The NBA’s top first year player of the season is one of the league’s players who will receive individual recognition during the NBA’s annual award night. That award is called the Rookie of the Year award and the winner is selected by a panel of U.S. and Canadian sportscasters and broadcasters with each casting first, second and third votes worth five, three and one points, respectively. The freshman with the highest point total regardless of first place votes is declared the winner. A total of 60 prospects were drafted in two round at the 2018 NBA Draft and according to basketball reference, there are a total of 91 rookies who have played at least a single NBA games this season.
Two-Man Race No More
This year’s Rookie of the Year contest was supposed to be a one-on-one battle between the Bahamas’ #1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns and 18-year old European sensation #3 overall pick Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. Before the season began, Doncic was a +333 favorite while Ayton was at +375 and Sexton at +500. Knox was fourth at +750 while Bagley and Trae Young rounded out the Top 5 at +1100 apiece. But what was supposed to be a two-way race between Doncic and Ayton is no more as Doncic is literally running away with the Eddie Gottlieb trophy as this season’s top rookie.
Here are the current odds to win the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year Winner, Odds from bet365 as of 2/19/19:
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||+4000|
So how did Luka Doncic’s odds balloon from a +333 to a -10000 in just three months? For starters, Doncic has been named as the Western Conference’s Rookie of the Month in his first three months in the league. Doncic entered the draft with plenty of hype. Now we know the hype is real and that his potentials are limitless.
Luka Taking Over
Doncic has taken over the Dallas Mavericks as its franchise player and he’s doing it even before turning 20. The Mavs drafted Dennis Smith Jr. last season and hailed him as their next franchise played. Smith was traded to the New York Knicks at the trade deadline. That’s the Luka Doncic effect. So how good is Doncic, really?
He leads all rookies in scoring at 20.7 points per game and he is the only rookie to average 20 points per game so far this season. Despite taking the most field goal attempts by any rookie this season, Doncic ranks 17th in field goal shooting among rookies. Likewise, Doncic is ranked 8th among first year players in three point shooting percentage, despite leading the pack in attempts and makes. That’s impressive because Doncic isn’t just taking much of the scoring load for his team, he’s also doing so with efficiency. But scoring isn’t just what Doncic does.
Luka also ranks 2nd behind Ayton in rebounding at 7.4 boards per contest. He is also 2nd to Trae Young in passing at 5.6 assists per game and is 4th in steals among freshmen at 1.04 thefts per outing. His assists to turnover ratio is 1.72, third behind Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. Doncic isn’t number one in everything. But he shows up in every stat sheet. That is impressive.
Who Wins Rookie of the Year?
DeAndre Ayton is justifying his selection as the top overall pick of the draft. The Suns’ starting center is averaging 16.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.94 blocks per game while shooting the ball at a very high .588 clip. Ayton leads all rookies in rebounding, is second in scoring and field goal shooting, fourth in blocks. His 30 double-doubles this season are also the most among NBA rookies. If you take Doncic out of the league, no question Ayton would not only be the frontrunner in this competitions but would be a shoo-in to win the award at the All-Star break. But it is what it is and Luka Doncic is simply playing at a different level right now.
Similarly, Trae Young is having a great rookie season in Atlanta. He is the 2nd leading scorer among rookies and is the leader in assists. It can be recalled that the Hawks were the team who drafted Doncic but traded him to the Hawks for Young plus some future picks. I’m not sure if they are but if I were the GM, I’d be scratching my head right now because Doncic has outplayed Young so far this season.
This one’s an easy pick to make but an expensive one at that. Luka Doncic is hands down the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year and I don’t think either Ayton or Young can catch up with him right now. The Mavericks have already played a total of 57 games this season and Doncic has played in 55 of them. Even if he gets hurt at some point when the season resumes (cross my fingers though that he doesn’t), I don’t think it’s going to matter when the voting period comes.
I’m predicting Luka Doncic to win the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year award and yeah, my prediction may be too late because Doncic is already winning over and taking over the league.