Grading the Rookies: 2008-09
You don't want to depend on a rookie. You don't want to lose your fantasy season because a rookie hit the wall or lost his focus at an important moment. It's nerve-wracking to hand the keys to your franchise to someone that couldn't legally enjoy a celebration beer with you if your team wins. And coming off of last season, where even the rookie of the year was only a marginal fantasy contributor, it's easy to write off all rookies as unworthy of attention.Back to top
On the other hand, you also don't want to be the one that passes on talent and value just because you are uncomfortable with the league's most junior members. There have been plenty of rookies that haven't hit the wall or blinked at an inopportune time - just ask owners that drafted Tim Duncan or LeBron James in their freshman seasons.
The bottom line is that knowing the incoming rookie class is an essential part of your draft preparation, and for that reason, we've profiled its key players below.
Rookies You Want on Your TeamGreg Oden, C, POR
The long-anticipated dawn of the Oden era finally begins this season, a year after microfracture knee surgery postponed what should have been his rookie campaign. Oden will start from day one and should be among the leading rebounders and shot blockers in the NBA this season. A legit seven-foot center with a huge frame (he'll likely play around 275 pounds this year), Oden has a surprising skill set. He played his entire freshman year in college shooting with his left hand due to a wrist injury on his dominant right hand, and still managed to post one of the better stat lines in college history for a freshman center. Oden also boasts great athleticism, with a pre-surgery vertical of 38 inches that he may recover if his knee holds up. In addition to the boards and blocks, Oden should also be a solid scorer on good shooting percentages, and if he can pass out of double-teams he could even chip in a few assists.
Michael Beasley, SF, MIA
O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM
Derrick Rose, PG, CHI
Rookies You Should Keep an Eye OnKevin Love, PF, MIN
Love had been considered a prototypical college big man who may lack the athleticism to excel at the NBA level. Then he posted pre-draft "measureables" that were very similar across-the-board to Al Horford's, and all of a sudden he was a top-five pick. Love has a throw-back game reminiscent of Wes Unseld, the man for whom Love was given his middle name of Wesley. Love uses his wide body to establish excellent rebounding position on both ends of the court. He has great footwork in the post on offense, and has shooting range out to the college 3-point line. He'll be the high-post big man in Minnesota, playing off of Al Jefferson down low. As long as Love can hold up against the bigger, stronger players he'll face every night, he should produce good point, rebound and assist totals.
Jerryd Bayless, PG, POR
Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC Rajon Rondo's success with the World Champion Celtics could explain Westbrook's surge to the fourth-overall spot in the 2008 NBA Draft. A hyper-athletic, defensive minded combo guard that should be voted "guard most likely to dunk on Yao Ming" from this year's class, Westbrook has good size at 6-4, with a good jumper and some experience running an offense. But he's expected to make his money as a ball-hawk on defense; he is the early favorite to lead rookies in steals this year.
Eric Gordon, SG, LAC Gordon is a pure scorer at shooting guard, with excellent range that evokes comparisons to namesake Ben Gordon. He'll likely start the season behind Cuttino Mobley on the depth chart, but will be groomed to eventually take the job - though he has enough talent to produce big numbers even as a sixth man.
Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA The hero of the NCAA Championship game, Chalmers surprisingly slid to the second round of the NBA draft, but could find himself starting for the Heat from day one. Chalmers is more of a combo guard than a pure distributor, but he is an excellent shooter and tough-minded defender that should fit well next to Dwyane Wade. Don't expect huge assist totals, as Miami will regularly run the offense through D-Wade, but Chalmers should produce good three-point shooting totals, and his quick hands should nab more than his share of steals.
Other Lottery PicksDanilo Gallinari, SF, NY
Gallinari was a star in Europe; as always, the question is how that translates to the NBA. A 6-9 point forward with an NBA-quality mid-range jumper, he's good off the dribble and has excellent passing skills, but his athleticism, and a nagging back injury that limited his playing time in the Vegas Summer League are concerns, as is New York's logjam at the forward spots. It's questionable how much playing time he'll get this year, but with Mike D'Antoni running the team, any player in the regular rotation is worth consideration.
Joe Alexander, SF, MIL
D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA The Bobcats surprised a lot of people by using the ninth overall pick on a point guard, just three years after using the fifth overall one on Raymond Felton. Apparently new Bobcats coach Larry Brown wanted another lead guard prospect; if Augustin plays well in the pre-season he has a decent chance to earn some minutes as a rookie. Augustin is a quick, athletic point guard with excellent passing skills and legit three-point range on his jumper. He's a good scorer that also finishes well in traffic and draws fouls, but at his size (only about 5-10) he may not be big enough to do that in the NBA.
Brook Lopez, C, NJ Lopez has outstanding size (7-1 258), with long arms and a strong frame, but he tested out as the least-athletic player at the pre-draft NBA combine. His skill could make him a reliable low-post scorer and defender, but there's a question as to whether he is athletic enough to thrive against NBA competition. He'll be in the mix with Josh Boone and Sean Williams for playing time this season.
Jason Thompson, PF, SAC Thompson has a big frame (6-11, 250) with long arms and good strength. He was a 20/10 guy with more than two blocks per game in each of his last two years of college, but the competition level in the NBA is a big step up from what he faced at Rider College. Expect him to be a bit of a long-range project.
Anthony Randolph, SF, GS
Other Rookies to Keep on the RadarRobin Lopez, C, PHO
Robin was the "defensive" twin in college, but even though brother Brook got the accolades and was drafted earlier, Robin's game might be more NBA-ready. Look for him to play an Anderson Varejao-type role for the Suns, hustling around the court and grabbing rebounds - but with Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire entrenched in the frontcourt, Lopez probably won't play big minutes unless there's an injury.
Marreese Speights, PF, PHI
Roy Hibbert, C, IND
Darrell Arthur, PF, MEM
Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG, NJ
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