Rookies are always the toughest to track, they're the most annoying to own with their inevitable 1-of-umpteen shooting games when you need them the most, and their coaches will eventually bench them for acting like a rookie. However, fantasy diehards don't care and just want to pick up a rook just before he gets hot to put on his/her waiver-wire highlight reel. By the way, props if you have an actual waiver-wire highlight reel.
I'll be doing some rankings of all the rookies in the NBA for the rest of the season on a monthly basis. These ranking are based mostly on how each player will perform after the All-Star break. There are other factors like current short-term value, but upside is the name of the game here. I also added some shot charts for some visual representation.
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1. Michael Carter-Williams - The foot injury to MCW took the wind out of his sails a bit. It didn't take long to get it going again with a huge 29-point, seven steal game on Saturday. The consensus is that Carter-Williams should be number one on the rankings by a mile, but his shooting is trouble, so he's barely ahead of VO. He's sitting at 40.0 percent, which actually isn't too bad. Here's a look at his shot chart.
The problem is that he's shooting terribly in short range, so the 40 percent on the season might actually be a little high. The putrid shooting on the right side is discouraging, as well. Outside of that, MCW is putting up tremendous numbers on defense and is barely trailing Ricky Rubio for the lead in steals. He also leads all point guards in rebounding and comes in at eighth in assists. One last negative is how he was at shootaround last week before missing his first game of the season, then missed three more games.
2. Victor Oladipo - He had a mini-breakout game on Saturday against the Heat, but not in the traditional sense. Oladipo only turned the ball over one time in 27 minutes, adding 17 points, seven boards, four assists and one 3-pointer on 4-of-8 shooting. The two issues that have been the most glaring are his ridiculous 4.1 turnovers per game and 38.8 percent from the floor.
After 10 games off the bench, Oladipo has been in the starting lineup for three games and played 34.0 minutes per game in those contests. The Magic are getting Tobias Harris back and he's been playing some small forward, so if Arron Afflalo or Moe Harkless slide to the two a bit more, it could cost Oladipo some playing time. However, the high playing time already means more good things are coming. Plus, it's not like he earned his starting role and now he's getting more time at point guard. They're committed to him.
3. Trey Burke - The Jazz are pretty bad and they're set up to tank nicely. While Burke was out with his finger injury, nobody else stepped up whatsoever. The team tried Alec Burks at point guard and he was flat-out miserable with too many turnovers and not exactly being a catalyst in the ball-movement department. And of course, John Lucas III is more like a PGIII on a depth chart. Here's his shot chart.
In case you missed last night, the rookie took five attempts from beyond the arc and made two of them. That should be on par with his season average in attempts. Burke attempted 4.8 3PAs per game back in summer league, but that's not why he shot 23 percent back in July. He couldn't get any good looks at the hoop on short- and mid-range attempts. On the bright side, he's actually getting good looks at the basket when he beats his man, and he's just not converting. Burke is letting the shot clock get too low and it's forced him into some really bad shots. Here are a couple examples of his bad shots from last night (from Synergy). It's also nice to see he's been successful on pick-and-roll. If you have him on your team, you should be feeling pretty good.
4. Ben McLemore - McLemore is a lot like Burke. He's on a team that needs some help at his position and he's taking a lot of wild shots. Although, the Kings are using him more suited to his current skill set. Over half of his attempts have been off screens or in spot-ups, so the team isn't very confident in him getting his own shot yet. That was also the case in Summer League and in the preseason. In fact, he's only had two shots in isolation this season, according to Synergy.
Interestingly, he's taking most of his shots above the break and that's another indication that the plays are drawn up for B-Mac. He's also phenomenal at using screens by accident. In other words, he's using his teammates and opponents as an obstacle course for his man. He's going to tear it up soon.
5. Kelly Olynyk - He is currently sidelined with his sprained ankle and it's too bad since he was starting to get it going. The Gonzaga product played a season-high 37 minutes in his game before going down. The Celtics were using him as a stretch five in an effort to allow some of their wings to get more space. Brad Stevens probably knows Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley should attack the rim more. Plus, they use Jared Sullinger as a point forward on a lot of possessions.
He shot 41.7 percent from the field in his starts and he also hit 0.5 triples per game compared to just 0.1 off the bench. Olynyk should have his job waiting for him once he's back.
6. Steven Adams - Funaki! His offensive game is still a year or two away, but the kid can rebound and play some defense. His man is shooting 48.9 percent at the rim and just 28.6 percent in post-ups. As mentioned, he is a beast on the boards and leads the NBA in contested rebounding percentage among players logging at least 17.0 minutes per game.
