We're about a month into the NBA season, so it feels like a good time to check in on the most impactful fantasy rookies so far. Can underperforming rookies improve? Will hot shooters regress to the mean? Let's dive in:
Though Holmgren isn't leading Rookie of the Year odds, he's gaining on Victor Wembanyama. The Gonzaga product and Abraham Lincoln impersonator has been excellent on both ends of the floor and is returning second-round fantasy value behind 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.1 blocks and 0.9 steals per game. Notably, he's slashing a ridiculous 57/46/91. The free throws are especially impressive, as he was only a 72% free-throw shooter in college. Don't be surprised if both his three-point and free-throw percentages decrease, since those marks are fairly unsustainable. Still, I'm not sure I'd sell high unless I was getting a guaranteed second-round player in return.
Victor Wembanyama, Spurs
After reaching double-digit points in his first 10 games, Wembanyama has cooled off amid two blowout losses, averaging 15.8 points over the past four matchups. But his 28.8 USG% on the season puts him near players like Desmond Bane, Kyrie Irving and Bam Adebayo. At this point, the main flaw in Wembanyama's game is his efficiency, partially brought upon him by a Spurs offense that runs like a hamster wheel when the rest of the league is on nuclear power. The rookie is slashing 42/27/78 and has a rough ratio of 2.5 assists to 3.6 turnovers. I expect both to improve, but his shot diet is ugly. Why is a man who can dunk without jumping taking only 29% of his shots at the rim – comparable rates to Corey Kispert, Max Strus and De'Anthony Melton? He's also one of the league's most voluminous long-mid-range launchers. Eighteen percent of his shots come from long mid-range, the same as Devin Booker, Paul George and Austin Reaves. Again, a lot of this is San Antonio's atrocious spacing, but it's something to consider when hoping his field-goal percentage will improve meaningfully. But hey, he's still returning fourth-round value with 18.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.0 steals.
Part Dennis Rodman, part Andre Iguodala—Thompson has one of the most unique stat profiles in the entire NBA. He's averaging 11.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals and probably one airballed three per game. He cannot shoot. He is 0-for-14 on corner threes and 4-for-15 on non-corner threes. He's also 30-for-43 (69.8%) from the charity stripe, which actually isn't too bad when you consider the inaccuracy of his longball. But he's making up for it with offensive rebounding and defensive XLNC (this is his middle name, and it's Amen's as well). At 6-foot-6, the rookie is sixth in offensive boards per game (3.7), and he's 95th percentile in block percentage (2.8%) for players classified as forwards. His instincts and athleticism work in perfect tandem – the numbers aren't a fluke.
Dereck Lively, Mavericks
After a bit of an inconsistent workload to begin the season, Lively has seen at least 21 minutes in six straight games. He's energetic with good instincts and hands, making him a great pick-and-roll partner with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Ultimately, the rookie is giving you typical traditional center numbers – 8.6 points on 71.0 FG% and 63.6 FT%, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 assists in 24.5 minutes. He's fringy for 10-team category leagues, but probably worth hanging onto in 12-teamers just in case coach Jason Kidd starts feeding him 30 minutes per game.
Nobody knows where to put the emphasis in pronouncing Coulibaly's last name, but it's easy to emphasize what he's been doing on the defensive end. The rookie has at least one steal or block in each of the past five games (while seeing 30.2 MPG), and he's averaging 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes. The rest of his game is a work in progress, though he has good passing instincts with a ratio of 1.9 assists to 1.2 turnovers. One warning: he will not continue to shoot 46.2 percent from three on his 3.0 attempts. Shooting is a weak point for him. Teams are leaving him wide open, but he was just a 33.6 percent shooter from deep last year in France, and he shot just 70.5 percent from the charity stripe.
