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2014 Draft Prep: 2014 rookie tiers

Fantasy Writer
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The consensus surrounding last year's rookie class was that it would be one of the worst in years, but even the most pessimistic predictions couldn't have seen that coming. The No. 1 overall pick came into the season out of shape and ended up scoring in double figures just six times, and only four players finished the season averaging double digits in scoring.

Things were so bad, only one player broke the 2,000 Fantasy point barrier. That was Michael Carter-Williams, who also led all rookies in rebounds and assists. While that sounds impressive, he also shot an abysmal 40.5 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from three-point range.

We've seen better rookie classes, in other words.

The 2014 class should be much better. Though I only have one rookie projected to top the 2,000 Fantasy point mark again, this class looks to be much deeper, to say the least. We have a handful of players likely to open the season as quality starting options, with prime breakout candidates waiting for the right role behind them.

In fact, most of this year's class can be grouped together to in a few ways, based on how we see their season playing out. Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle might put together similar seasons by the end, but the paths they take to get there could vary widely. Here's how I see it playing out.

A tier of his own

Jabari Parker, F, Bucks

Though he wasn't the top pick, Parker very well could have been. He joins a team that has a pretty crowded rotation, but you have to believe they will find playing time for him wherever they can. The fact that Parker should be able to credibly play both small forward and power forward will help him stay on the floor. On a team that ranked 26th in the league in offensive rating and 28th in points per game, the offensively gifted Parker could be the team's first option from day one. He should be off the board within the first five rounds on Draft Day.

Starting material

Parker may end up the best Fantasy rookie this season, but he certainly won't be the only rookie worth looking at.

Andrew Wiggins, F, Timberwolves

Though the move from Cleveland to Minnesota is probably going to leave Wiggins out of the playoffs for a long time, it should be a boon to his Fantasy value. Wiggins is a tremendously skilled player, though one who is still quite raw, so he won't be a model of consistency or efficiency from day one. Still, he lands in a nice enough spot, on a Timberwolves team that can ease him in while still featuring him in the starting lineup. Wiggins should be capable of filling up the box score right away, and will go in Round 6 or 7 in most category-based leagues.

Nerlens Noel, C, 76ers

Though obvious questions persist regarding Noel's health and offensive talent, he could be a dynamic Fantasy option as a rookie. What helps is that, despite missing his entire first season due to ACL surgery, he has one year under his belt practicing and traveling with an NBA team, which should help his transition. Just ask Blake Griffin. Noel isn't the same type of player as Griffin, but he seems particularly well-suited for Philadelphia's wide-open style of play. Noel will probably not be the focal point of Philadelphia's offense, but he might end up leading the league in combined steals and blocks while flirting with a double-double every night, given the team's insane pace. He is someone you want on your team.

Elfrid Payton, G, Magic

Payton probably belongs a mini-tier below these other two, but he might not be too much less valuable than them. He spent three years in college playing against a lower level of competition, but also joins the NBA as a 20-year-old, bringing a nice combination of youth and experience to the table. Payton was a score-first point guard in college, but he likely will not fit that role for the Magic, who already have some established scorers in the starting lineup. The transition from the Sun Belt Conference to the NBA might be a tough one, but Payton doesn't have much competition for playing time in Orlando, so he'll get the chance to fail. For a rookie, that's a good thing.

Searching for a role

Julius Randle, F, Lakers

When the Lakers drafted Randle, I had him right behind Jabari Parker in my rookie rankings, as he figured to be the centerpiece of the Lakers' frontcourt following the departures of Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman. Unfortunately, the team opted to add three players to the mix via free agency, muddying the waters and blocking Randle's path to Fantasy relevance. Randle still profiles as a very productive player, but the presence of Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis surely complicates matters. The Lakers seem intent on avoiding their inevitable rebuild, but circumstances may force them to accept the inevitable at some point this season. If and when the Lakers open up a starring role for him, Randle could be a key contributor for Fantasy owners.

Marcus Smart, G, Celtics

There is no arguing with Smart's talent, as he was one of the nation's top college players and a lottery talent for each of his two years at Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, the talented combo guard finds himself on a roster featuring a franchise-caliber point guard in Rajon Rondo, as well as a shooting guard in Avery Bradley who just received a pretty massive four-year contract. Smart should be able to fill in ably at both guard spots, but there are fair questions about his fit with both players, especially Rondo, given their lack of three-point range. Smart will probably end up spending much of his season in the weird, in-between role backing up both spots, though there is one roadmap to Fantasy relevance -- a trade of Rondo. Rondo might be mentioned in countless trade rumors until this February, and that light at the end of the tunnel should be enough to keep Smart on your roster even if his production doesn't quite justify it.

Nik Stauskas, G, Kings

On last year's version of the Kings, there wasn't much room for role players to thrive, with three players ranking in the top 15 in usage rate. The de-facto trade of Isaiah Thomas for Darren Collison should free up plenty of shots around the team, and Stauskas could be a beneficiary of that -- assuming he wins a starting role. Stauskas will have to beat out Ben McLemore, last year's lotto pick who struggled mightily throughout his rookie season. If he can do that, he might just be a worthwhile starting option in deeper category-based formats.

Zach LaVine, G, Timberwolves

Given his incredible athleticism, LaVine is right there with Dante Exum as the most tantalizing prospects in this rookie class. LaVine has more of a track record, though he did spend just one season at UCLA, where he wasn't much of a featured option. LaVine seems like the type of prospect who spends most of his rookie season toiling on the bench and working on his game away from the bright lights, but the potential for the Wolves' season to go south in a hurry means he could get his chance eventually. LaVine probably isn't worth drafting in most yearly leagues, but be prepared to pounce on the waiver wire if the Wolves start selling off veterans like Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer.

Borderline options

Dante Exum, G, Jazz

At 19 years old and with very little experience against high-level competition, Exum is the great unknown in this draft class. It is easy to dream on what he might turn into, but Fantasy owners simply have to consider him a risk coming into his rookie season. His upside is undeniable, but mostly because we don't know enough about him to identify any warts. The Jazz do have a need for a secondary ball-handler, and they aren't particularly deep at shooting guard, so he will be worth taking a chance on in the latter half of your draft just to take the shot on his upside.

Aaron Gordon, F, Magic

Like his teammate Payton, Gordon seems pretty likely to have a set role in Orlando's rotation. Unfortunately, he has much more competition than Payton for playing time, and is likely to see a much smaller role as a result. Gordon could step into Orlando's rotation as the best defender around, which should help him get playing time at both small forward and power forward. However, he will be vying for playing time with the likes of Channing Frye, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris, likely limiting just how much he can play right away. Gordon should be a solid contributor across the board, but might be more of a borderline Fantasy starter as a rookie.

Reserves

K.J. McDaniels, F, 76ers; Doug McDermott, F, Bulls; Cleanthony Early, F, Knicks; T.J. Warren, F, Suns; Noah Vonleh, F, Hornets; Adreian Payne, F, Hawks; James Young, F, Celtics, Rodney Hood, F, Jazz; Shabazz Napier, G, Heat; Clint Capela, F, Rockets; Kyle Anderson, F, Spurs; Jordan McRae, G, 76ers

This promises to be a rookie class deep with contributors and any number of players on this list could step into their team's rotation from day one. ... McDermott is probably the best-suited to emerge as a Fantasy option based on his incredible scoring ability, though he is unlikely to show it off in a deep Chicago frontcourt. He is an injury or two away from making an impact. ... McDaniels has a diverse skill set on a team that could really use anyone who can play, but the Philly rotation is such a question mark going into the season, you simply don't know what you might get from him.

Keeper-leagues only

Joel Embiid, C, 76ers; Bruno Caboclo, F, Raptors; Mitch McGary, F, Thunder; Jusuf Nurkic, C, Nuggets; Spencer Dinwiddie, G, Pistons; Walter Tavares, C, Hawks; Dario Saric, F, 76ers; Nikola Mirotic, F, Bulls

The Sixers used their two lottery picks this year on players who almost certainly will not contribute this season. This has become a recurring theme for them, so Fantasy owners can safely ignore both Embiid and Saric in yearly leagues. ... The rest of these players would need miracles to find consistent roles, unless they really impress early.

