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NBA Fantasy Trends

Rookie Time

by Mike Gallagher
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

We’ve all heard the expressions about making assumptions and how it can be the mother of all screw ups, or something. It happens in all sorts of situations and there are a lot of assumptions in the sports world these days. Baseball fans will hear about how pitchers get in a groove ahead of hitters, football fans will make assumptions about defenses starting out better than offenses, and basketball fans will hear how young guys get better in the second half. While the assumptions are usually true, a high percentage of the time this can be based on outdated info.
Personally, I was writing a blurb on our player news page and fell victim to making an assumption. In that blurb, I mentioned how it can pay off to keep rookies on your bench to reap the rewards down the stretch. This is a pretty common thought among fantasy pundits in any sport, but when was the last time you really saw some research about rookies being better in the second half?
That gave me the idea to see if this assumption held up, or if you want to get fancy we can call it a hypothesis, that works too. 
The following data is a list of the top-10 rookies in minutes per game over the last five seasons. It is broken down with the high-minute guys on the season at the top with the columns from left to right being minutes before the break, minutes after the break, minute differential, fantasy per-game value pre-break, said value post-break, and value differential. Also, a big hat tip to basketballmonster.com for the splits on fantasy value.
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher, especially if you can’t get enough stats and shot charts. 


  pre minutes post minutes dif. pre value post value dif
Damian Lillard 38.5 38.9 0.4 56 55 1
Bradley Beal 31.0 31.9 0.9 137 50 87
Anthony Davis 27.8 30.6 2.8 36 13 23
Dion Waiters 29.5 26.9 -2.7 192 190 2
Kyle Singler 28.4 27.1 -1.3 160 250 -90
Tyler Zeller 27.6 24.4 -3.2 198 203 -5
Moe Harkless 19.6 35.7 16.1 207 100 107
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 25.9 26.1 0.2 144 178 -34
Harrison Barnes 25.8 24.7 -1.1 203 250 -47
Jonas Valanciunas 21.5 27.0 5.5 193 98 95
     average 1.8    average 13.9
Ricky Rubio 34.9 31.1 -3.8 51 250 -199
Brandon Knight 31.8 32.8 1.0 165 210 -45
Kyrie Irving 31.0 30.0 -1.0 50 32 18
MarShon Brooks 30.4 28.6 -1.8 97 250 -153
Iman Shumpert 30.1 27.8 -3.3 126 145 -19
Chandler Parsons 25.9 31.6 5.7 139 103 36
Kemba Walker 29.2 25.2 -4.0 124 218 -96
Isaiah Thomas 19.6 31.2 11.6 182 55 127
Klay Thompson 16.5 30.9 14.4 220 65 155
Kawhi Leonard 23.3 24.7 1.4 122 43 79
     average 2.0    average -9.7
Blake Griffin 37.9 38.0 0.1 100 67 33
John Wall 36.9 39.1 2.2 109 87 22
Landry Fields 32.6 27.9 -4.7 56 156 -100
DeMarcus Cousins 27.2 30.8 3.6 223 184 39
Greg Monroe 25.3 33.2 8.0 191 11 180
Wes Johnson 25.9 26.8 0.9 193 137 56
Ed Davis 22.1 28.5 6.4 139 117 22
Jordan Crawford 10.0 33.3 23.3 250 148 102
Evan Turner 24.6 19.5 -5.1 227 232 -5
Eric Bledsoe 24.1 19.6 -4.5 - -  
     average 3.0    average 34.9
Tyreke Evans 36.9 37.8 0.9 52 129 -77
Stephen Curry 34.5 36.7 2.2 27 5 22
Brandon Jennings 33.9 30.5 -1.4 93 144 -51
Jonny Flynn 29.3 28.1 -0.8 180 250 -70
Jonas Jerebko 27.1 29.2 2.1 204 66 138
Darren Collison 20.2 40.1 19.9 231 33 198
Taj Gibson 24.6 30.7 4.1 192 78 114
Marcus Thornton 21.0 32.6 11.6 176 31 145
Omri Casspi 27.9 19.9 8.0 147 250 -103
Wes Matthews 21.8 29.5 7.7 226 99 127
     average 5.6    average 62.3
O.J. Mayo 37.9 38.1 0.2 69 137 -68
Derrick Rose 36.8 36.8 0.0 116 129 -13
Eric Gordon 33.0 37.1 4.1 81 69 12
Russell Westbrook 31.7 34.0 2.3 162 206 -44
Mario Chalmers 31.6 32.7 1.1 86 73 13
Marc Gasol 30.2 31.6 1.4 132 98 34
Brook Lopez 29.9 31.6 1.7 66 38 28
Jason Thompson 26.3 31.6 5.3 201 174 27
D.J. Augustin 28.8 23.3 -5.5 148 173 -25
Luc Mbah a Moute 25.1 27.2 2.1 188 158 30
    average 1.3   average -0.6
    total average 2.7   total average 16.7

