Handicapping the NBA Rookie of the Year

The NBA Draft Lottery goes tonight, which means teams that didn’t make the playoffs are relying on a single ping pong ball to make their hopes and dreams come true. Teams want that number one pick, and if they don’t get it, they want one of the top five, which would give them a top prospect.

But before we move on to the 2017 draft, let’s take a look at last year. Ben Simmons was selected first overall, followed by Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown. However, next month the NBA Rookie of the Year will be announced, and only one 2016-17 prospect is among the leading candidates. Handicapping the winner is a bit difficult, but let’s see if we can make it profitable.

NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

Malcolm Brogdon: 11/9

NBA teams tend to shy away from veteran college players, and in Brogdon’s case, from schools that don’t tend to focus on offense. Coming out of Tony Bennett’s defensive minded system at Virginia, most observers figured Brogdon would guard, but were unsure how else he could produce. The Bucs second round pick last June did what you would hope an older rookie would do: be consistent. While Giannis Antetokounmpo was the biggest reason Milwaukee made the leap from 33 wins in 2015-2016, to 42 victories this year, Brogdon scored 10.2 points a game, dished out 4.2 assists per performance, managed 2.8 rebounds a contest, and shot 45.7% overall, and 40.4% on threes. The Bucs outscored opponents by nearly three points per 100 possessions when Brogdon was on the court. When he wasn’t, they were outscored by just under two points for each 100 possessions.

Dario Saric: 17/8

Drafted number 12 overall in 2014 by the Magic, Saric played professionally for several seasons overseas before being traded to the Sixers, and then debuting in Philly this season. His numbers are good, but not great. Per game, Saric averaged 12.8 points, grabbed 6.3 rebounds, handed out 2.2 assists, and shot 41.1% from the floor, and 31.1% from outside the arc. He increased his scoring total to more than 17 points a game following the All Star Break. The Sixers weren’t very good, like normal, but Saric was a bright spot, and certainly is a major part of the team’s plans moving forward.

Joel Embiid: 83/17

After missing two full seasons due to foot injuries, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft was not only the best rookie in the NBA during the first third of the season, but one of the best players. However, after tallying 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game, while shooting 46.6% from the floor over 31 games for the Sixers, Embiid’s season ended when he tore meniscus in one of his knees. Like Saric, Embiid played for a bad Philadelphia team. Unlike Saric, he was spectacular, instead of merely exciting. How do you judge a dominant player for a third of the year, versus good players for a full campaign?


It is hard to vote for Embiid, even though he was lights out in his short time on the court. That said, when he and Saric played together, nobody in their right mind could select the Croatian. There also is a possibility that people will see two Sixers, and some will go with Embiid, and others with Saric, which would split the vote and help Brogdon.

As for Brogdon, he is the only contender who was part of a playoff team, and that squad was much better with him on the court than riding the pine. Brogdon might not be a superstar, but every team in the league would like to have him, and there are several reasons to believe he will be the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year.

Photo Credit: By Thomson200 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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