Breaking down the top first-year fantasy contributors
POSTED: Jan 19, 2015 1:20 AM ET
Despite struggling out the gates and losing three top 10 picks (Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle) to season-ending injuries, the 2014 rookie class is finally starting to put up fantasy-level statistics. Here are the top contributors so far:
The No. 1 overall pick was a drop candidate to begin the season as he struggled to find consistency and comfort on the floor. These problems are a distant memory now as Wiggins has erupted to average 21.6 points (50.0 FG%, 86.1 FT%), 1.4 3-pointers, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.3 turnovers as the center of Minnesota's offense over the last two weeks. He hasn't scored below 17 points in 2015 and doesn't look to be slowing down after his career-high 31 points (with nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks) against Denver on Saturday. Wiggins' usage (23.1 percent in 2015) will stay high as Minnesota has little to play for besides his development, and the return of Ricky Rubio should turn Target Center into Highlight Factory North.
The No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft is finally starting to find a rhythm in Philadelphia after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Noel is averaging 9.4 points (50.0 FG%, 52.4 FT%), 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.1 turnovers in 30 minutes per game over the last two weeks. Blocks are the fantasy key for Noel and progress on defense is evident when watching him play as he looks much more comfortable rotating towards penetration. Like Minnesota and Denver, Philadelphia is not winning any championships this season, so developing Noel and their other young talent will be the priority. He's a clear standard-league asset going forward.
Here comes Elfrid! The No. 10 pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette is thriving as Orlando's starting point guard over the past four games to average 16.5 points (54.9 FG%, 76.9%), 7.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 3.5 turnovers. There's no way his shooting percentage stays that high going forward, so his points will dip. He looks like a natural point guard, though, and Orlando is giving him all the burn he can handle, so his assists, rebounds and steals should stay solid. If you don't mind some hits to your percentages and turnovers (and if you don't need 3-pointers), Payton can be a fringe standard-league asset going forward. If he's available in your league now, think about picking him up and seeing how long this hot streak lasts.
An unknown to many outside of Denver and Bosnia to begin the season, Nurkic is producing for the Nuggets when he can limit his foul trouble to stay on the floor. His last two games were his worst of 2015 as he didn't record a block or reach 20 minutes for the first time in the new year. But fouls were the culprit for the reduced production and owners should hold tight. Nurkic is averaging 9.0 points (42.3 FG%, 80.0 FT%), 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 turnovers in 2015. Expect these numbers to rise as his role in Denver increases.
The minutes are there for Smart in Boston. But the stats are falling below standard-league value at 7.7 points (42.6 FG%, 64.3 FT%), 1.6 3-pointers, 2.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 turnovers per game in 2015. With Evan Turner and Avery Bradley in front of him, he could crack the starting lineup as coach Brad Stevens and Boston clearly have their eyes on the future. If that happens, Smart has the potential to become a fantasy asset for his assists and steals. Just don't expect many dominating performances.
Unlike every other rookie on this list, Mirotic is on a winning team with championship aspirations and finding minutes within Chicago's rotation has been a struggle so far. He's averaging just 18.4 minutes over the last 30 days with low usage and poor shooting (38.9 FG%) that makes it difficult for owners to justify owning him in standard leagues. Although likely to have a promising career, he's nothing more than a plug-and-play option at this point.
The No. 32 pick was an intriguing fantasy asset to begin the season and averaged 14.4 points (38.7 FG%, 76.2 FT%), 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.2 steals and 2.8 turnovers during a five-game stretch in late November. Even with that nice run and promising defensive stats, McDaniels is inconsistent and doesn't provide enough stats to offset his low field goal percentage. He's a solid option at the end of a week if your team needs steals or blocks. But there's little reason to hold him for a significant stretch.
Week 13 Schedule Breakdown
Busy week in the NBA with 24 teams playing four games and no team playing two.
Four games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAL, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOP, NYK, OKC, PHI, PHX, POR, SAS, TOR, WAS
Three games: BKN, LAC, MEM, ORL, SAC, UTA
Pick 'Em Up
Bismack Biyombo - 9% owned
With Al Jefferson (groin) sidelined, Biyombo is finding minutes and usage in Charlotte to average 11.3 points (60.0 FG%, 50.0 FT%), 13.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 28.8 minutes over his last three games as a starter. He gave Roy Hibbert fits on the glass in Saturday's win and should continue to rack up big board numbers as long as his minutes stay high. Give him a look if you need rebounds and blocks (and don't mind his poor free-throw shooting).