NBA Rookie Of The Year Predictions
NBA Rookie Of The Year Monthly Ladder
By Dan Favale
The NBA Rookie of the Year race is a marathon, not a sprint. So with that in mind, we’re going to keep you apprised of the top five most likely 2016-17 Rookie of the Year winners, ranking them in order of increasing likelihood, each and every month. Their odds of winning will be provided courtesy of Bovada.
5. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (+3000)
Jaylen Brown is barely registering on most early-season Rookie of the Year projections.
Much of this is beyond his control. Newbies who play for projected championship contenders or middling playoff teams are rarely recognized as true award-seekers. They usually don’t play enough. Brown might have that same problem. The Boston Celtics’ aren’t yet playing him more than 20 minutes per game, limiting his production by default.
But Brown will slowly, surely, earn himself more spin as the season wears on, no matter how good the Celtics are. Not even Marcus Smart’s return should prevent that from happening. Brown has showcased surprising aggression on offense, attacking the rim and trying to dump the ball off at the right moments. He doesn’t have the green light to shoot from three, because his jumper is wonky, but he works his ass of on defense.
Boston, in fact, often looks like a better team with Brown on the floor. So don’t write him off completely from this race just yet.
4. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers (+550)
Brandon Ingram is fighting the same stigma as fellow rookie Jaylen Brown. Sort of.
The Los Angeles Lakers are neither a contender nor even close to good, but they have elected to bring Ingram along slowly. He is coming off the bench, rather than starting, and averaging fewer than 17 minutes per contest. His candidacy only becomes truly legitimate if that changes—which it should.
Since the Lakers aren’t fighting for a postseason bid, it’s only a matter of time before they turn Ingram loose. They might have already done so if he didn’t suffer a minor knee injury early on.
Less than five games into the season, he has flashed his immense potential as a three-and-D superstar. His shooting stroke is smooth, albeit too slow, even though his jumpers aren’t falling, and he, like Brown, works hard on the defensive end.
Once the Lakers give him more burn on a regular basis, perhaps slotting him as a starter, Ingram has a real shot to climb further up this ladder.
3. Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves (+350)
Kris Dunn was the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year entering the season, and that hasn’t totally changed. His appeal has actually gone up now that Minnesota Timberwolves teammate and fellow point guard Ricky Rubio is expected to miss some time with a sprained right elbow.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has no choice except to give Dunn the keys to the offense. He can use Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins as de facto floor generals as well, but Dunn is still in line for a bunch of extra minutes.
That should only do his Rookie of the Year stock good. His three-point shot remains a work in progress, but he’s already doing a nice job of looking for his teammates off the bounce. He rebounds well for someone who profiles as a 6’4″ combo guard, and his defense, while raw, never lacks for energy.
Next up for Dunn is honing his ball control and learning how to work off the rock. If he can do that during his soon-to-be extended stays on the floor, he may move up the pecking order, too.
Hell, he might even make it hard for Thibodeau to hand the point guard reins back to Rubio if the latter is out long enough.
2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (+400)
It’s impressive that Ben Simmons has maintained his near-favorite status despite beginning his career on the shelf with a fractured foot.
It’s even more impressive that I’m still prepared to list him here, in the No. 2 slot.
Simmons is expected to return sometime in January. Knowing how cautious the Philadelphia 76ers are with their young players, that’s subject to change; he may be out longer.
Either way, it will be difficult for him to rack up enough minutes—especially if he’s put on a playing-time cap when he first comes back.
Still, Simmons is too damn good too ignore. The Sixers’ offense is begging for a guy aside from Joel Embiid who can make regular plays. Even with Sergio Rodriguez holding down the fort at point guard in Jerryd Bayless’ own absence, Simmons’ passing and vision and handles should be a boon for this squad—one head coach Brett Brown looks to exploit early and, most importantly, often enough to keep Simmons in the Rookie of the Year hunt.
1. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (+350)
Joel Embiid was never supposed to seize this top spot. Not this soon at least.
He hasn’t played real competitive basketball in more than two years. He is on a minutes cap. There is a learning curve. There is no way he dominates right away.
Except he has.
The hype surrounding Embiid is real. He is scoring in the post and from the outside, showcasing handles and passing indicative of a point forward rather than a center. He can still be erratic on offense, but it’s a small miracle that he’s managing to produce on a cruddy Sixers squad.
And don’t even get me started on his defense. He is already a solid rim protector and rotating helper.
Oh! His minutes limit has already been increased, too.
For now, this Rookie of the Year race is his to lose.
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