June 6, 2021, 6:04 pm
Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our International Spotlight weekly feature (with a spin) where we will be taking a look at the entire Rookie class of 2020, the highs and lows, the hits and misses and all the hype that came with it!
This was considered to be a relatively weak draft class but the top guys didn’t really disappoint other than, well – ahem – James Wiseman/Obi Toppin/Jalen Smith, and plenty of sleepers emerged while other prospects finished the season strong, leaving much promise for the future!
Here is what the lottery would look today if we were to redraft the 2020 NBA Rookie class based on their fantasy production.
No. 14: Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Oklahoma Thunder
8.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 triples and 0.9 blocks in 45 games (28 starts) and 24.2 minutes per game, top-270/345 value in 8/9-cat leagues
Poku has already been a fantasy marvel with multiple games where he posted drool-worthy stat lines. His ability to make triples, rebound and block has put him on the fantasy radar and the upside is immense as long as he is able to limit his turnovers and stabilize his percentages. His per-36 minutes stats wouldn’t make someone believe in his ability to improve but we have to take under consideration the fact that he is a teenager who was put in a position to be one of the primary offensive weapons on a young and rebuilding team; therefore, I do believe he can be a nice complementary piece as long as he doesn’t have to launch so many shots on a night-to-night basis.
The Thunder look totally invested into him and even though the transition to the other side of the ocean has been anything but smooth he is primed to be a cornerstone of the franchise moving forward.
No. 13: Devin Vassell, SF, San Antonio Spurs
5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 triples and 0.7 steals in 62 games (7 starts) and 17.0 minutes per game, top-325/290 fantasy value in 8/9-cat formats
Vassell played sporadic minutes in his rookie season for a team that was loaded on the wings, but the Spurs trusted him to start at the end of the season and he seems to be on track to become a solid 3-and-D guy in the league. It usually takes a couple years to earn Pop’s trust and Vassell has to continue to grow physically, but his shot has already translated at the NBA level and he projects to be a big part of the rebuilding Spurs going forward. He just turned 20 years old so you have to be able to make a leap of faith in believing that he turns out to be the real deal.
No. 12: Jaden MacDaniels, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
6.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 triples, 1.0 block and 0.6 steals in 63 games (26 starts) and 24.0 minutes per game, top-240/225 fantasy value in 8/9-cat formats
Not many people are aware of his background but McDaniels was projected as the No. 1 pick long before having a down freshman season at Washington. After falling to the Wolves in the first round at No. 28 he had some bright moments this season, showing flashes of being able to defend multiple positions and shooting the 3 while he is very comfortable handling the ball and has great shot blocking instincts. McDaniels is still raw and needs to work hard on his body as he is too lean and has trouble getting to the free throw line but the upside is there and he is a guy I’m keeping an eye on as he can have an impact on both ends of the floor, proving that to be the case in 26 starts with Minnesota.
No. 11: Immanuel Quickley, G, New York Knicks
11.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 triples and 0.5 steals in 64 games (3 starts) and 19.4 minutes per game, top-275/270 value in 8/9-cat leagues
Quickley was probably the biggest surprise out of this rookie class and the truth of the matter is that not many people saw this coming. There is a long history of Kentucky guards like Tyler Herro and Jamal Murray that perform way better than they did in college where they are put into a box and don’t have the necessary spacing around them, but the NBA is a whole different animal. Dynamic, quick and able to shoot from all over the floor, Quickley is very valuable in today’s NBA and even though he is not a franchise player and his fantasy game is flawed, he is a very nice piece to have going forward.
No. 10: Desmond Bane, SG, Memphis Grizzlies
9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 triples and 0.6 steals in 68 games (17 starts) and 22.3 minutes per game, top-225/215 fantasy value in 8/9-cat formats
Bane was known as one of the best shooters coming into the draft and even though he was the last pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft, he lived up to his reputation finishing with 47/43/82 shooting splits in his rookie season. A very valuable commodity, as he is someone that can shoot the ball and defend multiple positions, Bane is a classic example of a 3-and-D prospect whose skills are a perfect fit in today’s game and the Grizzlies nailed yet another pick here.
No. 9: Deni Avdija, F, Washington Wizards
6.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 triple and 0.6 steals in 54 games (32 starts) and 23.2 minutes per game, top-300/280 value in 8/9-cat leagues
Avdija had an up and down season, going through a big adjustment period before spraining his ankle, but he showed plenty of versatility and improved as a shooter as the season progressed. He can move the ball in transition and has potential defensively but his percentages need to improve and he must find ways to impact the game on both sides of the floor. The issue here is that he has been very successful with the ball in his hands but that’s not going to happen in Washington as long as Russell Westbrook remains there and it’s tough to say what the future holds for him.
The Wizards specifically have a long tracking record of bad decisions with their draft picks and Avdija might have to wait for a few years before he is finally unleashed. He proved to be ready for the physicality of the game and I’m buying stock right now as everything screams that he belongs.
No. 8: Isaac Okoro, G, Cleveland Cavs
9.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 triples and 0.9 steals in 67 games (all starts) and 32.4 minutes per game, top-260/270 value in 8/9-cat leagues
Okoro didn’t have the defensive impact that the Cavs were hoping for when they drafted him as his size has proved to be an issue but he was a positive in his rookie season regardless. His tenacity was amazing, he has been a winner at every level and he can do the little things, while his toughness and durability are the reasons coaches love him. It’s certain that he will continue to improve as he has the work ethic and the discipline to do so but he won’t be the next Jimmy Butler giben the limitations with his shooting. His upside will depend a lot on who he plays next to as he proved to be too little for the small forward position and the Cavs need to make a decision about their backcourt going forward. He is one of the rookies that flew under the radar and his fantasy game is legit so there’s hope that he has another level to his game.
No. 7: James Wiseman, PF/C, Golden State Warriors
11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.9 blocks in 39 games (27 starts) and 21.4 minutes per game, top 250/280 fantasy value in 8/9-cat formats.
It was a disappointing season for Wiseman but the high ceiling is still there due to a rare combination of length, athleticism and skill that few young players have. We knew he was going to struggle with the speed of the game mainly due to not having played much high-level basketball the last couple seasons and he hasn’t been dominant in the paint, showing a tendency to play more as a face-up shooter rather than a post player, so there are many questions about his future right now.
The Warriors exercised patience with him and had their veterans nourish him but after he got injured Golden State was a whooping +11.5 without him on the floor and it’s very possible that the team looks to move him in the summer for a more mature and ready-to-contribute player. The buy-low window wide open right now so feel free to try and acquire him in dynasty formats.
No. 6: Isaiah Stewart, PF/C, Detroit Pistons
7.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 1.3 blocks in 68 games (14 starts) and 21.4 minutes per game, top-150/135 fantasy value in 8/9-cat formats.
There were many questions about his size coming into Draft Night but “Beef Stew” has been unbelievable, providing the Pistons with the motor, energy, tenacity and physicality they were missing, while playing above the rim and proving to have the ability to contribute outside of the paint as well, effectively switching ball screens and stretching the floor. He clearly leapfrogged James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu as the most impactful big in the 2020 rookie class and he projects to be a tremendous backup center/forward for years to come.