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Early Fantasy Basketball Rookie Rankings

Hector Gabino/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Rookies often show their value late in the season, once they receive ample opportunity to display their skill set. But there are usually a handful that magnify their worth throughout their rookie campaign. The 2015-16 season features such players, and there could be a few that should develop into fantasy studs in the coming years.

It’s time to digest the first fantasy basketball rookie rankings for 2015-16. Which players have risen to the top?

5. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets

Stats: 11.7 PPG, 31.3 FG%, 67.7 FT%, 0.8 3PM, 3.6 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG

This was an extremely tough call between Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell. Russell (No. 121) actually ranks higher on ESPN’s Player Rater than Mudiay (No. 156), largely due to Mudiay’s absolutely awful percentages. This inefficiency is especially concerning in rotisserie leagues. And yet, I still find myself choosing Mudiay over Russell because Mudiay is providing more bulk in terms of scoring, assists and steals. Mudiay is also boasting an impressive usage at 27.0 percent, compared to Russell at 20.4 percent. While I fully believe Russell will end up being the better fantasy player in the future, I’m skeptical of his value this year due to a clogged backcourt in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams. You know Kobe is going to get his shots up in his last season, and Clarkson and Williams will also minimize Russell’s touches. As a result, I foresee Russell’s fantasy upside being limited all year. Mudiay, on the other hand, could improve upon his efficiency and should at least have the opportunity to provide steady assists, steals and acceptable points. I’d ride with him over Russell in head-to-head leagues, but I doubt I’ll feel this way in a few years.

4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brooklyn Nets

Stats: 5.4 PPG, 49.4 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 0.1 3PM, 6.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Hollis-Jefferson’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s becoming a quality source of steals and rebounds who also supplies a respectable field goal mark. He’s ranked No. 138 on Player Rater, but when examining the last 15 days, he slides into the No. 81 slot. He’s seen his minutes per game increase as of late, and he’s made the most of it with a couple double-doubles and two five-steal outings. Hollis-Jefferson isn’t much of a scorer, as he falls into the category of a “slasher” on the offensive end. But he does have sneaky value because of what he tallies in terms of steals, as well as a good rebounding clip from the small-forward position. Plus, he’s amidst a favorable situation on a poor Nets team who has every reason to throw plenty of minutes at the youngster as the season progresses. Over the long term, Hollis-Jefferson could become even more resourceful if his offensive game develops, and perhaps that’ll begin to happen as the 2015-16 season unfolds.

3. Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers

Stats: 17.2 PPG, 46.0 FG%, 67.1 FT%, 8.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 1.6 BPG

Okafor’s numbers are arguably the most impressive on this list at first glance. His scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking stats are noteworthy. However, he sits at just No. 77 on Player Rater. Big men ahead of him include Zaza Pachulia, Roy Hibbert, Jared Sullinger and Gorgui Dieng. This illustrates that while Okafor is producing at an effective rate for a rookie, he still has some glaring weaknesses. You could even make the argument that his stat line contains a smidge of fool’s gold. The scoring and rebounding are superb and should continue since he’s playing for the lowly 76ers. But his field goal and free throw percentages are underwhelming, and he’s also turning the ball over nearly three times per game. Efficiency is lacking in Okafor’s offensive output, and you’re going to have to live with some blemishes as his owner. His recent off-the-court scuffles that resulted in a two-game suspension are also a bit concerning. Despite the concerns, there’s so much potential in his game, and we’ve only seen a glimmer of what he can do. With some maturity and development, Okafor could become a legitimate top-tier fantasy center in the coming years.

2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Stats: 13.9 PPG, 50.7 FG%, 83.7 FT%, 0.2 3PM, 9.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.2 BPG

A few weeks ago, Towns appeared to have the No. 1 spot on this list locked for the whole season, but the last couple weeks have presented concerns for Towns owners. His minutes have been reduced, and this comes after he produced double-doubles in eight of his first 12 games. This has been a rather perplexing development, and he’s even sat the entire fourth quarter for three consecutive games. Despite this, he still ranks No. 23 overall on Player Rater, which amplifies how ridiculously amazing Towns is when given sufficient minutes. In comparison to Okafor, Towns tallies relatively similar numbers, but he does so with efficiency, particularly from the charity stripe. He also accumulates rebounds and blocks at an elite rate. Towns has the potential to approach Anthony Davis-like numbers in a few years, and if given around 30 MPG, he’s a top-tier center at the moment. Unfortunately, his worth appears fairly uncertain in the near future, and owners can only hope he starts earning more playing time late in games.

1. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks

Stats: 13.8 PPG, 43.2 FG%, 83.1 FT%, 0.9 3PM, 9.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.0 BPG

Amidst Towns’s recent regression, Porzingis has stepped to the forefront as the league’s best fantasy rookie. He’s currently ranked No. 28 on Player Rater, and he leaps to No. 16 when examining the last 15 days. Porzingis’s line is remarkably comparable to Towns, but while Zinger is less accurate from the field, he’s cashing nearly a trey per outing. This is coming from a man who stands 7-3. He’s a 7-3 beast in the paint who can also step out to the perimeter and splash a jumper. Have we ever seen this before? Porzingis has also made a statement with some physicality in the interior that can be noted in his rebounding and shot-blocking efforts. He doesn’t appear to be too “soft,” and it’s evident that his potential is through the roof. Fantasy owners should be pleasantly surprised at his current production, and this doesn’t figure to slow down. He’s received over 35 minutes in four of New York’s last six games, and he’s made the most of this stretch with four double-doubles and two games with at least six blocks. Zinger, like Towns, should be a fantasy force for many years to come. There’s already so much to like, and the dude is just 20 years old.

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