It's not quite the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant debate of a year ago, but Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose will give Oden and Durant a run for their money, at least as far as the fantasy game is concerned. Matching the Oden/Durant hype machine will be nearly impossible -- heck, I even saw both go in the third round of one early "expert" draft last year -- but I'd argue that the overhype last year might be a good thing for fantasy owners looking to snag Beasley or Rose at a reasonable price in 2008-09.
There's no denying that Durant was slightly overrated among the fantasy crowd at the start of his first professional season. His end-of-year statistics put him 49th overall on the player rater, which was only slightly worse than his average draft position (43rd). Still, I can't help but feel that many expected more out of Durant, particularly in the nonscoring categories. Most folks I have talked to have viewed Durant's first fantasy season as a bit of a disappointment. As a result, some owners might shy away from overhyped rookies this year and an opportunity for value might present itself.
That said, old habits are tough to break, and rookies are almost always overvalued in fantasy hoops. There's emphasis on "almost" because certain players can have a major impact in their rookie years. Chris Paul, Al Horford, Charlie Villanueva, Brandon Roy and Emeka Okafor are recent examples of rookies who were able to live up to the hype or even outperform their expectations as rookies. So, which group will Beasley and Rose belong to? Only time will tell, but my initial thoughts are that both have the potential to live up to the hype and provide solid returns next season. Let's take a closer look at the two prospects.
Fantasy comparison: Dirk Nowitzki -- Beasley's real-life game is much more rugged than Dirk's, but if we're going by pure statistical analysis, it's hard not notice the similarities between the two, particularly their ability to contribute in 3-pointers, steals and blocks while shooting a high percentage from the floor.
Fantasy positives: From a fantasy perspective, there's not much to complain about here. Beasley is a born scorer with a soft touch around the rim and the ability to extend his game past the 3-point line. Simply put, there's not much he can't do on the offensive end. He's also a terrific rebounder on the offensive and defensive ends, and he's strong enough physically to contribute on the boards right away. The wild card here will be how well Beasley can adjust to the NBA on the defensive end. With his length, he certainly has the potential to be a one-steal, one-block type of player, but I'm not sure he'll be able to put up those type of defensive numbers initially.
Fantasy negatives: We don't expect many assists from our big men, but if there are any complaints about Beasley's fantasy prospects, it pretty much starts and ends with his inability to create open looks for his teammates. There is an off chance he might struggle from the floor in the early going, especially if he settles for jumpers around the perimeter, as he did at times at Kansas State. This might present a slight problem in terms of his field goal percentage, but as mentioned before, he should still be an efficient scorer thanks to his soft touch. One last concern surrounding Beasley is his defensive production. He has been criticized for a lack of focus and intensity on the defensive end, and I wouldn't be surprised to see his defensive numbers lag behind his offensive numbers early in his career.
Upside potential: Going back to the Dirk comparison, Beasley projects to be a better rebounder than Nowitzki, and he could (and should) turn into a perennial 20-point, 10-rebound stud on a night-to-night basis in the NBA. If he progresses, he also should be able to create some steals, block some shots and extend his game past the 3-point line. With that said, we could be looking at a player who has the potential to average 20-22 points and 10-12 rebounds with a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in the future. That's about as good as it gets in the fantasy game, and if Beasley lives up to his potential, we could be looking at a future first-round fantasy selection in as few as 3-5 years.
Rookie season outlook: Whether he lands with the Chicago Bulls or the Miami Heat, Beasley figures to receive ample playing time in his rookie season. He already has an NBA-ready body, and his offensive skills are already more advanced than those of some veterans. If the Bulls pull the trigger on Beasley (and they should, based on need), he immediately will become a go-to scorer in the post. Chicago lacked a low-post scoring presence last season, and despite Beasley's age, his game is more refined than those of Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. Thomas, Noah and Drew Gooden would take a hit in value as Beasley will crowd the situation and gobble up a ton of rebounds under the glass. The rest of the lineup should benefit from the addition of a high-impact scorer such as Beasley, particularly Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
If Beasley falls to the Heat, I'd expect a similar type of outlook. Provided that both Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion are healthy, Beasley would have less pressure on him to be "the man," but he would become the third scoring option and would still get plenty of looks on the offensive end. Udonis Haslem still would see plenty of playing time, but Beasley's presence would hurt Haslem's fantasy prospects in 2008-09.
