All posts by Marc Roberts

NBA Draft Primer: Rookie Projections and Player Comps

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Ben Simmons 47.6% 68.0% 0.1 8.0 3.7 1.1 0.5 11.4 95

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Brandon Ingram 40.4% 68.8% 1.0 5.1 1.7 0.9 0.8 11.2 154

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Jamal Murray 41.2% 75.3% 1.3 4.0 1.8 0.8 0.2 12.0 166

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Kris Dunn 40.8% 69.6% 0.6 4.3 5.3 1.5 0.4 11.1 99

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Marquese Chriss 45.8% 69.0% 0.4 4.9 0.8 0.9 1.1 11.0 145

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Dragan Bender 36.5% 53.1% 1.1 4.2 2.0 0.7 1.0 5.8 206

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Jaylen Brown 39.8% 67.0% 0.6 5.0 2.1 0.8 0.5 11.5 199

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Buddy Hield 44.0% 81.5% 1.5 4.1 1.6 0.8 0.3 13.2 114

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.

Fantasy Sleepers

1. Ivica Zubac
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Ivica Zubac 53.8% 63.3% 0.1 7.6 0.2 0.5 2.7 13.2 63

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Denzel Valentine 41.6% 79.7% 1.5 5.9 6.8 0.9 0.2 12.2 66

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
Rookie Projection FG% FT% 3PM REB AST STL BLK PTS Rank
Ante Zizic 60.7% 69.9% 0.1 9.4 0.8 0.2 1.7 13.2 68

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.