Jaime Jaquez, Heat
The UCLA product was getting minimal run to begin the year, but injuries thrust him into a bigger role. Over the past six games, he's averaging 13.8 points on 52/46/83 shooting, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals in 32.7 minutes. It's sickening how much of a playstyle/culture match he is with Miami. Jaquez is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades who can fit into a variety of different lineups and never looks like he doesn't belong out there. It's possible his role gets squeezed when Tyler Herro returns, but managers in 12-team formats might want to hang on just to see what happens. I buy Jaquez as a winning player right now, and it won't surprise me if he starts shoulder-checking guys like Kevin Love and Haywood Highsmith out of minutes.
Miller has been fine, but from a fantasy perspective, concern is the easier path than belief. He's scored 20 points only twice – better than Klay Thompson I guess! – and just really isn't providing anything to fantasy managers above replacement level. And this is mostly before the return of Miles Bridges and the impending return of Terry Rozier to steal even more usage. Miller's mid-range looks have been working nicely, but the whole package is resulting in just 13.6 points on 46/32/78 shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 combined steals-plus-blocks in 30.0 minutes. I'm comfortable leaving him on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues, and maybe even 14-teamers if your team is struggling. He's ranked 181st in eight-category formats.
Henderson played just five games before suffering an ankle sprain, with the injury potentially keeping him out until December. His play could be described as "pretty bad". He averaged 8.8 points on 35/10/86 shooting, with a ratio of 4.6 assists to 4.0 turnovers and only 0.8 combined steals-plus-blocks in 28.4 minutes. Certainly, keep him in your IR spot and see what happens when he comes back.
Utah's entire backcourt is a science experiment, and George is the only solution not making the beakers explode. Since being placed in the starting lineup, he's averaging 10.2 points on 31/26/86 shooting, 8.8 assists (only 2.6 TOVs) and 3.4 rebounds in 30.0 minutes. George doesn't profile as an efficient shooter – he averaged 15.3 PPG on 38/34/79 shooting in college at Baylor – so don't expect him to normalize to average percentages. But the passing seems real, as it's translated from Summer League and preseason. Even though he might be killing your percentages, it's worth hanging onto George in a 12-team league due to the assists.
Hawkins is a pure shooter in the sense that he doesn't perform layups. In his 14 games (eight starts), he's made just nine shots at the rim, with 65% of his total field-goal attempts coming from beyond the arc, and another 16% coming from the long mid-range. He's a functional passer, but not a defender. If he's on your fantasy roster, it's for three-point outbursts. That's fine, but he'll probably be a drop sooner than later with the returns of Trey Murphy and CJ McCollum seemingly on the horizon.
Black is seeing extended minutes while Markelle Fultz recovers from knee tendinitis. He was a bizarre selection for an Orlando team desperately in need of shooting. Black is hitting just 29.4 percent of his 1.5 threes per game, failing to make a triple since Nov. 9. His best attribute is his feel for the game.
Marcus Sasser, Pistons
Injuries led to an eight-game stretch where Sasser averaged 12.8 points, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals in 25.8 minutes. He's a microwave scorer and an energetic defender, but he's struggling to find a consistent role as the Pistons get healthier.
Steve Kerr has declared the rookie will be a regular part of the rotation moving forward, even with Steph Curry back and Draymond Green's return looming. It's unlikely the Nico Mannion stunt double does anything fantasy-worthy when everyone is healthy, but keep an eye on him if Warriors players start to miss time again.
Thompson has been out with a sprained ankle after just four appearances. He was struggling to crack 20 minutes, so he's probably a drop if your IR is full since the Rockets are doing just fine without him. Praying for injuries is the only way you'll get value from Amen.
He's shooting 27.1 percent from the field.
Toumani Camara, Trail Blazers
This guy is seeing Toumani minutes! But seriously, the fact that Camara is getting 24.5 minutes per game as the 52nd overall pick tells you exactly where Portland is as a team. He's a defender (1.5 steals-plus-blocks) and an offensive rebounder (1.8 ORB). But he has an 11.8 USG% and is shooting 23.5 percent from three.