NBA ROY Betting Odds & Picks
All NBA odds used in this article sourced from Bovada.
Rejoice, fellow NBA-ddicts! The 2018-19 NBA season is around the corner, and there is no better way to get NBA betting started than with the buffet of NBA prop markets. Follow me as we travel past the appetizing Over-Under Win totals, slide right by the elegant array of MVP Odds, and even politely decline the mouthwatering intoxicating aroma of a 12-team “Will-They-Make-The-Playoffs?” parlay as we land at our destination: The NBA Rookie of the Year race.
I feel as though the only proper way to prepare your palette for the joy and anguish of investing your bankroll into a 19-year-old NBA Rookie is through an exhaustive eliminator-style approach. Along the way, I’ll perform an elaborate series of misdirection involving collegiate accolades, consensus draft rankings, and general fit within their team before I land on Luka Dončić a.k.a. The Slovenian James Harden as my pick. As I break down the pros and cons of each of these rookie odds, I urge you to please remember not to try this at home; I’m a professional.
Tier 6: You’re Better Off Lighting Your Money on Fire
- Jairus Lyles – Utah Jazz – 150-1*
- Jalen Brunson – Dallas Mavericks – 150-1
- Robert Williams – Boston Celtics – 80-1
- Zhaire Smith – Philadelphia 76ers – 75-1
- Mikal Bridges – Phoenix Suns – 45-1
This isn’t going to happen to me very often this season, but I legitimately had no idea who Jairus Lyles was or what team he was currently on. As it turns out, his name rings a bell because he was part of the 16-seed UMBC Retrievers team that took down the perpetual punching bag 1-seeded Virginia Cavaliers last March. Lyles success was a flash in the pan and the undrafted rookie has barely seen any time in the preseason for a quality Jazz team, so it’s unclear why he is on this list. Some faithful Salt Lake City resident must have written in his name on Bovada (Mitt Romney, perhaps?). Regardless, Lyles is going to need lightning to strike twice in one year for any chance of this to happen. Spoiler alert: it won’t.
The rest of this list is uninspiring for various reasons. Jalen Brunson is somewhere between the third and sixth guard on the Mavericks, and all eyes will be on the aforementioned Dončić. Zhaire Smith’s ROY odds are the same odds that he had to be the 76er’s sacrificial rookie to the Injury Gods (Shake Milton was +300 and Landry Shamet was 10-1), and his role was never going to be significant enough for this award anyway; Mikal Bridge’s skillset does not lend itself to a House of Highlights video in a way that a Rookie of the Year typically does, and he’s already living in a Deandre Ayton-sized shadow. Robert Williams has the widest range of rookie year outcomes as anyone on the list, varying from “bouncy rim-running energy big off the bench for the eventual champions” all the way down to “got arrested trying to smuggle weed through security as he showed up for the game halfway through the third quarter.” Go ahead and cross these five off your list.
Tier 5: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…
- Grayson Allen – Utah Jazz – 90-1
- Mitchell Robinson – New York Knicks – 85-1
- Donte DiVincenzo – Milwaukee Bucks – 55-1
- De’Anthony Melton – Phoenix Suns – 25-1
I am not saying that I think that any of these guys are actually going to win the award: I am simply going to present you with a best-case scenario for each that I think has a non-zero chance of happening.
For Grayson Allen, he can basically give Jazz fans the straight-to-DVD sequel to The Donovan Mitchell Show. His herky-jerky drives coupled with his sharpshooting prowess should lend well to his role as a spark plug off the bench, and if he can provide some of those Twitter highlight reel dunks, he might sneak his way into the conversation.
The same applies to Donte DiVincenzo. The Bucks are thin at guard, and America’s Sweetheart Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to need shooters around him if he is going to become an MVP – a skill the Big Ragu possesses in spades. He’s a heat check guy, as he demonstrated in last year’s National Championship game, and enough of those nights could grab Coach Bud’s attention and thrust him into perpetual sourpuss Eric Bledsoe’s starting spot.
The case for Melton and Robinson both hinge on availability. Melton has a chance to start next to Devin Booker and throw lobs to the #1 overall pick, and Phoenix’s pace could help his stat line. Robinson, on the other hand, is one Enes Kanter injury away from finding himself as the starting center for Madison Square Garden’s team, and there will be plenty of opportunity to rack up the fantasy points. The young gun has looked spry in the preseason, and extended minutes on a bad team could boost his stats enough that people start making the case. Ultimately, the four are long shots for a reason – but at least now if one of them plays out, I can say “I told you so.”
