3 NBA Rookies to Target in Fantasy Basketball

Of all the talented players in this year's draft class, who could prove themselves fantasy-relevant?

Just like a rookie in any other sport, it's usually difficult to accurately project an NBA rookie's performance on the court. Sure, a scout can take notes, the combine can produce measurables, and an analyst can watch video. But, it's a lot like an employer looking to hire a new employee straight out of college - there's only so much to look at, and the rest is all on the player. All an NBA front office can do is sit back and hope that its prized draft pick turns out to be a productive player for years to come. And isn't that all we do when it comes to fantasy basketball?

As fantasy basketball team owners/GMs, all we can do is draft on what we know at the time and trust our instincts. We can't know anything else for certain. It's hard to project even established veterans in fantasy basketball. So, it's easy to put two and two together and discover how hard it really is for us to predict fantasy success for NBA rooks. However, we can make "guesstimates" based on previous (college) statistics and the situations these youngsters are coming into. That's exactly what I'm going to do here - give you fantasy guesstimates of three NBA rookies based on statistics, situations and even past rookies in comparable situations.

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

No surprises here. Wiggins wasn't the number-one pick in the draft for nothing. He may very well be the best raw talent in his draft class. But that's not it - there's much more to this great talent.

Wiggins put up some outstanding numbers in his brief stint with the Jayhawks. In just under 33 minutes per game, he averaged 17 points while shooting 45% from the floor, 34% from the three-point arc and 77% from the charity stripe - but he did so with a fellow top-five pick, Joel Embiid, on his team. So, what's that have to do with anything? Well, Wiggins' usage rate of 26% may only go up as he joins a young and not so talented T'Wolves team, without a doubt as its top scorer. Wiggins isn't just a scorer though, as he can also rebound and play some solid D. Wiggins pulled down just under six rebounds per contest, and added a theft and a swat per game on the defensive end of the floor.

Even if Wiggins doesn't turn out to be the scoring machine we think he's going to be, he could produce in other areas of the stat sheet for your fantasy team just like a certain Cavaliers' number-one overall pick, LeBron James. Believe it or not, Wiggins is coming into a very similar situation to that of LeBron in 2003. Outside of Big Z, LeBron was surrounded by young unestablished talent. However, young King James managed to put up some big numbers: 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

While I could easily see Wiggins flirt with 20 points and 6 boards along with a steal or two per game, I'm not so sure he can pass as well as LeBron at his age. But nonetheless, whether in a competitive game or on the wrong side of a blowout, look for Andrew Wiggins to produce for you night in and night out.

Jabari Parker, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

There's not much of a surprise here either, as Parker wasn't far behind Wiggins in this year's draft. The number-two overall pick is just as talented, if not more, than Wiggins. And his numbers don't say anything different. The 6'8" forward not only scored 19 points per game, but he also showcased his ability to rip down nearly 9 rebounds every night he hit the hardwood. On his way to nearly averaging a double-double, Parker shot 47% from the field and 36% from the free throw line - not bad for a Freshman in the Duke spotlight. But does that say anything for his chances of having a successful rookie campaign? It sure does. Just ask Carmelo Anthony.

It wasn't hard for me to come up with a good comparison for Jabari Parker. Based on physique alone, he and Melo are eerily similar. Both are listed at 6'8" and 235 pounds, but physical appearance isn't the only similar quality the two share. They share a nearly identical path to becoming first-round picks in the NBA draft. Both grew up city kids; for Parker, Chicago, and for Melo, Brooklyn. But, more importantly, both were brought up under hall of fame basketball coaches in their brief college careers. Even though Parker may not have won an NCAA championship, he showed the same kind of promise. In Melo's only year at Syracuse, he averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. If you look at their individual averages per 40 minutes, Parker actually edged out Melo in both points and rebounds while shooting two percent better from the field. (Mind. Blown.)

So what you say? Well, Melo's rebound averages fell to six per game, but he continued to do what he does until this very day - score. In his rookie season with the Nuggets, Carmelo shot under 45% from the field but posted 21 points per game. Until further notice, I don't see anything that tells me Jabari Parker will be any different. Parker could be a fantasy steal. Plan accordingly.

Elfrid Payton, PG, Orlando Magic

Payton's name is nowhere near as popular as those of Wiggins and Parker. Not many other rookies are on that level. But, come (fantasy) draft day, he could prove much more valuable than the previous two names.

The 6'3" point guard did nothing but produce last year for Louisiana-Lafayette. Louisiana-Lafayette? Yeah, that might be why his name isn't so familiar. The former Ragin' Cajun scored 19 points and dished out nearly 6 helpers a game. Sure, a lot of point guards at smaller schools put up numbers similar to these, but Payton did so much more than most of those guys. He shot over 50% from the field while he led his team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they lost to Dougie McBuckets' Creighton team. Clearly Payton can produce at a high level.

Mostly due to the fact that he played at least three years for a smaller school, I found that Payton is very similar to Damian Lillard just a couple years ago. In fact, both were drafted in the top 10 by their respective teams. As for the numbers, the two aren't completely the same, but for the most part put up very similar lines. In his last season at Weber State, Lillard scored over 24 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three. On the other hand, Payton scored 19 points per game in his last year at ULL while shooting 50% from the field and a mere 25% from three. It's apparent that Lillard was a higher volume scorer while Payton was more of a slasher in the paint, but Payton posted higher averages in both rebounds (6.0) and assists (5.9).

How might these numbers translate to his rookie season with the Magic? For some perspective, Lillard's numbers translated to 19 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds per game - a stuffed stat sheet. I expect Payton to do the same, and exceed his 92nd overall ranking.

So, in conclusion, don't shy away from these rookies just because they are unproven commodities. Do your best to get them at a valuable spot in your draft and hope that they turn out like others before them.