The block totals have definitely been there, as well. In just 18.8 minutes per game, he has 1.3 blocks per outing. The fouls are a little high at 2.8, but that's to be expected. The Kiwi won't be racking up the points and will likely get most of his good looks off his own offensive board. Scott Brooks and general manager Sam Presti should just realize Kendrick Perkins is a liability and get this rookie 25-plus minutes.
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo - The Bucks are terrible. I wonder if any Bucks fans have called DirecTV to cancel their League Pass because that team is so unwatchable. From a fantasy angle, they're a lot of fun because the mystery of which players will benefit from the chaos gives us a lot to cover. We're agents of chaos at Rotoworld.
Alphabet has yet to get it going and is just playing 14.0 minutes per game this season. Plus, he has four DNP-CDs on the year. In his playing time, he's been very productive in the stat sheet. His averages of 0.4 triples, 0.6 steals and 0.3 blocks are Nicolas Batum-esque. This coincides with his preseason averages of 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals, and it helps that he's shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
It's not going to happen overnight, but the upside puts him very high on players to target. The Bucks need a lot of help. Basically, they don't wear jerseys. They wear tank-tops. No good?
8. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - He moved up two spots just from last night alone. KCP turned in easily his best game of the year against the Bucks, shooting 5-of-9 from the field for 14 points with two boards, three assists, two steals, two 3-pointers and no turnovers in 36 minutes. It was a blowout, but he did most of his damage in the third quarter with 10 points in that frame. Let's take a look at his shot chart.
Shooting 46 percent from inside of eight feet is not good. He's also just attempted five shots from 8-16, but that's not really a bad thing. Almost 75 percent of his shots have come either in spot-up or in transition. I thought it was interesting that Synergy has him on just six attempts off screen, so that is something he'll have to improve. The Pistons are cooling on Will Bynum, and systematically speaking, they need another shooter. It wouldn't surprise me if KCP gets as red-hot as his shot chart. He his jumper is fantastic (Fantastic is a great two-part album by Detroit hip-hop group Slum Village, by the way).
9, Shane Larkin - It didn't take long at all for Larkin to get in the good graces of coach Rick Carlisle. He was a big part of Dallas' unbelievable comeback against the Rockets on Tuesday Nov. 20, playing a season-high 17 minutes with a line of eight points, four boards, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. He's cooled off a little bit since that explosion and Monday's game of four minutes against the Nuggets was a bit of a buzzkill.
He's been a solid defender in the small sample size, especially in pick and roll -- an area Jose Calderon has some issues. Another issue for Calderon has been staying healthy. Calderon missed most of training camp due to his frequently injured hamstring. Larkin has already leapfrogged Gal Mekel and his quickness meshes with Monta Ellis in the backcourt. He's a nice high-upside stash and it's nice to see him shooting 3-pointers.
10. Tony Snell - The Bulls made a somewhat shocking move and put Tony Snell in the starting lineup on Monday. Quite frankly, the move seems too soon and Snell really can't score yet. He couldn't convert in Las Vegas Summer League at just 36.7 percent from the field and shot 30.0 percent in the preseason.
His start went better than expected on Monday with nine points, one board and nothing else on 3-of-7 shooting. Snell really just takes shots at the rim and shoots triples, and that's good news. Forty-four percent of his shots have been within eight and 50 percent have been 3-point attempts -- none of which were in the corner. He has some nice short-term value, but Jimmy Butler will come back and take almost all the minutes at the two.
11. Rudy Gobert - He was bumped from the rotation upon Jeremy Evans' return to the lineup, but then was thrust back into it with Enes Kanter going down on Sunday. Gobert was solid over those two games with a combined 14 points, 12 boards, three blocks and one steal on 5-of-7 from the field. On the down side, he shot just 4-of-9 from the charity stripe. His lanky frame is really going to give him some issues at the line and his 37.9 percent on the season is likely where he'll be for a couple seasons in his career.
The Jazz might as well play him and let him learn the ropes.
12. Hollis Thompson - The loss of Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young gave Thompson a chance and he didn't squander it. In his last two games, he shot a combined 10-of-16 from the field for 26 points, 11 boards, two steals and two 3-pointers in 52 minutes. The upside is definitely there.
