NBA Rookie of the Year Odds: Two-Way Race at the Top

Since 2018, Top-Five Picks Have Won the Prestigious Award

With the 2022 NBA Draft now in the books, we move to predict which of these highly-touted picks would live up to their expectations. According to the NBA Rookie of the Year odds, four of the top-five picks are favored to bring home the highly-coveted award. History is on their side as the last five recipients were all drafted within the four picks. And in the last 15 seasons, 12 of the winners were top-four picks.

Banchero and Smith Jr. Lead The Race

First-overall pick Paolo Banchero tied with the third-overall pick, Jabari Smith Jr. as the favorites at 3-1 to nobody’s shock. Orlando was surprised by drafting Banchero even if most mocks had them taking Smith, who remains the consensus “best” prospect. Both are forwards and expected to put up a lot of points for their young teams.

Bear in mind, the first overall pick has not won the award since 2016 with Karl-Anthony Towns. Ben Simmons won the award in 2018 but he was drafted a year earlier. Banchero leads the NBA Rookie of the Year odds because he’s an NBA-ready player who is versatile. The Duke product reminds many of Blake Griffin, a previous winner of the award and one of the best NBA players in his prime.

Smith landed with Houston and is also projected to be a potent player. The Rockets traded away power forward Christian Wood thus clearing the way for the Auburn Tiger, whose skill set reminds many of a combination of Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett, two Hall of Famers. The last third overall pick to win the award is Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball in 2021.

Holmgren and the Risky Status of Second Overall Picks

Chet Holmgren went to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the draft’s second pick. The big man out of Gonzaga is alarmingly skinny and there are concerns if his frame is suitable for the NBA. But Holmgren’s ability to stretch the floor and block shots have many comparing him to a Kristaps Porzingis-type of player. If Holmgren does bulk up, he can be a prototypical center in today’s game.

Ja Morant was the last second-overall pick to win the award in 2020. The NBA Rookie of the Year odds favored him mainly because Zion Williamson, the first-overall pick, was hurt. Before Morant, the last rookie to win the award from the same draft position was Kevin Durant back in 2008.

Second-overall picks have generally been a boom-or-bust pick in recent years. For every Morant and Durant, there are players like Marvin Bagley III and Derrick Williams who do not live up to their potential. There is also a slew of “busts” taken from this position with Hasheem Thabeet and Darko Milicic being the most notorious.

Beating the Odds: Rookies That Can

Once in a while, a rookie outside the top five will emerge as the best (rookie) for the season. The NBA betting odds lined every one of these players at 10-1 or longer. The most notable one here is Portland’s Shaedon Sharpe. Taken seventh overall, Sharpe remains a mystery to many as he chose to not play in his one year at Kentucky.

The fact remains that Sharpe has all the physical tools you’d want in a guard today; size, ball-handling skills, and a sharp jump shot. If the highly-touted prospect realizes his potential, he could be just as potent as Shai-Gilgeous Alexander making him a lucrative bet at his odds.

At double the payout, betting on Cleveland’s Ochai Agbaji may not be such a bad idea. The 6’6″ guard out of Kansas is one of the most NBA-ready prospects. Collin Sexton is still on the mend and Agbaji may be the frontrunner for the other guard position beside Darius Garland. If that’s the case, he can quickly put up stats and be in the running.

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