Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Adam Silver and DeAndre Ayton
- Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, opens as the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year favorite.
- Fourteen of the past 17 ROY winners have led the rookie class in combined points, rebounds and assists per game, and Ayton has the best chance to put up raw production in his first year.
The 2018 NBA Draft is over, and the obvious winners are the Dallas Mavericks and … ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who brought out his handy pocket thesaurus to craft some epic prose. He was lasered in, and we were all tantalized.
But now to the truly fun part: analyzing how these rooks will affect their teams next season, especially in terms of win totals and Rookie of the Year odds. One sportsbook has already released the latter, and to no one’s surprise, the No. 1 pick out of Phoenix, Deandre Ayton, is the current favorite.
I’ll do a deeper dive later on these odds, but at first glance, Ayton is right to be the market frontrunner. In this study a couple months ago, I found a player’s points + rebounds + assists per game is easily the most predictive stat for ROY. It has correctly predicted 14 of the past 17 winners, and if frontrunner Ben Simmons takes home the award from this last year, it’ll be 15 of the past 18.
Voters clearly value raw production, and Ayton will likely start and be a featured part of the Suns’ offense from the first game. He averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in his freshman season at Arizona, and despite his long-term defensive questions, he will almost certainly immediately put up box-score numbers.
Other players who could do the same are the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, who was the best player in Europe last season at 18 years old; the Kings’ Marvin Bagley, who will get the keys as De’Aaron Fox’s roll partner immediately; and the Hawks’ Trae Young, although there is uncertainty in Atlanta with Dennis Schroder still in town.
The other players either don’t project as immediate offensive box-score producers or are playing on teams where they won’t start or won’t be a featured part of the system. If you want a longshot, Michael Porter, Jr. will have no problem jacking up shots, and Collin Sexton could get the keys earlier than he should if LeBron James leaves town.
All that said, Ayton seems like the surest bet, and it’s unlikely you’ll get him at +260 odds even a couple weeks into the season.