• When thinking through a rookie dynasty draft, it is easy to get enamored with the big name lottery prospects, and rightly so. An analysis on the outcome of picks one through eight since 1980 reveals that 77 percent of players picked number one overall make an All-Star team at some point in their career. However, that number drops of precipitously as you move on from the number one pick: No. 2 (34 percent); No. 3 (49 percent); No. 4 (29 percent); No. 5 (31 percent); No. 6 (20 percent); No. 7 (20 percent); No. 8 (11 percent).

    While those numbers still do indicate that – in general – the higher the draft selection the more likely that player is to excel in the NBA, there are plenty of instances of non-lottery players and even second-round selections that went on to become All-Star caliber players. Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic, Marc Gasol, Isaiah Thomas, Manu Ginobili and Paul Millsap are just a few recent second-round selections that fit that bill.

    If we look even further down the list of second-round selections, you will see plenty of solid rotation-level players (and regular top-100 fantasy contributors) like Trevor Ariza, Khris Middleton, Patrick Beverley, DeAndre Jordan and Jerami Grant. Of course, for every one of these players there are at least two that never play meaningful minutes in the NBA, but I say all of this to point out that there can still be fantasy gold buried outside of the relatively small list of blue chip prospects that enter the league each year.

    There isn’t any one reason why these types of players escape the keen eye of NBA front office scouts, but often it can come down to measurables and perpetuating group-think. Some players’ stocks may have slipped due to a general reluctance to draft European prospects over perceptions of them being “soft” (a trend that is fading). For others, it may be that they are deemed “too old, too short, position-less, or un-athletic.” Whenever we see these tags haphazardly slapped on players without much qualification, it is wise to do some digging and see for yourself if unique and transcendent talent may allow these players to shine in the NBA regardless of their perceived shortcomings.

    In this first installment looking at rookie sleepers, we will focus on two North Carolina players that I think are flying a bit below the radar and have the potential to make an impact in dynasty leagues within their first few years in the league. As the tournament rolls on, stay tuned for additional deep dives on players outside of the lottery, big name player profiles and an overview on how I attempt to project fantasy value from college stats.

    Before we get into it, you can build a FREE bracket and compete for your share of $64,000 during this year’s tournament! That’s right, NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED, thanks to our partnership with DraftKings. Make sure to submit your bracket by tipoff on March 21st. Sign up right here!!!

    Coby White, G, North Carolina

    AGE: 19-years-old

    2018-2019 Per-Game Averages: 28.2 minutes, 16.3 PTS, 2.4 3P, 3.4 RBS, 4.2 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.3 BLK (43.1% FG / 36% 3P / 81.4% FT)

    If White has a strong performance in the tournament, there may not be much room for upside on White as a “sleeper” prospect in dynasty rookie drafts. The 19-year-old freshman guard has exceeded all expectations this season with his dynamic offensive contributions and continued evolution as a lead guard.

    He came into the season billed as a scoring-centric combo guard, not quite skilled enough of a facilitator to be considered a point guard, but not quite long enough to play effectively off the ball on the wing at the NBA level. However, as the season wore on, White has continued to demonstrate an improved ability to run the point and orchestrate the Tar Heels’ offensive attack. Is he ready to be a starting point guard in the NBA at this point? Probably not, but his development over the season gives me some optimism that he could eventually take on that role in the NBA.

    White can be prone to some stretches of tunnel vision, and when he is looking to get his teammates involved he sometimes telegraphs his passes and gets a bit careless with the ball (his subpar 1.49 assist/turnover ratio as evidence), but these are hopefully issues that NBA coaching can address. His growth as a point guard is not a neat linear trajectory, but instead a bumpy landscape with many segments of taking two steps forward, and then one step back. With that said, the trajectory is still pointing up, regardless of setbacks, and that is due in large part to his White’s commitment to filling holes in his game and evolving into more than just a scoring threat.

    Despite the improvement, White’s play as a facilitator won’t land him in the lottery, but his natural ability as a scorer just may. As a 36 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he isn’t exactly the picture of true value-added efficiency like his teammate Cameron Johnson, but a few big outlier games are largely to blame for the somewhat pedestrian shooting percentages that were hovering closer to 39 percent prior to ACC tournament play. He has demonstrated the range to pull up and bury big shots from well beyond the 3-point line and excels at creating his own space to score at all three levels.

    While he won’t likely be profiled as one of the more “elite” athletes in the draft, White has a quick first step and the ability to stop and change direction just as quickly, an ability that frequently puts opposing defenders off balance and on their heels. He excels at pushing the pace and his offensive ability truly shines when running in transition.

    While White can be a dominant offensive force playing off the ball in halfcourt sets and leading with the ball in transition, he may never be an elite pick and roll player at the NBA level, and that’s okay. Even if he never thrives as a lead guard, White has plenty of ability as a floor spacer, natural scorer, and secondary wing facilitator to contribute at the next level.

    White is one of my favorite high-upside prospects currently sitting outside of the lottery discussion, and I’d easily consider drafting him in the 15-25 range for dynasty rookie drafts. There are certainly safer options out there available in that range, but White’s untapped upside and potential to blossom into a multi-category fantasy producer is worth the gamble, especially if his draft price stays relatively cheap.

    Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina

    AGE: 23 years-old

    2018 – 2019 Per-Game Averages: 29.7 minutes, 16.9 PTS, 2.6 3P, 5.8 RBS, 2.3 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.3 BLK (50.8%/46.5%/80.4%)

    The most recognizable NBA draft prognosticators are all over the map on Cameron Johnson. The most recent Sports Illustrated big board (as of 3/19/19) has Johnson at number 60; ESPN has him at number 21; and CBS Sports slots Johnson in at number 33.  That probably has a lot to do with the fact that he has battled several knee and hip injuries and is one of the older prospects in this draft at 23 years old after playing five years of NCAA basketball. I still think there is room for Johnson to grow at the next level, but even if he is nearing the top of his development curve, he still has the look of a solid rotation-level NBA player who knows his role and plays it well.

    The first thing that immediately jumps out looking at Johnson is his elite, and I mean seriously elite, 3-point shooting. He is knocking down an absurd 46.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, which contributes in large part to his 64.6 true shooting percentage (a metric that combines 2-point percentage, 3-point percentage and FT percentage to more accurately reflect a player’s overall scoring efficiency). Johnson’s gravity from beyond the arc is hard to overstate, however it almost always seems to come within the flow of the Tar Heels’ offensive scheme. He has proven capable of providing a spark when the offensive attack sputters, but is able to do so without bludgeoning his way into the flow of things.

    While I would consider his mostly complimentary style of offense to be generally a positive aspect of his game (weird to say about someone who leads his team in scoring), he does have an extreme reliance on others get looks from beyond the arc. He is assisted on 92 percent of his 3-point conversions, indicating a general lack of ability to create his own shot. I’m not sure he needs to become a dominant offensive force at the NBA level to be a successful rotation player, but expanding his ability to create space for himself and hit more pull-up shots would add another level to his game.

    There are also concerns about Johnson’s athleticism and ability to defend at the next level, but he has shown some improvement on the defensive side of the ball this season with his 0.8 increase in steal percentage (now up to a respectable 2.1 percent) and two-point increase in his defensive box plus/minus score (now up to 3.4). He may never become an elite wing defender at the NBA level, but his length combined with a steady improvement in that area throughout his college career gives me some hope that he can develop into a plus defender in the NBA depending on which players surround him.

    His fantasy profile is currently that of a 3-point specialist with some added upside as a rebound and steals generator (averaging 5.8 and 1.2 per game respectively). I generally tend to downgrade pure 3-point specialists in my rookie rankings, but as players like Landry Shamet continue to show, there is a place in the league on just about any team for an efficient 3-point scoring threat regardless of real or perceived defensive shortcomings. For dynasty managers, I wouldn’t necessarily peg him as a worth a top-20 pick in rookie drafts, but if you are risk averse and are looking for a player that has a chance at making an impact right away, Johnson can be slotted in the pick 20-30 range.

