Drafting rookies in fantasy basketball can be a lot like the fishing game at carnivals. The unknown of what’s going to happen is kinda fun and whimsical, you know you’re going to walk away with some sort of “prize,” but whatever rinky-dink toy or stuffed animal you get probably will depreciate in your mind faster than a new car off the lot. 

Long before I was the expert Razzball analyst you’re reading now [“psshh above-average amateur at best”; “Shut up voice in my head, too early for you!”] I never trusted rookies much. The more I read, it was nice to learn this was the correct take to have in this realm. 

Rookies traditionally underwhelm because they’re, well, rookies [DUH!]. They struggle with efficiency, which doubles in leagues counting turnovers, and lack the experience and game knowledge at the NBA pace that leads to an extra rebound here or assist there, or what have you that creates a reliable fantasy asset. 

Last season was a classic example. There was a Rookie of the Year in Paolo Banchero putting up headline-earning stats, yet finished ranked 211 per game in 9-cat. There were studs who started hot and heavy like Benedict Mathurin but never improved on average-to-weak counting stats. Per usual, the big guys fared the best, with a fun breakout campaign by Walker Kessler (57) and some usable players at the end of the season in guys like Mark Williams (128), Jalen Duren (135)  and Jabari Smith Jr. (144) – sniffing a double-double with a block can go a long way for guys on rebuilding teams. And then we had the surprise breakout of an older, more seasoned rookie in Jalen Williams, who finished ranked 73 in 9-cat, and was a top 20 player in the last two months of the season.

As the headline attempts to wittingly suggest, no matter how good the rookie, the general rule is to expect inconsistent fantasy production day-in and day-out. There will be some exciting bit lines and inevitable mistake-laden stinkers.

So let’s take a look at some of the class of 2023-24, as I’ve compiled a list of sure-fire analysis of steady that I’m 100% certain of….


Victor Wembayama & Chet HolmgrenI have no idea. Stumped. Stupefied. Certainly unsure. Who are these creatures who emerged from the fresh waters of Loch Ness to reign terror on my beliefs to never draft rookies in the first 5 rounds?  

Wembayama has been going in the 20 to 35 range, while Chet’s being taken 45 to 60 or so. Obviously, these aren’t your average rookies, as one has several years of [European] professional experience and the other had a full year on the sideline to watch and learn. They’re also freaks of basketball nature. That won’t automatically translate to clear skies and smooth sailings, but the combo of blocks, board and 3’s from 7-foot-plus guard/forward/centers is obviously enticing. 

I’m still mostly out on these two, however, at their ADPs. Chet is the better value, as I figure they finish pretty close in ranking, but they’ll probably continue to climb draft boards with preseason performances that mean squadoosh once the real season starts. 

Scoot Henderson & Ausar ThompsonThe appeal of top lottery picks is often that they are on bad teams, thus will get lots of run and have high usage. As previously noted, that usage is often inefficient in both percentages and counting stats, so despite their skill and potential, rookies often get done in 30 minutes what a savvy vet can in 22. 

That said, these two enter the league with mature-for-their-age fantasy potential from day 1. Both are below average shooters, great attackers and playing on teams that should complement their strengths and not force their weaknesses too much. 

With the keys to the Blazers’ future (and us Blazers fans’ hearts), I like Scoot anywhere after about pick 90 in 8-cat – a little higher in points and lower when turnovers are a factor. I liked Ausar a lot more before the Over-reaction Preseason Performance Hype Machine started pushing him up draft boards. Don’t reach, but the defense plays, so he should return value if nabbed in the 130s. 

Jarace Walker & Dereck LivelyHad the Pacers not brought Obi Toppin in, I may have Walker at 3 in these rankings. A great feel for the game on both ends of the court and an NBA-ready body will lead to immediate impact for the rookie out of Houston. Potential to be a 1/1/1 early in his career, but Pacers have a lot of big bodies and playoff aspirations, so Walker will need to limit the typical rookie mistakes to earn enough minutes to be a back-end fantasy asset this season.

