot to get excited about.
8. Buddy Hield
Player Comps: Nicolas Batum – 2010, Khris Middleton – 2013, Mike Miller – 2002, Chase Budinger – 2010
Notes: Buddy projects to be a solid contributor in points and three-pointers and shouldn’t hurt your shooting percentages, which is rare for a rookie. His projection lacks the assists or steals to get him into the top 100.
1. Ivica Zubac
Player Comps: Brook Lopez – 2008, Eddy Curry – 2001, Serge Ibaka – 2010, Andrew Bynum – 2006, Serge Ibaka – 2009
Notes: Zubac projects to be the most valuable fantasy rookie on a per possession basis. That value is almost entirely due to his ability to block shots, although he should score some as well.
2. Denzel Valentine
Player Comps: Nick Van Exel – 1993, Khris Middleton – 2013, Mo Williams – 2004, Steve Smith – 1991, Mike Dunleavy – 2003
Note: I love the Nick Van Excel comp for Valentine, he projects to be a three-point shooter who also gets plenty of assists.
3. Ante Zizic
Player Comps: Dwight Howard – 2004, Andrew Bynum – 2006, Jonas Valanciunas – 2012, Andrew Bynum – 2007, Tyson Chandler – 2002
Notes: Zizic projects to score at an impressively efficiently rate of 60% from the field. When you combine that with his almost elite rebounding you can see why his projection outranks some of the more highly touted prospects.
For a google sheet with the fantasy projections of several other prospects, click here.