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Fantasy Basketball Rookie Review Part II: Examining best of the rest

Los Angeles LakersKyle Kuzma  has greatly outperformed his ADP (135). (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

By Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports

After reviewing the lottery picks last week, let’s examine the rest of the key fantasy rookies from the 2017-18 NBA season.

Part II: Picks 15-30

Prospects listed in order of draft selection and stats through April 9 action. 

Justin Jackson, Kings

For the most part, Jackson endured the ups-and-downs of what was an unpredictable Kings’ rotation. With the exception of a few stretches in November and December, Jackson has been a fixture in the rotation, averaging 22.0 minutes per game for the season. While he’s converted better than 55 percent of his two-point looks, Jackson has hit just 31.8 percent from three, a relatively disappointing number considering he made 37 percent of his three as a junior at North Carolina. Fantasy-wise, Jackson was only a marginal contributor, and he’ll finish the year with roughly two percent ownership in Yahoo leagues.

Justin Patton, Timberwolves

As expected, Patton missed the bulk of the season while working back from a torn ACL. He made his NBA debut on April 1, playing four minutes in a blowout loss to Utah, but he hasn’t played since and will not be a part of the playoff rotation.

D.J. Wilson, Bucks

Wilson was among the more under-developed first-round selections, but the fact that he made almost no impact for a team in need of wing help speaks to his overall rawness. The 22-year-old has appeared in only 22 games heading into Wednesday’s season finale, and the vast majority of his minutes have come in garbage time situations. In 11 appearances for the Wisconsin Herd of the G League, Wilson posted averages of 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 combined steals/blocks, while shooting 34 percent from three.

[NBA Playoffs Bracket Challenge: $1M for the perfect bracket]

T.J. Leaf, Pacers

After beginning the year in the regular rotation — 13.7 MPG from Oct. 18 to Nov. 12 — Leaf gradually fell out of favor, racking up DNP-CDs on a consistent basis beginning in early February. The UCLA product was never expected to be a major contributor, though, and he showed enough flashes to inspire some long-term optimism. While he still has significant work to do on his body, Leaf is an above-average athlete for his profile, and he’s drained better than 46 percent of his 39 three-point attempts on the season. 

John Collins, Hawks

After the draft, I wrote that Collins may be in the best basketball situation of any non-lottery rookie, and perhaps with the exception of Kyle Kuzma and OG Anunoby, that turned out to be the case. It was clear from Game 1 that the Hawks weren’t going to contend, but coach Mike Budenholzer still kept Collins on a relatively tight leash — at least until the Hawks bought out Ersan Ilyasova after the All-Star break.

In the 20 games since, Collins is averaging 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 combined steals/blocks, while shooting 57.2 percent from three and flashing increased comfortability (34.6% 3PT, 1.3 3PA/G) from beyond the arc. Collins, who will finish the season with 74 games played, ranks just outside the top-80 in Yahoo leagues, making him roughly as valuable as Derrick Favors or James Johnson.

Harry Giles, Kings

Giles did not play this season while working back from surgery on both knees. The former No. 1 overall recruit, who once drew comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire, remains a mystery, but at this point his ceiling looks to be considerably lower than it was a year or two ago.

Terrance Ferguson, Thunder

One of the biggest mysteries in the draft, Ferguson ended up playing a bigger role as a rookie than most anticipated. Ferguson, who spent what would have been his freshman year playing professionally in Australia, made some cameos as the starting shooting guard in January, and while he relinquished the spot in rather short order, Ferguson held his own as one of the youngest players in the NBA (he’ll turn 20 next month). It’s still too early to gauge Ferguson’s long-term potential, but he’s already one of the 10 best athletes in the league, even if he has some major work to do in terms of skill development.

Jarrett Allen, Nets

Much like Collins, Allen had to initially wait his turn before being unleashed later in the season. Allen didn’t start a game until late-January, but he’s started 29 of Brooklyn’s last 30 games, with averages of 10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks over that span. A wiry, springy athlete, Allen will need to add weight, but he already finishes well inside (61.7% FG), with better than two-third of his looks coming from within three feet of the basket. Allen will close the season as a top-150 player in Yahoo leagues.

OG Anunoby, Raptors

Back in June, there was a chance Anunoby would spend much of the season rehabbing the knee injury that robbed him of most of his sophomore year at Indiana. Instead, Anunoby played on opening night and moved into the starting lineup less than a month later. He’s on pace to play 74 games and will have a good chance to be one of 19 rookies to average 20 minutes per game. That said, Anunoby has been much more valuable in a real basketball sense, as opposed to fantasy. He’s shot the ball efficiently from the field (46.9% FG) and from three (36.9% 3PT), but the volume hasn’t been significant enough to offset his relatively meager contributions — 4.4 TRB, 1.3 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.3 BLK per-36 —  in the other counting categories.

Tyler Lydon, Nuggets

Lydon appeared in only one game for the Nuggets before undergoing season-ending knee surgery in January. 

Caleb Swanigan, Trail Blazers

Thought to be among the more NBA-ready prospects in the 2017 class, Swanigan earned somewhat of a stable spot in the rotation out of camp, playing double-digit minutes five times before the end of November. Swanigan struggled to find his footing, however, and ultimately ended up bouncing back and forth between the G League and a spot on the end of the bench. In 14 games for the Canton Charge, Swanigan averaged 14.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.0 combined steals/blocks. With the G League season wrapped up, Swanigan has seen minutes in five of the Blazers’ last six games heading into Wednesday’s season finale, but he’s unlikely to be much of a factor in the postseason.

Kyle Kuzma, Lakers

The start of Kuzmania can be traced back to the combine in May of last year, where Kuzma was the best player on the floor in day one of open scrimmages. He played so well that he didn’t return for day two, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Fast forward 11 months and Kuzma has taken the torch from Draymond Green as the player NBA executives will tell you they were this close to picking on draft night. Heading into Tuesday’s season finale — which Kuzma will miss with a sprained ankle — Kuzma is virtual lock to finish in the top five of Rookie of the Year voting.

Here are his ranks, among rookies:

Points per game: 2nd

Rebounds per game: 5th

Made threes per game: 3rd

Made field goals per game: 3rd

Three-point percentage: 2nd

Minutes per game: 4th 

Kuzma has been nearly as valuable to fantasy owners as he’s been to the Lakers. As of Tuesday, Kuzma ranks as the 75th-best player in Yahoo leagues, despite his profile as a fairly limited contributor outside of scoring, three-pointers and rebounds. He’s on pace to outperform his ADP (135) by 60 draft slots.

Tony Bradley, Jazz

Bradley was always going to be a project player as a rookie, and he’s accordingly spent much of the year in the G League, logging time in just nine games for the NBA club. In 24 starts for the Salt Lake City Stars, Bradley averaged 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.

Derrick White, Spurs

As is the case with any Spurs rookie, White was liable to be randomly thrown into the fire on any night, but his opportunities have been fairly limited with the NBA club. He’s appeared in 17 games, most notably scoring in double-figures in back-to-back contests in early-February. The 23-year-old has made more of a mark in the G League, where he averaged 20.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks in 24 games for the Austin Spurs. 

Josh Hart, Lakers

The least-heralded of the Lakers’ three first-rounders, Hart will end up playing 10 more games than Lonzo Ball and will finish among the top 20 in minutes among rookies. Hart’s season-long averages — 7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists per game –don’t jump off the page, but he’s hit better than 46 percent of his field goals and 38 percent of his threes, while demonstrating the ability to play both guard spots. Since the start of February (16 games), Hart is averaging 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists with 50/42/73 shooting splits, though he did miss nearly the entire month of March with a broken hand.

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