By Nick Whalen
Special to Yahoo Sports
Part I of our rookie preview covered six rookies in the best position to provide fantasy value this season.
In Part II, we’ll dig deeper into the venerated 2017 draft class, focusing on players who could ultimately be fantasy-viable if a few things break right. We’ll also examine a handful of high-upside prospects who may not contribute much in Year 1 but are worth considering in deeper leagues and dynasty formats.
Wait and See
Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic: Physically, Isaac is one of the most impressive rookies in the class, but he’s not as NBA-ready as Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum, or Smith. At 6’10” with a smooth shooting stroke, Isaac has the frame and tools to be a lethal stretch-four who defends multiple positions. His ceiling is as high as any player in the 2017 class, but Isaac lacked assertiveness, at times, in college and likely won’t be a significant fantasy factor as a rookie.
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls: Like Isaac, the player who went one spot later will also face a stiff learning curve. Markkanen could be the best shooter in the draft, but he was inconsistent on the glass at Arizona and struggled to contain faster, more physical big men on the defensive end. The good news is Markkanen will be given plenty of opportunities for the bottomed-out Bulls, but he may not provide much more than high-volume three-point shooting.
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks: The biggest mystery among the lottery picks, Ntilikina will be groomed as the Knicks’ future at the point guard position. The question is whether he’ll have a large enough role as a rookie to generate anything more than nominal fantasy value. With apologies to Ron Baker and Ramon Sessions, New York isn’t exactly loaded at point guard, but the team could still opt to bring Ntilikina along slowly
Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets: Charlotte may not be the ideal situation for his immediate fantasy value, but the Hornets desperately need scoring off the bench, and Monk is capable of scoring in bunches at a moment’s notice. With Nic Batum and Jeremy Lamb ahead of him on the depth chart, though, Monk likely won’t be an overly productive fantasy commodity in Year 1.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks: The good: Collins is a top-tier athlete who scores and rebounds at a high rate. The bad: He logged just 24 total assists and attempted only one three-pointer in two years at Wake Forest. Even so, Collins is a fairly clear choice as the best fantasy rookie outside of the lottery, based almost entirely on his situation. The Hawks will be one of, if not the, worst team in the NBA next season, and they’ll have little reason not to give Collins extended run at power forward. As of late-August, Ersan Ilyasova and Luke Babbitt are Collins’ primary competition for minutes.
Other Notable Rookies
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: Tatum is an extremely talented isolation scorer for his age, and while he’s in the best pure basketball situation of any rookie, he’s in one of the worst fantasy situations. The Celtics were one of the deepest teams in basketball last season and got even deeper on the wing this summer. Tatum will certainly have his moments, but at this point it’s difficult to envision a path to a fantasy-relevant workload, even after Boston sent Jae Crowder to Cleveland.
Zach Collins, Portland Trail Blazers: Even though Portland traded up to grab Collins at No. 10 overall, he’ll likely have trouble carving out a fantasy-relevant role for a team that’s already inundated with frontcourt pieces.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz: Moving up to take Mitchell at No. 13 already looks like a savvy move by the Jazz. The Louisville product was one of the most impressive standouts in Summer League, but charting out where he’ll fit with the Jazz as a rookie is rather discouraging. For as talented as Mitchell may be, the possibility of him usurping a deep group of veteran guards for consistent minutes seems unlikely. Like Collins, Mitchell is more of a dynasty league consideration at this point.
Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors: An absolute steal early in Round 2, Bell fits exactly what the Warriors want from their big men on the defensive end. Bell is undersized, but he’s a mobile, prolific shot blocker and above-average rebounder. While his impact as a rookie will be minimal, Bell has some intrigue as a longer-term prospect.
D.J. Wilson, Milwaukee Bucks: Wilson was a one-year wonder at Michigan after barely seeing the floor in his first two collegiate seasons. That makes him a bit of a risk, but the Bucks like his combination of athleticism, length and shooting. The 6’10” Wilson won’t be much of a factor right away, but Jason Kidd has built a reputation as a coach who isn’t afraid to turn to inexperienced players. Still, Wilson is firmly in dynasty-only consideration.
Harry Giles, Sacramento Kings: The former No. 1 overall recruit was once considered the second coming of Amar’e Stoudemire, but a series of major knee injuries have lowered his ceiling considerably. However, Giles showed enough during the pre-draft process to warrant a mid-first-round selection, proof of just how special of a prospect he was before the knee issues.
Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets: Allen is in a somewhat similar situation to that of Collins, though he may be even more raw at this stage. Regardless, Allen should hold down a consistent role in one of the league’s worst frontcourts. Brooklyn will be better this season, but that shouldn’t prevent Allen from seeing consistent run as the backup to Timofey Mozgov. Will that translate to fantasy viability? Almost certainly not, but Allen is nonetheless an interesting long-term project.
Caleb Swanigan, Portland Trail Blazers: Another dynasty-only player, Swanigan simply faces too steep of a climb to regular minutes in a deep Portland frontcourt.
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers: The Kuzma hype is very real after he went full 2012 Josh Selby in Vegas last month. The Utah product looks every bit the part of an NBA talent, and certainly belongs on a roster, but it’s naive to think he’ll be a consistent presence in the rotation as a rookie.