22/23 Rookie Preview Part 1

This is part one of Elite Fantasy Basketball’s look at this year’s rookie crop. Today, we look at what type of players tend to be useful in fantasy in their first year in the association. This analysis looks at what college numbers are predictive of rookie-year numbers and which are not and also provides you with a breakdown of which rookies have fantasy-friendly games. A full pick-by-pick analysis of this year’s draft with rankings for both re-draft and dynasty is coming, but not until preseason starts and we start to see how the rookies look in a real NBA game. Summer Leagues games can only tell us so much. They tend to be sloppy and are very unfriendly to bigs.

To figure out which college numbers are useful for predicting rookie numbers, I looked at all of the lottery picks that went to an American college since 2014 and compared their college per-possession numbers to their rookie-year per-possession numbers. The numbers that you see in the below chart are the R2 for each stat. R2 is a statistical measure that represents the proportion of a dependent variable that can be explained by an independent variable. In our case, that means the proportion of a player’s rookie-year numbers that can be explained by their college numbers. For example, TRB%’s R2 of 0.73 means that about 3/4th of a player’s rookie-year rebounding rate can be explained by their college rebounding rate. In other words, if a player is a strong rebounder in college, they will probably be a strong rebounder as a rookie. The same cannot be said for 3P%. When we ignore players who don’t shoot threes, we get an R2 of 0.03. That means that a player’s college 3P% is not a useful data point for figuring out if a player will shoot well from three in their rookie season.

The above chart tells us that the numbers that we can rely on when trying to forecast rookie performance are three-point rate, offensive rebounding rate, defensive rebounding rate, total rebounding rate, assist rate, steal rate, and block rate. On the flip side, college FG%, FT%, and free-throw rate are less useful, and college scoring rate, usage rate, 3P% (and therefore 3PM), and turnover rate tell us almost nothing about how a player is going to perform in each area as a rookie.

This means that when we are trying to figure out which rookies are good bets we should look for players who excel on the boards, in the defensive categories, and in assists. Rookies who excel in those categories are much safer bets than those who posted mediocre numbers in those categories in college and nice scoring numbers.

Now that we’ve gotten through the boring math, let’s take a look at which first-round rookies posted strong numbers in college in the categories where college performance tends to carry over to NBA performance.

Players with extremely fantasy-friendly games

Chet Holmgren – Super-elite BLK%, elite TRB%, solid steal rate for a C, FT% in the low-70s

Walker Kessler – All-time BLK%, elite STL% for his position, excellent TRB%, very good FG%, very poor FT%, 3PAr not zero but very low

Keegan Murray – Elite BLK% for his position, outstanding TRB% for his position, very strong STL%, FG% great for his position, FT% mediocre, AST% poor, TOV% extremely low

Tari Eason – Thybulle-like STL%, excellent BLK% for his position, strong TRB%, strong FG%, low 3PAr and AST%

Mark Williams – Super-elite BLK% and FG%, elite TRB%, FT% solid for his position and type of player, doesn’t shoot threes, very poor AST% and STL%


Players with somewhat fantasy-friendly games

Paolo Banchero – Good but not great TRB% and STL% rate, mediocre BLK% rate for his position, low-70s FT% shooter, good AST% for his position

Jabari Smith Jr. – Solid TRB%, great STL% rate for his position, good but not great BLK%, good FT% shooter for his position, exceptionally poor FG% for his position, high 3PAr

Jeremy Sochan – Elite STL% rate, very strong BLK% and TRB%, weak AST%, very poor FT% shooter, FG% solid but on very low volume

Jalen Williams – Very strong FG% for a guard, above-average FT%, average STL% and BLK% rate, good AST%, below-average TRB%

Jalen Duren – Elite BLK%, elite TRB%, excellent FG%, good STL% for his position, very poor FT%, doesn’t shoot threes

Dalen Terry – Very strong STL%, very solid TRB% and AST%, exceptionally raw as a scorer

Jake LaRavia – Excellent STL%, decent TRB%, solid AST% for his position, low-3PAr, very strong FG%, average FT%

David Roddy – Slightly above-average STL%, excellent BLK% and TRB% for his position, low 3PAr, poor FT%, extremely high FG%, played in a minor conference

Wendell Moore Jr. – Strong FG% and FT% on medium volume, solid TRB% for his position, strong AST% for his position, very strong STL%, very poor BLK%, low 3PAr

TyTy Washington – Very strong STL%, solid AST%, average FG% and FT%, below-average TRB%


Players whose games were not fantasy-friendly in college

Jaden Ivey – Poor STL%, below-average FT% for a guard, forgettable AST%, average FG%

Bennedict Mathurin – Mediocre TRB%, below-average STL%, poor BLK%, average FG%, average FT%, weak AST%

Johnny Davis – STL% average, poor FG%, average FT%, poor AST%, very strong TRB% for his position

Ochai Agbaji – Weak STL%, very weak AST%, poor FT%, solid FG%, high 3PAr

AJ Griffin – Very poor STL% and AST%, average TRB%, high FG% for his position but on low volume

Malaki Branham – Very poor STL% and BLK%, weak TRB% and AST%, low 3PAr, good FT% and FG%

Christian Braun – Weak STL% for his position, above-average BLK% for his position, solid TRB%, forgettable AST%, low 3PAr, strong FG%, poor FT% for his position

Blake Wesley – STL% is strong, AST% is weak, TRB% forgettable, poor FT%, poor FG%, horrendous BLK%


Players who did not play much in their final season in college

Patrick Baldwin Jr. – Only played 11 games in a minor conference, poor STL% for his position, solid BLK% for his position, below-average FT%, horrendous FG%, very poor AST%, high-3PAr

Peyton Watson – Only played 12.7 MPG as a freshman, both STL% and BLK% were excellent and TRB% was very good, poor AST% and FT%, horrendous FG%, low 3PAr


I have not included the international players and G League players in this analysis because the sample size of players who have come from some of the international leagues and the G Leagues is small. We will go over those players in more detail during the pick-by-pick rookie analysis.