Forecasting NBA All-Rookie Teams Halfway Through 2017-18 Season
Rookie of the Year odds located next to each selection come from BetFair and are accurate as of Monday, Jan. 29. Please be sure to check these lines with your own Sportsbook of choice. They tend to shift weekly, but they also vary across sites given how limited Rookie of the Year futures betting can be.
Contrary to All-NBA teams—which you can read about here—the NBA has just two All-Rookie squads consisting of the 10 best newbies irrespective of what position they play.
All-Rookie 1st Team
Guard — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (-2000)
Ben Simmons’ Rookie of the Year odds aren’t worth touching with a 60-foot pole at this point…because he’s that good.
The Philadelphia 76ers have made good on their promise to use him as a full-time point guard, and he’s excelling. While he doesn’t shoot threes or lead above-average offenses that don’t feature Joel Embiid in the lineup, we must remember this is only his first season. He’s already an expert playmaker, nifty finisher around the rim and switchable defender.
Simmons, quite frankly, has top-five-player-in-the-league potential.
Guard — Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (+190)
If anyone can seize the Rookie of the Year crown from Simmons, it’s Utah Jazz fledgling Donovan Mitchell.
No one saw the undersized 2-guard being this good right away—particularly when he’s not even being used as a 2-guard. The Jazz have opted to let him develop, for the most part, as a floor general. And it’s working. Their offense is better when he’s on the court, and it’s even better than simply better when he gets to run the show without Ricky Rubio.
Rookies seldom make meaningful contributions to a playoff team. That’s part of Simmons’ appeal. He’s pivotal to the Sixers’ postseason aspirations. But Mitchell is similarly integral to the Jazz’s push to get back in the Western Conference playoff picture. And if he leads them into the springtime dance averaging close to 20 points per game, you better believe he’ll get serious consideration not just for First-Team honors, but Rookie of the Year love.
Forward — Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (+200)
Jayson Tatum is making the Boston Celtics look good.
Team president Danny Ainge traded the right to draft Markelle Fultz in exchange for Tatum and another first-round. The thinking, it went, was that the Celtics wanted to select Tatum at No. 1 anyway, so why not get him and an extra asset?
Most scoffed at the notion. Surely Tatum wasn’t worth the No. 1 overall pick. The Celtics were kidding themselves. They made a mistake. Except, they haven’t. Fultz has only appeared in four games for the Sixers while dealing with shoulder injuries, and Tatum has emerged as the third-leading scorer for the Eastern Conference’s best team—not to mention one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the league.
Should his off-the-dribble game ever develop—and there are already signs it will—Tatum will be on the fast track toward superstardom. And the Celtics, in turn, will come off smelling like geniuses.
Forward — Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (+190)
Kyle Kuzma is the quintessential example of how deep this year’s rookie class stretches.
In any other season, a first-timer averaging around 17 points and six rebounds while canning more than 37 percent of his threes and shooting close to 64 percent around the rim would be billed as the Rookie of the Year favorite. Instead, Kuzma will be lucky to finish third on the ballot.
No matter, though. He’s an offensive stud who’s showing growth as a playmaker. The Los Angeles Lakers could have an All-Star talent on their hands if his defense in the half-court ever gets settled.
Forward — Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (+200)
Lauri Markkanen is the toughest pick of this bunch. He has vacillated in and out of First Team contention all year, in large part because the Chicago Bulls are an inconsistent mass of chaos.
It also looked like he hit a rookie wall for a while. His shooting percentages plummeted, and he didn’t seem as comfortable firing away or working off the bounce. But that all seems like ancient history.
Markkanen is shooting around league average from deep (36.5 percent) while firing up more than six three-pointers per game. That’s never been done before by a rookie seven-footer. He’s showcasing better handles as well. He can create his own shot and, in due time, might be one of the rare bigs who can initiate high pick-and-rolls as the primary ball-carrier.
All-Rookie 2nd Team
Guard — Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers (+190)
Pessimists and haters will be quick to lampoon Lonzo Ball. He’s battling a knee injury which has him on the sidelines at the moment, and people won’t soon forget the historically bad shooting performance he turned in to start the year.
But, like, can we please remember this kid is a rookie?
Ball cannot be penalized for the fanfare that accompanied him from college to the NBA. Nor should he be held accountable for the actions of his outspoken and controversial father, LaVar Ball. Lonzo’s jumper is coming around; he looks more aggressive working out of the pick-and-roll; and most importantly, he’s been light years better on the defensive end than advertised.
Indeed, he doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a top-10 player—not yet at least. But he maintains his All-Star ceiling, which is kind of a big deal knowing how much he struggled a few months ago.
Guard — Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks (+200)
Dennis Smith Jr. almost didn’t the get the nod, and you most definitely shouldn’t be using him as a Rookie of the Year option. He was treated as a favorite to start the season, and sportsbooks have yet to shift those odds to underdog status.
Given that he has no chance of out-performing any one of our First-Team selections, it would be a waste of money to use him as a viable betting ticket unless his line moves beyond +2000.
Still, looking only at his All-Rookie candidacy, Smith ultimately belongs here. He’s been given the keys to the Dallas Mavericks’ offense, so his inefficiency and turnover woes are two be expected. No one else on the team, among rotation players, has a higher usage rate, which has to mean something.
Mostly, though, he’s showing gradual improvement. From his decision-making, to his finishing around the rim, to his defensive reads, he’s getting better and better. The Mavericks cannot ask for much else.
Forward — OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors (Off)
OG Anunoby received serious consideration for the First Team. In the end, however, he’s just not shouldering enough offensive responsibility to get picked over many of the other names.
But don’t let that adversely impact your view of his future. He’s a fantastic complementary piece.
Ask a general manager—any general manager—if they want someone on their team who can defend multiple wing positions while taking more than 90 percent of his shots from behind the three-point line or at the rim, and they’ll give you some variation of this answer: Hell. Freaking. Yes.
Center — John Collins, Atlanta Hawks (+190)
Picture, if you will, DeAndre Jordan. But with quicker reload time getting up for rebounds. And with actual handles.
Are you picturing it?
Because the resulting player is John Collins—a rebounding, rim-running, full-court-hustling machine who has flashed the capacity to create his own shot and is shooting north of 73 percent at the rim.
Center — Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors (Off)
Jordan Bell’s sample size works against him here. He hasn’t cleared the 600-minute benchmark at the midway point, making him the least played rookie of this gaggle.
Yet, to be honest, eclipsing 500 minutes by this stage, while also missing time with an injury, is a minor miracle for a first-year player on the reigning-champion Golden State Warriors. Head coach Steve Kerr does a great job emptying his bench, but he doesn’t give regular court time to just anyone. You have to earn it.
And Bell, for his part, has earned it. He’s a terrific cutter, a feisty rim protector and bouncy athletic freak. Not only is he shooting 66.4 percent on the season, but he’s yet to miss off an alley-oop pass…like, at all.
Furthermore, according to Basketball-Reference’s Value Over Replacement metric, a catch-all stat that measures collective worth, Bell rates as this year’s second-most valuable rookie overall, behind only Ben Simmons (first) and Jayson Tatum (second).
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