With the drafted completed (but the season in utter peril), let’s take a hypothetical look at the 2012 Rookie of the Year. The odd stratifications are a bit strange given the order in which the players were actually taken, but handicappers factor in a lot of things that fans may not. That said, we’ll weigh the odds involved with regard to the players’ teams, and consider who is in the proper situation to win the award.
Derrick Williams 5/1 Odds
This is my pick for ROY. Williams had the most talent in the draft, and though the Cavs were hoping he would fall to them at the fourth pick after taking the safe choice (Irving) first over all, the Wolves snapped him up at #2. Williams is actually given better odds than Irving to win, if ever so slightly, due to his NBA-ready body and more accomplished college career. His athleticism will allow him to shine on a very bad Cavs team that will afford him plenty of opportunities offensively. Wes Johnson was a relative disappointment last year, so Williams should see most of the time at the small forward position.
Jimmer Fredette 5/1
Despite being selected 10th overall, Fredette has better odds to win this ROY award than Irving does, too. Going to a team like the Kings may help a lot, but it’s difficult for NBA point guards to adjust to the NBA game, and Fredette is going to find it much tougher to play defense in the NBA than he did in the Mountain West Conference. This, I feel, will be the difference. The wear and tear of playing NBA level defense is going to leave Fredette less effective on offense, where his lack of energy and rookie mistakes are going to keep him from shining quite like he did at BYU.
Kyrie Irving 11/2
Irving, the actual top pick, has the 3rd best odds to win the award. I don’t think he’s going to win it because of the lack of polish in his game. He should make an immediate impact, but like Fredette is going to find playing point guard in the pros to be an entirely different task than in college. Baron Davis is still in Cleveland, too, and I don’t expect him to fade to complete irrelevance…yet, anyway.
Enes Kanter 15/2
Kanter went third overall to the Jazz and is considered to have the talent to become an eventual All-Star. He’ll find it tough to play more than 30 minutes a night with Al Jefferson and (possibly, if healthy) Mehmet Okur. The Jazz were absolutely pitiful at the end of last year and with Jerry Sloan having retired, they may go into rebuilding mode. They also aren’t happy with Devin Harris, their consolation prize in the Deron Williams trade and they may look to move Harris or others for draft picks. All of that, of course, would help Kanter’s chances of getting more looks offensively, but he is still a pretty long shot to win the Rookie of the Year.
Kemba Walker 15/2
Walker has the potential to lead the Rookie Class in scoring, but will that be enough? The Bobcats need scoring badly, so he’s going to get a lot of looks and will probably start from day 1. I don’t see him being much better than Ben Gordon, a player he’s been compared to, though, so it’s difficult to envision a shoot first point guard that is too small to play shooting guard as a legit option for the award. If Walker can manage to diversify his game, however, he has a legit shot.
Ricky Rubio 8/1
This is my darkhorse favorite. Rubio will probably start from Day 1, if not only as a ploy to make the Wolves more exciting and palatable for the fans. His flashiness is the kind that makes Top Plays on ESPN, and everyone knows highlights play as much a role in awards like these as actual impact does. Rubio will fit nicely with Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, giving the Wolves a nice core if they can retain Love’s services after his contract expires (quite doubtful).
Everyone else is 12/1 or worse and I don’t see any of them having a legit chance at winning the award. Klay Thompson is 12/1 and is pretty intriguing since he’ll be on the high scoring Golden State Warriors. The Warriors got off to a great 5-1 start last season before falling into their usual losing ways. With Thompson’s scoring they could become more relevant, which would certainly be a “feel good story” and would give Thompson a much better chance of winning the award. At 12/1 he is a long shot, but is the best speculative bet given the value in the payoff with regard to his actual chances of winning