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2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year Model: Ayton, Doncic Easily Lead Field

2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year Model: Ayton, Doncic Easily Lead Field article feature image

Photos from USAToday Sports. Pictured: Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, and Trae Young.

  • Mavs forward Luka Doncic and Suns center Deandre Ayton are the clear betting favorites to win the 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year award.
  • Ayton has the lead in my model, but Doncic's chances might be slightly underrated.
  • Is there any value in betting a longshot like the Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson Jr.?

A couple weeks ago, I built a Rookie of the Year model to predict this year’s race. Take a look at that first post for the metrics behind it, but in general ROY is not difficult to nail down: Voters largely don’t care about team success — it’s all about raw stats.

In fact, if you sum up a player’s points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game, the leader of that list has won the ROY award in 15 of the past 18 races. It’s incredibly predictive, and thus we can use that knowledge to our advantage and see if there’s any betting value in the futures market.

In the first several iterations, Mavs forward Luka Doncic and Suns center Deandre Ayton led the field in ROY Rating (rated 0 to 10), and that remains the case again:

2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds, Ratings


Ayton currently leads the field, although I think my model is currently underrating Doncic’s odds. I have total minutes played as an input, which will be helpful in a large sample of the entire season but creates disparity in a small sample that gives an outsized advantage to Ayton at the moment.

Ayton has played 730 minutes compared to 663 for Doncic, largely thanks to suiting up in three more games. Doncic leads in combined points, rebounds and assists per game — the most important predictor, as mentioned above — and over a larger sample of minutes, that will hold more weight.

Think of it this way: Ayton currently has 67 more minutes on his resume. That’s currently 10% of Doncic’s season. But if Doncic is at 2,500 minutes at the end of the year and that disparity still holds? Those 67 minutes would be just 2% of the season. Thus, Doncic will be right there at the top of this model, and likely even lead it if his raw per-game numbers hold.

And finally, there’s been some buzz on guys like Jaren Jackson Jr. and even Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lately, but I don’t think they’re worth bets unless you’re predicting an injury to Doncic and Ayton.

This award is not for the best future prospect; it’s historically just for the rookie who had the best raw stats. I would redraft both of those players over Ayton, but I wouldn’t bet on them to get more ROY votes this season.

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