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Player News
Nuggets C Jusuf Nurkic held scoreless vs. Grizzlies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic was held scoreless Thursday while going 0 for 7 from the field in his team's 99-69 loss to the Grizzlies.

No Nuggets player was able to score more than 10 points in the blowout loss, though the team was able to empty the bench and give at least 12 minutes of action to all 13 active players. IN addition to being the only Denver player to not score in the loss, Nurkic racked up six rebounds, one assist and one steal in 22 minutes Thursday. He'll square off with the Hornets Saturday.


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Landry was also listed as probable Wednesday before racking up 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. He had missed the team's previous five games with the wrist issue.

The Kings are 8 1/2-point underdogs in Cleveland Friday.


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(1/29/2015) Magic center Nikola Vucevic scored 17 points on 8 of 19 shooting while hauling in 14 rebounds in his team's 115-100 loss to the Bucks Thursday.

The double-double was Vucevic's 10th in 14 games this month and came despite playing a January-low 26 minutes in the loss, his team's seventh straight. He also kicked in one assist Thursday. The Magic will look to turn things around Saturday against the Mavericks.


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(1/29/2015) Magic shooting guard Victor Oladipo scored a team-high 21 points on 6 of 17 shooting in his team's 115-100 loss to the Bucks Thursday.

Oladipo was successful on nine of his 11 free-throw attempts, both numbers season highs, helping to boost his final point total. He also tallied five rebounds, one assist and one steal in 34 minutes. The Magic will square off with the Mavericks Saturday.


Bucks PG Jerryd Bayless scores team-high 19 vs. Magic
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Bucks point guard Jerryd Bayless scored a team-high 19 points on 6 of 9 shooting, including 2 of 2 shooting from three-point range, in his team's 115-100 win over the Magic Thursday.

Bayless played just 20 minutes off the bench en route to his third straight game with at least 15 points scored. He also chipped in three steals, two rebounds and one assist in the win. The Bucks will face the Blazers Saturday.


Bucks C John Henson doubles up vs. Magic Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Bucks center John Henson scored 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting while hauling in a season-high 11 rebounds in his team's 115-100 win over the Magic in Orlando Thursday.

Henson was one of seven Bucks players to score in double digits Thursday, including all five starters. He also added two blocks, one assist and one steal in 24 minutes of action while posting just his second double-double of the season. The Bucks will square off with the Blazers Saturday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Magic small forward Tobias Harris suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of Thursday's game against the Bucks, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Harris was able to gut out the injury for a while but went to the locker room in the fourth quarter to be examined. He played 21 minutes off the bench, scoring seven points on just 2 of 12 shooting while tallying five rebounds and one assist Thursday. The Magic have one day off before facing the Mavericks Saturday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is questionable to play Friday against the Cavaliers due to an ankle sprain.

It's a lingering issue for Cousins, who has been able to play at least 30 minutes in each of his last four games after missing a game last week. He has averaged 23.8 points and 12.3 rebounds in 32 games.

The Kings are 8 1/2-point underdogs in Cleveland Friday.


Celtics' Evan Turner misses practice Thursday, should play Friday
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(1/29/2015) Celtics shooting guard Evan Turner did not practice Thursday, but he doesn't expect his lingering thumb injury to cost him any game action, ESPNBoston.com reports.

"It's alright," Turner told reporters after Thursday's workout. "It's getting better each day. It'll be fine... When it gets bent back, it kinda hurts a little bit. I'll be fine."

Turner initially sprained the thumb on Jan. 14 and has had it wrapped during recent games. He's averaged 10.8 points, 5.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 19 games as a starter.

The Celtics are 6 1/2-point home underdogs against the Rockets Friday.


Grizzlies SG Vince Carter injures foot, set for MRI
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Grizzlies shooting guard Vince Carter suffered a foot injury in the second quarter of Thursday's matchup with the Nuggets and did not return.

Carter had to hop to the bench after suffering the injury and was unable to put any pressure on his left foot. He was helped back to the locker room in order to be examined. Carter had managed four points on 1 of 4 shooting in seven minutes off the bench before heading to the locker room.

Carter is set to undergo an MRI Friday to determine whether he's suffered a stress fracture or just a sprain, the Commercial Appeal reports.


 
 
 
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