I realize the focus of the vast majority of bettors currently is on the start of the NFL and college football seasons, but the start of the 2015-16 NBA campaign is only two months away. So let's look at the Rookie of the Year Odds on Bovada.
History Teaches Us...
So what can we learn from recent Rookies of the Year? For one, it's not like said player has to be on a good team. In baseball, that often helps, for example. But last year's NBA Rookie of the Year was 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins of Minnesota -- of course the Wolves didn't draft him in '14 but acquired him and 2013 top overall pick Anthony Bennett in the Kevin Love trade. That already looks like a steal for Minnesota even though Love is a good player. Wiggins will be a superstar.
He became the first Minnesota player to win the award. Wiggins averaged 16.9 points, the second-best mark by a rookie in Timberwolves history, behind Christian Laettner's 18.2 points in 1992-93 (yes, Laettner was good for a minute or two in the NBA). Wiggins appeared in all 82 games and ranked fourth in the NBA with a rookie-leading 36.2 minutes, the highest average ever by a Timberwolves rookie. Wiggins finished ninth in the NBA in free-throws made (354) and sixth in free-throws attempted (466). He easily beat out Chicago's Nikola Mirotic and Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel, who actually was drafted in 2013 but missed all of that '13-14 season.
Wiggins' Wolves were the worst team in the NBA last season. The 76ers had the second-worst record in the 2013-14 season, but they had the Rookie of the Year for that campaign in point guard Michael Carter-Williams. However, he was dealt to Milwaukee during last season. Portland finished 16 games under .500 in 2012-13 but had the Rookie of the Year in point guard Damian Lillard. Cleveland was 21-45 in 2011-12 but had the ROY in point guard Kyrie Irving.
Generally the only way to get a superstar in the NBA is to be absolutely terrible and pick one at the top of the draft. So that's why all these losing teams finish with the ROY. Also, don't wager on a guy picked outside the Top 10. Carter-Williams went No. 11, but before him no player chosen outside the Top 10 had won ROY since the Knicks' Mark Jackson (No. 18) in 1987-88. Three of the past five ROY winners have been the No. 1 overall pick.
First Nuggets Winner Ever?
Bovada lists Denver's Emmanuel Mudiay and Philadelphia's Jahlil Okafor as the co-favorites at +400 NBA odds. Both guys should start from Day 1 and play heavy minutes. Mudiay, a point guard, was the No. 7 overall pick by the Nuggets, and they cleared the way for him to start immediately by trading very good point guard Ty Lawson to Houston -- Lawson's DUI troubles also played a role in that. Mudiay flashed signs of stardom in the NBA's Summer League, averaging 12.0 points, 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in four games. Denver has never had a ROY winner.
Okafor was the No. 3 overall pick by the Sixers. At the time it was a bit puzzling because Philly already had big men in Noel and 2014 No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid. But clearly the 76ers were aware that Embiid was having more foot problems. They kept him out all last season and will again this year following another surgery. Noel is a defensive dynamo but not much of an offensive player. Okafor is NBA-ready as a post-up scorer and Noel should be able to help cover up his defensive shortcomings. Okafor averaged 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in the Summer League.
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns and the Lakers' D'Angelo Russell are each +600. Towns was the No. 1 overall pick and will also get heavy minutes from the get-go. He averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in five Summer League games. No team has had back-to-back ROY winners since the old Buffalo Braves in 1973-74 (Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio). The Lakers surprised some by taking Ohio State's Russell at No. 2 overall ahead of Okafor considering that L.A. already has a shooting guard on the roster in someone named Kobe Bryant. However, Kobe says he's open to playing small forward to allow Russell and Jordan Clarkson to play in the Lakers' backcourt together. Russell also can play the point. He was a bit uneven in Summer League but finished averaging 11.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
NBA Free Pick: I think Okafor puts up the best numbers of all rookies in terms of points and rebounds and stats are what win this award. He's the pick.