The much anticipated NBA Draft is finally behind us, and the focus in the league is starting to shift to free agency. Now that we know where these kids will be calling home next season, it’s it’s a good time to look at the rookies that could potentially make the greatest fantasy impact next season.
10. Malik Monk — SG, Charlotte Hornets
Stats as a freshman at Kentucky: 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 39.7% 3-point FG
The Hornets were targeting SGs all along, but with the idea of going more defensive minded. Then Monk slipped out of the top-10 and was impossible to pass up on. His fantasy value clearly begins with his scoring and 3-point shooting. With Kemba Walker already undersized at PG, these two will form a severely undersized backcourt when they share the floor. He’ll have more significant value if he plays combo guard, going off the ball with the starters some, as well as backing up Kemba at PG. Having the ball in his hands with the second unit would be a welcomed bump to his value.
9. Jayson Tatum — SF, Boston Celtics
Stats as a freshman at Duke: 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks
Tatum is one of, if not the most NBA-ready player in this draft. Although I love his fit in Boston, fantasy opportunities will be much tougher to come by. He’s going to a team that just reached the Eastern Conference Finals that already plays a lot of combo forwards, not to mention the swirling Gordon Hayward and Paul George rumors. Jaylen Brown will likely begin the season above Tatum on the depth chart as well. Tatum has the ability to really grow as an NBA scorer, which is why he does have some value. If there are any injuries, or he develops ahead of schedule, I like Tatum to come on as the season goes on — much like he grew at Duke. There will be nights Brad Stevens gives him a chance, and I expect Tatum to have big games on those occasions. There will also be nights he could be out of the rotation altogether.
8. Luke Kennard — SG, Detroit Pistons
Stats as a sophomore at Duke: 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 43.8% 3-point FG
I didn’t love Kennard going this high in the draft, but he’s going to be a solid role scorer in the NBA, and the Pistons really need that in their backcourt. Much like Monk, Kennard’s scoring and shooting will bring the bulk of his fantasy value. Unlike Monk, Kennard won’t be drawing any PG duties, but he could be playing significant minutes, which is a major key. The inconsistent play of KCP last season could open the door for Kennard if he can play solid defense to stay on the floor.
7. Jarrett Allen — C, Brooklyn Nets
Stats as a freshman at Texas: 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
The Nets are doing the best they can to rebuild without any draft picks of real value. Taking on the Mozgov contract brought Brooklyn its biggest asset in years in D’Angelo Russell. He’ll be a fantasy stud next season based on pure volume, but after that, things are wide open. Brook Lopez was shipped to L.A. in that deal, which creates a lot of center minutes. Although Mozgov will get some, Allen should be thrown into the fire since the Nets have nothing better to do than develop what they have. Allen is very athletic and shows a lot of potential, so maybe he wins a starting role sooner than later.
6. John Collins — PF, Atlanta Hawks
Stats as a sophomore at Wake Forest: 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
Collins slipped a bit in this draft, but he was very solid for Wake Forest last season. This is more about the Hawks than Collins, though. Their entire core is now gone besides Paul Millsap, who is almost certainly going to be playing elsewhere next season. Despite being just 19-years old, Collins did spend two years at Wake Forest, so he’s a little more polished after taking enormous strides in his sophomore season. Much like Allen, Atlanta might not have a choice but to feature this kid early on.
5. Justin Jackson — SF, Sacramento Kings
Stats as a junior at North Carolina: 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists
The Kings just don’t have NBA quality players, which means when they get top-15 picks, they’re going to play right away. Jackson was a three-year player at UNC, so he should be ready to fill a role in the league. Jackson might struggle to score right away, but he did average close to 20 a game in his final year in college. The major reason he’ll play right away is his size at 6’8” and his ability to do everything well. Sacramento desperately needs a glue guy like this. His minutes and versatility should make him a sneaky value play.
4. Markelle Fultz — PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Stats as a freshman at Washington: 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks, 41.3% 3-point FG
Philly has been bringing their rookies along PAINFULLY slowly. None of them even play their rookie seasons, but injuries have been to blame so far. Next year feels like the season these kids all get on the floor and the Sixers see what they have in each of them. Fultz will play both guard positions and has a very NBA-ready set of skills. Assuming he plays around 30 minutes per game next season, he could be equally as big a part of the core as any of these kids (outside of perhaps Embiid). Ben Simmons playing PG could hurt his value a little, but that should put Fultz in better positions to score. One way or another, he should be a very productive rookie.
3. Dennis Smith Jr. — PG, Dallas Mavericks
Stats as a freshman at NC State: 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals
Had Smith not torn his ACL his senior year in high school, this kid had the potential to be a top-3 pick in this draft. The Mavericks don’t have many scoring options outside of Harrison Barnes and Dirk (who is a given to sit out a chunk of games). The backcourt was ever shifting in Dallas, and now they have a staple that brings elite scoring ability right off the bat. Smith is a capable passer that might be a little underrated as a pure PG, and certainly, he has the athleticism to go up and get boards. If/when Dallas decides to hand Smith the keys to the car, he should be a very strong fantasy play getting major minutes for a decent team that lacks a scorer of his capabilities.
2. Lonzo Ball — PG Los Angeles Lakers
Stats as a freshman at UCLA: 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 41.2% 3-point FG
Ball’s ability to make his teammates better is probably his best NBA trait in terms of what will translate right away. When he steps on the floor for his first game in the league, he’ll be one of the most gifted passers on either team. D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young and even Lou Williams (although he was traded in February) all ate up a ton of backcourt minutes for the Lakers last season. Clearing them out means the minutes are absolutely going to be there for Lonzo. His overall scoring needs work, but he has the size and athleticism to finish at the rim, and the range to knock down NBA 3-pointers. Lonzo will be a bigger baller right away than people think.
1. De’Aaron Fox — PG, Sacramento Kings
Stats as a freshman at Kentucky: 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals
As I mentioned, the Kings’ only real pieces are Buddy Hield and the ones they added in this draft. Fox has a lot of learning he needs to do and work he needs to put in his game, but he might be the Kings’ best player right now. With a lot of hype around Ball, Fultz and Simmons (don’t forget he’s ROY eligible), Fox feels like he could sneak into the conversation as a Rookie of the Year candidate. He should practically be handed the minutes at PG, which will lead to plenty of mistakes, but the production should overshadow it. Fox’s John Wall-esque speed should often lead to transition buckets for him, something Sacramento would be smart to encourage without much of a half court offense. But when Fox is in the half court, the ball will still be in his hands. John Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals as a rookie on a terrible Washington team in 37.8 minutes per game (which is actually a career high). Fox is capable of having a very similar season, probably with fewer assists per game than the former No. 1 overall pick.
Did I leave anyone off the list? Want my outlook on any of the other rookies? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter with comments or questions: @julianedlow.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.