Top Fantasy Basketball Rookies (2020-21)
Last year, we watched Ja Morant win Rookie of the Year and provide plenty of big-time production for fantasy managers. When on the court, Zion Williamson stuffed the stat sheet with regularity. Kendrick Nunn, P.J. Washington, Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura, Tyler Herro, Eric Paschall, and Coby White all made an impact in their respective first seasons and likely found themselves on your fantasy teams at one point or another. With the new NBA season comes a new class of rookies ready to make their mark on the Association, but which first-year players will make their mark on your fantasy team? The experts weigh in here.
Who is your top rookie of the 2020-21 season?
LaMelo Ball (CHA – G)
I’m banking on LaMelo Ball to make an immediate impact this season because, honestly, the kid was born to ball. The Charlotte Hornets selected him third overall in the 2020 NBA Draft after taking an unconventional journey to the NBA – forgoing some of high school and college to pursue playing professionally in Lithuania and Australia. He’s been in the spotlight since he was 13-years old, and he landed on a team that lacks true superstar potential. Is Ball going to be a superstar this early in his career? Probably not. But he has a path to playing time as a backup point where they’ll groom him into becoming the face of the franchise.
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) December 6, 2020
Listed at 6’8 on the Hornets official roster, I expect Charlotte to run three-guard sets with Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, and LaMelo to accelerate an offense that ranked dead-last in pace in 2019-2020. His jump shot remains a question mark at the NBA level, but he has the tools to contribute right away in assists, steals, and rebounds – similarly to Michael Carter-Williams in his rookie season. -Dan Titus (FantasyPros)
Killian Hayes (DET – G)
I’ll buck the Anthony Edwards or James Wiseman picks here and roll with Hayes. Selected No. 7 by Detroit, he’s in line for plenty of work as a rookie in the Pistons’ uninspiring backcourt. I don’t trust Derrick Rose to stay healthy all season, and the remaining options on this team are… less than exciting. The Pistons selected Hayes with the thought that he could be the playmaker they need on offense, and I think he lives up to the billing. With three years of professional play already under his belt from his time overseas, Hayes should be well-equipped to succeed in his first season. -Zak Hanshew (FantasyPros)
Here is Pistons rookie Killian Hayes in action today in transition, while finding Mason Plumlee for an open dunk under the rim during today’s practice. pic.twitter.com/CWaL6Fve1Y
— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) December 7, 2020
He landed into the best spot for instant fantasy production and should be a starter on Day 1. I expect Derrick Rose/Blake Griffin to be moved at some point this season, giving Hayes more time on ball. He figures to be a high-upside passer and scorer. -Ethan Masel (TheFantasyBulletin)
Obi Toppin (NYK – F)
Arguably the most polarizing rookie in his class, is also the most fantasy- and NBA-ready rookie in his class. We’re talking about Obi Toppin, folks. His advanced age and polished offensive game should make him a Day 1 contributor for the Knicks. The questions, though, are how long of a leash Tom Thibodeau will give a rookie, how Toppin does on the defense side of the ball, and how his game transitions from the A-10 to the NBA. -Michael Waterloo (FantasyPros)
OBI TOPPIN GOTTA CHILL
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 8, 2020
Obi Toppin was selected No.8 by the New York Knicks in the 2020 NBA Draft. He was considered a top-5 pick and could play a key role with the Knicks right away. The 22-year-old forward averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.2 blocks in his final season at Dayton. Toppin will compete with RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson for shot opportunities in the Knicks’ offense. The Knicks’ rookie currently has an average ADP of 100. Toppin has the opportunity to be the 2020-21 Rookie of the Year, and his game is similar to former NBA veteran Shawn Marion. He’s my current choice to be fantasy basketball’s top rookie. -Brad Camara (FantasyPros)
James Wiseman (GSW – C)
Rookies in the NBA don’t always contribute immediately, especially rookies as raw as Wiseman. The 7’1 big man only played three collegiate games at Memphis, where he averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game in an extremely small sample size. The good news is he couldn’t have landed in a much better spot with the Warriors. They’re a well-coached team that won’t rely on any significant production from him early in the season, which should allow him to develop at a steady pace. If you spend a draft pick to get him on your fantasy roster, you’ll need to practice patience. He isn’t likely to contribute much early on but is fully capable of averaging a double-double and racking up blocks in the second half of the season. -Aaron Larson (FantasyPros)
Tyrese Haliburton (SAC – G)
There’s no doubt fantasy basketball players will be all over the top-3 picks (Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball) in the NBA Draft due to their high draft capital and name recognition, but I think there’s a guy that was selected much later in the lottery that has a chance to pop as early as this season. Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, selected No. 12 overall by the Sacramento Kings, finds himself on a team in need of a starting shooting guard after the departure of Bogdan Bogdanovic to Atlanta. Haliburton earned second team All-Big 12 honors a season ago despite missing the team’s last eight regular season games due to a broken wrist. He more than doubled scoring output his sophomore year, averaging 15.2 points (50.4 FG%), 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 36.7 minutes per game. He’s also a very solid 3-point shooter, making 42 percent of his 5.6 attempts.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 19, 2020
As it stands right now, Haliburton is considered the “backup” point guard to De’Aaron Fox and “backup” shooting guard to Buddy Hield. Hield came off the bench last season, but there’s a bit of a rift between him and head coach Luke Walton, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Haliburton get the nod over Hield at some point this season. With the lack of depth in the Kings backcourt, the Iowa State rookie could legitimately see minutes in the mid-20s and produce right out of the gates. I’m not sure the same can be said for Edwards, Wiseman, and Ball. -Adam Koffler (FantasyPros)
Precious Achiuwa (MIA – F)
It typically takes a while for most rookies to find their groove in the NBA before making a fantasy impact but if there is one franchise that seems to know the secret, it’s the Miami Heat. After watching rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn leave their mark on the NBA a season ago, Precious Achiuwa is up next. Miami selected the 6-9 power forward with the 20th overall pick in November’s draft and his skillset looks to be a perfect fit alongside Bam Adebayo.
— Overtime (@overtime) November 30, 2020
His elite rebounding and defensive ability were on full display during his freshman season at Memphis as he went on to average just under 11.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Additionally, word on the street is that his three-point shot is improving drastically since arriving in Miami, as he shot 32 percent from beyond the arc at Memphis. There is no question that Miami’s system and style of play will suit his skill set well. Achiuwa is an interesting dart throw in the final round of fantasy drafts and should see a decent amount of playing time early on for the Heat. -Alex Burns (FantasyPros)
Thanks to all of the experts who contributed! Be sure to check out their other work and follow them on Twitter.