NBA Rookie of the Year Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
It's an interesting time to look at the NBA rookie of the year race. We have learned a few things already. First, this draft class, which was criticized for lacking depth at the outset, has a lot of guys who can play. And so many of those guys have been ones that people didn't expect much - or anything in some cases - from. It has been exciting. Second, and more significantly, it feels like we are treading water when it comes to this award. Zion Williamson hasn't played yet, and he is still a ways off. He is recovering well by all reports, though, and will be back soon enough if things stay on track to play enough of the season to stake a claim for the award if he is as good as people think he is. So, it's like we can't accurately assess how this award turns out until he comes back. But let's look at where we are at now at Thanksgiving anyway. Most years, by this time, the eventual winner is really asserting himself as a budding force in the league:
Ja Morant, Memphis (+190): Morant is the real deal. We know that already. He can score. He makes highlight reel plays look easy. He is versatile. And he is the centerpiece of a Memphis team that suddenly has a whole lot of upside. He fits the profile, too - six of the last nine winners have been Top 3 picks, and he went second overall. There are things that you can criticize if you are looking to. His shooting has room to grow. And defensively, he is more of a liability than an asset too much of the time. That is the case for almost every young point guard, though - and a lot of the older ones. That can come with time given his athleticism and vision. But what he is doing is so very impressive, and he has the swagger that will help confidence grow in a hurry. At this point, it feels to me like we are giving Williamson too much credit given what Morant has done. He is a very deserving favorite. And given these prices, he feels like a massive relative value.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans (+230): How much are you going to buy into the hype? Every time we have seen this guy on a big stage, he has stunned us. And he could here, too. But he's a bit of a unicorn - to put it mildly - and when he returns, he will be joining a team that really hasn't been any good. He'll have spotted the others in this race about 25 games. And given his size and style of play, there is little reason to believe he is a lock to play every game, or close to it, once he returns. I like the guy a whole lot, but this price just isn't realistic. If Morant doesn't falter, Williamson would just have to be profoundly special to catch him.
R.J. Barrett, New York (+500): I am always loyal to my fellow Canadians, so Barrett has a soft spot in this race for me. And, like Paschall, he has done really well while carrying much more of the load than he should have to because he plays on a hopelessly inept team. The biggest concern I have is that he has lacked game-to-game consistency, which makes it feel a bit like he could fade going down the stretch. I am bullish on him in the long term. However, if I put beside my maple leaf shaped glasses for a minute, I'm not at all interested in him at this price.
Kendrick Nunn, Miami (+600): Nunn is a crazy story. He's one of a few undrafted rookies who are proving themselves this year and showing that the draft process is far from perfect - Terence Davis in Toronto is the other most notable one. The Heat are surprisingly good, and it is Nunn leading a trio of rookies that is getting things done. He's averaging 16.9 points and 3.3 assists per game as a shooting guard - about 30 times what you might expect from an undrafted guy who went to school at Oakland. He has a lot working against him, though. The Heat aren't a high-profile squad right now. He has little name recognition outside of hardcore fans. He may not even be the best rookie on his team if Tyler Herro can find some consistency to go with his flash. And shooting guards have been the least common winners of the award by position. He's fun to root for, but I need to see a whole lot more before I would bet on him at this price.
Eric Paschall, Golden State (+1200): Paschall isn't going to win this award, but he does deserve a medal. The second-round pick isn't winning many games for the Warriors, but he has been forced to step in and play crazy minutes. He's playing 31.5 a night and scoring 16.5 with 5.4 boards. He has a champions resume, and his class and maturity is showing here. Anyone who plays well on this team right now given their struggles is very impressive, and Paschall is no exception.
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