Fantastic basketball – Mobley, Cunningham, Barnes and a class of NBA rookies to be thankful for


How am I over the river and through the woods for this season’s rookie class?

I just refused Deandre Ayton for Evan mobley. Directly. Not only was my response an instant ‘no’, but I felt a tinge of indignation at being belittled.

Said pang only makes 15 games in Mobley’s career.

As each draft season dawns, I caution readers not to fall for Rookie Love.

Rookie Love, Defined: Hype-driven irrational anxiety and ardor that prompts managers to squander a midterm pick on someone whose NBA CV is to don a hat on draft night, a Summer League, and a few games pre-season.

Oh, I’ve been there. Rookie Love makes you vibrate. Hope. Then the honeymoon period; this inaugural halcyon draft season where every lottery pick’s fantastic career seems to lack any semblance of a cap.

At this moment ? A fourth or fifth round pick for a highly anticipated rookie smacks of theft.

But Halloween is coming. The games are starting to count. Veterans exhibit flaws. This missing ceiling is exposed.

And finally … the check arrives.

You examine the gulf between ADP and Player Rater rankings. Find out that you overpaid by three or four rounds … all for a single puff of nighttime dopamine.

My usual advice: during your draft, look to acquire rookies as endgame pilots. Nothing more. Once the season has started? Have at it. Rookies make the best waiver lead additions in season.

The sudden leaps a rookie can make in their first season development are unmatched when it comes to the impact of the waiver cable. This indefinite ceiling, the unknown which surrounds the back of a recruit, is a singular fantastic dynamic… but it is better to explore it on the wire.

(Unless you’re in a goalie league. If you’re in a salary cap goalie league, rookies are a different ball game. In this format, paying a little too much for a rookie makes sense in the long run. term.)

Oh and by the way, not everything you just read applies to the 2021-22 season!

This beginner class is an exception. This is exceptional. Uniquely productive for five reasons Fantasyland can be grateful for:

1. Accurate assessment: At the end of the draft season, there wasn’t a single rookie sporting an over-inflated ADP.

2. Impact / use minutes: Nine rookies are already averaging over 25.0 MPG. Of those nine recruits, seven have utilization rates above 19.0. Seven rookies already receive as many hits at the start of a point towards an important second half for the rookies.

3. Multi-position eligibility: Because rookies often need half a season to define their role and position, many enter the season with eligibility for more than one position. The four best rookies this season to date qualify for more than one position. This kind of versatility is a huge hidden strength for any fantasy team.

4. Real sleeper: For most recruits, the adjective “sleeper” is an oxymoron. The hype that typically accompanies every incoming freshman class inflates the draft season’s supply to the point where actual “sleeper” status is impossible.

But that class has 10 to 15 names that could grow into full-size streamers or better by All-Star Weekend. And there will be a couple of names that pop up out of nowhere over the last two weeks of the campaign and deliver reliable impact production.

5. The recruit wall: Be thankful for The Rookie Wall. Fortunately it does not exist. It is a myth. A great story. A ghost story.

How am I so sure? Because when the pandemic forced you and everyone you know to figure out how to have fun at home on your own? I didn’t need any instruction. This child with key lock has been perfecting life on the space station since fifth grade.

Every season, I make sure to switch 2am bandwidth tracking patterns into the NBA rookie production. It’s been 15 years. And the Rookie Wall has yet to reveal itself.

The recruit wall? Smokehouse. He’s more of a Rookie Divot. A statistical misstep. A pocket-sized slump that tends to happen around the weekend of the stars.

I’ll let those who are smarter than me tell you why. But inevitably, most Impact Fantastic Hires recover or even increase their value over time.

But as winners, we can be thankful that many managers still believe in the Rookie Wall myth. Enough to make most of the rookies dumped as the season progresses.

So rejoice, fantastic pilgrim comrades. Our first-year cornucopia is overflowing. So overflowing that it doesn’t seem blasphemous to whisper the scarlet number: “2003”.

The Class of 2003 – LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, Bosh, Diaw, Korver, Howard, West – remains the all-time standard for rookies. But 2021, through sheer depth, could end up giving this class a run for its proverbial money.


I got into this thinking thinking I would highlight the five rookies I’m most grateful for. (It was hard to narrow it down to five … it’s more beneficial to see this as the players I’m most grateful for at the time of this writing.)

Evan mobley, PF / C, The Cleveland Cavaliers

14.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.5 3PG, 1.5 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 49.4 FG%, 77.1 FT%

After the formidable first month of Mobley, the compositions rain quickly and furiously: Garnett, Duncan, Bosh.

Any sign that Mobley is destined for elite status? None of the compositions do entirely justice to that month. Mobley’s presence, his style of play, his behavior … are already his.

The main reason I wasn’t tempted by Ayton-Mobley? I think we saw Ayton’s ceiling at this point. And Ayton retains fantastic potential among the top 25. But Mobley … Mobley is a future top-10.

Cade Cunningham, PG / SG, Detroit Pistons

14.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.9 3PG, 0.5 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 35.0 FG%, 90.9 FT%

Fortunately, I don’t need to buy low on Cunningham, as I have listed Cunningham in most of my drafts.

I prioritized Cunningham for two reasons: he supported my free throw strategy and the delay in his debut brought his ADP down to a nice level.

And despite his late start, Cunningham only needed a few games for the majority of his stats to live up to my expectations. All Cunningham has to do is smooth that out a bit. Get that FG% in the mid 40’s? As dynamic as Mobley was, Cunningham could still beat him for Rookie of the Year… in fantasy and reality.

Josh Giddey, PG / SG, Thunder of Oklahoma City

10.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.7 APG, 0.9 3PG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 39.7 FG%, 63.6 FT%

I’m grateful that most competing managers haven’t seen what is developing in Oklahoma City: a factory for underrated off-road fantastic production.

Nobody expects much from OKC this season. It’s a year of development. Some player names take a while to recognize each other. The rotation is difficult to classify. But here’s the thing with rebuilds: Stats always matter.

Giddey is another of my most registered players. He made an ideal late-game pick and returns to production in round nine through tenth.

And Giddey is more than a placeholder. He has a real long term fantasy in reverse. One way of saying? Giddey doesn’t need to score in double digits to measure up to his managers. (And those nights when Giddey can’t touch the edge of a barn, I don’t even want him to try.)

Assists, rebounds out of position, steals (and blocks!) … when Giddey is aiming for 15 points, it’s just sauce.

Scottie Barnes, SF / PF, Toronto Raptors

14.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.3 3PG, 0.6 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 48.0 FG%, 72.0 FT%

No one, not even Mobley, came out the door like Barnes. We have seen what Barnes is capable of in a Pascal Siakam– less rotation: 20-10. I don’t care where Siakam was; any rookie who goes 25-13 in their second NBA game is a serious whimsical student.

Jérémie Robinson-Earl, PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

10.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.1 3PG, 0.4 BPG, 0.6 SPG (last four games)

I push Robinson-Earl on the names of the stars (Jalen Suggest, Franz Wagner, Chris Duarte, Green jalen… same Alperen Sengun) for a reason: to get you noticed. Much like Giddey, Robinson-Earl outperforms in a development ecosystem. He’s the kind of rookie who might get started before long. Minutes + upside + low expectations = quite a mess of fantastic goodness.



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