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Perfect Opportunity: NBA Rookies in Great Situations

With the completion of the 2016 NBA Draft, all 30 teams effectively locked in the directions for their organization's future. Some teams chose to pick the usual project players who will take a few years of pro experience to develop, while other teams have found themselves already in postseason position and were looking to fill the empty gaps that occupy their rosters. However, there are a few talented individuals that landed in a city in desperate need of their services immediately. While having an NBA team led by these young guns doesn't necessarily spell out a playoff spot, it does mean good news for the rookie's prominence in the hearts of Fantasy Basketball Managers. It is an exciting prospect when a potential top producer for a team is...well, an exciting prospect. Here are a handful of players drafted this year who were drafted into perfect situations by their new teams and who are going to be ready to be big-time fantasy producers in their rookie seasons.


First Rounders in Big Roles

Ben Simmons (1st overall to the Philadelphia 76ers)

If you paid any attention to internet memes during the NBA season, you are probably well aware that while the Golden State Warriors produced the greatest regular season record in NBA history, the Philadelphia 76ers produced one of the worst records of all-time at 10-72. Seeing as they were one of the worst teams in league history, it is fair to deduce that they have plenty of room for immediate improvement.

Ben Simmons may have had a controversial freshman year at LSU, but that doesn't mean that the Melbourne, Australia native wasn't phenomenal and well worth the first overall selection in the NBA draft. In 35 minutes per game in his 33 games played as a Tiger Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Simmons is a 6'10'' player with the rebounding skills of a power forward and the floor skills of a guard. The big downside to Simmons as a hybrid type player is that he has very little shooting ability from 3-point distance as he made just one three point field goal in just three attempts this season.

The Sixers have a young core at the Center position, but that isn't Simmons's future. They have had makeshift lineups with players like Tony Wroten and Robert Covington while fellow youngster Nik Stauskas has still struggled in the pros. Philly has had some very admirable performances from unheralded guards like T.J. McConnell, Kendall Marshall, and Phil Pressey, but Simmons is far more talented than all three of those players combined. Simmons will immediately be the main ball handler in Sixers lineup as starting "point forward" and will have the opportunity to produce in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. If there was a Vegas line on quadruple-double odds in the NBA, it is worth a flyer on Simmons.

Brandon Ingram (2nd overall to the Los Angeles Lakers)

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past few years, you certainly know that the Lakers are in the middle of their worst stretch of seasons in their franchise history, especially this season when they finished last in the Western Conference with a record of 17-65. Oh yeah, that delightful teammate with the active Twitter account named Kobe Bryant retired. Despite a FG% of just .358 and a 3PT% of .285, Kobe Bryant still led the woeful Lakers in scoring with 17.6 points per contest in 28.2 minutes on average in the 66 games he played in.

The Lakers have gotten by in the last few years with a collage of underdeveloped youth and fleeting free agents. The team had just five players average double-digit points and more than the 7.3 PPG produced by Nick Young. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant is gone. The other four players were Jordan Clarkson at 15.5 PPG, Lou Williams at 15.3 PPG, D'Angelo Russell at 13.2 PPG, and Julius Randle at 11.3 PPG. The Lakers were dead last in the NBA with just 97.3 points per game.

Enter 2nd overall selection, 6'9'' guard Brandon Ingram out of Duke University. Ingram played in 36 games for the Blue Devils during his fantastic freshman season and in that time he averaged 34.6 minutes, 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game. Ingram is an athletic shooter who shot 41% from beyond the arc in 2015-2016. The youthful core of the Lakers--Russell and Randle--profile as the Lakers floor general and inside presence far more than they do as pure scoring threats. Lou Williams has had a solid NBA career and Jordan Clarkson has been a pleasant surprise in Hollywood. However, Ingram is the highest ceiling talent on the roster moving forward and is the best scoring threat. No one needs scoring more than the Lakers, and Ingram is ready to provide it from Day One.

Wade Baldwin IV (17th overall to the Memphis Grizzlies)

Mike Conley has been a great starting point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies since he was drafted out of Ohio State. Sadly for the Grizz, there is a strong chance Conley is on his way out of Tennessee via free agency. Fortunately for the Grizz, the possible answer at point guard is making the in-state trip from Nashville. Wade Baldwin is a 6'3'' guard from Vanderbilt who seems to be just what the doctor ordered for a Memphis team that is hanging onto contention in the competitive Western Conference.

