The 2014-15 Rookie the Year race has the potential to be very close. While Duke’s Jabari Parker is the favorite to win the award, there are several other youngsters who have favorable opportunities to shine, as well. Let’s look at the three favorites in detail, while also considering the longer shots that make interesting value picks in a few cases.
Odds courtesy Of Bovada
Jabari Parker (2/1)
Jabari Parker has good reason to be the favorite for this award in NBA odds. Parker enters a very favorable situation, especially offensively. Parker will get a lot of opportunities on a poorly constructed offensive Bucks team.
Expect Parker to couple well with Giannis Antetokounpo. Both can slide between the 3/4 spots interchangeably, and will complement one another nicely. Parker is the most NBA-ready in this draft class, and he’s mature enough to handle the load that the Bucks will hoist upon his shoulder. He may not have the long-term upside of Andrew Wiggins, but he has a better shot at having a superior rookie season.
Andrew Wiggins (15/4)
Andrew Wiggins’ first major NBA contributions will come on the defensive end, and that’s not favorable to winning awards that prefer big scorers. That’s not to say the Canadian won’t get his looks; he’ll score a good bit. He’s exciting. But the Minnesota Timberwolves have a lot of good talent around him, and Thaddeus Young will grow with an increased role, as Nikola Pekovic continues to get his looks in the post.
Ricky Rubio may find Wiggins an attractive target along the baselines, though, and such looks will probably be Wiggins’ highest area of field goal percentage. Even so, Parker has a more well-rounded game, and is on a team bereft of offensive talent. The Wolves can score, even with Kevin Love gone.
Nerlens Noel (11/2)
Nerlens Noel would have won the rookie of the year last year if he were healthy. But since that isn’t the case, he’s eligible for the award in his second season, essentially. Noel suffered one of the most horrific knee injuries in the video tape era at Kentucky, but is said to have fully recovered. His shot blocking and rebounding presence shined in summer league, and Noel showed great instincts finishing around the basket.
The thing most discount about Noel is how well he passes out of the post. Even in his limited time at Kentucky, he grew as an offensive threat. Noel made good decisions with the basketball in his hands, and though Philly is going to have a tough time this year, Noel likely won’t.
The best of the Rest:
Julius Randle (15/2) is a clone of Anthony Mason, but he’ll be mostly learning from Carlos Boozer this year (as horrifying as that sounds, truly). The Lakers will give Randle time though, and he’s very NBA-ready. That counts for a lot.
Doug McDermott (10/1) will be a featured cog on a good team, and has a game similar to Wally Sczerbiak. That isn’t conductive to ROY play, but his shooting ability may render him a good player sooner than later.
Marcus Smart (12/1) is going to be a terror defensively and the Boston Celtics have a defensively suffocating backcourt with Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo forming the three-guard rotation. Smart also comes in with a chip on his shoulder in attempt to prove he was better than everyone selected ahead of him in the 2014 NBA Draft. Orlando wanted to take Marcus Smart 1st overall if the Magic picked there in 2013, so remember this is a guy whose potential was slept on during draft night. There is no way he should have gone 6th overall, and he was entirely insulted that an unknown Exum could go before a proven NCAA commodity like himself. This is a superb value pick.
Elfrid Payton (15/1) may take time, but on a poor Magic team, he could start very soon. He and Victor Oladipo will look nice together, but unless the Magic surprise as a team and contend for a playoff spot, there’s no chance Payton wins this award.
Dante Exum (18/1) is a pure wildcard, but stranger things have happened. This is a guy who has drawn comparisons to Penny Hardaway. As to him actually being that damn good is unlikely, but if his game is exciting and the Utah Jazz don’t look like horrid cellar dwellers, Exum could sneak into the top of the voting, while still likely not winning.