After a year of several enticing traditional bigs added to the Association, we get just one this year. The range of where Lively is getting picked is as broad as his shoulders. Chatter of him being the Mavs starting center has propelled drafters to take him in the 150 range, while he’s going 220+ in other deep leagues. Unlike last year’s bigs, Lively is on a team with title aspirations, so even if he does start, don’t expect him to play more than 20 minutes – I’m also of the believe Dallas and Atlanta eventually pull the trigger on a Capela deal. 

As said above, it’s easier for rookie bigs to return value in category leagues, so it’s fine to take the flier here, just don’t rely on it. 

Amen Thompson & Brandon MillerAmen gets separated from his twin here because of the roster and team. Until I see it, I’m just not trusting any Rockets players in fantasy not named Alperen. There will be some impressive outings here and there, and maybe the ship blows up late season and he gets extended run, but otherwise Amen will be just another bench playmaker learning the ropes. As for Miller, he’ll hit some threes, and, ehh, uhh, yeah, he’s just being drafted far too high. If he returns Top 150 value, I’ll publicly make some outlandish promise right here, right now, that most likely won’t follow through on if by some miracle that happens.

Jaime Jaquez Jr.In a world of drafts filled with players who can’t legally order a drink at the bar, Jaquez gets the “NBA-ready” tag coming into the season at the ripe age of 22. Miami’s wing rotation outside of Herro and Butler is a mystery going into the season, and I could see Jaquez earning more of a role as the season goes on. He’s a good rebounder who can facilitate and find his own shot anywhere on the floor – and you know Heat announcers are chomping at the bit for the “IT’S JAMIE-TO-HIMMY FOR THE BUCKET” calls.

Bilal CoulibalyLines and stinkers. That’s what to expect from the other French teenager who was picked in the first round. Greats lines full of steals, a block and maybe a couple threes. Then plenty of stinkers as he adapts to playing with the big boys. I can see Coulibaly being one of the more active players on and off the waivers this year, with hot streaks interwoven by disappearing acts. 

Taylor Hendricks & Cason Wallace & Cam Whitmore – This grouping can be called “Where’s the Beef?” As in, fans will be asking where’s that beefy first rounder we drafted? All three are strong, skilled players who can knock down treys, are buried on depth charts headed into their rookie season, but worth monitoring over the season for injuries or late season tanks that open up more minutes.

Grady Dick & Keyonte GeorgeTwo guards expected to play 20+ minutes a game as they fill a need on their respective teams: Dick with floor spacing and George with playmaking. Neither enter the league with the defensive chops to be key contributors off the bat, but will be able to fill some spot categories throughout the season in the deepest of leagues. 

I’ll finish off with a group of RazzJam specials, who are the lower tier of would be in the Jaquez Jr. grouping above – older rookies worth a flier in rounds 22-25 because they will adapt to NBA play quicker and more likely produce for fantasy if given the minutes…

Julian StrawtherIt’s preseason. BUT. This three-year player out of Gonzaga is 12-of-24 from deep in three games, and the shot looks buttery. Looking like the best deep ball shooter in the class, Strawther will work his way into Denver’s rotation if he keeps shooting the lights out. As much as I love Petyon Watson’s potential, he still might not be ready for an impact role, so any injuries to the Nugget’s wing rotation and Strawther could see low- to mid-20 minutes and deserve a fantasy look for threes and points with a few boards and couple assists a game. 

Trayce Jackson-DavisWould take a Kevin Looney injury – and maybe another – for TJD to get 20 minutes a game, but his rim protection and ability to run the floor certainly melds with the Golden State roster.

Toumani CamaraBlazers fans desperate to find positives about the upcoming season have fired up the Camara hype train. A bit of a do-everything type player who can play both forward positions. He’ll contend for bench minutes with fellow rook Kris Murray and sophomore Jabari Walker, but will be a second-half breakout candidate as both Malcom Brogdan and Jerami Grant are expected to be on the trade block. 

Olivier-Maxence ProsperI guess Jason Kidd believes it’s a right of passage for every rookie to be given a pre-season ice cream cone then have it knocked on the hot cement and told to get back in line. That whole “O-Max could be a starter” talk finally faded, and I wouldn’t expect much unless a slew of injuries occurred.

Jalen SlawsonFantasy friendly all-around game, a name to track as the season goes along just in case. He’ll tear up the G League to start the season and probably won’t ever get much opportunity in SacTown. But just one to monitor along the way.