NBA Rookie Of The Year Betting

NBA Rookie of the Year BettingThe NBA Rookie Of The Year award goes to the best rookie player in the NBA every year. There are no set criteria for this award – it is voted on by a panel of sportswriters and other league officials – but the award is rarely drastically wrong. It is not, however, predictive – plenty of bad players have won the Rookie of the Year award and plenty more Rookie of the Year winners have not ended up as the best player in their Draft Class when all was said and done.

Rookie of the Year voting provides another avenue for sports bettors to make money, however. Similar to betting on the MVP Award, betting on the Rookie of the Year award can be a rewarding practice for those sports bettors who are well versed in the NBA.

COVID-19 And The 2020 Rookie Of The Year

As many people are aware, the 2020 NBA season was suspended. All indications are that, should the season resume at any point, it will be with the playoffs - there will likely not be much of a further regular season. Given that, we can take stock of the 2020 Rookie of the Year race by comparing the stats that Ja Morant and Zion Williamson have, as they will likely not get another chance to play.

  • Ja Morant: 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.9 assists, PER of 18.0, 59 games played
  • Zion Williamson: 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, PER of 24.2, 19 games played

It seems clear that Zion is a level above Ja, but 19 games played is an impossibly low number. Assuming the season ended today, it’s unclear how the voters would manage this situation. If anything, it probably works to Zion’s disadvantage - he seemed to be improving at a rapid rate, and was clearly the best player on the Pelicans. We’ve missed a fair bit of NBA action, and it surely negatively impacted his case.

Current Rookie Of The Year Race

Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson

The current rookie of the year race is between Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans and Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. This is an interesting race – Zion has played far fewer games than Ja after returning from a serious injury halfway through the season. Morant has been incredible, pushing the Memphis Grizzlies to a playoff spot, but Zion has been transcendent, playing some of the best basketball we’ve ever seen, and showing from day one why his talent was so in-demand. There is some precedent for a race like this. Malcolm Brogdon, then of the Milwaukee Bucks, won the 2016-2017 NBA Rookie of the Year award over Joel Embiid. Brogdon, a second-round pick, had been good that season, playing a decent amount of minutes for a good Bucks team, and scoring 10 points per game.

Embiid, by contrast, only played 31 games, but was dominant in those games, putting up 20 points per game on around 25 minutes per game. A controversy developed over how to evaluate a race like this: Embiid was clearly the better player, but in order to be the Rookie of the Year, shouldn’t you have to play more than half the games in that year? This year’s race is similar, but there are some notable differences. First things first, Ja Morant is a better player in his rookie year than Brogdon was, by far. While Brogdon was a complementary piece on a good team, Morant has turned a bad team into a decent one, in year one, with himself as the engine. He is averaging 17.6 points per game to go along with 7 assists. It’s rare that rookies are positive NBA players at all, and it’s rarer still that they are the best players on a team, but Morant has done this.

Rookie Of The Year Winners Who Were Drafted First Overall

Many Rookies of the Year winners were the first pick in the NBA Draft. Below, you can find a table of all of the Rookie of the Year winners who were drafted first overall in the NBA Draft. You’ll probably recognize a lot of names on this list, from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (under his given name, Lew Alcindor) to Shaquille O’Neal to Lebron James.

  • 2017–18 Ben Simmons
  • 2015–16 Karl-Anthony Towns
  • 2014–15 Andrew Wiggins
  • 2011–12 Kyrie Irving
  • 2010–11 Blake Griffin
  • 2008–09 Derrick Rose
  • 2003–04 LeBron James
  • 1999–00 Elton Brand
  • 1996–97 Allen Iverson
  • 1993–94 Chris Webber
  • 1992–93 Shaquille O'Neal
  • 1991–92 Larry Johnson
  • 1990–91 Derrick Coleman
  • 1989–90 David Robinson
  • 1985–86 Patrick Ewing
  • 1983–84 Ralph Sampson
  • 1969–70 Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
  • 1961–62 Walt Bellamy
  • 1958–59 Elgin Baylor
  • 1953–54 Ray Felix

The first overall pick has defined generations of basketball, and a lot of the time, that talent is immediately on display, and they win the Rookie of the Year award.

Lowest Draft Picks To Win Rookie Of The Year

Woody Sauldsberry
Woody Sauldsberry

Only six times in the NBA’s history has a player outside of the top ten in the draft (excluding territorial drafts) won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. The lowest ever picked NBA Rookie of the Year is Woody Sauldsberry, who was picked in the eighth round of the 1957 NBA Draft. The only second-round pick to ever win the Rookie of the Year award is Malcolm Brogdon, who was picked 36th in the 2016 Draft, and whose Rookie of the Year campaign was very unique. His biggest competitor for the award, Joel Embiid, was unable to stay healthy and the rest of his rookie class underperformed, allowing the NBA ready Brogdon, who was 24 in his rookie year, to come in and snap up the award.

Mark Jackson is the lowest picked player to win the award who was still picked in the first round, having been picked at 18th in the 1987 Draft. Jackson is perhaps most famous now for being one of ESPN’s commentators on the game, with his patented phrase “Hand down, man down.” Finally, there are three players who were picked just outside of the top 10 – Don Meineke (12) in 1952, Jamaal Wilkes (11) in 1974 and Michael Carter-Williams (11) in 2013.

Player Draft Position Year Of Draft
Woody Sauldsberry 60 (Eighth Round) 1957
Malcolm Brogdon 36 2016
Mark Jackson 18 1987
Don Meineke 12 1952
Jamaal Wilkes 11 1974
Michael Carter-Williams 11 2013

There are some names that bear mentioning here as well, due to the Territorial Draft Picks. Basically, back in the day, the NBA allowed teams to draft players that were from the area the team was located in, at the cost of a loss of their first-round draft pick. Four players who won Rookie of the Year were selected via this process: Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Tommy Heinsohn and Jerry Lucas. Since these picks were conveyed via forfeiture of a first round pick, it is impossible to say where exactly those players would have gone in the draft were they not drafted via this system.

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