Now that our fantasy sleepers series has wrapped up, we move on to this season’s impact rookies. After a loaded 2017 NBA Draft, the outlook is promising on the fantasy front. Some of the best talents in the draft may take a few years to become valuable contributors, but several should still make an impact from this season’s opening tip. It should be no surprise that three of our choices were lottery picks this year and players who will receive impact roles immediately.
Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
No rookie from the 2017 NBA Draft has higher expectations to meet than Lonzo Ball. Ball enters the league with more hype than No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz thanks to his style of play and eccentric father. Fortunately for Ball, he enters into an on-court situation that should allow him to succeed right away. He’s going to play in Luke Walton’s wide-open offense that will be running in transition quite a bit. Combine that with the talent around Ball and his own abilities, and it’s easy to see why he’ll be a fantasy success.[the_ad id=”384″]Ball will be the Lakers’ best playmaker as soon as he steps on the floor this season. He’ll be creating for the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, and Brook Lopez. All three of those players are capable of running in transition and hitting an open three. Ingram could be the biggest key to Ball’s success. If he continues to grow as a playmaker and shows the ability to be league average from three, the floor will open up even more. I expect Ball to get 11-13 points per game, around seven assists per game, and about four rebounds per game. If his jumper translates to the NBA, he could even add a couple of threes per game this season.
Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets
After a surprising fall out of the top 10 on draft night, Malik Monk falls into a great fantasy situation. Monk will initially come off the bench for the Hornets, but he should still be the team’s sixth man. It’s hard to envision him staying in that role through the entire season. Monk is a fantastic scorer, with the ability to score at all three levels. Monk can get to the rim using his athleticism and shoot from anywhere on the floor. He won’t contribute defensively, but that won’t affect his fantasy value.
Monk should see plenty of minutes with either Kemba Walker or Nicolas Batum on the floor, if not both. Having those creators playing next to him should allow Monk to run his defender ragged off screens and on the baseline. He will benefit from NBA spacing that should make it easy for his shooting output to translate to the NBA. Monk will add most of his value as a scorer in the fantasy realm. He’ll score 12-14 points per game as a bench guard, but that could increase further as a starter. His free throw shooting will be an asset because of his ability to draw contact around the rim and his three-point shooting will be invaluable. Monk should net at least two made threes per game.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
John Collins fantasy value will be greatly impacted by the opportunity he receives in Atlanta. If the Hawks play him 24-28 minutes per night, he will be a viable fantasy starter. Collins is already the most talented big on Atlanta’s roster, which should clear the path for him to get minutes. He will be competing with Ersan Ilyasova for minutes at the four and DeWayne Dedmon for minutes at the five. In an ideal world, Collins is able to take minutes away from Dedmon because Ilyasova is the perfect complement to Collins in the frontcourt.
Collins will be an effective PnR partner for Dennis Schröder on the offensive end of the floor. Collins can use his athleticism to get to the rim and be on the receiving end of Schröder’s lob passes. If he’s deployed as a five, he’ll utilize that athleticism to bring down rebounds on both ends of the floor. His ability to run in transition only adds to his offensive value to the Hawks this season. Collins should be able to score almost 10 points per game this season and pull down seven rebounds per game. Collins may not be one of the most talented players in the draft, but the situation he fell in should allow him to be a fantasy success as a rookie.
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Even though he was the ninth overall pick, Dennis Smith Jr. enters this season as my favorite from the 2017 draft to take home the Rookie of the Year award. Smith enters an incredible situation where he should be the starter from day one. Not only that, but he’ll also be relied upon as the team’s primary scorer. Smith will be surrounded by some ideal role players as well. He’ll have good shooters around him in Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki, and an elite PnR rim-runner in Nerlens Noel. That should provide spacing that Smith never got to see in his lone year at North Carolina State.
Smith is an elite scorer who uses his strength and athleticism to get to the rim and finish. He could be the leading scorer among rookies, with an average of 18 points per game being a strong possibility as well as almost two made threes per game. Smith’s scoring isn’t the only way he’ll contribute in fantasy. He can dish the rock and rebound as well, with those totals approaching five each per game this upcoming season. While Smith isn’t a good defender, he takes some risks to get steals and start the break, which will be an asset to fantasy owners. Mix all of that together and you have the most impactful rookie from the 2017 NBA Draft this season.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
While Smith is my prohibitive favorite to be the best rookie from the 2017 NBA Draft, he won’t be the best rookie this season. That distinction belongs to Ben Simmons. Simmons, unlike other rookies, has had a year to acclimate to the NBA lifestyle and build a rapport with his teammates. He is the best passing big man since LeBron James and has the skillset to succeed right away. Not only that, Simmons will be surrounded by two other elite talents in Markelle Fultz and Joel Embiid. Add in JJ Redick and Robert Covington, and you’re looking at a team built to allow Simmons to succeed.
Simmons will be the primary ball handler this season for the 76ers, which can only add to his fantasy value. He’ll use flashy passes and his elite size to find open teammates in transition, as well as in the half court. Simmons can get wherever he wants on the floor and can use that to create open looks for his teammates. His one big question is his shooting ability, but if that improves to slightly below league average, watch out. That kind of improvement would make Simmons a fantasy superstar. He should be able to score nearly 15 points per game thanks to his ability to get to the rim. Add in the potential for eight assists and eight rebounds per game, and you have a must-start in fantasy basketball.