There are a lot of things that need to be thought of when projecting who will win Rookie of the Year (ROY). How far along is this player in their progression? What situation were they drafted into? Are injuries a factor? Can they produce at the next level right away? After deep consideration of these factors, I have determined I know no better than a 5-year-old picking name out of a hat. That won't stop me from taking a crack at projecting the 2020-21 NBA Regular Season ROY.
James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, and Lamelo Ball (Photo By: Sports Raid)
Top Picks for ROY as of 12/9/20: (according to Odds Shark)
The players who are given odds better than +1000 to win ROY this season are Lamelo Ball (+400), Anthony Edwards (+450), James Wiseman (+500), Obi Toppin (+600), and Killian Hayes (+700). Of these players, the best odds to win are Lamelo Ball, which is something I agree with. He has the build to play and not get out-muscled at the NBA level. He also was drafted onto a poor team where he will have access to run the offense alongside Gordon Hayward and Devonte Graham.
His greatest strength is his passing. High assist numbers have always fared well for rookies looking to win the award. ROY winners are averaging 5.3 assists per game over the last 12 seasons. In nine of those seasons, a primary ball-handler won the award and Lamelo fits. To cap it off his overseas experience fares well for him in comparison to all of these rookies who not only played worse competition in college but had shortened seasons against that weak competition. Ball has been playing professionally for years now. The stars are all aligned for him to win the Rookie of the Year this upcoming season.
Isaac Okoro is widely regarded as the best perimeter defender in the draft.
Mid-Level Picks for ROY: (According to Odds Shark)
The players who are given odds better than +1000 to win ROY this season are Tyrese Haliburton (+1400), Deni Avdija (+1400), Isaac Okoro (+1600), and Onyeka Okongwu (+1600). The player of this group most likely to win is Isaac Okoro. It is not reflected in the numbers because he is not a better player than Haliburton, Avdija, or Okongwu. However, the circumstances Okoro is under are better than the other players. While I do not feel any of these players will win ROY Okoro has the best chance because he fills the Cavalier's needs perfectly. Perimeter defense has been a place they have been ineffective for years now. Sexton has been the best defender there and his defense is not great, making Isaac Okoro who can defend three positions a great addition. He will be guaranteed playing time which is something the rest of these players are not guaranteed.
Avdija is the next best option but, behind Russel Westbrook, Rui Hachimura, and Bradley Beal may never touch the ball. Also, Okongwu is great and will be the best of this group when all their careers are over however, he will be playing behind Gallinari, Collins, and Capela. The Hawks also rely on perimeter players to produce the majority of the shots, so he has no place in the offense when he is out there. Finally, Haliburton is going to play behind Buddy Hield and De'Arron Fox, who just signed a max contract, so he is unlikely to see the floor much. None of these players will have the opportunity like Isaac Okoro. He is ready defensively to make an impact so he won't lose playing time as the season goes on. Hopefully, he develops a better offensive game in the off-season and turns some heads this season.
Tyrese Maxey (Right) and Immanuel Quickley (Left) played at Kentucky together (Photo by: John Clay)
Long Shot Picks for ROY as of 12/9/20: (According to Odds Shark)
There are plenty of long-shot options in this draft when considering the shortened college season and nearly impossible scouting process. It is more likely this season over any that a non-lottery player could win ROY. With that in mind, some guys that have a +3000 or worse projection to win ROY to keep an eye on are Cole Anthony (+6000), Tyrese Maxey (+6000), Immanuel Quickley (+5000), and Devin Vassell (+5000). The two that garner the most of my attention are the Kentucky backcourt duo, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey.
The 76ers selected Maxey 21st in what proved to be a productive night for Philadelphia. He slipped from his projected spot for no reason that makes sense to me. He is a documented hard-worker with a high motor, good personality, and he fits today's NBA perfectly. He shoots the ball well enough at the line to show he will probably improve his poor three-point shooting in college. His best work was done in the pick-and-roll and once paired with Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard could be lethal. His biggest strength is being a crafty scorer on all levels and should blend well with Embiid and Simmons. Playing behind Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle are the biggest problems for this young man to win this award. These are roadblocks, but a lack of chemistry between Embiid and Milton and Thybulle's lack of offensive consistency may lead to some opportunity for Tyrese as soon as this season.
With the 25th pick, the Knicks selected Immanuel Quickley. He may have as much opportunity to play as any of these prospects. His improvement from freshman to sophomore year was incredible and he can score from the perimeter as smooth as anyone in the draft. His pull-up jumper looks solid, and his 92% from the free-throw line is absurd. Quickley also has little to no competition in New York as the top guard option. The Knicks gameplan is to beat teams up on defense, another facet of his game that developed well from year one to two for Quickley. Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina have not panned out yet as pros and do not have that starting point guard spot locked up by any means. It is possible and in my opinion likely that Quickley starts the second half of the games for the Knicks and takes over as a top perimeter scoring option for the team as a rookie. Immanuel was a late pick for a reason and is not perfect, but his upside, opportunity, and pure ability make him my favorite long-shot option for this year's draft.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan