NBA Rookie of the Year odds: 3 players deadlocked as favorites in heated race
We're just over six weeks into this young NBA season, and we've already seen four players favored to win the Rookie of the Year award - including three who are simultaneously jockeying for the top spot.
Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, Cavaliers big Evan Mobley, and Raptors forward Scottie Barnes are all priced at +250 to win this award despite taking divergent paths to get here. Well, maybe not so different: all three were taken in the top four picks of July's draft, and they've all married stellar play with injuries and missed games thus far.
Odds listed for players priced 150-1 or shorter
It should come as little surprise to see that trio at the top of the oddsboard given how they've performed through the first quarter of the season.
Those three are the only players who rank in the top four in minutes, points, and rebounds per game among rookies. And while Cunningham ranks second among all rookies in assists per game (4.6), Mobley and Barnes rank first (1.9) and second (0.8) in blocks per game, respectively.
That split highlights the two sides of this Rookie of the Year debate - one that has historically favored players like Cunningham. Ball-dominant guards have won this award in 10 of the last 13 seasons, which is partly why the No. 1 pick opened as the favorite to win this title. It's also why No. 2 pick and electric scorer Jalen Green (+650) still has a shot despite an uneven start for the Rockets.
Still, what Mobley and Barnes have done to this point deserves praise and possibly hardware if they can keep up their current pace - even if their production isn't as flashy in the eyes of potential voters.
If the season were to end today, it's hard to argue against Mobley. He leads all rookies in win shares (1.7) and is already drawing comparisons to superstars Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh, and Kevin Garnett. Mobley's versatility has been key: the 6-foot-11 big ranks seventh in the NBA in blocks per game and is the catalyst for the Cavaliers' third-ranked defense, but he also places in the top 20 in assists and top 30 in usage rate among all big men.
You can make a similar argument for Barnes. He joins Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, and James Harden as the only players in the NBA currently averaging at least 15 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. Barnes looked like the clear favorite early on before Pascal Siakam returned to the lineup, though he still has a path to victory if he can continue to fill the box score in unconventional ways.
The one knock on these three candidates - especially Cunningham - is availability. The Pistons guard missed five of the first six games of the season, Barnes missed two contests early on, and Mobley was out for four games in mid-November. Since 2007-08, all but one ROY winner has played a 70-game pace, and seven of those 14 winners played in at least 80 contests - something none of these three are likely to do.
If all three of these rising stars can stay healthy throughout the rest of the season, it's hard to see someone else cracking the top spot. Green has the explosiveness to go on a stellar run, while Chris Duarte remains a sneaky option as a stat-stuffing rotation piece for the playoff-hopeful Pacers. Still, this award will likely be won by one of the Big Three, who are rightfully inseparable as early favorites and should spur one of the most intriguing ROY races in years.
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