Winning the Rookie of the Year award may not guarantee you success, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction, and proving all the teams that passed on you that they were wrong is also a huge satisfaction.
Some rookies take a bit longer to make their adjustment to the NBA, as the pressure, the lifestyle, constant traveling and adapting the body to the physical demands may take some time and growing pains are more than natural.
Even though there’s always a rookie that stands out from the pack and winds up proving his worth right away, and with this year’s stacked Draft class, the Rookie of the Year race is set to be one for the ages. Today, we’ll talk about the top 5 candidates to take the ROY home.
Honorable Mention: Ben Simmons, forever a rookie
5. Trae Young
Trae Young impressed everybody during his freshman year at Oklahoma, drawing a lot of Stephen Curry comparisons due to his incredible ball handling skills, great passing abilities and seemingly unlimited range and ability to pull up from everywhere on the court.
Naturally, the turnovers, non-existent defense and poor shot selection are also pretty Curry-ish, but with him set to be the Hawks’ lone scoring option, he’s going to have the green light to hog as many shots as he wants, so he’s definitely in for a lot of huge stat lines any given night.
4. Jaren Jackson Jr
Jaren Jackson Jr was considered by much as the most round up big man in this Draft for his ability to lock down the paint as a great rim protector while also being able to knock down shots from beyond the three-point land, and he may be a huge sleeper at the 4th spot as the best player on this Draft.
He’s going to share the frontcourt with Marc Gasol, creating a very dynamic duo that will thrive in the pick and roll and can have a huge defensive impact as well. He’s not going to flash with stats but may be the most NBA ready prospect among all of this.
3. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic was even in the 1st overall pick conversation a couple of weeks ago, as the young stud out of Slovenia was turning heads and breaking ankles in Europe with Real Madrid en route to winning the Eurobasket’s MVP with his great passing abilities and scoring versatility.
He’s going to struggle to stop some NBA guards due to his lack of lateral quickness, but he’s the most experienced player on this list, and he’s got the best basketball IQ as well. Several scouts slept on him, but he’s going to put on a show next to Dennis Smith Jr in the Mavericks for a very long time.
2. DeAndre Ayton
DeAndre Ayton was pretty much the unanimous 1st overall pick in this class and he’s going to make an immediate impact in the offensive end of the floor for the young Phoenix Suns as an even more talented player than Karl-Anthony Towns is at his age.
His defense has a lot of catching up to do for sure, and there are serious concerns about his lack of character in crunch time. Nonetheless, his physicality and sweet touch around the basket make him this year’s guy to watch.
1. Mo Bamba
Mo Bamba’s Draft stock drastically rose over the last couple of weeks as he wowed every scout in the world with his 7-foot-10 wingspan, the longest in Draft combine history, as well as his newly developed ability to guard one through five by playing lockdown defense in the perimeter.
His face-up game needs to improve a lot and he needs to get involved in offense way more than he does, but he’s got the defensive upside to become an even better version of Rudy Gobert. Stats may not be there on a nightly basis, but he’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate even before making his pro debut.