How To Handicap NBA Rookie Of The Year



The rookie class of 2017-2018 will undoubtedly be the best since the 2003 NBA draft involving Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade – all future hall of famers. Heading into next season, Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers is the favourite to win the Rookie of the Year (ROY) award at +175, followed by Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks at +325, Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers at +375, Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers at +1000, and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics at +1000, rounding out the top five. With what will likely be a closely contested ROY race, let’s take a look at some strategies on how to handicap the NBA ROY.

Performance In College

Although some rookies posted stellar numbers at the collegiate level, these numbers may not necessarily translate when playing in the NBA – their NBA statistics might not even come close to what they put up in college. Due to the fact that NBA players are much stronger and experienced, the majority of college players must typically undergo a steep learning curve. However, the game of some rookies may translate better in the NBA compared to others. For example, a rookie that is extremely fundamentally sound and has a variety of offensive moves will likely see his performance closely replicated in the NBA compared to a rookie whose offensive game depended largely on overpowering much smaller and weaker players in the NCAA. As a result, it is important to analyze each rookie’s individual offensive and defensive strengths in order to determine whether the success that they experienced at the collegiate level will likely continue in the NBA.

Potential Playing Time

If a rookie is barely able to see the floor due to the depth of the team that he plays on, it does not really matter how good he is when he does play – he will simply not accumulate enough playing time to enter the conversation for ROY. Because of this, it is a much wiser move to target rookies on fairly poor teams that are rebuilding for the future. These teams will be more willing to allocate a significant amount of playing time for their rookies, in order for these players to develop and gain invaluable NBA playing experience. A lot of rookies on weak teams will more than likely see time as a starter at their respective positions as well. With more playing time comes more opportunity, and the rookie who receives his fair share of playing time and is able to exceed expectations will walk away with the ROY award.

Injury Prone

It is also important to assess how injury prone each rookie is. Last season, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers would have easily walked away with the ROY award but due to a strict minutes restriction coupled with an injury during the latter half of the season, Embiid was not able to play enough minutes or games to place himself in contention for the award, even though some people still believed he should have won due to his dominance when he was on the court. Simply put, in the event that a rookie is forced to miss an extensive period of time as a result of injury, his chances of winning the ROY award will diminish significantly. With such a stacked 2017-2018 rookie class, staying healthy becomes all the more paramount for rookies with ROY aspirations.