One year ago, Donovan Mitchell made a late-season surge in the Rookie of the Year vote, averaging 28.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists over the final 24 games of the season.
Ultimately it wasn’t enough, as yearlong favorite Ben Simmons still took home the award – he earned 90 of the 101 first-place votes – but Mitchell certainly made it interesting.
And it’s feeling a lot like déjà vu all over again in 2019. Luka Doncic remains the prohibitive favorite in NBA Rookie of the Year betting, but Trae Young, ironically the player Doncic was traded for on draft night, it making a wild surge similar to the one Mitchell made a year ago and should be considered a dark horse to win at a whopping +2000 with 888Sport.
Since Jan. 26, about the same time Mitchell began his dominance of the league last season, Young is averaging 24.4 points and 9.1 assists per game, numbers only LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have matched in that span.
Young is also shooting better than 43 percent from beyond the arc on 7.2 attempts, a number only Klay Thompson has topped in that span among high-volume 3-point shooters.
He’s in rare company as a scorer, passer and outside shooter and is showing no signs of slowing down. Last Friday he scored 49 points and dished out 16 assists in a quadruple-overtime loss to the Bulls.
In the process he became the first rookie since Michael Jordan to have a 45-point, 10-assist game. He also joined James Harden and Paul George as the only players this season to post a 45 and 10 night; that’s two MVP candidates if you’re keeping score at home.
And lastly, that 49-point outburst was the final night of a three-game stretch in which Young scored 36, 36 and 49 points. In the process he became the fourth rookie ever to post three straight games of 35 or more points, joining Hall of Famers and all-time greats Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
What Young is doing isn’t just good for this year’s rookie class, it’s good for any rookie class. The fact that he’s still +2000 to win the award is a bit shocking. Then again, he’s got those odds because …
Let’s make one thing clear: Rookie of the Year is still very much Doncic’s to lose. He has won Rookie of the Month in the West all four months – Young has won it in the East three times – and is still averaging 20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, the second rookie to ever reach those thresholds after Oscar Robertson did it back in 1961.
Doncic certainly hasn’t been bad in the same stretch Young has been dominant, but his shooting is down and the Mavericks have struggled, losing seven of their last eight games. In comparison, the Hawks are 7-10 and have taken a leap forward in their rebuilding process.
Still, it’s a Rookie of the Year award, not a Rookie of the post-All-Star break award. Doncic’s yearlong dominance has earned him odds of -10000 with Karamba. It’d take something miraculous for him not to win the award.
But then again, Young is doing something that’s putting him in similar rookie conversations as MJ, Oscar, Wilt and Harden. Doncic will very likely win the award, but Young’s +2000 odds look like excellent value if he can find a way to keep this dominance going through the final 20 games of the season.
But if there is a race down the stretch, it’s between Doncic and Young.
It’s no surprise that Young’s dominance has contributed to the Hawks playing better basketball of late. Their 7-10 record might not seem like much, but consider that they began the year 6-23 and have gone 16-20 since.
Young and forward John Collins are the foundation pieces of the franchise and have Atlanta in good hands.
It’s led to recent success, too. Beginning with a win over LeBron James and the Lakers on Feb. 12, the Hawks have gone 7-2 against the spread in NBA betting, including a 6-1 mark as an underdog.
The over has also hit in 11 of 17 games since they turned their corner, as their offense ranks No. 8 since Jan. 28 and their defense ranks dead last. They’re the perfect combination to hit the over these days, and with Young playing like he’s playing, points are coming early and often.
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