Fantasy News

  • Allonzo Trier
    PG, New York Knicks

    Allonzo Trier (concussion) has been ruled out of his next two games vs. the Kings and Nuggets.

    He was doubtful just a couple of hours ago but it looks like the Knicks are going to play things safe with him. Kadeem Allen is being summoned to play in the game vs. the Knicks with Trier and Wayne Ellington also out.

    Source: Marc Berman on Twitter

  • JaMychal Green
    PF, Los Angeles Clippers

    JaMychal Green (tailbone) has been ruled out on Friday vs. the Wolves.

    This will be Green's fifth straight missed game and he will join Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Landry Shamet on the sideline tonight. The Clippers will be very short handed but with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George they're still better equipped than most teams.

    Source: Jovan Buha on Twitter

  • Wendell Carter Jr.
    C, Chicago Bulls

    Wendell Carter Jr. is once again being listed as probable with injuries to his abdomen, tailbone and head, and will likely suit up Friday’s matchup against the Hornets.

    We’re only writing this blurb to note the sloppiness with which injury reports out of Chicago are being written. Carter’s specific injury this time is “left abdomen surgery.” Of course, Carter underwent sports hernia surgery in early July and there is a possibility that he’s dealing with some residual discomfort, but there’s no reason to read too deeply into what may be another one of Jim Boylen’s convoluted motivational tactics. The Bulls had 11 players on their injury report earlier this week and only three players ended up sitting out the game. Carter himself has only missed one game this season despite being listed on the report for every single game. Be very skeptical of the Bulls’ injury reports moving forward.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Russell Westbrook will play on Friday vs. the Magic and likely rest on Saturday vs. the Pistons.

    The Rockets are just trying to keep Westbrook fresh and they probably feel like they can beat the Pistons without him. Expect Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore to get some more opportunity with Westbrook out on Saturday.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Eric Paschall
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Eric Paschall (sore left hip) has been ruled out on Friday vs. the Jazz.

    He was doubtful coming into this one so this is no surprise. Expect Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks to pick up some extra minutes in his absence.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Lou Williams
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Lou Williams (sore right calf) will not suit up on Friday vs. the Wolves.

    He's being considered day-to-day and this will cause Williams to miss his first game of the season. With Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet already ruled out, the Clippers won't have many options in the backcourt and Jerome Robinson could see an increased workload.

    Source: Andrew Greif on Twitter

  • Devin Booker
    SG, Phoenix Suns

    Devin Booker (forearm contusion) did not practice on Friday.

    Coach Monty Williams said that he's considering him day-to-day and he'll be listed as questionable vs. the Spurs on Saturday. Stay tuned for updates closer to tip-off.

    Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter

  • Allonzo Trier
    PG, New York Knicks

    Allonzo Trier (concussion symptoms) is being considered doubtful vs. the Kings on Friday.

    Trier reportedly bumped his head while working out yesterday and is now experiencing some concussion-like symptoms. Stay tuned for updates closer to tip-off but the Knicks will likely be cautious with him.

    Source: Stefan Bondy on Twitter

  • Al Horford
    PF, Philadelphia Sixers

    Al Horford (left knee soreness/left hamstring tightness) will not play vs. the Pelicans on Friday.

    Horford will miss his second straight game and this is what owners should've expected when they drafted him. He's going to take some days off and get banged up but this doesn't seem like too bad of an injury. Expect Mike Scott to benefit the most from Horford's absence.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter

  • Joel Embiid
    C, Philadelphia Sixers

    Joel Embiid (rest) will play on Friday vs. the Pelicans.

    It's the second leg of a back-to-back so Embiid's status was up in the air. Thankfully, it looks as though he'll be all systems go vs. the Pelicans and can be fired up in all lineups.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter