Here we are Razzball Nation, deep in the hole of the NBA offseason when many a free agent chips fell, the NBA draft came and went, and the Summer League, where the stars of the future showcased their talents, concluded.
In true Dynasty Deep Dive fashion, I shall leave the free agent signings for my colleagues to cover, but deliver the final edition of the Dynasty Deep Dive rookie rankings so you can ponder and utilize for your upcoming dynasty rookie drafts. Be aware that these are my opinions and not indicative of anyone else at Razzball. Also, these rankings should be viewed through a long-term prism, as they are for the totality of a player’s career. Do not use for redraft leagues.
The rankings have been broken down into four parts and will be published accordingly. Who wants to read through a 12,000 word essay in one sitting? We do this for fun right?
So let’s get on with the show and enjoy my Top 15.
1) Luka Doncic – (Dallas Mavericks, PG/SG/SF/PF – Summer League: DNP)
As expected, Luka did not participate in Summer League after a grueling season for Real Madrid, where the Slovenian-phenom won every accolade there was to win. I have not been swayed in moving Luka from the top spot, as he has phenomenal instincts for the game and dazzles with his court vision, ability to run pick-and-roll action, and distribute the ball. His outstanding physical size and versatility will force mismatches on the offensive side of the floor and allow his unique skill set to shine. NBA twitter seems to have developed a love/hate relationship with Luka, as some herald him as the next big thing, while others criticize him for sub-par athleticism and speed and label him a future bust. For me, the high basketball IQ has always been apparent, but if you watch him play, it’s the outstanding body control that allows him to separate from more athletic defenders that really stands out. Luka is a unique talent, who not only seems ready for the challenges of the NBA, but embraces the prospect of turning around a moribund Mavericks franchise. The future is bright. The future is Luka Doncic.
2) Trae Young – (Atlanta Hawks, PG – Summer League: 25.8 MPG, 17 PPG, 6.8 AST, 1.5 STL, 38% FG%)
Summer League reminds us that the newly drafted prospects are still just kids, and this certainly was the case for Trae Young. After an abysmal start, when he struggled to find chemistry with his new teammates, displayed awful shot selection, and had difficulty playing against length and size, Trae turned it around the final few games and showed the potential that has many a fans drooling (myself included) over his fantasy potential. It’s no secret that Trae possesses deadly shooting range, which provides space for him to drive to the basket and show off his underrated passing ability. Dennis Schroeder is no longer in Atlanta, so Trae should be handed the keys and learn on the job. There will be plenty of bumps his rookie season, primarily in shooting efficiency, but he has a chance to be elite in points, threes, and assists. As well as the ability to rack up steals. That my friends is what we call a fantasy-friendly player, even if real life suggests otherwise.
3) De’Andre Ayton – (Phoenix Suns, C – Summer League: 26.8 MPG, 14.5 PTS, 10.5 REB, 1 BLK, 1 STL, 60% FG%)
One of the most physically gifted athletes we have ever seen, the number one overall pick demonstrated exactly what I expected to see in Summer League; an over reliance on his physical gifts coupled with bouts of basketball naivety. Ayton did show good hustle at times, and also surprised in his ability to handle and distribute out of double teams, something I have criticized him for in the past. He showed good hustle rebounding, especially on the offensive end, demonstrating soft hands for tip-ins around the rim, but there remain questions on the effectiveness of his jump shot. Ayton had a solid, not spectacular Summer League, so this lofty ranking is an endorsement of the physical traits and potential ceiling with proper coaching. I’m down on the prospects for his rookie season, but am bullish long term.
4) Jaren Jackson Jr – (Memphis Grizzlies, PF/C – Summer League: 24.4 MPG, 11.2 PTS, 8.2 REB, 3.8 BLK, 41% FG%)
Seemingly everyone’s poster child for rookie fantasy production, JJJ did not disappoint in his Summer League debut, scoring 29 points and displaying 3-point range with elite shot blocking skills. There is no question that JJJ and Mitchell Robinson are the elite shot blockers from the draft and that ability provides fantasy value by itself. I have doubts about JJJ being a force on the offensive end of the floor, though. The shooting form looks fine and he has range, but he’s still raw. I also think rebounds will be harder to come by for the Michigan State product, which leaves an over reliance on his outstanding shot blocking ability for fantasy production. Learning from Marc Gasol and playing alongside him at the 4 will be beneficial, but let’s temper offensive expectations for the short term. I still think the ceiling is high for JJJ, but will require some time to get there.
5) Marvin Bagley Jr – (Sacremento Kings, PF/C – Summer League: 32 MPG, 15 PTS, 7 REB, 1 BLK, 1 STL, 39% FG%)
Bagley came out of Summer League with a lot of negativity, but anyone who watched (I watched them all) would have seen how horrible the coaching was. After De’Aaron Fox exited Summer League due to injury, Bagley wasn’t able to showcase his skills; getting out in transition. He often found himself in poor offensive position, relying on ISOs that didn’t really pan out. But hey, what do you expect from a one-and-done that reclassified last season for this NBA draft? Bagley has the potential to be elite in points, rebounds, and FG%. He also possesses decent shooting range. Bagley will also block more shots than the consensus thinks, as his athleticism won’t be stagnated from playing zone defense like at Duke. You heard it here first! Too many people seem to be focusing on the negatives from Summer League rather than the offensive skill set that MB3 posseses. He’s going to get better. Watching he and Harry “Styles” Giles continue to build chemistry will be fun to watch. The poor free throw shooting is a concern, but Bagley could end up being a steal for certain fantasy team builds. Yes, there are some defensive issues that need ironing out, but that is for real life basketball coaches to worry about, not your fantasy team. Fox and Bagley could turn into one hell of a fantasy duo.
6) Wendell Carter Jr – (Chicago Bulls, C – Summer League: 28.8 MPG, 14.6 PTS, 9.4 REB, 2.8 BLK, 55% FG%)
Yet another player who came out of Summer League as a perceived fantasy darling, and it’s hard to disagree with what we saw. The high basketball IQ and attention to detail really stood out. WCJ demonstrated his ability to protect the rim and displayed outstanding footwork on the offensive end. WCJ and Lauri are going to be a fun partnership to watch in the NBA next year, and should complement each other well (so long as Jabari doesn’t become the party pooper when the Bulls realise he can’t defend opposing small forwards). WCJ might not be the most exciting of picks, but he is likely to be one of the most reliable for your fantasy team.
7) Kevin Knox – (New York Knicks, SF/PF – Summer League: 32.3 MPG, 21.3 PTS, 6.5 REB, 2.3 AST, 1 STL, 35% FG%)
Kevin Knox received the Kristaps Porzingis treatment on draft night, being booed and jeered by Knicks fans who seemingly didn’t like the pick. We know how that turned out. Knox is the youngest player from this years draft, and given that he demonstrated an ability to thrive in the more open NBA game, the future looks bright for the erratic Kentucky forward. Knox finished Summer League with highlight-reel dunks, showed the ability to get to the rim with ease, and displayed a swagger that surely has those booing Knicks fans thinking twice about their actions. With Kristaps still recovering, Knox is going to be given every opportunity to showcase his skills. David Fizdale should have fun figuring out how to best utilize his skill set. This is a young Knicks team that’s trying to find an identity and could be major players in free agency next offseason, but rest assured, Knox figures to be a key part going forward.
8) Collin Sexton – (Cleveland Cavaliers, PG – Summer League: 28.7 MPG, 19.6 PTS, 3.4 AST, 3.3 REB, 0.9 STL, 43% FG%)
Brought to my attention as a high school senior, I liked Sexton going into college. I liked Sexton going into the draft and I came out of Summer League still liking Sexton. With Lebron gone, the Cavs will be forging a new identity and Sexton enters a perfect situation to showcase his talents. If you like small PGs with a fiery bulldog mentality, then you’re gonna love Sexton. Every time I see him play, he exudes a swagger that he is the best player on the court. At Alabama, Sexton was given the keys to the offense, despite not being the most natural ball handler. That may have contributed to some of his efficiency issues. As a result, expect more SG fantasy numbers than traditional PG ones, as Sexton is more an undersized 2 than a natural point guard. He is extremely athletic, has the ability to shoot, and reminds me alot of Malik Monk, who I was and still am extremely high on. Future dunk contest winner? Don’t discount the possibility. I’ve got a feeling fans are gonna love watching Collin Sexton play.
9) Miles Bridges – (Charlotte Hornets, SF/PF – Summer League – 30.6 MPG, 15 PTS, 8.2 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.3 STL, 34% FG%)
Love the player, but skeptical of the landing spot. First thing the Hornets are gonna need to figure out is whether Bridges will be a combo forward, an undersized PF, or oversized SF. I am a huge fan of the two-way potential and think the Hornets got the steal of the draft. The shooting can be erratic, but there is more than enough skill in this department for improvement. Bridges has the potental to do a bit of everything well for your fantasy teams, so call me the high guy on him if you want.
10) Mo Bamba – (Orlando Magic, C – Summer League: 19.7 MPG, 8.7 PTS, 5.7 REB, 2.4 BLK, 60% FG%)
I have seen Mo Bamba going as high as 2nd overall in rookie drafts. To have him that high, one has to believe that the NBA three-point range will come, and that he will contribute significantly more on offense than what he has shown. I don’t believe either. In addition, Orlando wasn’t the greatest landing spot. Of course, the standing reach and wingspan can not be ignored, but if you are seeking blocks, then JJJ and Mitchell Robinson are much more natural shot blockers. I don’t see enough versatility to warrant ranking him higher. I hope Bamba proves me wrong because he seems like the nicest guy in the world, but he will probably be on someone else’s fantasy roster.
11) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – (LA Clippers, PG – Summer League: 27.8 MPG, 19 PTS, 4.8 REB, 4.0 AST, 2.4 STL, 1 BLK, 46% FG%)
If we wind back the clock exactly one calendar year, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who? No player saw their stock rise faster and higher, as Shai went from afterthought behind Knox and Hamidou Diallo at the University of Kentucky to finishing as their most consistent player, then ending up as a first round draft pick in the NBA Draft. During Summer League, Shai demonstrated a variety of skills on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. His offense can get predictable, though, and I am not sold on his jump shot form. Despite his good size, he did show defensive naivety at times in college. I would probably like Shai more on a different team, given both Doc’s usage of rookies and fact that the Clippers backcourt is loaded. Shai is an exciting prospect and great example of the fluidity of rookie rankings, especially a year in advance.
12) Michael Porter Junior – (Denver Nuggets, PF – Summer League: DNP)
The enigma of the draft. Michael Porter Jr. has the raw talent to be special, and in leagues where you can stash I am happy to rank MPJ as high as 5, but the fact he is recovering from his second back surgery can not be ignored. If you are the gambling type and have zero issues with the possibility that he may sit out his rookie year, this pick could be a home run, as he could end having the best career out of everyone. So what can we expect from the player most had pegged as their number 1 player a year ago? A devastating combination of size, IQ, jump shot, and athleticism. He is a highly skilled player, who if health allows, has star potential that we all seek when drafting rookies. A bit more strength and development of putting the ball on the floor (of which he is no doubt more than capable of improving) would go a long way towards potential fantasy stardom. It’s all about those medical reports.
13) Mitchell Robinson – (New York Knicks, C – Summer League: 24.8 MPG, 13 PTS, 10.2 REB, 4 BLK, 1 STL, 67% FG%)
I stated a long time ago in a previous DDD article that Robinson could be the closest thing to De’Andre Jordan since, well, De’Andre Jordan and nothing in Summer League showed me otherwise. One of the biggest mysteries over the last year, there was little basketball activity for us analysts to go off and it was a legitimate concern. I am sure that led to pessimistic draft projections, as well as questioning where he is mentally. That being said, we here at DDD have always ranked him high on the raw talent alone. His play in Summer League demonstrated the outstanding athleticism, ability to slam down lobs, and block 4 shots per game. He should complement Enes Kanter well, as both are very different types of player. Mitchell Robinson should be a draft value, especially compared to the draft capital required to acquire Mo Bamba.
14) Elie Okobo – (Phoenix Suns, PG – Summer League: 14.3 MPG, 2.3 PTS, 3.5 AST, 2 REB, 24% FG%)
Yep, you read that right. Elie Okobo remains in my top 15 despite limited Summer League action. A pick-and-roll master with offensive prowess, Okobo carried his French professional basketball team on his back towards the end of the season, including the playoffs. Ball handling opportunities might be limited initially, but the release of Tyler Ulis demonstrates the faith that the Suns have in the long-term prospects of Okobo, in what looks to be an ideal fit under Igor. Okobo demonstrated outstanding playmaking ability over the summer and, despite hitting only 24% from the field, is a legitimate threat from the three-point line and off pick-and-roll action. It will take time, but this is a kid I am very excited about as a potential draft day steal for the Suns, given that he was selected in the second round of the draft.
15) Lonnie Walker IV – (San Antonio Spurs, SG – Summer League: 27.8 MPG, 11.5 PTS, 5 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 STL , 34% FG%)
The Kawhi Leonard-era has come to an end, DeMar DeRozan is now a Spur, and Lonnie Walker is now set to be a large part of the Spurs future. The Summer League stats are not impressive, but the upside is tantalizing. Lonnie has the length and defensive potential to be Pops man-love and what a crew the former Miami shooting guard has to learn from. I am a bigger fan of Lonnie Walker’s shooting form than most and think his jump shot in a Spurs system can not be ignored. One look at Lonnie and it’s apparent that he needs to add muscle, but he doesn’t shy away from contact and finishes well around the rim, despite his light frame. The quick first step he possesses really gives Lonnie the opportunity to become a strong fantasy asset in the future and, if he can improve his intensity on the floor, has a real chance to be both an excellent real life and fantasy player.
You can find me on Twitter @storytelling41 for any questions you may have, or for news on basketball, baseball, and other sporting goodness.