A word of caution before wagering on LaMelo Ball to win NBA Rookie of the Year. Voters on NBA awards tend to skew older, and they do not give a hoot that Michael Jordan’s new rook has 5.7 million followers on Instagram.
So while LaMelo is the early favorite in the legalized US sports gambling market, there are other options worth considering at better odds.
James Wiseman of Golden State is the second or third choice at most books. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves) and Obi Toppin (Knicks) are right there at the top as well, with odds of +450 and +600 at DraftKings Sportsbook, respectively.
And while each of those four players are viable candidates with the start of the season only 33 days away, a deeper dive into the possibilities is in order because others will have opportunities to play big minutes for very good teams, and voters often take winning into serious consideration. That is what happened last season when Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies won the award.
Wiseman will certainly be on a winning team (Kelly Oubre will be a very nice replacement for Klay Thompson, by the way) and will play big minutes because the Warriors need a center, so that theoretically skews things in his direction to a considerable degree.
2021 NBA Rookie of the Year odds
Longshots to consider
Here are breakdowns of how some of the top players will fit with their new teams, and a glance at their best prices at the books.
No. 6: Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks: First and foremost, the Hawks should be a playoff team after adding the Southern Cal forward to a young nucleus that includes Trae Young, Clint Capela and John Collins. The Hawks are also going to be major players in free agency with more cap space than any other team, and general manager Travis Schlenk is in “win-now” mode. Numerous NBA sources I spoke with described the Hawks as particularly aggressive, so keep an eye on them. In the East, they are easily Top 6. Okongwu’s best odds:+2400 at FanDuel
No. 10 Jalen Smith, Phoenix Suns: Let’s not forget that the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble, barely missed the playoffs, just added Chris Paul and already had a 29.4 ppg scorer in Devin Booker along with former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. With the new play-in format giving more teams postseason opportunities, Phoenix should get in – probably as No. 7 or 8. Remember, Oklahoma City was in the mix last season but will sink like a stone in 2021 with Sam Presti gutting the roster and stockpiling first round picks. That makes it easier for a team like the Suns to be the NBA’s biggest overachiever next season. Smith will probably be a starter. General manager James Jones believes Smith is a perfect fit. Smith’s best odds: +6000 at DraftKings Sportsbook
No. 12 Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings: The Iowa State point guard could be used in a two point guard combo lineup alongside De’Aaron Fox, which would allow him to put up the type of numbers required to beat out all the other candidates. At PointsBet, Haliburton was drawing 27% of the handle vs. 22.5% for Obi Toppin and 22% for Cole Anthony. Toppin was drawing 33% of the bets, while Halliburton was at 14%, according to spokesman Patrick Eichner. Best odds: +2000 at FanDuel
No. 13 Kira Lewis, Pelicans: With Jrue Holiday traded and an aging Eric Bledsoe now running the point, there will be playing time opportunity here for the lightning-quick gym rat from Alabama who will be playing alongside Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and a young Pelicans team that likes to push the pace. And when you push the pace, score a bunch of points and create gaudy stats for a team that is going to be on TV a lot, those are factors for consideration when assessing his ROY viability. Best odds: +4500 at FanDuel
No. 25 Immanuel Quickley, Knicks: Whether or not New York becomes a playoff team depends on what Leon Rose can get done in free agency over the next couple of days, and Quickley could open the season as a starter since Dennis Smith is not very good, nor is Frank Ntilikina, nor is Elfrid Payton – who just got bought out. Much will depend on whether the Knicks land Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, which would presumably erase Quickley’s ROY chances. But if the Knicks throw most of their money at Gordon Hayward or Davis Bertans, the point guard spot is Quickley’s for the taking. Best odds: +5000 at PointsBet
No. 26 Payton Pritchard, Celtics: If they lose Hayward, somebody has to replace those 17 points per game. The Celtics also just declined to bring back Brad Wanamaker. So maybe Brad Stevens hands that job to the gritty four-year starter from Oregon – who won four consecutive state titles when he was in high school. He will turn 23 on Jan. 28, so he will be the exact same age as Brown and Tatum, just without the same amount of NBA experience. Just an interesting factor to consider. Best odds: +10000 at FanDuel
DraftKings NBA ROY betting splits
An early look at who bettors are liking at DraftKings Sportsbook for NBA ROY in 2021.
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