This year's NBA draft is deep in talented players who can make impacts in both the short term and the long term. It wouldn't be surprising at all for players drafted late in the first round or even the second round to come in and play significant minutes for their teams as rookies, but the top of the draft is where the best fantasy basketball prospects are most likely to be found.
Here are my initial top seven rookies for 2018-19 fantasy basketball drafts:
1. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns -- He is huge, athletic, has a nice scoring touch in the lane and a jump shot that could extend out to 3-point range. He is a voracious rebounder and has double-double potential even as a rookie. The biggest question mark around Ayton is his defense, but he did block two shots a game in college and has the athleticism to post reasonable defensive numbers in the pros. The Suns have a fast-paced offense that is very fantasy-friendly, and Devin Booker should draw enough defensive attention that Ayton should get good looks right away.
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks -- Doncic may be the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft, as he's been playing professional ball in Europe since he was 13 years old. Now 19, Doncic is coming off an MVP season in the EuroLeague and has the size, confidence and skill set to be a focal point for the Mavericks as a rookie. His ability to shoot and distribute should play well off of Dennis Smith Jr., and his all-around game will let him fill roto stat sheets in categories like scoring, rebounding, assists, 3-pointers and steals.
3. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings -- He was evaluated by ESPN Analytics to be the best prospect in the draft. He is a more natural all-court scorer than Ayton, and he seemingly fits well next to Willie Cauley-Stein in Sacramento. Bagley has an excellent jumper with range that complements his inside post game and makes him the most dangerous scoring big in the draft. He is also famous for his ability to get off the ground quickly in second and third jumps, making him a good rebounding prospect as well.
4. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks -- Young is one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in this draft. His extreme 3-point range, ability to score off the dribble, and ability to play pure point guard in addition to his scoring prowess give him the well-publicized upside comp of Stephen Curry. On the other hand, he has a slight frame, is not mega athletic and has to prove that he can play in a professional team setting. He has the potential to lead all rookies in points, assists and 3-pointers if all goes well, but he also could easily disappoint. His future is also tied to whether the Hawks end up, as rumored, moving on from Dennis Schroder this offseason.
5. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets -- He may have been the most highly touted prospect in this class at this time last year. His big-man height combined with a guard-like skill set make him extremely intriguing, and he may have the highest potential ceiling in the draft. However, questions about the health of his back and hip caused him to drop to the 14th pick, and he's going to a Nuggets team that has playoff aspirations and plenty of talent in place. As such, they may not call on him to produce right away. But if they do, and if he's healthy, he could very well be the best fantasy rookie next season.
6. Mohamed Bamba, Orlando Magic -- He has the physical stature to be a defensive menace along the lines of Rudy Gobert from his first game as a pro. He's an extremely cerebral player and has worked a lot on his jumper and 3-point range. Even so, it is questionable whether that work will pay off on offense as a rookie. The Magic are actually fairly deep in big men, so Bamba will have to earn his minutes. With that said, his defense gives him a dimension that the Magic lack, and he could potentially lead all rookies in blocks while also challenging in rebounds.
7. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies -- Jackson is intriguing because he has all of the physical tools to develop into a star, and he's got the kind of defensive mindset to contribute on that end of the floor from Day 1. On the other hand, he's never been a high-volume player, and with veterans Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. running the ship, they may bring the rookie along slowly. His per-minute numbers should be very good, but he'll have to beat out JaMychal Green to get enough numbers for true fantasy impact in 2018-19.