The start of the 2023-24 NBA season is just around the corner. With the regular season opening Oct. 24, fantasy managers have just over a month to prepare for drafts.
As part of that preparation process, many of those managers have been poring over fantasy basketball rankings all summer. This season, the rookie class is headlined by mega-prospect Victor Wembanyama, who landed in San Antonio as the no-brainer No. 1 overall pick back in June.
Over the years, plenty of big-name prospects have entered the league – from LeBron James to Anthony Davis to Zion Williamson, the list goes on – but Wembanyama may rival only James in terms of pre-draft hype. Fantasy managers hoping to land the 7-foot-3 Frenchman will have to be aggressive as he’s already routinely going in the second round in early fantasy drafts.
Wembanyama is the obvious headliner but the 2023 rookie class features a handful of other names fantasy managers will need to know. Both Brandon Miller (No. 2 overall pick) and Scoot Henderson (No. 3 pick) should play key roles for the Hornets and Trail Blazers, respectively, as should both of the Thompson twins – Amen and Ausar – who landed in Houston and Detroit, respectively.
The rookie class is also bolstered by a holdover from last year’s draft in Chet Holmgren, who missed the entirety of his would-be rookie season with a foot injury. The No. 2 overall pick in 2022 should be an instant-impact player at a position of need for the Thunder, who jumped from 24 wins in 2021-22 to 40 wins a season ago. Holmgren won’t be as hot of a commodity as Wembanyama, but he’s already a top 50-to-60 pick – and sometimes significantly higher – in most early drafts.
Let’s examine the rookies to target in 2023-24 fantasy basketball drafts, as well as some names to keep in mind for deeper leagues.
An incredibly unique prospect, Wembanyama’s NBA debut (Oct. 25 vs. DAL) will be one of the most-anticipated of the last two decades. The no-brainer No. 1 overall pick is a borderline-unprecedented blend of length, rim-protection, ball-handling and shooting. While he’ll go through the typical rookie ups and downs, his shot-blocking potential alone makes him a tantalizing fantasy prospect. Beyond that, Wembanyama should contribute plenty of rebounds and points, and at Summer League he showed that he may be an even better passer than he’s given credit for.
The biggest concern for Wembanyama – perhaps other than adapting to the physicality of the NBA – is how many games he’ll play as a rookie. It’s already an open secret that San Antonio will be cautious with the big man’s workload, which could include planned rest and sitting out one-half of back-to-backs. Even with that expectation, fantasy managers will have to pay a premium for Wembanyama, whose individual hype will likely drive up his price in most leagues.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2022, Holmgren suffered a lisfranc foot injury toward the end of last summer and missed the entire 2022-23 campaign. He should step right into the Thunder’s starting lineup at center, bolstering a position that’s been a notable weakness for several years. Like Wembanyama, Holmgren’s best asset for fantasy basketball is his shot-blocking ability. He’s also a solid rebounder who shot nearly 40 percent from three in his lone season at Gonzaga. If the minutes are there, Holmgren could also push for 1.0 steals per game.
Though Holmgren doesn’t carry nearly as much hype as Wembanyama, he’s an elite prospect in his own right and will require an aggressive pick in drafts. Per current ADP figures, Holmgren typically comes off the board in the fourth round.
At some point, the Blazers may trade Damian Lillard – or so we think – which would certainly clear the way for Henderson to join a burgeoning young core led by Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons. While there may be some positional overlap, Henderson is the most obvious lead ball-handler of the future for Portland.
The No. 3 overall pick may not be the Blazers’ go-to scorer, but he’ll be in position to function as the offensive hub, which should lead to solid all-around counting stats as a rookie. Like most young guards, Henderson could struggle with turnovers and shooting efficiency. He shot just 27.5 percent from downtown for G League Ignite last season, and he’s just an OK free throw shooter (76% FT) by guard standards. Early on, Henderson might be more valuable in points leagues.
