In 2105 we have had a look at previous 10 drafts to see how rookies fared in their first pro season. From that we learnt 10 lessons, which could help us drafting future rookies more effectively. But the time moves fast and we’ve had 3 classes completing their first season as pros since then. So let’s have a look at how the rookie landscape has changed and if fantasy managers modified their approach to drafting them.

The original article covering drafts 2005-2015 – you can find here: Rookies in fantasy basketball are they really worth the risk

Last 3 seasons number of rookies targeted during fantasy drafts remained high. Between 10 and 12 first year players were selected each time.
In my previous article I’ve estimated chances for rookie to beat their ADP at about 15% and for the pick not to be terrible at about 21%. So the odds were not great…

Season 2015-2016

NBA Draft Pick Player ADP 9-cat Rank 9-cat Delta
1 Karl-Anthony Towns 59 12 47
4 Kristaps Porzingis 125 50 75
3 Jahlil Okafor 90 105 -15
11 Myles Turner 140 120 20
6 Willie Cauley-Stein 137 136 1
2 D’Angelo Russell 105 176 -71
9 Frank Kaminsky 139 224 -85
10 Justise Winslow 137 227 -90
8 Stanley Johnson 121 296 -175
5 Mario Hezonja 138 303 -165
7 Emmanuel Mudiay 104 309 -205

The odds were not great, but if you wanted to build on rookies – that was the year to do it!
2015-16 was one of the best seasons to draft rookies since two of them ended up in Top50 ranking (9-cat), which hasn’t been the case since….Tim Duncan and Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in 1997-98.

KAT and Porzingis were simply amazing, beating all expectations and winning many leagues for their managers. But there were several other rookies worth a mention. Myles Turner and WCS turned out to be fringe rotation players. Jahlil Okafor was overdrafted, but definitely was not a bust. Unfortunately his rookie year was also his best so far. Others – well – they played more like rookies and were quite useless for fantasy purposes.

Season 2016-2017

NBA Draft Pick Player ADP 9-cat Rank 9-cat Delta
1 Joel Embiid 101 67 34
8 Marquese Chriss 143 200 -57
6 Buddy Hield 130 227 -97
7 Jamal Murray 142 232 -90
5 Kris Dunn 131 293 -162
2 Brandon Ingram 125 312 -187
3 Jaylen Brown 136 325 -189
14 Denzel Valentine 136 338 -202
10 Thon Maker 136 357 -221
4 Dragan Bender 147 339 -252

What goes up – most come down. What a beautiful disaster that was!
Not only current #1 pick (Ben Simmons) did not play a single game. Former #1 (Joel Embiid)
managed to play only 31 games.

On top of that none of the other rookies managed to beat their ADP (even those modest
ones), but to make matters worse – not even one of them came close. That was a complete
let down.

It was the worst rookies class for fantasy since we have started looking at data!

But also in order to be fair – fantasy managers did not expect a lot since none of the rookies
had an ADP in Top100, so kudos for managing your expectations.
Let’s not spend too much time here. It’s too dark.

Season 2017-2018

NBA Draft Pick Player ADP 9-cat Rank 9-cat Delta
1 Ben Simmons 72 33 39
13 Donovan Mitchell 206 61 145
3 Jayson Tatum 153 65 88
19 John Collins 174 73 101
7 Lauri Markkanen 192 83 109
2 Lonzo Ball 66 117 -51
6 Jonathan Isaac 207 219 -12
9 Dennis Smith Jr. 91 267 -176
5 De’Aaron Fox 162 302 -140
4 Josh Jackson 161 308 -147
1 Markelle Fultz 94 381 -287
8 Frank Ntilikina 195 386 -191
11 Malik Monk 201 428 -227

And then there was last season. Fate of this rookie class was highly impacted by injuries. Simmons played more like someone who spent a whole year learning about NBA. Injury to Gordon Hayward forced Jason Tatum to mature in a matter of days rather than months. John Collins benefited from the Hawks rebuilding project which included actively working on their lottery position and developing youngsters rather than fighting for the win in each game. Markelle Fultz had his rookie campaign cut to only 14 games – thanks to his injured shoulder. Lonzo missed a lot of time and showed a lot of promise but was simply drafted too early. Markkanen might have been the biggest prize of the Jimmy Butler trade to Minnesota. He certainly looks like a modern version of an offensive big. A lean 7-footer with a deadly 3-pointer. Dirk Nowitzki version 2.0? But the biggest surprise was Donovan Mitchell. He took the league by the storm and became highest ranking rookie who was selected outside of Top10.

Four rookies ranking in Top75 is unprecedented and goes against anything we’ve seen over the years.
So the lesson (#11) here is to remember that and to not get carried away with the class of 2018.
Luka Doncic will be great. Trae Young and Colin Sexton possibly too. Ayton, Bagley, Bamba may be the next crop of great big man.
But do not set your expectations for them based on how many solid rookies we have seen recently.
Remember that not only pure talent makes a good rookie in fantasy. It’s also your ability to not overvalue them and draft too early.

Lesson #1: Rookies can help you win championship!

Lesson #2: Avoid drafting rookies with gaping holes in their game. They may come around within next couple of years, but in their rookie season if they cannot shoot, or make FTs or rebound –NBA game will only magnify their problems.

Lesson #3: Position matters a lot. If your player is forced to play outside of his natural position – he may not be as productive as he could.Even if offered enough playing time.

Lesson #4: Health matters. Both physical and mental. Oden had a long track record of health issues, so we could and should have been more conservative and draft him later. As for Beasley – player can have all the talent in the world but if his ego is even bigger – that’s a recipe for a disaster.

Lesson #5: It may be better to skip drafting rookies if none is looking like a sure thing. It may be better to take a veteran instead and target rookies in the first few weeks of the season. See which one is getting playing time and is able to produce.

Lesson #6: Pay attention to pre-season, as it can be an early indicator of future success.

Lesson#7: Conservative approach pays off. Literally!

Lesson#8: Contrary to whatever you may believe or have been told earlier in this article – if a transcendent talent comes to NBA – draft him as high as you can and do not worry about anything else.

Lesson #9: Buyers beware! If your rookie cannot make FG or FT to save his life in college – he won’t magically learn to do that on a biggest stage of all.

Lesson #10: Even if talent is there. Even if role seems big enough. Even if rookie is level-headed. Even if minutes and opportunities are there. You need luck with injuries. Lots of luck.

Lesson #11: Do not get carried away even if several rookies in recent past were better than expected.

Posted in Strategy
  • Jon C.

    Nikola Jokic?