Fantasy Basketball Rookie Report: Top performers and inconsistent options

By Jason Shebilske, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The rookie class from the 2022 NBA Draft packed plenty of talent heading into the fantasy season, but No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren's offseason foot injury that sidelined him for the year put a damper on things. However, plenty of first-year players have made an impact over the first few weeks. A few have struggled to live up to expectations.

Top Performers

Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

The top overall pick fittingly leads off the top performers, as the Duke standout has already become a prominent contributor for the Magic. Banchero logged 20-plus points in each of his first six NBA appearances, and he's already posted two double-doubles over his first eight games.

Banchero has shown some growing pains over the last two games, converting just 36.4 percent of his field-goal attempts and 14.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. However, he maintained plenty of shot volume and averaged 16.5 points per game in those matchups. Banchero impressed over a limited sample size in the Summer League and has maintained his momentum to begin the regular season.

Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings

Murray began the year in the league's health and safety protocols but missed just one game to start the regular season. He came off the bench in his first two appearances but topped 30 minutes in each outing. The 22-year-old averaged 17.5 points on 54.2 percent shooting over those two matchups, being rewarded with a starting role since then.

However, he's totaled just 19 points over his last two appearances. While Murray's dip in production is discouraging, it's fair to expect ups and downs for rookies, and he's made himself an integral part of the Kings' offense early in the campaign.

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Ivey missed the Pistons' Oct. 26 matchup against Atlanta due to a non-COVID illness and appeared to be eased into action during his return to the court, but he's had consistent playing time in each of his other appearances. The Purdue product has been productive on the scoreboard, logging double-digit scoring totals in his first seven games before being held to just seven points during Wednesday's blowout loss to Milwaukee — one of the league's most formidable defenses.

In addition to his scoring, Ivey has shown glimpses of production in rebounding and assists, highlighted by a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double during the team's loss to the Pacers on Oct. 22. He also had nine assists in his second NBA game against the Knicks. While the 20-year-old had discouraging results Wednesday against the Bucks, he's had enough shot volume and production on both ends of the floor to make him a promising option.

Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers

Mathurin has come off the bench in each of his first eight appearances with the Pacers, but he's had plenty of playing time while posting consistent results. He's played at least 22 minutes in every game and has shot 45.6 percent from the floor while scoring in double figures in each matchup.

If there's a knock on his results from a fantasy perspective, it's that he doesn't offer much in the secondary categories. The 20-year-old has logged seven rebounds on two occasions, but he's otherwise had muted results in the boards and assists columns. Additionally, even though Aaron Nesmith has missed the last two games, the Pacers have turned to Chris Duarte as a starter rather than inserting Mathurin into their starting lineup. Despite Mathurin's shortcomings in some secondary categories, he's shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and will likely make a case for a starting role at some point if he can maintain his production.

Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin doesn't offer much in secondary fantasy categories, but he's been a steady scorer already as a rookie.
Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin doesn't offer much in secondary fantasy categories, but he's been a steady scorer already as a rookie. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons via Getty Images)

Inconsistent Options

Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets

Smith's playing time early in his career with the Rockets hasn't been a significant concern, as he's averaging 30.7 minutes over his first nine appearances. He also averaged 15.3 points per game over his first four NBA appearances — a stretch that included a double-double against Milwaukee on Oct. 22.

Unfortunately, his efficiency has fallen off over six matchups since then, as he's shot just 24.5 percent from the floor and has been held to single-digit scoring totals in his last three appearances. On an encouraging note, the 19-year-old has continued to shoot plenty of threes, averaging 6.2 attempts per game from beyond the arc. While Smith's early-season inconsistency has been discouraging given his status as the No. 3 overall pick, he shot 42 percent from beyond the arc at Auburn last year. He should have plenty of opportunities to turn things around as the Rockets rebuild.

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers

As expected, playing time was a concern early on for Sharpe while playing behind Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the Trail Blazers' backcourt. He showed glimpses of production off the bench but couldn't generate enough consistency to make him a reliable fantasy option. However, he's seen increased minutes while filling in for Lillard, who has been sidelined with a calf injury over the last two games. Sharpe dropped 14 points in his first NBA start but was limited to just two points Wednesday against the Grizzlies.

While the Trail Blazers still need to set a precise date for Lillard's return, the team hopes he'll be able to return sometime during the upcoming road trip that begins Friday. In addition to Sharpe being a consideration in dynasty/keeper leagues, most of his fantasy appeal at this point comes in DFS formats and as a streaming option in some redraft leagues while filling in for Lillard. Once Lillard is back in action, Sharpe's short-term value will likely drop.

Tari Eason, Houston Rockets

Eason has had relatively consistent playing time despite his bench role, but his results on a game-to-game basis have been unreliable. He's scored in double figures in two of his first nine appearances in the NBA and has averaged 4.9 rebounds per game, which isn't what fantasy managers hope for from a 6-foot-8 frontcourt option.

Even with Jae'Sean Tate sidelined recently, Eason's role hasn't significantly increased. The LSU product may have more chances to prove himself if some of the Rockets' frontcourt options deal with injuries, but Eason hasn't had a particularly fantasy-relevant role early in his career.

Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs

Sochan has started in his first seven appearances for the Spurs, but his role has been somewhat inconsistent. While he's averaging 21.6 minutes per game, he's been limited to just 10 minutes on two occasions. The most recent 10-minute outing came Wednesday since he's continuing to work his way through an illness, so the Spurs unsurprisingly eased the rookie back into action.

Even excluding Wednesday's performance, Sochan's production has yet to be what some may have hoped for from a player who earned a starting role in the frontcourt. While he's scored in double figures in three matchups, he's failed to haul in more than seven rebounds in any of his appearances and hasn't been a reliable distributor. The 19-year-old has had some productive games early in his career, but his inconsistency and lack of defensive production have hindered his fantasy appeal.