|ESPN.com: 2008||[Print without images]|
This is an exercise that some folks may have performed a few years back when drafting high school stars was all the rage, and we quickly came to realize that most kids who came directly out of high school took a few years to develop at the NBA level. Of course, there were some exceptions, but the fantasy community learned -- sometimes the hard way -- not to overrate the youngsters who made the leap directly from high school to the pros. Now we are faced with a similar dilemma, with a slight twist. Will the same trends hold true for the youngsters who now have one year of college ball under their belt?
Before we start examining recent history, let's take a quick look at the college freshmen who have filed for early entry for the 2008 NBA draft:
|Freshmen who declared for 2008 NBA draft|
|Michael Beasley||Kansas State||Top 2|
|Derrick Rose||Memphis||Top 2|
|O.J. Mayo||USC||Top 5|
|Jerryd Bayless||Arizona||Top 5|
|Eric Gordon||Indiana||Top 10|
|Kevin Love||UCLA||Top 10|
|Anthony Randolph||LSU||Top 15|
|DeAndre Jordan||Texas A&M||Top 15|
|Donte' Greene||Syracuse||Top 15|
|Kosta Koufos||Ohio State||Top 20|
|Bill Walker||Kansas State||Late First Round|
|J.J. Hickson||NC State||Late First Round|
|Davon Jefferson||USC||Early Second Round|
|Freshmen from 2007 NBA draft|
|Player||Pick||07-08 Player Rater||Minutes PG|
|Mike Conley found the NBA to be a tall order as a rookie, as evidenced by his inconsistency.|
These aren't the only players who have struggled making the leap to the NBA after just one college season recently. In 2006-07, first-round draft picks Tyrus Thomas (13.4 minutes) and Shawne Williams (12.1 minutes) were buried on their respective benches for most of their rookie seasons. In 2005-06, UNC's freshman sensation Marvin Williams bolted for the pros, but posted just 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 24.7 minutes for the Hawks. In 2004, two freshmen, Luol Deng and Kris Humphries, were drafted in the first round. Deng had a nice season, averaging 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 27.3 minutes, but we are still waiting for Humphries to deliver on the promise he showed when he was selected with the 14th overall pick.
|As a rookie, Carmelo Anthony was able to step right in and be a fantasy force, scoring 25 or more points on 30 occasions.|
I realize that I have painted a somewhat gloomy picture here, but be sure to keep in mind that for every 10 players who do not get it done in their rookie season, there are usually one or two who can come in and contribute right away. How can we tell which players will contribute immediately? For me, it's all about how NBA-ready a player is, and how many minutes he'll be able to secure in his rookie season. Athleticism counts, but a successful rookie will need to have a refined game as well. Look at Durant, Deng, Anthony and Bosh. All had the athleticism, but they were also much more advanced than their counterparts as far as their basketball skills were concerned. And, of course, all four earned ample playing time early in their careers.
So don't go ignoring a Michael Beasley or a Derrick Rose just because some fantasy analyst told you there's a high failure rate for young players coming into the NBA. We have to evaluate each player on a case-by-case basis. It doesn't matter if they are college freshmen or college seniors. What really matters is how NBA-ready their games are, and how many minutes they'll receive right off the bat. Remember, minutes are the key to fantasy success. That said, without knowing where each player will land, it's almost impossible to project which rookies will have the most fantasy impact, so we'll have to revisit this topic over the summer to give you an idea of which rookies will make the biggest fantasy splash in 2008-09.
Brian McKitish is an award-winning fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com.