As we close in on the penultimate Week 19 of the Fantasy Basketball regular season, it’s a good time to step back and take a look at some contenders for the rookie of the year. Welcome back to WYT, where I’ll be sharing some of my random thoughts, opinions, and questions about the NBA landscape as it pertains to fantasy basketball. Feel free to drop your comments and questions below! Let’s get started.

Top 5 Rookies this season

Walker Kessler (rank: 78, 41 past month)

The shot blocking phenom out of Auburn has dazzled fantasy owners this season with strong FG%, rebounding, and block numbers. Kessler was already trending way up before the trade deadline, but Utah moving Jarred Vanderbilt was the final confirmation that Kessler’s minutes were here to stay. Managers likely snatched Kessler from the waiver wire, and to find early-mid round value from such a desolate wasteland is an achievement in itself. Kessler is averaging 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 71% from the field. He’s not the top ranked rookie over the past month, but 41? That’s good enough. 

Jalen Williams (rank: 107, 39 past month)

Williams is the top ranked rookie over the past month and for good reason. His value is buoyed by strong steal numbers, 2.2 per game, and great percentages with minimal turnovers. OKC has scored another very promising rookie to complement the SGA/Giddey/Dort/Holmgren core, while fantasy managers have secured a top 45 asset for the rest of the season. He’s controlled, intelligent, and a defensive pest on the court.

Keegan Murray (rank: 123, 94 past month)

It’s rare to see a rookie starting for a 3rd seed in either conference, but here we are with Keegan Murray. Murray is invaluable to the Kings, providing plenty of spacing, defense, and selflessness to an intriguing Sacramento campaign that’s been teasing to end its frustrating 16 season playoff drought. His impact translates into an okay fantasy profile, and for someone who’s been as offensively inconsistent as Murray has, top-100 value isn’t too shabby. He’s averaging 12-6 with almost three triples a game over the past month. I almost want to say he’s a drop, but with such a nice playoff schedule (4 games during all three playoff weeks), I think there are worse players to consider.

Jalen Duren (Rank: 132, 47 past month)

Another top-50 asset over the past month, Duren started off this season with a limited role but is now occasionally flashing serious early round potential with incredible rebounding numbers. His monster 30-17 game with five stocks in early February officially put him on the radar, and he should absolutely not be on any waiver wires due to sheer upside alone. The trade deadline was unkind to Duren. The Pistons adding James Wiseman to Detroit’s front court suggests an intent to also develop Wiseman next to Duren, but we’ll have to see. 

Mark Williams (Rank 136, 68 past month)

Unlike Duren, Williams was maybe the biggest winner at the trade deadline. The Hornets moved Plumlee to the Clippers and thus opened up minutes for both Williams and Nick Richards. I don’t think this will be a true time split; Williams should be getting the majority of the minutes between these two centers unless there’s foul trouble. Regardless, Williams is looking to finish this season strong, as the Hornets don’t have much to play for. Williams should provide plenty of rebounds, blocks, and FG%.

Paolo Banchero (Rank: 188, 304 past month)

Banchero gets an honorable mention here as the rookie with the biggest gap between real-life value and fantasy value. He’s been tough to hold this past month, hurting your team way more than helping, but it’s hard to find 17 PPG on the waiver wire, even if that does come with 37 FG% and 74 FT% on big volume. A tough hold indeed, and we’re all hoping it turns around fast.

Do you have any of these guys rostered? Where do you think they will get drafted next year? See y’all next week.