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Having a Ball: LaMelo Holds Steady as Rookie of the Year Favorite

Having a Ball: LaMelo Holds Steady as Rookie of the Year Favorite

We’ve now arrived at the quarter-point of the 2021 NBA season and the chase to crown the Rookie of the Year has begun to become slightly clearer.

While every team has been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some form or fashion, the 2020 NBA Draft class seemed to take the brunt of the impact, as the draft was pushed back from July to November and getting up to speed in the pro game has been even more challenging than it would be otherwise.

It didn’t help matters a whole lot either that the 2020 draft class was widely considered as a draft lacking any real star power, a rarity in the “one-and-done” age.

After the first 20 games and change from across the NBA, however, some rookies in this class have slowly begun to emerge as talented centerpieces.

What does that mean for the chase to be crowned the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year?  Let’s take a peek at how the odds board looks as we begin the month of February (is it Feb-YOU-ary, or Feb-ROO-ary?).

#1 Overall Pick Edwards Starting to Trend Up

Like most rookies in the NBA, 2020 #1 overall pick Anthony Edwards has had his peaks and valleys in the first 20 games of his career.

Edwards leads all rookies in scoring with 13.6 points per game, but he has shot a dismal 37.6% from the floor for the Timberwolves, who currently share the NBA’s worst record with the Detroit Pistons.

Despite the poor shooting from the field, the 19-year-old shooting guard has started to trend upwards in recent weeks following a horrific five-game stretch where Edwards averaged just 5 points per contest including a back-to-back stretch against San Antonio where he averaged 1 point per game while shooting 1-of-14 from the floor.

Since that low point in his rookie season, Edwards has averaged about 15 points per game, including a 25-point showing against Golden State, and has looked more like the player that the Wolves hoped to get when they selected him #1 overall.

Edwards has a lot of ground to make up in the chase for Rookie of the Year, and his team’s performance surely is not helping matters as Minnesota is amongst the worst teams in basketball this season.

Still, there is a great deal of value right now if you believe he will right the ship and begin to emerge from this class of rookies as the most talented to come from this group.  Edwards currently sits at +800 to win Rookie of the Year, good for the fourth-shortest odds on the board.

Should Edwards continue on the upward trend from the last nine games, we can see his odds improving as we get closer to the All-Star Break.  However, the Wolves are such a bad team this season that that may ultimately kill his chances before they can come to fruition.

Wiseman Begins to Look Like Another Dangerous Golden State Star in the Making

Don’t look now, but the Warriors may have done it again.

After a lot of rumors swirled about what Golden State intended to do with the 2nd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the rebuilding Warriors eventually decided to stay where they were in the draft and select 7-foot center James Wiseman after what felt like was about 3 days playing for Penny Hardaway at Memphis.

But in the glimpses we’ve seen from the 19-year-old, the Warriors may have something very special in the making.

Wiseman has shown freakishly-good potential in the first 20 games of his career, drawing comparisons as a young Giannis or Kevin Durant.  In a recent showcase of the #1 and #2 overall picks from the 2020 draft, Wiseman put up a career-high 25 points in just 24 minutes of action.

Wiseman’s surge up the Rookie of the Year odds board received a slight set back this week when Steve Kerr informed us that the rookie center will miss 7-10 days with a slight wrist injury, but considering Golden State’s potential to get into the postseason, we cannot rule out Wiseman getting back into the thick of the chase for rookie of the year.

If you wish to take a value wager on him, now would be the time to do so, as the #2 overall pick sits with the third-best odds to take home the ROTY award at +600.

Haliburton, LaMelo Top the Rookie of the Year Board

Entering the 2020 NBA Draft, LaMelo Ball was seen as the most intriguing rookie to come out of this class, in large part because of all of the hoopla surrounding his father Lavar and older brother Lonzo.

And while Ball so far has lived up to a lot of the hype (more on this in a minute), one of the rookies that flew under the radar was Iowa State’s one-and-done star, Tyrese Haliburton.

Haliburton was rumored to be the Warriors target had they elected to pass on James Wiseman and trade down in the draft, but ultimately fell into the laps of the Sacramento Kings, a franchise that has needed a break since NBA officiating kind of sort of may have screwed them out of their best chance to win an NBA title 20 years ago.

The 20-year-old point guard has been sensational out of the gates to begin his NBA career, making a lot of general managers wonder how he fell to the 12th overall pick in the draft.

Despite playing in Sacramento, Haliburton’s phenomenal play has not gone unnoticed, as he was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month (an award that spanned across December and January due to the COVID-19 scheduling) and has been instrumental in keeping the Kings in the mix of a playoff push.

Haliburton has drawn comparisons to a young Chris Paul and is logging 29 minutes a game (second-best among rookies) while posting a gaudy 5.4 assists to 1.6 turnover ratio and is shooting a blistering 41-percent from three-point range.

Kings fans finally may have a semblance of hope for the future, as a D’Aaron Foxx-Tyrese Haliburton backcourt looks as formidable as any up-and-coming backcourt in the league.

Haliburton checks in at the beginning of February with the second-best odds to capture the rookie of the year award at +350.

Meanwhile, Hornets’ point guard LaMelo Ball is considered the favorite in the clubhouse, and like Haliburton, he was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.

As far as rookies go, Ball is first in assists (6.0 apg) and steals (1.4 spg), second in rebounding (5.9 rpg), and third in scoring (12.7 ppg).  He’s also a big reason why the Hornets currently rest at just two games under .500 and 8th overall in the Eastern Conference.

The most impressive part of Ball’s season thus far comes when looking at how he’s slowly growing more comfortable as a scorer at this level, highlighted by a career-high 27 point, 9 assist night against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 30.

Ball enters the beginning of February as the shortest favorite on the board at -121, and if he continues to keep the Hornets in the playoff mix, he could very well make this race a lot less interesting than it is at this point.


Odds to Win NBA ROTY (as of 2/2/21)

LaMelo Ball (CHA)-121
Tyrese Haliburton (SAC)+350
James Wiseman (GSW)+650
Anthony Edwards (MIN)+800
Immanuel Quickley (NYK)+1000
Cole Anthony (ORL)+2000
Tyrese Maxey (PHI)+5000
Payton Pritchard (BOS)+5000

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