The 2018-2019 NBA season doesn’t kick off for another three months, but for basketball fans, it’s never too early to start salivating over the fresh crop of rookies acquired via the draft this past June. Teams have already gotten a look at their new talent during the NBA Summer League, and the performances put on by the youngsters in Las Vegas have already shifted the odds for next season’s Rookie of the Year race.
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the ROY projections for the most notable members of the 2018 draft class, followed by my personal pick on who will win the award.
(Disclaimer: Odds are provided by Bovada Sportsbook and can differ between various sportsbooks. When putting money down make sure to compare sportsbooks to find the one with the lowest odds for your specific pick to maximize profits)
Luka Doncic +275 – Dallas Mavericks
While one would expect the 1st overall pick to be favored as Rookie of the Year, that is not always the case as Bovada has 3rd overall pick Luka Doncic with the best odds at claiming the hardware. The 19-year old Slovenian — who was originally selected by the Atlanta Hawks but then immediately flipped to the Mavs — is a versatile player who can play multiple positions thanks to his 6’7” frame. Doncic’s 2017 campaign with Real Madrid of the ACB was one of the best professional seasons for a teenager outside of the NBA, as the guard/forward demonstrated his skills as a tactical playmaker with a lights-out shot even from one foot. The youngster’s rookie season will definitely be one to watch as he plays on an improved Mavericks squad who has also added DeAndre Jordan, Jalen Brunson, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother, Kostas.
Deandre Ayton +325 – Phoenix Suns
Critics and haters will be upset that Deandre Ayton, the top pick in this year’s draft, is not favored by Bovada to win Rookie of the Year. Numerous other sportsbooks have the 7-foot center from Arizona as the favorite, however, and with good reason as Ayton was a force to be reckoned with as part of the Wildcats this past year. Ayton is a remarkable physical specimen and combined with his athleticism and scoring ability he is one of the most interesting big men to come out of the draft in years. Ayton is a popular pick to win ROY, so if you plan on putting money on it choose one of the few sportsbooks that don’t have him as the front-runner.
Marvin Bagley III +600 – Sacramento Kings
Duke always manages to dominate the draft lottery with its abundant blue-chip talent, and this year was no different with the Kings using the 2nd overall pick on the 6’11” power forward. Bagley III averaged nearly a double-double in his lone collegiate campaign, fueled by his stellar scoring ability around the rim facilitated by his quickness up and down the court. Although MB3 was one of the most talented players in this year’s draft, I believe he’ll have trouble making a name for himself in the ROY conversation amidst a young and unproven cast in Sacramento.
Trae Young +900 – Atlanta Hawks
Although Trae Young was drafted the lowest of everyone so far on this list — chosen 7th overall by Dallas then flipped to the ATL for Doncic — he very well could be the rookie with the most eyes on him this upcoming season. Young was a dominant force in college, leading the entire country in PPG and APG as a freshman and carried an otherwise weak Sooners squad to the NCAA tournament. Young may have the highest ceiling of this entire draft class, already being compared to Steph Curry as a result of his nifty ball handling, uncanny ability to create shots and get to the free throw line, and of course, shoot the three from ridiculous distances. Just looking at a minute-long Summer League highlight tape of Young —whose first name is very fitting— will have you frothing at the mouth. Young’s game will be improved if he can shore up his defense, as his aggressive offensive effort along with his small frame makes it easier for bigger guards to get around him. But if he can solve that, we may be looking at another Steph in the making.
Kevin Knox (+1600) had a fantastic Summer League averaging 21.4 PPG and has Knicks fans excited for him to start playing alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Michael Porter Jr. (+1600) was once thought to be a top draft pick, but a back injury caused him to undergo surgery that limited his college career to a mere 53. Porter Jr.’s skills on both sides of the ball may come to light as part of a revamped Nuggets team who got a bargain by picking him 14th overall. Jalen Brunson (+5000) is considered a longshot to win the Rookie of the Year, but after winning the Naismith College Player of the Year he has proven he can pull his own weight among the players of this draft class. Brunson’s advanced basketball IQ plus his strong character will allow him to thrive as the floor general of a strong Mavericks starting lineup.
ROY winner prediction
While it’s always fun to pick a dark horse, I fear none will be able to surmount the play of Luka Doncic. After dominating professional European leagues since he was 13, Doncic possesses all the skills needed to transfer gracefully to the NBA and he has a good supporting cast around him. While I’m going with the favorite here, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Trae Young sets the league on fire with his lights-out shooting, and if he can get his defensive game up to par he could run away with Rookie of the Year award.