Let's face it, the 2011-12 NBA draft class will not go down as one of the most memorable. Fantasy owners hoping to sniff out potential help from this rookie class are going to have to work a little harder than usual.
Thankfully, we are here to help you sort through it all.
Below is a quick look at each of the players selected with a lottery pick, giving you our take on his worth in Fantasy -- both in the short-term and the long-term. We also give you some possible sleepers out of this year's rookie class and offer our two cents on a player who might be this year's most polarizing rookie, Ricky Rubio.
The Lottery Picks
Ricky Rubio was drafted in 2009, but he may be the marquee rookie heading into the upcoming season following a draft devoid of blockbuster names.
However, the hype that surrounded Rubio two years ago has turned into skepticism after a mostly underwhelming run with Barcelona. Despite showing flashes of being a special ball handler and passer, the fact remains that he averaged just 4.8 points and 4.1 assists last season in the Spanish ACB league while commanding no more than 21.8 minutes per game. In Euroleague play, his production "jumped" to 6.5 points and 3.5 assists.
Admittedly, I have only seen a handful of Rubio games with Barcelona. However, what I observed in those games was a very tentative player who at times appeared afraid to take control. Those are not promising attributes in a point guard looking to make the leap from Spain to the NBA.
I must also admit that I have a lingering bad taste in my mouth regarding his poor performance against the Lakers during a preseason game last October. In that game, which was to be a showcase of his skills to the patiently awaiting NBA fan base, he finished 0 for 5 from the field (0 for 4 from beyond the arc after settling for several bad shots) with three assists and a rebound. He played the least of all the team's starters (18 minutes) and was a non factor in a game that Barcelona rode the energy of the crowd to beat the Lakers 92-88.
Rubio also disappointed me when I tracked him throughout the Olympics in 2008 and more actively during the 2009 FIBA European Championship. I have seen the highlight reels and the YouTube clips, but I must admit that I don't see "it" with Rubio.
With that in mind, I do believe the Timberwolves have every intent of getting the most out of Rubio. He'll get a good chance at maintaining steady playing time -- something that will be hard to find in this rookie class -- and should get his first real chance to feature prominently as a professional. The talent that he has put on display, at times, is difficult to ignore and if he can capture that over any extended period he could indeed be a special player. He is, after all, just 20 years old.
But I am willing to stick my neck out on this one and say that I am going to stay away from Rubio in drafts this season. I anticipate that he will be an erratic, inconsistent and frustrating Fantasy option who will struggle to establish himself as a scorer with a very passive approach and will not distinguish himself enough as a distributor to be worth all the trouble.
Maybe I'm wrong on this one. But don't say I didn't warn you if I'm right. -- Sergio Gonzalez
No. 1: Kyrie Irving, PG, Cavaliers: He'll be a terrific player in the long-term, but will not be a Fantasy starter out of the gate. The Cavs say there will be an open competition between Irving and Davis, but we expect Davis to tutor Irving initially. Irving should be the top rookie taken in keeper formats, but should not be targeted as a starter in seasonal leagues. Undoubtedly a solid scorer out of the point guard position, he still needs to develop his skill set as a passer. Expect somewhere along the lines of 13 points, four assists and three rebounds as a rookie. Owners in category leagues should also consider his free-throw shooting a significant plus and he should be a solid source for steals and 3-pointers as well.
No. 2: Derrick Williams, PF/SF, Timberwolves: We like him as a keeper league option, but think of him as a possible headache in seasonal formats. He can play both forward spots, but will have to bide his time behind Kevin Love and Michael Beasley unless the team makes a move. Getting rid of Beasley seems like a possibility, but for now Williams is looking at a bench role in one of the more unpredictable rotations in the NBA. We do not recommend investing much more than a late-round pick on him in seasonal formats.
No. 3: Enes Kanter, C/PF, Jazz: Kanter will have to carve out playing time behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, two players that should each average 35-plus minutes per game. The team sees him as a workhorse who might be able to fill in the role that Millsap once played off the bench, but Fantasy owners might remember how frustratingly difficult it was to determine when and where to get use out of Millsap. Given his chances to play center, he's worth a late-round pick as a reserve, but little else. Given the relative youth the Jazz have up front with Jefferson and Millsap, his chances of becoming a top-level Fantasy option appear limited as well.
No. 4: Tristan Thompson, PF/SF, Cavaliers: Thompson is a shot blocker, which may be his claim to fame in Rotisserie formats and category play. He is also a solid rebounder, but playing time may be inconsistent as a rookie on a roster that currently includes Antawn Jamison, Samardo Samuels and Anderson Varejao. We do not recommend drafting him in standard Head-to-Head formats, but he's worth keeping on your radar in Roto play.
No. 5: Jonas Valanciunas, C, Raptors: The 7-footer has admitted that he will need to work on his physical frame and get stronger before he can become an impact player at the NBA level. The 19-year-old is a long-term project for Toronto and is not somebody we recommend investing in even in keeper formats just yet.
No. 6: Jan Vesely, PF, Wizards: Vesely, perhaps better known for his girlfriend and "the kiss" than his basketball skills at this point, averaged 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the Adriatic League last season. With Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee around, he'll likely be looking at no more than around 25 minutes per game as a rookie and is more of a long-term project than an impact player. He should not be drafted in most seasonal leagues, but might be worth taking a flier on in long-term dynasty leagues.
No. 7: Bismack Biyombo, PF, Bobcats: Biyombo and the Bobcats are currently in the process of trying to workout a buyout with his Spanish team, Fuenlabrada. Because NBA teams are limited to paying no more than $500,000 toward a buyout, there has been a roadblock in working out a deal with a player that has a $1.4 million buyout clause in his contract. For that reason, Biyombo may not even be suiting up for Charlotte in 2011-12. Even if he does, however, the Congolese 18-year-old is expected to be a long-term project for the Bobcats. He has been a solid shot blocker and rebounder in Spain.
No. 8: Brandon Knight, PG, Pistons: Many feel that Knight was a steal for the Pistons at No. 8 overall. He is one of the few players in the draft that appears to be ready to make an impact out of the gate, though his immediate prospects will depend on what the team does with Rodney Stuckey. Knight is heading into a crowded backcourt that consists of Stuckey and Will Bynum at the point and Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon at shooting guard. Stuckey is a restricted free agent and Detroit could choose not to match any offer they receive for him, clearing the way for Knight to play big minutes as a rookie. If that is the case, Knight will be our choice for the Rookie of the Year, at least from a Fantasy perspective. He can score, pass and rebounds well for a guard. His shooting percentages could become a burden for owners in category leagues, however. Keep an eye on what moves the Pistons make, but we endorse a mid-round pick for Knight in seasonal formats as a potential low-end starter with upside.
No. 9: Kemba Walker, PG, Bobcats: There are some concerns about Walker's size (6-1), but the scoring ability he put on display at UConn is difficult to ignore. He was able to mix it up with opposing bigs in college, but will have to prove he can do it at the NBA level and may need to beat out D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson for minutes. He has the drive of a player who can overcome his shortcomings and could evolve into a shooting guard at the next level. He will be very much a work in progress as a rookie and his value will be highest in keeper formats, but we recommend a late-round investment in him in seasonal formats.
No. 10: Jimmer Fredette, SG, Kings: Fredette led the nation in scoring last season playing for BYU and he will be one of the rookies getting the most attention in Fantasy drafts. However, keep in mind that he will be on a team loaded with guards like Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. He'll probably be used as a source for scoring off the bench and as a perimeter role player. He'll be most useful in Rotisserie formats as a source for 3-pointers, but is not somebody we would suggest investing much more than a late-round pick on outside of keeper leagues. He can put the ball in the basket, but he likely won't average more than 10 shots per game.
No. 11: Klay Thompson, SG, Warriors: The Warriors drafted another shooter to go with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Guess what? He doesn't play defense either. While there is some belief that Ellis may be on the move, he is expected to at least begin the season coming off the bench. He has been called by some the best pure shooter in the draft (you hear that, Jimmer?) and led the Pac-10 last season with 21.6 points per game. At 6-foot-7, he is versatile enough to play some small forward, but he is also blocked by another solid player in Dorell Wright there. Thompson will be worth a late-round pick in seasonal formats, but he has some decent intrigue for owners in long-term formats. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to see him in summer league action. Hopefully.
No. 12: Alec Burks: SG, Jazz: Burks is one of the rare players with multiple years of college experience in this draft. He is a solid scorer with a good shooting touch and even averaged 6.5 rebounds to go with 20.5 points per game last season for Colorado. He could win a starting job in the preseason if he plays his cards right and might be one of the better values among lottery picks simply based on playing time alone. His main competition for playing time right now is unimpressive (Raja Bell, C.J. Miles). He will be available in the late rounds, but could become a regular starter for Fantasy owners. Put him on your sleeper lists.
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No. 13: Markieff Morris, PF, Suns: Morris addresses a need for the Suns. The team never filled the void left by the departure of Amar'e Stoudemire and while Channing Frye sees himself as more comfortable at the four than at center, Morris could provide the team with its only true power forward. As a result, he could find himself playing decent minutes in a very up-tempo offense. Morris led the Big 12 in rebounding last season with 8.3 boards per game and could easily become the best source for boards among rookies (take note, category-league owners). He'll be worth a late-round pick, but could see his stock rise in the preseason.
No. 14: Marcus Morris, PF, Rockets: Morris, the twin brother of Markieff, averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season for Kansas. He will have to earn his playing time behind one of the team's more established players in Luis Scola, but there is a chance that Houston could look to play small and feature both players if Morris plays well enough. He has the same type of upside as his twin brother, but perhaps not as good a situation for playing time. Either way, he is worth a late-round pick in seasonal formats and is a solid long-term keeper option given his upside.
No. 17: Iman Shumpert, PG, Knicks: Shumpert plays defense, something the Knicks crave. If that is enough to buy him minutes in New York's guard-friendly system, then he could be able to take advantage. He averaged 15.0 points in three seasons at Georgia Tech playing under the same coach that developed Will Bynum and Jarrett Jack. He'll have to compete with Toney Douglas to become the No. 2 point guard behind Chauncey Billups, but could become very useful in spurts this season -- especially if the soon-to-be 35-year-old Billups hits the shelf at any point.
No. 18: Chris Singleton, SF, Wizards: Singleton is another player who can buy himself minutes with his defense and athleticism. Among rookies, minutes are a very valuable commodity and Singelton could be on the floor enough to scrape together decent numbers. He can run the floor well and is a player that could easily average around 12 points and seven boards per game given the chance at 30-35 minutes. We don't think he'll get that kind of time as a rookie, but he'll be worth taking a chance on late in drafts because of that type of ability. Keep him on your radar.
No. 25: MarShon Brooks, SG, Nets: Perhaps one of the better pure scorers in the draft, Brooks averaged nearly 25 points per game as a senior while shooting 48 percent from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc. He finished second only to Fredette in scoring nationwide. He'll have to beat out Anthony Morrow for playing time, but will be given every chance to succeed on a young team building its future. Even if Brooks plays off the bench, he is likely to be featured as a regular part of the team's offense and be among the league leaders in shots per game among rookies.
No. 28: Norris Cole, PG, Heat: The Heat have a void to fill at point guard and Cole could be asked to play significant minutes as a result. Mario Chalmers is no lock to return to Miami and Cole was targeted as one of the more experienced point guards available in the draft. He averaged a 22-6-5 stat line as a senior for Cleveland State and while he won't be looked upon to be a primary scorer, the Heat are clamoring for somebody to step up and chip in about 10-13 points on a regular basis to help out the big three. The situation is there for Cole to contribute, if he's up to it.
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