In Baldwin's 2014-2015 freshman season at Vanderbilt he averaged 28.8 minutes, 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 43.9% from three-point range. This past season he averaged 30.4 minutes, 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting at a clip of 40.6% from beyond the arc. With his scoring, passing, defense, long-range shooting, and athletic upside at 6-3, Baldwin has a great skill set for stepping into Mike Conley's likely vacant role.

Timothe Luwawu (24th overall to the Philadelphia 76ers)

Drafting from overseas seemed to be even more popular this year than usual. Timothe Luwawu is a 6'7'' 205 lbs. forward from France who has more maturity at 21 years old than a lot of the 18 and 19 year old talent selected at the top level of the NBA Draft. While playing at a young age in the competitive European leagues since 2012, Luwawu didn't average more than 20 minutes per contest until his 28 games played in Liga ABA this season when he averaged 31.1 minutes per game. In that time this year he averaged 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and an impressive 1.7 steals per game while shooting 37.2% from three-point range.

Luwawu has good size, solid shooting ability, and impressive defensive skills. He was drafted by the Sixers and as we previously discussed, they were one of the worst NBA teams of all-time with large gaps in roster talent. With skilled forward and new teammate Ben Simmons likely to eat up a lot of minutes in 2016-2017, that means there will be a talented ball-distibuting forward on the floor who has little to no shooting ability. Luwawu (along with Covington and fellow foreign player Dario Saric) will get a chance to work on the perimeter catching well-timed passes from Simmons.  With solid playing time, Luwawu has a real chance to be the perimeter bread to Simmons's butter, with the capacity to produce solid numbers in threes and steals.


Second Round Sleepers

A.J. Hammons (46th overall to the Dallas Mavericks)

A.J. Hammons is a big 7'0'' 261 lbs. four-year player from Purdue who is possibly the sleepiest big-time college producer from the 2016 Draft. In an impressive 132 games in his career as a Boilermaker, Hammons never averaged more than 25 minute per game. In his senior year he averaged 24.6 minutes in 33 games and in that time produced 15.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. He was a consistent producer throughout all four years as well. His season averages before 2015-2016 were consecutively 10.6, 10.8, and 11.9 points per game; 6.0, 7.4, and 6.6 rebounds per game; and 2.0, 3.1, and 2.8 blocks per game.

Hammons also made some key advances in his game as a senior. He finished with a career high two-point FG% of .594, while attempting 11 three pointers and converting six of them for a 54.5 3PT% after going 0-12 in his previous seasons. He was drafted to the Dallas Mavericks who are in search of interior scoring threats. Hammons has gargantuan size, improving offensive skills, and a tested track record for grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. He is in a prime position to pick up right where he left off from his fantastic career at Purdue for the needy Mavericks.

Marcus Paige (55th overall to the Brooklyn Nets)

Marcus Paige isn't physically imposing at 6'1'' 175 lbs. His lack of size and athleticism is why such a successful college basketball player from a storied program like North Carolina dropped all the way to the fifth to last pick. Paige's appeal comes in his consistency and basketball IQ that he displayed in Chapel Hill. After his freshman season in 2012-2013 when he averaged a career low 29.2 minutes per game Paige produced 8.2 points, 4.6 assists, and 1.4 steals while shooting 36.8% on 2PT field goals and shooting 34.4% from long range. After that Paige had two great years averaging 35.6 and 33.2 minutes, 17.5 and 14.1 points, 4.2 and 4.5 assists, with 1.5 and 1.7 steals per game in 72 total games. Paige also improved his overall offensive efficiency with 2PT FG percentages of .493 and .438 and encouraging improvements from three-point range at 38.9% and 39.5%. His senior season, Paige toned down a bit. In 34 games he averaged 31.6 minutes, 12.6 points, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 steals with 2PT and 3PT shooting percentages of .459 and .356.

What makes Paige especially intriguing as a guard at the next level? He turns the ball over incredibly rarely. As his career progressed, he continuously lowered his amount of mistakes. From 2012-2013 to his final season in 2015-2016 Paige went from 3.3, 2.4, 2.1, and finally 1.8 turnovers per game. The Brooklyn Nets took a chance on Paige, and there isn't a lot of talent on that roster, especially at the point guard position. They finished 21-61 last season which was the third worst record in the NBA. Their leading passers were Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin. Jack averaged 7.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.9 turnovers in 32.1 minutes per game while Larkin averaged 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.9 turnovers in just 22.4 minutes per game. Paige has a great chance to see the floor with shallow guard competition in Brooklyn during his rookie year. When he does, his time tested defense, floor general passing ability, and ability to avoid mistakes will yield nice rewards for the Nets and Fantasy Basketball Managers.

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