- The NBA Rookie of the Year Award is typically given to players with the best raw per-game numbers.
- Based on that knowledge, I've identified three players with appealing betting value for the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season.
When it comes to the Rookie of the Year Award in the NBA, there’s some good news: You don’t have to overthink it.
Unlike other futures or prop markets, this is straightforward. Unlike the NBA MVP (which I’ll write about in a couple weeks), where once players have won the award they seem to be pushed down in voting in future years or held to a higher standard, this is an award you can win just once. It goes to the best rookie. Most years that’s actually a superlative that’s pretty easy to figure out.
When I say you don’t have to overthink it, I mean it. Since 1987, only once has a player won Rookie of the Year after not being drafted in the lottery. That was a couple years ago: the infamous Malcolm Brogdon win. Joel Embiid was by far the best rookie but played only a third of a season, and the next most deserving candidate was his teammate Dario Saric, so Brogdon and Embiid ended up splitting votes. Brogdon won almost by accident, by being a point guard who played OK for a pretty good team.
If you take Brogdon out (and we sort of unofficially call that the Embiid ROY year anyway), every single award winner for 30 years has been taken in the lottery. This is bad news if you like longshots such as Donte DiVincenzo, Lonnie Walker or Aaron Holiday.
In reality, almost none of the non-lottery draftees should be that appealing this year anyway, but this isn’t a market where you want to find big prices. The longest shot on the board who was actually taken in the lottery is a tie between Miles Bridges and Mikal Bridges, each listed at 38-1.
This all makes sense, because part of being drafted highly is entering a situation in which you’re on a bad team and shots are available. Usage can be high. And you need to be used because you were drafted highly and there is pressure to use you. It’s all a cycle.
Another thing to keep in mind: You don’t have to worry about how good the rookie’s team is going to be. In fact, a ton of winners have played for some of the worst teams of that particular season. Andrew Wiggins‘ team won 16 games. Michael Carter-Williams (yes, he won the award) won 19. Kyrie Irving‘s Cavs won 21 after LeBron James left the first time.
The team might be awful … who cares! This award is about raw statistics.
And scoring does matter. As much as we’d like to believe we can identify a player’s value based on more than rudimentary stats, the players who win this award … they score points.
Only Brogdon averaged fewer than 15 points per game in the last 10 years and won. Everyone else scored at least 15 per game, and often provided other statistical contributions as well.
So as much as someone such as Harry Giles might be appealing for his upside, he is far better suited currently to be a defensive contributor than an offensive one.
On those notes, here are a few players I would consider valuable considering their current prices: