Last Thursday, 60 new players entered the NBA in the annual rookie draft. This year’s crop of new players is supposed to be a deep group that should produce a lot of immediate contributors.
There are several players who have a legitimate chance at winning Rookie of the Year from this group. The odds produced by the best U.S. betting sites reflect this fact, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain players who are smarter bets than others.
Using the lines posted by Bovada and MyBookie, we’ll break down a few of the favorites for the award and some underrated dark horses. Finally, we will discuss a few of your top Rookie of the Year betting options and give our predictions and picks.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (+300 with Bovada)
Skill-wise, Doncic seems like the most polished player to enter the NBA in years. The 19-year-old wing won the EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP awards in 2017-18, which is very impressive given that the EuroLeague is widely considered the best basketball league in the world aside from the NBA.
Most young players entering the NBA from the EuroLeague didn’t supply nearly the production that Doncic did last season, which suggests that he’ll have a very easy transition.
With the Mavericks, he’ll get plenty of reps as a scorer and playmaker. He should share primary ball-handling responsibilities with young point guard Dennis Smith Jr., and Harrison Barnes should chip in with the scoring. It’s a good mix for Doncic, who will have plenty of opportunity to produce while not having to do everything.
DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (+450 with MyBookie)
The Suns’ No. 1 overall pick will step in immediately as the squad’s starting center. He’ll get a good amount of minutes, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he only got 28 to 30 per game with other big men like Tyson Chandler, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and potentially Alan Williams on the roster. There are also questions about his defensive awareness that could lead him to be unplayable against certain lineups that other teams use.
Even so, Ayton should be a solid bet to average something like 14 points and nine rebounds per game in his rookie campaign. If he improves significantly defensively, he’ll get more minutes and could creep closer to an 18-and-11 statline.
Bagley might be the best player on the Kings from the get-go, or he might struggle with the transition to the NBA. There are wide range of potential outcomes for the former Duke standout. One thing that could be an issue for his rookie year production, though, is how many young prospects the Kings have waiting for an opportunity.
The Kings have De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason Jr. all looking for key roles with the team. Bagley has the most star potential out of all these players, but will it be tough for him to truly stuff the stat sheet will all those other guys needing minutes and shots to develop their skill sets?
Additionally, Bagley is like Ayton in that he’s very raw on the defensive end of the floor. That could affect his playing time a bit.
Strong Dark Horses
After seeing the success the Golden State Warriors have had running their offense through Stephen Curry, the Hawks went after former Oklahoma stud Trae Young on draft night. Young is the closest NBA prospect to Curry in skill set since Steph joined the league in 2009. Both are deadly three-point shooters with nearly unlimited range who can shoot both off the dribble and off the catch. Both guys are also strong ball-handlers and passers.
At the moment, the Hawks still have point guard Dennis Schroder on the roster. However, he is likely to be traded either during the offseason or early in the regular season.
Young is likely to be a poor defender, at least early on, because of his small size and lack of effort there. However, the Hawks would be playing him for his massive effect on the offense, not for his defense. Plus, defense is probably least important at the point guard position, which Young will play exclusively.
If LeBron James does stay in Cleveland, Sexton is a horrible fit with the Cavs. Sexton is an ineffective off-ball player and needs the ball in his hands to be effective. James, meanwhile, is essentially a ball-dominant point guard who handles the ball on every possession and needs good shooting around him.
However, LeBron will probably leave the Cavs, which leaves a massive hole in the ball-handling department for the team. The logical candidate to take over those responsibilities is Sexton, the team’s point guard and No. 8 overall pick. He is a feisty slasher with a nose for drawing fouls.
Point guard George Hill is also on the team, but he can play off the ball and his length and athleticism means he can coexist with Sexton on defense.
The Hornets may very well have the worst future outlook of any NBA team. They have a roster with very few young prospects and a lot of money committed to players who aren’t elite.
For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Hornets hold a fire sale this summer and end up with a very different roster in the fall. Charlotte could head into next season looking to tank and focusing on the development of their top young prospects, especially Bridges.
Bridges doesn’t just have a potentially large opportunity waiting for him. With two years of college experience at a high-quality basketball program like Michigan State, he has maturity, great athleticism a refined jump shot to ease his NBA transition.
Our Preview’s NBA Rookie of the Year 2018-19 Final Picks & Predictions
Doncic is surely the most polished player in this draft class, and the Mavericks will make sure he gets his opportunity to succeed in their rotation. Don’t be surprised if he averages somewhere around 18 points, six rebounds and six assists per game as a rookie. He’s a great bet here.
The odds for Young and Miles Bridges are also quite favorable. If the Hawks trade Dennis Schroder, the show is all Young’s in Atlanta, and he’s going to explode in the point and assist categories. Bridges may not be a scoring machine, but in a best-case scenario he could average around 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block per game and sneak in for the award if no one else is a huge stud in their first year.