With the 2019-20 NBA season less than a week away, now would be a good time to educate yourself on which first-year players are worth adding to your fantasy basketball roster.
Obviously, it's ideal to draft a rookie with a clear path to significant playing time. Unfortunately, outside of guys like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, it's difficult to predict which young guns will get their opportunity to shine in Year 1. That's why we're here to give you a few names that have the best shot at making an immediate impact and stuffing the stat sheet.
Here's a look at the top 10 rookies to target in your fantasy basketball draft this year:
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1. Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
This one's a no-brainer. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft will be the first rookie taken off the board in the vast majority of fantasy drafts. Williamson is positioned to make an immediate impact in New Orleans and can be taken as early as the second round.
UPDATE (Friday, Oct. 18, 11:45 a.m. ET): Williamson is expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season due to a knee injury, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
A severe injury has been ruled out for Zion Williamson’s right knee, but he is expected to miss period of weeks to start regular season, league sources tell ESPN. Pels are clearly treating injury with an abundance of caution but there’s no shortage of confidence on full recovery.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 18, 2019
The injury obviously hurts Williamson's draft stock, although he's still the top rookie if he can return after a few weeks.
2. Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are all in on Morant as the new face of their franchise after trading Mike Conley and selecting the Murray State standout with the No. 2 overall pick. If all goes according to plan, Morant could be this year's Trae Young with his scoring and playmaking ability. That should tell you all you need to know about the value he could bring to your fantasy lineup this season.
3. R.J. Barrett, SG, New York Knicks
There's a pretty sizable dropoff after Williamson and Morant, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other draftable rookies in fantasy this year. Barrett, Williamson's sidekick at Duke, should rack up the minutes with New York which means we can expect a respectable output from the No. 3 overall pick in his inaugural campaign.
4. Darius Garland, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Garland, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, will be one of the main attractions on a rebuilding Cavaliers team this season. He'll get plenty of minutes in Cleveland's backcourt alongside Collin Sexton and can be a solid fantasy asset if he proves to be a consistent threat from 3-point range. That's where most of his value lies.
5. Brandon Clarke, PF, Memphis Grizzlies
Clarke probably isn't getting enough attention heading into the new season with Williamson and new teammate Morant stealing most of the headlines. The former Gonzaga star has the chance to put up some seriously impressive numbers this year on a rebuilding Grizzlies squad. While his jumper needs some work, Clarke proved in college he can stuff the stat sheet and defend at a high level.
6. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Atlanta Hawks
Speaking of great defending, Hunter should be thrown right at the top of the list when discussing this year's rookie class. The Virginia product isn't going to wow anyone on the offensive side but can be sneaky with his 3-point shooting prowess. He's a safe option for later on in your draft.
7. Rui Hachimura, PF, Washington Wizards
Hachimura should have the opportunity to start right away for a Wizards team that, outside of Bradley Beal, doesn't exactly boast the most talented roster. The minutes will be there for the taking for the former Gonzaga big man, it's just a matter of what he'll do with them. He's worth a gamble as he could prove to be a consistent scorer and rebounder.
8. Tyler Herro, SG, Miami Heat
If you're looking for an under-the-radar sharpshooter in your draft, look no further than Herro. The former Kentucky Wildcat probably will backup Dion Waiters to begin the season but should still rack up the threes with Miami.
9. Jarrett Culver, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Culver isn't the most efficient shooter, but he still has plenty of fantasy value. He'll get plenty of minutes right off the bat in Minnesota and could be a serious sleeper if his 3-point shot improves. The Texas Tech standout looked impressive in the NBA preseason, so that's certainly worth noting as you prepare for draft day.
10. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, New Orleans Pelicans
Alexander-Walker is low on this list solely because he may not have the opportunity to be a valuable fantasy asset right away on a Pelicans team that has plenty of wing and backcourt depth. If he does get his time to shine, he'll be a consistent scorer just as he was at Virginia Tech and during summer league when he racked up 24.3 points per game.
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