I received a tweet (follow me @ProfessorDrz on Twitter and IG) from @andyisflash about rookie Trae Young that epitomizes the motivation for this article:
@ProfessorDrz 10 team Roto 9 cat. I've asked you before about trae young, I still have him, no trade value in my league, but Shroder recently hit FA, his numbers are better minus dimes. Would you drop Trae for Shroder? Someone will claim Trae though. Let him be their prob?
As Andy mentioned, he's asked me about Young before. He's said Young's shooting struggles were killing his team and questioned whether he should let Young go. I get questions like this all the time, especially about rookies who have nebulous long-term upside but may be struggling in the short term.
In such cases, is it worth it to hold on or should you try to move them? Similarly, should you roster and hold a struggling rookie early in the season or go with a dependable veteran who has lower upside?
These are tried-and-true questions that come up every season. My tried-and-true answer is usually along the lines that most rookies struggle at some point during the season, but they have untapped upside that they usually start to reach towards the end of the season.
There are several reasons I typically give for why this might be so:
Rookies gain experience in the NBA as the season goes along, allowing the game to eventually start slowing down for them.
Rookies eventually fight their way through rookie walls, if that is what is holding them back
Bad teams (where you'll find most lottery rookies) tend to reach a point in the season when they prioritize developing their talent over winning, thus rookies should get heavier run later in the season than they do at the beginning.
This logic sounds reasonable and makes sense -- and pretty much every NBA evaluator or fantasy prognosticator in my experience believes something along those lines.
But I want more.
I want proof.
Do rookies really get better as the season goes along? Or is that just accepted knowledge along the lines of "the most valuable thing to an offense is a great post game" or "a player who scores 20 PPG is a star" -- statements that, when tested, have proved to be false.
Let's find out.