• Introduction

    Rookies are typically overvalued in redraft fantasy leagues, as many struggle to leave a lasting impact in their inaugural season. Efficiency and turnovers are a common issue among guard and wing players, while bigs may get into consistent foul trouble or simply not be featured as they figure out how to hang in the NBA.

    However, every once in a while, we have some gems who have both the talent and opportunity to put together standout fantasy seasons as a rookie. Before we take a look at the highly-regarded class of 2023, we should take a look back at how rookies fared in previous years to gain some extra insight.

    I included Joel Embiid with the 2016 class since 2016-17 was his rookie season and I also included Ben Simmons with the 2017 class for the same reasons (2017-18 rookie year).

    We have Chet Holmgren as someone to evaluate for the upcoming season and he falls into the same situation as those examples, so they are worthy inclusions in my book, even if some don’t regard them as true rookies.


    y-axis indicates number of rookies
    Top-50 = player(s) who finished 1-to-50 (gradient yellow)
    Top-75 = player(s) who finished 51-to-75 (red)
    Top-100 = player(s) who finished 76-to-100 (black)
    Top-150 = player(s) who finished 101-to-150 (blue)
    All data gathered from Basketball Monster’s per-game rankings

    Top-50 rookie seasons are extremely rare and it seems that they cluster in strong draft classes.
    Karl-Anthony Towns has the best rookie season in this period, finishing as the No. 12 player on a per-game basis in the 2015-16, joined by Kristaps Porzingis who sneaks in as the 49th best player in that same year.
    Joel Embiid is the lone top-50 representative for a poor 2016 class, while 2018-19 saw Deandre Ayton and Mitchell Robinson finishing inside the top-50.
    The noteworthy trend is that all these players are bigs, as they don’t tend to have the efficiency issues of guards and wings. KAT and Embiid provided better-than-average skill sets for their position from the start. Porzingis had shooting to pair with his shot blocking, while Ayton and Robinson translated fundamental big man profiles to a high level. Ayton was a bit more balanced while Robinson depended on 2.4 BPG to carry his value.

    Another notable pattern is that we don’t tend to see top-75 9-cat seasons in tandem with top-50 ones, as it generally shows that the top rookies who may fall into the 51-to-75 range in other years were simply a cut above in those instances, pushing higher up the ranks instead.

    Wings and guards who get into the 51-to-100 range typically need to offset their efficiency issues with an above-league-average combination of at least two categories from points, assists or steals. Notable players who did this include Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, Luka Doncic, Tyrese Haliburton, LaMelo Ball, Cade Cunningham and Lonzo Ball.

    After this, the top-150 players feature a plethora of options and circumstances. Many are players who start slow and end the season well, either due to increased opportunity or personal growth (Mark Williams, Jalen Duren, Jabari Smith Jr. last year).
    On the other hand, some may earn a consistent role early on with a single standout skill (Keegan Murray’s shooting for example) alongside some passable peripherals and they then hover in that range for most of the season.


    Since 8-cat removes the turnover category, guards and wings who handle the ball a lot typically get a boost while bigs can take a hit.
    Cade Cunningham gets a boost up the board to No. 48 (91st in 9-cat) in 2021-22, while both Luka Doncic (100th in 9-cat) and Trae Young (125th in 9-cat) find themselves as the 56th and 58th best players in 2018-19.

    Mitchell Robinson notably declines from a top-50 player to No. 82 in 8-cat, since his low turnovers were one of his better categories.
    In 2017-18, Donovan Mitchell climbs to 48th (54th in 9-cat) while Ben Simmons is 30th (51st in 9-cat).  One other notable jump is Ja Morant in 2019-20, as he climbs from 135th in 9-cat to No. 73 in 8-cat. Paolo Banchero also goes from 211th to 136th last season, with efficiency being the limiter on his top-100 upside.

    Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns maintain their top-50 status, as KAT only falls back four places to No. 16 and Embiid’s per-game value across his 31 appearances increases to No. 21 in 8-cat from 36th in 9-cat. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t fall far from his 49th mark in 9-cat either, as he is No. 55 for 8-cat in 2015-16. So there isn’t much issue for the skilled bigs when you remove turnovers.

    2023-24 Look Ahead


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