Let’s take a look at some analysis and conclusions we can draw from the data. If you also want to jump to conclusions, that’s fine as long as you have a Jump to Conclusions Mat:
The main one — and the reason for this study — is at the bottom of all of the data. Rookies have played almost three more minutes per game after the break and have about 1.5 more rounds of fantasy value. There are plenty of factors to help guys out more than most, but most of these guys saw more minutes after the break. In fact, 70 percent of the rookies saw more minutes after the All-Star break on the whole. What’s more, 28 percent of players saw an increase of more than four minutes per game and 12 percent saw a double-digit increase in minutes. Conversely, only eight percent of guys saw a decrease over four minutes and none had a double-digit drop in minutes either.
Subsequently, the increase in minutes led to a lot of added fantasy value, as expected. Although, even some guys with a decrease in minutes didn’t really see a proportional decrease in value. A litany of players learn how to score at a higher rate and it has a lot to do with experience. Plus, the coaching staff identifying strengths can help them draw up some better stuff more suited to their skill sets. One player coming to mind was Bradley Beal last season. He was in a lot of ISOs earlier in the season, but the team used him a lot more off screens and handoffs to get him better looks.
So, the increase in value definitely means it can be worthwhile to stash some rookies. Which ones? Well, it always helps for upside. One big common thread is guys who can shoot 3-pointers tend to perform better later in the season. Almost all of the guys getting a bump in value get more treys and this ties into what was said about Beal in the above paragraph. This season, all of the rookies in the top 10 for minutes are capable of being 3-point shooters. As it turns out, only Nate Wolters is in the top 10 in minutes and is below 0.5 triples per game on the season, but he’s made a trey in each of his last two games and is coming around.
I hate to leave you guys on a cliffhanger on this one, but we’ll be talking more specifically about each rookie for NBA Fantasy Rookie Rankings next week. There are still some other trends that jumped out, though.
Another interesting one is the players with really strong second halves have kind of flourished in the following seasons. Let’s look at the big winners and losers with some quick notes:
Winners (arranged with the recent guys at the top)
Bradley Beal (87) - Before he was hurt last year, he was really coming on. Beal’s efficiency turned the corner in February and learning how to get open along the 3-point line has been a big part of it.
Anthony Davis (23) - Apparently, he was just scratching the surface last season. He’s a top-three pick for 2014-15 drafts as it stands right now.
Moe Harkless (107) - He and Tobias Harris really just had the best opportunity of almost any player last season. Harkless is not good on offense with his broken jumper and he’s blocked too much. He’s solid everywhere else, though.
Isaiah Thomas (127) - Are you a Pizza Guy? IT2 has lived up to the hype of being a fantasy star and it all started after the break in his rookie season.
Klay Thompson (155) - The 3-pointers will always go a long way for a rookie. 
Kawhi Leonard (79) - His game just translates to fantasy so nicely. As an aside, he better not be on any waiver wires.
Greg Monroe (180) - He was the second-biggest gainer of any player on this list as far as differential goes. Monroe was the king of getting shots per game from within three feet and actually led the league in FGAs from that range last season.
Jordan Crawford (102) - A trade and some injuries really helped out Crawford during his first season.
Stephen Curry (22) - He really didn’t have a huge increase as far as difference goes, but he was ranked fifth after the break — the highest of any player on here. Curry is kinda good, you guys.
Darren Collison (198) - Just like it did in January, his big jump came from Chris Paul’s injury. Collison had the largest difference because of it.
Taj Gibson (114) - A couple injuries and some friendly block totals have helped Taj. Sound familiar?
