This year’s Rookie of the Year award could be pretty wide open. There are four main contenders for the award, but it also has been one of the trickier awards to predict historically.
Two seasons ago, it went to the No. 10 overall pick in Michael Carter-Williams. Last year, the No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins took it.
This year’s No. 1 pick is tied for the third-best odds to take the award, but what gives? Why is Karl Anthony Towns not favored? Is there not a fiery gunner out in Los Angeles learning from Kobe Bryant? Who really win this year’s Rookie of the Year award?
Emmanuel Mudiay (+400)
Emmanuel Mudiay was selected No. 7 overall after spending what would have been his freshman NCAA season in Guangdong, China. He fell in the draft simply due to the strange nature of drafts, but he had been projected early on to be a top-three pick. There is also the fact that Denver cleaned the shelves and got rid of Ty Lawson to clear the way to make this Mudiay’s team. What we do not like is that Denver is now nearly entirely bereft of talent for Mudiay to drop dimes to.
The highlight reel will play as big a role as any in this award, though, and E.M. can create some jaw droppers. A 6-foot-5 point guard with a great handle, Mudiay projects to be a great NBA player, but does he really have the talent to steal this award from the six guys taken before him in the draft? All we can say is “maybe.”
Jahlil Okafor (+400)
This is our favorite to win the award, and Vegas oddsmakers more or less agree, despite giving Mudiay the same odds. Philadelphia 76ers fans are craving wins, and Jahlil Okafor has the post game to draw double teams while eventually evolving into a 20/10 type of player. What he lacks is flash and pizazz, and that we know does play a role in this award (as perhaps the MVP equally so).
Okafor is arguably the most NBA ready player in the draft, though, and we think his quick ascent will give him an early lead in this award. Whether or not he holds onto that is partially up to whether the Sixers can become a real threat at long last. If Okafor guides the team to respectability while posting some numbers, this is his award to lose.
Karl-Anthony Towns (+600)
No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns does have this working against him: He is joining a team with a good bit of talent on it, and he will not be the primary dog to begin the season. He also will be playing power forward with Gorgei Dieng in the middle. That may not matter a ton, but having Andrew Wiggins doing the majority of the damage will take touches away from Towns.
Towns has the high post game to help Minnesota create a really interesting look, but that may not be enough to win the award. Towns is a better defensive player than Okafor, but this is an award mostly predicated upon offense. While he does have a good chance, we agree with Vegas that he ranks behind Okafor at least.
D’Angelo Russell (+600)
D’Angelo Russell has already earned the praise of Kobe Bryant, a man notoriously tough to impress (and play with). Russell will be given the chance to sink or swim, and a lot of sentiments regarding him seem to be this: Either he will be a superstar or a colossal bust. How is there no in between? Well, Russell has a ton of talent but he also spent just a year at Ohio State and the Buckeyes really did not have an abundance of success.
It is tough to say that was entirely Russell’s fault, and if the Lakers can climb right back to respectability (which they could) Russell may receive a lot of the credit. He seems like a longer shot than +600 though, so this does not seem like a very good value if nothing else.
Best of the Rest:
Stanley Johnson (+1000)
Stanley Johnson could eventually be one of the best three talents in this draft, but we do not expect it to happen this year. He is a strong player who could shine at small or power forward, but he is also an intangibles type of player.
Myles Turner (+1000)
Myles Turner walks into a very favorable situation with Roy Hibbert cleared out of the way. He also looked really good in summer league in Orlando (like, really good). But Turner seems to have a much better chance at making First team all Rookie, than he does at winning the ROY.
Justise Winslow (+1400)
Justise Winslow will likely be the steal of the draft, after having been projected as high as No. 5 and falling to the Miami Heat at No. 10 overall. He’s going to be a two-way star and could even be the draft’s best player. What determines how good his chances are is how quickly he can displace Luol Deng in the starting lineup. We are not ruling out Winslow taking this award as a darkhorse, and at +1400 there is some pretty nice value there.
Mario Hezonja (+1400)
Mario Hezonja has the flash and talent to win this award, but not the situation. With Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris in front of him at the 2/3 positions, he is going to have to really fight to get decent playing time.