Rookies? No thank you.

Did a fantasy NBA draft last night. One question kept coming up. There were several different versions of it, but they all followed the same basic formula:

"Do you think INSERT ROOKIE NAME HERE will win the starting job in NBA CITY?"

My answer to most was, "No. Not right away."

Now, this has nothing to do with my general disdain for NBA rookies in fantasy leagues. Well, it does a little. Rookies are unpredictable. They're prone to turnovers. They hit "the wall." The ones that are productive - Landry Fields, in the first two months of 2010-11, for example - aren't the ones you'd want to chase on draft night anyway. Generally, I might take a flier on a rookie or two late in a draft, but I'd much rather have a second or third year player with room to improve.

This year, though, my general disdain is working overtime. And unsurprisingly, it is lockout-related.
  • The 2011 draft class doesn't have any obvious, can't miss superstars at the top. That's at least partly lockout-related, as guys like Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger opted to stay in school rather than deal with the uncertainty.
  • The work stoppage killed the summer leagues, will shorten training camps and compress the preseason to just two games. That doesn't give rookies much of an opportunity to win jobs.
  • Then there's the compressed schedule. Teams will be playing more back-to-backs and even the occasional stretch with three games in three nights. That won't allow for much in-season practice time, which could slow rookies' transition to the pros.

Add to that the fact that most of the top picks in this year's class face serious competition for minutes. Kyrie Irving will split time with Baron Davis (assuming Davis isn't amnestied). Derrick Williams is just one of about 14 forwards on the Timberwolves roster. Enes Kanter is in the mix with Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap - and he hasn't played competitive ball in over a year. Tristan Thompson could apprentice behind Antawn Jamison, and Jan Vesely behind Rashard Lewis. Jonas Valanciunas will play one more year in Europe (which gives me a little time to get comfortable typing his name, thank goodness). Bismack Biyombo is super-raw, and Brandon Knight could be in a time-share with Rodney Stuckey.

There's your top eight picks.


Of course, that's not to say that I'm ruling out every rookie in this year's class. Kemba Walker will get heavy minutes, I think... mostly because Charlotte's roster is laughably thin. (Paul Silas told reporters he's hoping Corey Maggette will shoulder the scoring load this season. Good luck with that.) Jimmer Fredette will also get a lot of run, partly because the Kings wanted him as much for marketing purposes as for his outstanding jump shot. Utah's Alec Burks and New Jersey's Marshon Brooks landed with teams desperate for shooting guard help; both could be good options. Kenneth Faried could be a much more important player; with Wilson Chandler, JR Smith and Kenyon Martin locked into Chinese-league contracts, Denver is going to need warm bodies. And the buzz surrounding Iman Shumpert has been unrelentingly positive; it certainly wouldn't kill the Knicks give minutes to a decent perimeter defender.

An interesting rookie sleeper: center Jerome Jordan. Ex-ESPN talking head Chris Sheridan was talking up Jordan's work overseas this week and even called him a potential rookie of the year candidate.


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