Tier 4: Legitimate Dark Horses
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Los Angeles Clippers – 33-1
- Miles Bridges – Charlotte Hornets – 33-1
- Harry Giles – Sacramento Kings – 25-1
We’re starting to get juicy! These three guys have the best shots at a major upset scenario. Shai-Gilgeous Alexander is a complicated candidate. The Clippers currently have more guards than Buckingham Palace, but trades (i.e. Patrick Beverley) and injuries (i.e. Avery Bradley) will be able to clear up the logjam, and Doc Rivers seems primed to give the rookie plenty of opportunity regardless. He has legitimate pre-horrifying-injury Shaun Livingston potential, and if he’s making plays, scoring in bunches, playing pesky defense, and being an alpha dog like he was at Kentucky, he has the chance to be the best player on a team knocking on the door of the playoffs.
I think that Miles Bridges might be the most underrated prospect from the 2018 draft. He went back to Michigan State to work on his handle and his shooting to prepare for playing small ball 4 in the NBA, and Tom Izzo rewarded him by playing him out of position to placate Nick Ward’s ego. Bridges’ still put up near identical numbers to his stellar freshman campaign, and is now poised to be the darling of NBA twitter. My timeline already nearly shut down with his preseason put-back dunks, and he should have the opportunity to showcase his playmaking and scoring on a team that is desperate for a pulse. If he is throwing down dunks and leading his team in scoring, he can lock this award up early.
Finally, we come to the Legend of Harry Giles. If Giles were to tragically die tomorrow, his YouTube high school mixtape would still be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame right between the video of Vince Carter causing a 10-minute delay at Rucker Park with a windmill alley-oop and the Vine of the “LEBRAWN JAMES” kid. But Giles has been exceptional in limited play so far, showcasing scoring at all three levels and chemistry with De’Aaron Fox. He’s a threat both shooting and passing in pick-and-roll, and mid-season trades should open up his role in a way that allows him to pad his stats. Bagley played well next to Wendell Carter last year, and Giles brings many of the same tools, but with more sheer talent and athleticism. I am all in on Giles’ redshirt rookie campaign, and he is the best dollar-for-dollar value of the bunch.
Tier 3: Wrong Team, Wrong Time
- Lonnie Walker – San Antonio Spurs – 25-1
- Michael Porter Jr. – Denver Nuggets – 24-1
- Mohamed Bamba – Orlando Magic – 24-1
- Jaren Jackson Jr. – Memphis Grizzlies – 12-1
If you think that one of these four players is going to win Rookie of the Year, that’s fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. But it’s wrong. Again, that’s fine…but you’re still wrong. Just to save myself some time, I’m going to rapid fire these guys. Please indulge my lack of enthusiasm – I’ll make it up to you later, I promise.
- Kawhi Leonard was the best two-way player in the league by a large margin, and he still didn’t put up gaudy enough numbers to collect an award. Also, Lonnie Walker is not Kawhi Leonard. Move on.
- There is a chance that Michael Porter Jr. checks into the local Medicinal Marijuana clinic more times this year than he checks into an actual NBA game. He also does not pass or possess one iota of basketball IQ. Pass.
- Mo Bamba might be great. Mo Bamba also might suck. Nobody knows yet! And nobody will know this year because his coach hates rookies. Plus, he has 11 other centers on his team. No thanks.
- J. Jaren Jonah Jackson Jameson Jr. dazzled in summer league, but Memphis doesn’t have their pick and is pushing for the playoffs. Unless Marc Gasol gets hurt, JJJ won’t get enough touches to put up the stats required for this award, and he’ll never get those pictures of Spider-man he’s demanding. End of story.
Tier 2: The Best Bang for Your Buck
- Wendell Carter Jr. – Chicago Bulls – 11-1
- Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks – 11-1
- Marvin Bagley – Sacramento Kings – 11-1
- Kevin Knox – New York Knicks – 15-2
- Collin Sexton – Cleveland Cavaliers – 5-1
The NBA is a top heavy league, and the Rookie of the Year race is no exception. This is the first crop of guys that we have come across with ironclad cases to be heard by the Grand Jury of NBA Twitter. Just for fun, I’ll rank everyone in this tier from least likely to most likely to come home victorious:
5. Wendell Carter Jr. is more talented and athletic than people give him credit for, and with Lauri Markkanen already dinged up, the front court burden has suddenly fallen into his rookie hands. He is probably already Chicago’s best two-way player, and his polish and touch should impress Coach Hoiberg enough to earn him the opportunity to prove himself. As long as Bobby Portis doesn’t punch him in the face, he has a chance for a solid rookie campaign on an interesting team.
4. I understand that Cavaliers fans are desperate to cling onto something with the departure of their native son (again), but Collin Sexton does not feel like the new Kyrie Irving. Cleveland has become a stop-gap for the myriad of various veterans left in Lebron’s wake, and these guys are playing for their next contract with their new team. Seasoned veterans are unlikely to capitulate to a young point guard’s demand for the ball in the way that Sexton would prefer, and I’m not sure his 40% shooting on a 23-win team will appeal to voters amongst a solid group of rookies.