I'd expect something along the lines of 15-17 points, 10 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.9 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers if Beasley lands with the Bulls, and similar stats with perhaps slightly fewer points on the Heat (provided that Wade and Marion are fully healthy).
Fantasy comparison: Dwyane Wade -- Rose is more of a pure point guard than Wade, but his athleticism is comparable, as is his somewhat shaky outside jumper.
Fantasy positives: Rose's athleticism and upside are absolutely off the charts, and there is little doubt he immediately will become one of the league's most athletic point guards. Although his jump shot needs some work, Rose excels at using his quickness to create his own shot and get to the basket, where he's a fantastic finisher. All those high-percentage dunks should help offset his weak jumper and help him to post an above-average field goal percentage for a point guard. There is no doubt Rose will be a top-of-the-line rebounder for a point guard, as he can sky for rebounds and has the quickness and motor to run down loose boards a la Jason Kidd. You might not know it by looking at his stats at Memphis, but Rose has a pass-first mentality, and he has great court vision, especially on the fast break. His assist totals should skyrocket in the NBA. Lastly, with just a little improvement, Rose has the potential to be a lockdown defender with the ability to create a ton of steals thanks to his quickness and tenacity.
Fantasy negatives: Just by looking at Rose's stats at Memphis, it's not hard to see his fantasy deficiencies. Let's start with the easy one: He's not a great free-throw shooter by point guard standards at just 71.2 percent. I typically like to have my point guards hit at least 80 percent or better from the line, but I'll make an exception for a talent such as Rose. The one big knock on Rose is his inconsistent outside jump shot. He shot just 33.7 percent from downtown at the college level, which doesn't bode well for his prospects from the NBA 3-point line. Again, that's an area I am able to overlook, but only if he can play within himself and keep his field goal percentage high by not extending himself past his range. Wade excels at this, and we can hope Rose will follow suit.
Upside potential: The upside here is limitless, especially if Rose can refine his perimeter game. He's just 19 years old, so there is plenty of time for him to progress in that area. Many scouts are comparing him to a cross between Deron Williams and Paul, and I'd concur with those sentiments. Down the line, we could be looking at averages like this: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 8-plus assists, 1.5 steals -- and perhaps an even better line. Rose might take a little more time to develop than Beasley, but as I said before, the upside is off the charts.
Rookie season outlook: Like Beasley, Rose has an NBA-ready body, and he is athletic enough to contribute right away. However, because the point guard position is a slightly more difficult position to adjust to at the NBA level, Rose might initially go through more growing pains than Beasley. Remember, even Deron Williams struggled in his rookie season. Even so, Rose's upside is almost too tempting to pass on, especially if you can land him in the middle rounds.
Rose's fantasy prospects are much more promising in 2008-09 if he ends up falling to the Heat at No. 2. He would immediately supplant Jason Williams, Chris Quinn and Marcus Banks as the starting point guard and would team with Wade as the league's most athletic and exciting backcourt. With his court vision and two great finishers in Wade and Marion, Rose easily could average six to seven assists as a rookie. If he does end up landing with the Heat, I'd expect him to see at least 30 minutes per game and to post something along the lines of 13-14 points, 5 rebounds, 6-7 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
If Chicago decides to go with Rose, the homegrown talent, with the first overall pick, projecting this situation becomes slightly more difficult. Most will agree that Rose is an upgrade over Hinrich, but we could be looking at a time-share if Hinrich isn't dealt, and we all know what time-shares can do to a player's fantasy value. Of course, the Bulls could trade Hinrich and all would be right in the world, but this is really a topic that we'll have to revisit later on in the offseason.
Brian McKitish is an award-winning fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com.