Is Markelle Fultz a Lock to Win Rookie of the Year?

By in Sports & Betting on

The 2017 NBA Draft came and went with very few surprises. The Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves completed a blockbuster trade that sent star forward Jimmy Butler to the T’Wolves, but the draft itself was pretty mundane.

It was still exciting to see some of the top college basketball prospects hear their name called and join their new pro teams, but the mock drafts that were scattered online were all pretty accurate. Markelle Fultz predictably went #1 overall and there weren’t many surprises from that point on.

With the draft being a predictable snoozer, it’s fair to wonder if the race for the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year will be as easy to call. First impressions suggest it might be a little more difficult to get a handle on than some NBA betting enthusiasts would think, especially since Ben Simmons provides a wrinkle we probably forgot about.

That’s right, last year’s top pick enters as the leading candidate to win ROY honors due to sitting out all of his “true” rookie campaign. That puts him among the top contenders to claim the title going into next season and BetOnline tentatively gives him the best 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year odds.

2017 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

Does that make Simmons a lock to win? It’s tough to say, but before we can gauge his chances, we need to consider the entire field and all of our options. Here’s the latest NBA ROY odds, per BetOnline:

  • Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers (+150)
  • Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers (+200)
  • Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers (+500)
  • De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings (+900)
  • Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets (+900)
  • Dennis Smith – Dallas Mavericks (+1200)
  • Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns (+1200)
  • Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics (+2000)
  • Justin Jackson – Sacramento Kings (+2500)
  • Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic (+3300)
  • Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons (+3300)
  • Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz (+3300)
  • Lauri Markkanen – Chicago Bulls (+3300)
  • Frank Ntikilina – New York Knicks (+3300)
  • Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers (+4000)

Part of the process of figuring out a ROY winner is noting their talent, role and surroundings. The latter usually tells us pretty early on who is going to have the best chance to stand out amongst the top competition. After all, if you don’t have a massive role and you’re not a key difference-maker on your own team, how can you rise above the other contenders?

Odd Men Out

We can probably cut this list down pretty quickly. Collins is an interesting two-way prospect, but there’s just no way he’s shining in year one behind Jusuf Nurkic. Luke Kennard faces a lot of competition for shots as a rookie in Detroit, too, while it’s tough to project huge roles for Donovan Mitchell and Justin Jackson right out of the gates.

Jonathan Isaac, Jayson Tatum and Lauri Markkanen could all end up having big roles with their respective teams right away, Isaac and Markkanen are fairly raw and Tatum isn’t locked into huge run on a title contender right now.

Malik Monk is a fringe option, as he’s an awesome scorer and could have a big role immediately. He’s got serious competition with Kemba Walker, MKG and Nicolas Batum all in Charlotte, though, and his skill-set isn’t that versatile.

Top Contenders

We’re really looking at guys who will have big role, big minutes and can put up numbers in more than just one area. That leaves us with Simmons, Ball, Fultz, Fox, Smith, Ntikilina and perhaps Josh Jackson.

Of that group, I find it easily to drop Jackson just because the Suns have a lot of young talent. T.J. Warren specifically could keep him at bay for a bit in his first season, while he’s no lock to wreck in year one with the likes of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker demanding the ball a ton.

Fultz could be an awesome player at the next level, but where is his path to ROY when Joel Embiid is the monster he is, Dario Saric is a baller and Simmons is also going to be contending for the same award? If you’re voting for a Sixer, the smart money is going to be on Simmons.

Fox, Smith and Ball are all very strong candidates and provide solid value. Ball is going to quickly become the face of the Lakers with D’Angelo Russell gone, Fox could vie for Sacramento’s lead guard job and Smith should take over as the top point guard in Dallas.

If we’re looking at role, talent and impact, though, the leader of that pack is Lonzo Ball.

Who Will Win Rookie of the Year?

Realistically, the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year race is probably going to come down to Ball or Simmons. Simmons has a LeBron James-level skill-set and is going to be a monster if he can make it through a full season. The Sixers finding success and competing for a playoff spot would only cement his case.

Ball carries better value, though, as the Lakers are in the tougher conference, have less talent and are further behind. If Ball can put up comparable numbers and push the Lake Show back to relevancy, he’s going to be a very fun ROY bet.

One other guy we’ll want to consider, though, is Ntikilina. The guard from France has pro experience and a very balanced game. He should step into a huge role almost immediately for a changing Knicks squad. If he can put up numbers and find a way to keep them competitive, he’s an interesting value bet with +3300 odds. Of the long shots, he’s our favorite try.

This race probably ends up coming down to Ball and Simmons, though, and of the two, Simmons has the highest ceiling. He can simply do more and make a bigger impact for a Sixers team that may finally be ready to rise from the ashes and push for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The beauty is this won’t be a shocking development and you’re still getting some value with Simmons. This looks like a pretty loaded rookie class and it should be fairly competitive. However, if Simmons lives up to the hype and stays healthy, it’s tough to vote someone else over him.

Pick: Ben Simmons (+150)
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