Wes Matthews (127) - The 3-pointers were there and he’s really come on strong this season. Matthews ranks ninth in the NBA for adjusted field goal percentage thanks to making 41.7 percent from deep.
Brook Lopez (28) - If this guy could just stay healthy.
Kyle Singler (-90) - He saw some burn last year and fizzled out. Singler might do it all over again. 
Ricky Rubio (-199) - His team got healthy and teams also figured out how to defend him. The second part of that statement reminds me a lot of Michael Carter-Williams. More on that later. 
MarShon Brooks (-153) - The Nets had absolutely nobody on the wing back in his rookie season.
Kemba Walker (-96) - He’s one of the anomalies here. Walker’s offense really has come around in the past two seasons after his Jenningsitis in his rookie season. Of course, there is no shot to cure Jenningsitis.
Landry Fields (-100) - One of the Knicks’ best moves was not signing Fields to a deal. Plus, it kept them from signing Steve Nash.
Brandon Jennings (-51) - A la Rubio, his efficiency went down. Despite the Pistons play, Jenningsitis is not contagious, so there’s no need to quarantine the opponents.
Omri Casspi (-103) - His Cavs were depleted at the time.
Jonny Flynn (-70) - Yeah, we don’t need to analyze this one at all.
Tyreke Evans (-77) - Still hard to believed he won Rookie of the Year at this point. Mike Miller? What?
O.J. Mayo (-68) - Mayo did have a couple good years following his rookie season, but he’s really fallen off the map.
One big takeaway from this one is for next season and beyond. If some of these 2013-14 rookies finish strong, there’s a good chance they’ll be guys worth drafting. Of course, this is nothing new and many of us have been looking at post-break splits even outside of rookies. However, it’s really a strong correlation with the rookies. Of the good players, only Darren Collison, Jordan Crawford and Moe Harkless were not really able to keep it going. Those guys all had their teams decimated by injuries. On the other hand, the only guy who flopped in the second half and became a stud was Kemba Walker. You could argue Brandon Jennings, but I might be biased because he is one of the most frustrating players to watch. Here’s a vine from an example. A contested, fadeaway two-pointer from just inside the arc might be the worst shot in a halfcourt set.
Thirdly, one myth this data mostly dispelled was about the rookie wall. Almost all of the players with big minutes didn’t really slow down. That’s also a bonus because rookies and sophomores are the least likely to miss games. Of the guys with at least 30 minutes before and after the break, only Ricky Rubio, Brandon Knight, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo and Russell Westbrook saw a decrease in fantasy value. There is a pretty obvious trend there and it’s that six of those seven guys played point guard.
Of course, that leads us to Michael Carter-Williams. He has really looked terrible and ranks ninth in usage among point guards this season, which is extremely lofty for a rookie. Interestingly, his usage has jumped up to 27.2 percent over his last 14 games with a 35.0 field goal percentage. Prior to that, he had a lower usage of 25.3 percent on 41.9 percent shooting. Consequently, that’s caused his offensive output to drop.
Based on his shooting stats, the drop has really been attributed to how the defense is playing against him. MCW really isn’t a buy-low guy unless it’s at a price beyond top-75 value.
One last trend worth discussing right now was the amount of players on terrible teams. This isn’t really a big surprise and why we’ve been championing Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke. Well, hopefully Burke figures out how to score.

Well, that's it for today. I hope this helps you guys and we’ll likely use some of it when it comes time to put the Draft Guide together. Additionally, I have to say gathering all of this data was a painful reminder of how much I disliked lab in Organic Chemistry. But I digress.
Anyway, enjoy the All-Star Weekend and don’t miss your fantasy team too much! Also feel free to send me a tweet about any trends you noticed @MikeSGallagher.

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.