Who is The Early Favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year?

Who is The Early Favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year?
© USA Today

Last week’s NBA Draft served as a moment between sports bettors and reporters. In the days leading up to the draft, bettors were sold on Paolo Banchero going No. 1 to the Orlando Magic, with Banchero’s odds going from +1600 Sunday down to making him the favorite at –220 late Wednesday night.  

Then, ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out he was hearing Jabari Smith would go No. 1, followed by Chet Holmgren and Banchero. Sportsbooks adjusted, making Smith –10000 to be the top pick, while Banchero’s odds shifted. Still, sports bettors did not buy the news and bet Banchero down from +350 down to the 2/1 range.  

As it turned out, the bettors’ intuition from earlier in the week paid off. Banchero went No. 1 to the Magic, followed by Holmgren and Smith.  

At FanDuel Sportsbook, Banchero is also listed as the favorite to earn Rookie of the Year honors (+350) and is followed by Smith (+420) and Holmgren (+480).  

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Best Bet for Rookie of the Year 

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City +480 FanDuel

Winning has been rewarded a bit more recently when deciding Rookie of the Year award. 

Over the past three years, two of the winners – Toronto’s Scottie Barnes and Memphis’ Ja Morant – made the postseason with their teams in the first year, while Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball helped the Hornets to the NBA’s new play-in tournament. 

By comparison, from 2003-19, only three players who earned Rookie of the Year went on to play in the postseason. Amare Stoudemire with the Suns in 2003, Portland’s Damian Lillard (2013) and Milwaukee’s Malcom Brogdon (2017) were the players to reach the postseason while being named the top rookie.  

This trend is worth monitoring and could play an impact on next season’s Rookie of the Year award. And out of the top three favorites, Oklahoma City could have the best chance of reaching the postseason and a boost from Holmgren could be key.  

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Holmgren is an ideal pairing with OKC point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is one of the top young guards in the league. 

Last year, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 points and 5.9 assists and had the 36th-best Player Efficiency Rating in the league (20.99). His PER was higher than other top guards such as James Harden, Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday and Ball.

OKC also has another young player with potential in Josh Giddey, who averaged the eighth-most points per game among rookies last year at 12.5. Giddey became the youngest player in NBA history to record back-to-back triple-doubles last season. The next two on the list he edged out were Luka Doncic and Magic Johnson.  

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Holmgren’s versatile skill set should align with Gilgeous-Alexander's playmaking. 

Holmgren converted on 61% of his shot attempts and made 39% from 3-point range, and gives the Thunder an option in the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop NBA game where he could thrive. 

Then there’s Holmgren’s defensive impact. He averaged 3.7 blocks per game at Gonzaga and figures to improve the Thunder’s rim protection. His ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor could give him an edge for this award. 

Holmgren might not consistently get as many looks or be the primary option that Banchero or Smith could be, but the impact he can make at the defensive end and the improving OKC core that has the potential to make a playoff run is enough to warrant betting on Holmgren to win Rookie of the Year.  

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