Few things are better than the NBA. It’s a game of constant action mixed with highlight reel plays and plenty of drama built into the season. Of course, fantasy basketball is arguably a little more interesting. After all, you get all the good parts of regular basketball, but then you also get to be GM in a sense as well.
One of the best aspects of fantasy basketball is preparing for the draft each year and trying to figure out which rookies will make huge impacts. Sometimes you have to reach for them early and they don’t pay off, while other times you snag one in the middle or late rounds and they end up being a steal.
It’s a bit of a dance, but it never gets old. That’s especially true with the crop coming out of the 2014 NBA Draft, as this was easily one of the more jam-packed classes in terms of pure talent.
Several players are going to lobby for huge roles right out of the gates, which could make for some really nice fantasy value. Let’s break down the top-five:
1. Jabari Parker, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Parker wasn’t taken first in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he should be the first rookie off the boards when fantasy basketball leagues draft. Parker needs to progress as a defender, but offensively has the tools to be a superstar. We could see that early in terms of scoring and getting rebounds, while his position versatility could also come into play. The Bucks will still be bad, but Parker is the rookie you’ll want on your fantasy roster this year.
2. Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Randle is without a doubt the second best rookie option in fantasy basketball leagues, as he has the size and sheer physicality to play with the big boys right away. L.A. just has Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer to seriously contend with him for minutes, so there’s really no reason to delay him from starting and playing a ton. He has some nice touch around the rim and carries a ton of upside on both ends.
3. Nerlens Noel, F/C, Philadelphia 76ers
Wait a second, Noel was drafted in 2013, right? Sure, but he didn’t play at all last year thanks to a torn ACL, making the 2014-15 NBA season his true rookie year. We’ve all seen enough out of him in summer league action to know he’s a double-double threat waiting to happen, while he should also make a significant impact as a shot-blocker on the defensive end. His offense will be a work in progress, but overall Noel offers a ton of upside as a young option in fantasy basketball leagues.
4. Elfrid Payton, PG, Orlando Magic
Jameer Nelson is gone and the rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette looks to be taking over lead point guard duties in Orlando. Payton has been a mixed bag in summer league action, as he’s shown an ability to lead an offense and rack up stats across the board, but he also turns the ball over a bit too much and lacks legit three-point range. He has immense upside and currently only has Luke Ridnour as competition for minutes though. He’s a strong candidate for rookie of the year and should have nightly fantasy value.
5. Doug McDermott, F, Chicago Bulls
I know, where is Andrew Wiggins, right? Well, playing on a team with two scoring studs like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will drop you down a peg or two. That, and Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson are going to get shots up as well. Unless this whole trade rumor mess involving Wiggins going to Minnesota for Kevin Love comes to fruition, Wiggins might not hold a ton of value as a rookie.
Cue Dougie McBuckets, who already displayed his elite shooting and solid scoring ability in summer league play. At the very worst, McDermott is another Kyle Korver with better size and strength that can rebound. At his best, he’s a legit small forward, part-time stretch four and a balanced scorer. Either way, he’s high among the potential rookies making an impact in fantasy basketball. He’ll just need to find a way past Mike Dunleavy for minutes first.