Hugo the Hornet may not have approved of the Hornets’ decision to take Miller over Henderson on Draft night, but the Alabama product was the clear best player in college basketball for most of last season. In 37 games, Miller averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 38.4 percent from three on 7.5 attempts per game. While Miller struggled to settle in at Summer League, he showed flashes of the length, spot-up shooting and craftiness that made him the No. 2 overall pick.
On a roster that already features LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, Miller’s immediate fit is a question mark. There’s no doubt that he’ll be a featured part of the rotation, but with such a crowded group of scorers and wings, it’s possible that he’ll take on somewhat of a complementary role in Year 1. Still, the hope is that Miller’s defensive numbers translate, and even as a secondary option, he should provide value in points, rebounds and threes.
The first of the Thompson twins to come off the board, Amen landed with a Rockets team that hasn’t won many games in recent years yet has an intriguing collection of young talent. Like Miller in Charlotte, Thompson has the talent to be an immediate contributor, but where he fits on a crowded roster remains to be seen. In addition to returning young players like Jabari Smith, Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Tari Eason, Houston added veterans Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet in free agency.
As a result, it’s very possible Thompson could begin the year in a bench role, though the hope is that in the long term he can be developed as a primary creator. For the most part, managers are drafting Thompson with an appropriate degree of caution (129.1 composite ADP). Early on, he could be a difficult player to start, but if the minutes are there Thompson should provide solid all-around counting stats. His three-point and free-throw shooting remains a significant question mark, however.
The No. 5 overall pick carries some of the same pitfalls as his twin brother, though one could argue that Ausar landed in a better spot. The Pistons do have a pair of young ball-handlers in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, but their roster isn’t as deep at guard or wing. Thompson’s size and athleticism could allow him to slide directly into the starting lineup at small forward. It’s also possible Detroit takes more of a cautious approach, but for a franchise in need of a jolt, there’s little reason not to turn things over to the Cunningham-Ivey-Thompson trio from Day 1.
Fantasy-wise, Thompson projects to be a good source of points and rebounds, and he’ll likely be an above-average source of defensive stats for his position. While he’s considered a slightly better shooter than his brother, it’s not by much. Thompson shot just 21.7 percent from three and 64.1 percent at the line for Overtime Elite last season.
Taylor Hendricks, Jazz: The arrival of John Collins via trade clouds Hendricks’ role, but he should open the year as the first forward off the bench.
Cam Whitmore, Rockets: Medical red flags kept Whitmore from being a top-10 pick, but the Rockets were willing to take the risk on a high-upside prospect. Whitmore could struggle to see enough minutes in Year 1, but he’s a name to monitor in deeper leagues and dynasty formats.
Gradey Dick, Raptors: One of the best shooters in the draft, Dick will likely be a complementary piece as a rookie but could provide value as a points/threes specialist.
Jarace Walker, Pacers: The Houston product will battle Obi Toppin for the starting power forward spot in Indiana. Rebounds and defensive stats will likely be Walker’s speciality early on.
Anthony Black, Magic: One of two Magic lottery picks, Black is a unique guard with excellent size and playmaking ability. He could struggle to see enough minutes to be relevant in most leagues.
Cason Wallace, Thunder: Wallace’s defensive ability could make him a mainstay in the rotation right away.
Jett Howard, Magic: Just how much Howard will play as a rookie remains to be seen. He could be a points/threes target in deeper formats.
Keyonte George, Jazz: George could see limited action early on, but he’s a name to watch if Utah goes into sell mode later in the season.
Vasilije Micic, Thunder: The Serbian has been a great player in Europe for a decade and will add depth to the Thunder backcourt. Micic posted 16.0 points and 5.4 assists per game in the EuroLeague last season.
Sasha Vezenkov, Kings: The 27-year-old, reigning EuroLeague MVP averaged 17.6 points and shot nearly 38 percent from three for Olympiacos last season.