13. Archie Goodwin - The fiasco that has become of Eric Bledsoe's shin has created some playing time for Goodwin. He had a career game in the first opportunity sans Mt. Bledsoe with 16 points, two assists, two steals and one 3-pointer on 7-of-10 shooting. Since then, he averaged just 3.0 points and had an 0-of-8 shooting night in his second chance with noteworthy minutes.
The Suns will play him more down the stretch on the year and he's more of a stash player for now. If they Suns trade Goran Dragic, it will be a sign they're ready to trust Goodwin with 20-plus minutes.
14. Vitor Faverani - He gets a lot of credit for his blocks, but there are a lot of holes in his game. He's not active on the offensive glass and is useless on pick-and-roll. Plus, he's getting beaten badly on PNRs and pick-and-pops on defense. If he can't capitalize on the chance in front of him with Olynyk out, he could drop even more and out of the top 20 on these rankings next month.
15. Anthony Bennett - He had a breakout game on Saturday. The No. 1 pick shot 4-of-5 from the field for a career-high nine points with five boards, one steal and one 3-pointer. The bad news is that garbage time was a factor and he was coming off DNP-CDs in two of his last three games. Oh, and he had five turnovers in those 12 minutes of that big game.
The Cavs probably couldn't say they'd take Bennett at one in the draft with a straight face.
16. Matthew Dellavedova - He had one of the best five-minute defensive stretches of any rookie guard on the year against Bradley Beal last week. That momentum was quickly crushed by Eric Gordon roasting Dellavedova in the Cavs' next game. Overall, his stats aren't too bad over his last four with 6.3 points, 3.3 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 triples in 26.0 minutes.
17. Nate Wolters - Brandon Knight is really bad. Personally, I was shocked that Larry Drew put him in the starting lineup on Monday. Knight has 10 turnovers in his last two games and he has some of the worst passing skills of any player that logs minutes at the one in the league. Luke Ridnour is a much better point guard and so is Wolters.
The problem with Wolters is that he plays scared a little. He gets a deer-in-headlights look once he gets into the mid-range area -- pun intended. He has a long way to go, but if Knight keeps playing like he has been and Ridnour's back acts up, Wolters could be looking at plenty of minutes at the one.
18. Dennis Schroder - The return of Lou Williams has put a dent in the German's chances for minutes. He has been bumped from the rotation with three straight DNP-CDs. Schroder has been turning the ball over too much and Shelvin Mack has jumped above him on the depth chart, as well.
19. Alex Len - The good news for Len is that Miles Plumlee is starting to come back to Earth a little bit after his terrific start. Still, Len's ankles are like 10 times worse than Stephen Curry's, so he has his work cut out for him.
20. C.J. McCollum - Wes Matthews has become one of the best scorers in the NBA. Even though the NBA thought it was a good idea to not put him on the All-Star ballot, he's playing like one. Mo Williams also hasn't been too shabby, so there really isn't going to be much of a chance for McCollum to produce. With the way the Blazers are playing, he could get some garbage time. They're not this good, but they seem like a good bet for a top-five seed.
21. Cody Zeller - Josh McRoberts has the job at power forward locked up and Zeller really doesn't have the strength to play center -- McBob doesn't either -- so Zeller really only has one path to minutes. The Bobcats need someone to space the floor and that part of the Hoosier's game has yet to develop.
22. Otto Porter - He finally practiced! It's going to be a while before we see him getting consistent minutes, though. For what it's worth, he could be a big-time asset with how he puts up steals, blocks and 3-pointers. The Georgetown product had a nice shooting percentage at school, too.
23. Lorenzo Brown - The Sixers. That's it.
24. Gal Mekel
25. Mason Plumlee
26. Tim Hardaway Jr.
27. Miroslav Raduljica
28. Robbie Hummel
29. Dwight Buycks
30. Luigi Datome
31. Nemanja Nedovic
32. Toure' Murry
33. Phil Pressey
34. Nick Calathes
35. Jeff Withey
36. Brandon Davies
37. Reggie Bullock
38. Glen Rice Jr.
40. Gorgui Dieng
41. Ryan Kelly
42. Dionte Christmas
43. Carrick Felix
44. Pero Antic
45. Ricky Ledo
46. Peyton Siva
47. Nerlens Noel
48. Sergey Karasev
49. Ian Clark
50. Shabazz Muhammad
51. Solomon Hill
52. Andre Roberson
53. Ognjen Kuzmic
54. Ray McCallum
55. Allen Crabbe
56. Jamaal Franklin
57. Tony Mitchell
58. Erik Murphy
59. Elias Harris
60. Arinze Onuaku
61. Isaiah Canaan