3. Coming directly off of his freshman year at Duke, I would’ve thought that Marvin Bagley would be -130 for this Rookie of the Year title. When he got drafted by the Kings, I thought it would be perfect for him; he could throw up a 20/10 every night, break Twitter a couple times of times a week, and ultimately bring home the ROY Crown while putting up empty stats.
Unfortunately for him, the Kings have a crowded frontcourt (see: Harry Giles), and one that is loaded with those empty calories-type of players. If Bagley is able to reign supreme and stuff his face with meaningless statistics, he could run away with the award. I’m just not convinced that we are about to see that type of season from Bagley.
2. As a 76ers fan and Philadelphia native, I had already talked myself into Kevin Knox with the 10th pick (and Mikal Bridges, and Lonnie Walker, and Miles Bridges too). Two legendary workouts later, and suddenly, Knox had become a Knick. It’s easy to make the case for Knox as a standout candidate; he’s going to be relied on to generate offense, and he is going to deliver. His smooth stroke and burgeoning offensive repertoire coupled with his ultimate green light should lead to a near 20-point per game average, and sometimes, that is all it takes. Everything is magnified under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, and if Knox can rise to the occasion, the Knicks will have their first ROY since…Mark Jackson in 1988?! Holy shit – the Knicks suck!
1. No rookie is more divisive, frustrating, awe-inspiring, or head-scratching than Trae Young, and I could not love it more if I tried. Throw out the Steph Curry comparisons. Every time Curry pulls up from 30-feet, an angel gets its wings; every time Trae pulls up from 30-feet, an egg avatar on Twitter sends him a death threat. The only expectation that people should have for Young’s rookie season is for him to launch threes and drop dimes, and that is exactly what he is going to do. At the end of the season, he is going to start popping up on some all-time lists in terms of rookie shooting and passing, and it is going to drive old-school basketball guys mad. I could not be more here for it, and if his stats start to border on NBA2K MyPlayer levels, voters are going to have no choice but to reward him.
Tier 1: David vs. Goliath
- Deandre Ayton – Phoenix Suns – +375
- Luka Dončić – Dallas Mavericks – +333
And now for the Main Event! In this corner, from the University of Arizona, standing at 7 feet 1 inches tall and a whopping 250 pounds, we have the $100,000-dollar man himself – Mr. Deandre Ayton! And his opponent, hailing from Slovenia, coming in at 6’8” and a burly 228 pounds, we have the EuroLeague MVP, EuroLeague Final Four MVP, and best European prospect in NBA history – Luka Dončić!
When it comes to award voting, particularly for MVP, there are generally two rules of thought: 1) Best player on the best team, or 2) Overwhelmingly terrific statistics. With the exception of the exceedingly average Malcolm Brogdon victory, NBA Rookie of the Year voters tend to favor the latter. I enjoy these two titans because they represent these two exact ideologies; they are the Jack and the Locke of rookie campaigns. Too deep a cut for you? Okay, they are the yin and the yang. Better? Go watch LOST, nerd.
On one hand, we have a potential offensive monster. Deandre Ayton has shown off all of the reasons why he was the number one overall pick so far in the preseason. He has an Embiid-like touch from midrange already, and defenders orbit his massive presence like he’s a small Sun – pun intended! On a bad team devoid of big man depth, Ayton will most likely have the highest usage rate of any rookie, and he will feast on a veritable smorgasbord of empty stats that would even make DeMarcus Cousins blush. He represents the “overwhelming numbers” portion of our dichotomy, and he is, in my mind, the player most likely to win the award.
Did you notice how I failed to mention that Ayton is going to be the best rookie? That is because that honor falls on the shoulders of The Prodigal Son, Luka Dončić. You know how sometimes a song comes on and you just start bobbing your head? It could be even be a song that you hate, but it has a quality that your body just instinctively responds to and you just can’t help it. That’s how haters are going to feel about Luka. Even if you are skeptical of European prospects and the merits of overseas basketballs, when you watch him throw under-the-legs pocket passes in the lane or shoot over the backboard for fun after a whistle, you’ll see that he has an undeniable quality that is impossible to ignore. He is a basketball genius of the highest order, a closer in tight games, and a leader of men both through his actions and his demeanor. He will be the engine that fires the pistons of a sneaky good Mavericks team, and he will present the voters with a major dilemma: an inflated box score with Ayton, or a key cog in a humming machine in Dončić? Even I am not quite sure yet – but I can not wait to find out.
For brevity’s sake, allow me to save you the trouble and make my official ROY picks: Deandre Ayton is the safest bet on the board, as I fear that typical blog boys will spend more time looking at the box scores than at the nuanced subtleties of Dončić’s game. I wouldn’t advise against an investment into Luka, but I think his shooting might be a year away from sniper status. Just to hedge your bets, Trae Young is incredible value at 11-1, and Knox has as good a situation as anyone to perform to his highest potential. And just for fun, the three-headed dark horse of Giles, Miles, and SGA is a great way to root for an upset pick that feels realistic. If they hit, you can thank me later.