It's a good time to check up on some updated NBA futures odds. Let's examine some Rookie of the Year odds for what looks like a pretty strong first-year class.
Okafor Good On Court, Not Off
Back in the preseason Philadelphia's Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick, and Denver's Emmanuel Mudiay, who went No. 7 overall, were the betting favorites. That was somewhat understandable. Both were going to really bad teams and figured to start and play a ton of minutes from Day 1. Thus, they figured to pad their stats.
And both are having solid seasons, although Mudiay's ROY chances are taking a big hit right now. Okafor is averaging 17.3 points and 7.9 rebounds for the wretched 76ers. He has missed a few games due to a knee injury and has had some off-field issues that caused the 76ers to suspend him two games. Might voters hold that against him? To keep the 20-year-old out of trouble, Okafor is now accompanied by a security guard whenever he goes out on the town. Okafor's handlers requested the move, and it's actually not that unusual. USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo, who recently joined the 76ers as chairman of basketball operations, also has spoken to Okafor. The team is considering adding some veteran players to help mentor its youngsters. Okafor is now +600 on NBA odds to win Rookie of the Year.
Mudiay was handed the reins to the Denver offense after the team traded incumbent starting point guard Ty Lawson to Houston this offseason (and Lawson has been a huge bust). Mudiay is averaging a solid 10.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He does turn the ball over a lot, averaging 4.0 per game, but that's to be expected of a rookie point guard. What is hurting Mudiay's ROY chances is that he hasn't played since Dec. 11 due to an ankle injury, but the Nuggets aren't going anywhere this season so they are going to err on the side of caution. Mudiay is now +6000 for the award.
Towns Surpassing Expectations
The -250 favorite on NBA picks is Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick out of Kentucky. And he looks like a future superstar. He's averaging 16.4 points (terrific .540 shooting), 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Towns was the NBA's Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November and probably will be for December as well -- he averaged 18.6 points and 9.5 rebounds that month. Towns has a player efficiency rating of 22.33, which would be the best for a rookie since future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan in 1997-98. Kevin Garnett already has taken Towns under his wing. Unlike the 76ers, the Wolves have a few seasoned veterans to mentor their young guys.
The Timberwolves are going to be Western Conference contenders in a few years with Towns, Andrew Wiggins and another lottery pick this season. That Kevin Love trade couldn't have worked out better as it landed the Wolves not just Wiggins but also made them bad enough to get in position for the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. Of course Wiggins was last season's Rookie of the Year, so the Wolves are in position to be the first team with back-to-back ROYs since the Buffalo Braves in the early 1970s. Bob McAdoo won it in 1972-73 and Ernie DiGregorio the next year.
Probably the most surprising rookie thus far has been New York's Kristaps Porzingis and he's at +187. Not much was expected from Porzingis this season because he was so raw. Team president Phil Jackson even said as much and Knicks fans rained down boos when Porzingis was chosen at No. 4 overall. Now that looks like a great pick -- the Lakers probably are regretting not taking him at No. 2 instead of D'Angelo Russell. Porzingis already is the most popular Knick and is averaging 13.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November. His numbers were a bit down in December as Porzingis might be hitting a bit of a rookie wall but they were still solid.
The Lakers' Russell is now at +5000. He's now coming off the bench, but that might be a good thing as it gets Russell more shots. Russell is averaging 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
NBA Free Pick: Towns will win this barring injury.