Well, this race got very interesting. Before Ben Simmons’ injury earlier this month, the wide belief was that he would have the award essentially locked up. He’s one of the few rookies that were expected to start right away, and his talent is undeniable. However, in the wake of his injury, that leaves a thin field of options due mostly to the fact that most of the rookies in this years class aren’t expected to start.
Regardless, there will be a Rookie of the Year awarded this season, and I have my top four most likely candidates, as well as my pick for who will win the award.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
Considered, along with Simmons, to be one of the most talented prospects in the draft, Ingram is coming off a great freshman season at Duke. He averaged 17.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 2 apg. He’s a legit threat from outside, and his long frame should at least make things difficult for opposing players. The downside for Ingram is that he’ll be starting the season behind Luol Deng to start. He could play his way into the starting lineup with the rest of the Lakers youth movement, but until that time, I wouldn’t bank on Ingram for the award.
Ideal Starting Lineup: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Timofey Mozgov
Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dunn has a similar problem as Ingram. He’ll start the season behind Ricky Rubio, but could outplay Rubio. Minnesota seems bullish on him, but if Rubio doesn’t start hitting some shots, it’s going to get a lot tougher to justify keeping him in the starting rotation. Enter Dunn. Dunn averaged 16.4 ppg and shot 37% from behind the 3 point line. He’s an NBA ready point guard that one would assume is the future at the position for the Wolves.
Ideal Starting Lineup: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Karl-Anthony Towns
Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans
Hield will get a slight leg up on the competition to start the season due to Tyreke Evans’ knee injury. Also, the unfortunate situation with Jrue Holiday and his wife will leave the backcourt fairly inexperienced, as Langston Galloway looks to fill his role on the team until Holiday feels it’s the right time for him to return. Hield had a phenomenal senior year at Oklahoma, averaging 25 ppg and shooting 46% from 3 point range. Hield will have to adjust quickly, but if he can find the spark early, he could make enough noise to earn the trophy.
Ideal Starting Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Terrance Jones, Anthony Davis
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia Sixers
By now, everyone has been tipped off to this, but Embiid is now a favorite to win the Rookie of the Year. The talent is there, it’s always been a matter of his health. He’s healthy entering the season, and if he can stay healthy, he has an excellent chance at winning the award. Embiid has looked great thus far in preseason games, and has added a 3 point shot to his skill set. He could develop into one of the best bigs in the league, and everyone has been put on notice.
Ideal Starting Lineup: Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid
My Pick: Joel Embiid