The 2016 NBA rookie class was built up as one of the best in years so this year’s rookie race could be a good one. Let’s take a look at the contenders for the top rookie award this season.
The favorite is Emmanuel Mudiay who has been getting rave reviews thus far. He played last season in China, but his season was mostly injury riddled. The big thing working in his favor is that he should get plenty of minutes for the Nuggets now that Ty Lawson is in Houston. I like him a lot, but I always have reservations about rookie point guards. It’s the hardest position in the NBA and he can look bad on a lot of nights playing against the Chris Pauls of the world.
A lot of people are on the Jahlil Okafor bandwagon as the former Duke star will start for the 76ers this season. The Sixers produced a rookie of the year two years ago in Michael Carter-Williams who filled up the box score thanks to the pace that the Sixers play at. There are questions as to how Okafor will fit into this system though as he is more of an old school big man. He is a solid bet.
Karl-Anthony Towns could have a big season in Minnesota as well. Ricky Rubio is a brilliant point guard and he’ll find interesting ways to get him the ball in the paint. He’ll be playing with a young lineup though as Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine will be playing alongside him for the majority of minutes. That could end badly. Towns wasn’t though to be as advanced as Okafor prior to the draft so that doesn’t work in his favor to win this award.
I also don’t love D’Angelo Russell at +600. He’s not likely to start with Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant in the way and he isn’t quite as ready as some of these other guys. He could play with those two in small lineups, but he still needs to get the ball which we know is difficult with Kobe on the floor.
This seems like a year for a mid-range pick. My favorite is Justise Winslow who could contribute on a potentially really good Miami Heat team. It might take him a bit to crack the rotation, but once he does he could contribute in a lot of ways.
Also playing in Florida is Mario Hezonja who will definitely win the internet this season, but it remains to be seen if he can get enough minutes to make a difference. Scott Skiles is a defensive minded coach and Hezonja doesn’t really do that yet.
The sleeper has to be Stanley Johnson at +1400. He was the best rookie in summer league and played about 27 minutes per game in the pre-season. His coach Stan Van Gundy is a fan (which is going to be a problem for some of these other rookies) and he is a big part of their plan for the future.