Gary | Wed 08/02/2017 - 12:27 EST

NBA Rookie Of The Year Favorites

NBA Rookie Of The Year Favorites
With the 2016-17 NBA season more than halfway gone, the Rookie of the Year race is heating up...in a manner of speaking. We all know who is, deservedly, the runaway favorite to win the award. But who's just behind him? And do any of them have a chance as catching the prohibitive alpha?

NBA Rooke Of The Year Monthly Ladder

5. Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers (+3300)

Last Month’s Ranking: Unranked

Dario

 

Well hello, Dario Saric.

 

After a very slow start to the year, the Croatian sensation (sorry) has picked up his play of late. He is still struggling to get the NBA’s three-point shot down, but you can see glimpses of a lethal sniper on certain nights.

Saric needs to work on his scoring overall. His shot selection can be wonky, and that’s dragging his shooting percentages down. But he is finding his way as a playmaker and, at times, a defender.

 

Next season probably holds more promise for Saric, since he shouldn’t be forced to share the floor as much with Ersan Ilyasova or lose minutes to him altogether. At the same time, Saric will eventually have to learn how to play beside Ben Simmons, so it’s probably good he is getting the experience vacillating between small forward and power forward now.

 

4. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets (+3300)

Last Month’s Ranking: 3

 

Jamal Murray’s dark-horse Rookie of the Year case has tapered off a bit, but only because the Denver Nuggets are really milking sophomore Nikola Jokic, who is currently dealing with a hip injury.

 

Since moving back into the starting five, Jokic is the focal point of the team’s offense. Everything runs through him. That puts a dent in Murray’s usage, but he’s flashed the ability to make an impact off the ball—an imperative trait in today’s wings.

 

Murray, in fact, is putting down 38.4 percent of his spot-up three-pointers, according to NBA.com, which is a more than serviceable number. His efficiency has waned of late, but again, adjusting to new offensive structure takes time.

 

Coaches and voters will appreciate the effort he puts in on defense, along with the energy he expends moving off the ball on offense.

 

3. Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans (+3300)

Last Month’s Ranking: 5

hield

 

Buddy Hield is officially showcasing the lights-out shooting stroke that made the New Orleans Pelicans want to draft him in the first place. He is up to 37.2 percent efficiency from beyond the arc on the season, and he is converting a blistering 43.4 percent of his triples since Christmas.

 

Though his playmaking and defense remain a work in progress, those developments come with time. For rookies, especially ones considered offensive weapons, it’s more important to see how they adapt to the speed of the game and rebound from inefficient outings.

 

Hield has passed the test on this front, emerging as someone who seems to be a refined defensive stance or two away from quintessential three-and-D status. 

 

2. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks (+2000)

Last Month’s Ranking: 2

brogdon

 

Just as our No. 1 player on this list appears to have settled into his spot for the long haul, Malcolm Brogdon is getting extremely comfortable in second place.

 

No one really expected much from the 36th overall pick in the draft. The Milwaukee Bucks needed a playmaker—they hadn’t signed Michael Carter-Williams at the time—and Brogdon was a four-year college player viewed semi-favorably among scouts.

 

Then, poof! Now Brogdon is more important to the Bucks than Dellavedova. He ranks at or near the top among rookies in total assists, steals, points and three-point percentage, and his defensive malleability, as someone who can slide between point guards and shooting guards and small forwards, is second to none.

 

Imagine what he’ll be able to accomplish in his sophomore crusade.

 

1. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (-2500)

Last Month’s Ranking: 1

embiid

 

No surprises here. 

 

Joel Embiid has been the NBA’s best rookie since Day 1, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. David Robinson and Tim Duncan are the only rookies in NBA history, per Basketball-Reference, to match his points, rebounds, assists and blocks per game averages, and they turned out pretty good.

 

The Philadelphia 76ers are a dangerous basketball team whenever Embiid takes the court. That says all you need to know right there. He has created this infectious confidence in Philly—this belief that this team has a direction and can compete. And by golly, the Sixers are competing.

 

While it will be interesting to see how many voters penalize Embiid for being on a minutes cap and not playing both ends of back-to-backs, it really doesn’t matter. He’s going to win this award in runaway fashion, because he deserves it.

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