Photos from USAToday Sports. Pictured: Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, and Trae Young.
- I built an NBA Rookie of the Year model to predict the upcoming race. I'll be updating its results throughout the year.
- As of today, Mavs forward Luka Doncic and Suns center Deandre Ayton stand in a tier of their own.
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 in that category has won the ROY award in 15 of the last 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 iteration, Mavs forward Luka Doncic led the field in ROY Rating (rated 0 to 10), with Suns center Deandre Ayton the only guy close to him. Has that changed at all or does it still look like it will be a two-man race?
2018-19 ROY Ratings
It is indeed a two-man race right now, with only Doncic and Ayton having a rating above 9.0. Interestingly, Ayton has taken the (slight) lead over the Mavs wunderkind, mostly due to his impressive advanced numbers. They’re just about even in minutes played, and they’re incredibly close in combined points, rebounds and assists per game. Doncic is at 30.5; Ayton is at 29.4.
The best value on the board, if you want a longshot, is probably Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., who currently ranks third in the model, but sits in the futures market at just 28-1.
He’s unlikely to win, but he’s slightly ahead of Hawks point guard Trae Young at the moment, who has pretty terrible advanced metrics early on in the season.
Given the current numbers, I’d take Ayton at +240, as I doubt that number will still be there in a couple months. I’ll be very interested to see whether Young can jump up into that tier with Ayton and Doncic.
He’s right there in the raw stats — averaging a combined 29.1 points, rebounds and assists per game — and if his advanced marks go up, he’ll jump up the model.
Lastly, just to really nail this point down, this race is rarely ever awarded to the best player or prospect: Michael Carter-Williams is a former winner, and Malcolm Brogdon famously won it over Joel Embiid, who is a legit MVP candidate just a few years later.
I believe guys like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be studs, but this award is all about those raw stats. This isn’t predicting the best future prospects; it’s solely predicting this year’s ROY award.
And that means Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are way ahead of the pack.