NBA Rookie of the Year Odds & Picks: Value on Paolo Banchero and Sleeper Bets Entering the New Season

The NBA Rookie of the Year award is exactly what the name suggests. The Eddie Gottlieb Trophy goes to the top rookie of the regular season.

But what exactly defines a top rookie? Is the Rookie of the Year (ROY) the player with the best stats? Is it the rookie who makes the biggest impact on a winning team? Does ROY go to the rookie who most outperforms expectations? And how do we know which rookies are best to bet on?

We can learn a lot about what awards will be given out in the future by starting with looking at the past. Let’s build a historical Rookie of the Year profile by looking back at past winners, then consider the favorite, four other top betting options and the best sleepers to monitor heading into the new season.

So what sort of player wins Rookie of the Year, and whom should we bet on?

Who Wins Rookie of the Year?

Here are the 10 most recent Rookie of the Year winners:

  • 2022 Scottie Barnes, Raptors
  • 2021 LaMelo Ball, Hornets
  • 2020 Ja Morant, Grizzlies
  • 2019 Luka Doncic, Mavericks
  • 2018 Ben Simmons, 76ers
  • 2017 Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks
  • 2016 Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
  • 2015 Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves
  • 2014 Michael Carter-Williams, 76ers
  • 2013 Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

I’ve got four main rules for betting NBA Rookie of the Year.

Like usual, points are king.

Since LeBron James won it in 2004, all but one Rookie of the Year scored at least 15 PPG, so that sets a clear floor. That’s everyone but Malcolm Brogdon in 2017, 18 of the last 19 winners (95%).

The average Rookie of the Year over that span scored 17.6 PPG, and 13 of the last 20 ROYs led all rookies in scoring, about two of every three.

If we can predict which rookie will lead all debutantes in scoring, we have a good shot at guessing the Rookie of the Year.

Just guessing the PPG leader isn’t enough. Four of the last five ROYs didn’t actually lead in scoring. With heliocentric offenses and higher usage roles, ROY increasingly goes to a player who racks up high points + rebounds + assists (PRA).

ROYs finished tops in PPG 65% of the last two decades, but 15 of the last 18 — 83%! — led in PRA, and two of the non-leaders really only won ROY because Zion Williamson and Joel Embiid got hurt.

All but two ROYs since LeBron had at least 25 PRA, so that’s our floor. Our last five ROYs averaged 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists. That’s exactly 30 PRA, so that gives us a good target.

Unlike some awards, there’s no emphasis on intangibles or winning with Rookie of the Year. It’s mostly just a counting stats award.

Since Emeka Okafor won ROY in 2005 as a great interior defender, defense was only a meaningful part of the ROY case for maybe three or four players.

Using Box Plus-Minus (BPM) to measure efficiency, only five of the last 15 ROYs led all rookies in BPM. Under half of them finished in the top two, and the average ranking was 3.6. Voters forgive rookies for shooting inefficiency, turnovers, and bad defense.

They don’t penalize them for playing on bad teams either, which makes sense since the top rookies are usually drafted to bad teams. The last 15 ROY winners averaged a 32.8-win pace and a 10.8-seed. Only four (27%) were on a top-eight playoff seed. It’s almost better if a good rookie is on a bad team since it likely means a bigger role and more rope for the youngsters.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn that ROY winners are often high draft picks, but you might be shocked to see just high.

Since the 1950s, only four Rookies of the Year were drafted outside the top 10: 2017 Malcolm Brogdon (No. 36), 2011 Michael Carter-Williams (11), 1988 Mark Jackson (18), and 1974 Jamaal Wilkes (11). That’s 60 of 62 ROYs drafted in the top 11 (96.8%), with only one ROY ever outside the top 18.

That already whittles the field dramatically, but we’re not done yet. Only 13 of those 62 ROYs were even drafted outside the top five. That means almost four of every five (79%) Rookies of the Year were top five picks!

Since 1990, 23 of 34 ROYs (68%) were drafted in the top three, and nearly half (44%) went No. 1. In just the last 15 years, nine ROYs (60%) went top three, and three of those misses were due to injuries, or it might have been 80%.

The evidence is overwhelming, and it’s selection bias working in our favor. High draft picks are drafted high because they’re better and more prepared to contribute. They’re also going to the worst teams most in need of a high-usage player.

History says our Rookie of the Year will be likely someone drafted in the top five, probably top three, and that we should default to the No. 1 pick unless there’s a good reason not to.

We’re looking for a rookie drafted in the top five who can put up at least 15 PPG and 25+ PRA, and we don’t need to worry about efficiency or winning.

Now that we have a profile, let’s look at the field. We’ll start with the big favorite, then consider the four others with shorter odds and a few long shots to keep an eye on heading into the new season.

Bet on the Favorite

Paolo Banchero is the clear Rookie of the Year front runner, and he’s been my pick since draft night.

I recommended Banchero at +460 right after the draft, doubled down after Chet Holmgren’s incredible Summer League debut, and urged listeners to grab Paolo +400 in our July Buckets ROY episode, noting that the number should be half that large. Well, would you look at that!

Really think you should grab Paolo ROY while you can get the long odds.

9 of last 15 Rookies of Year were top 3 picks. Banchero has NBA body and will have ball in his hands and rack up PRA. Much readier for heavy load than Chet/Jabari.

I wouldn't make him longer than +250.

— Brandon Anderson (@wheatonbrando) July 9, 2022

Banchero’s odds opened at +460 and dropped steadily to around +325 before Chet Holmgren’s injury sidelined him for the season. Instantly, Banchero’s number plummeted to +200, where he sits now at most books.

I think there’s still value, even at +200.

Remember, 68% of all ROYs since 1990 were top-three picks. If you could just bet on “top-three picks” versus the field, you’d have -209 implied odds to win. No. 1 picks alone have won 44% of that stretch, an implied +127. We’re still getting a sizable margin on that number, and Banchero’s biggest ROY competition, the No. 2 pick, is out for the year.

Banchero checks all the boxes. He was in a top-three tier all draft season and is clearly the most physically NBA-ready of the three. He steps into a great situation in Orlando with massive usage available, and that situation has only moved in his favor of over the past month as Magic guards Gary Harris, Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs have been sidelined with injury.

Orlando had only three players average 12 PPG last season, none of them over 16.3 PPG. The Magic also had no one over 5.7 APG. The team has a huge scoring and playmaking void, and Banchero is poised and ready to step into that void. He scored over 20 PPG in Summer League action with a full scoring arsenal and also dazzled with five or six assists a game most nights.

Add in the rebounds, and that easily crosses our 25 PRA mark toward 30-plus and puts Banchero very much in the mix to lead all rookies in scoring. He has a real chance to lead the Magic in both points and assists.

Only two of the past 17 ROYs were big men, though Williamson, Embiid, and Evan Mobley looked poised to join them before injury. We also haven’t had many drafts like this with three big men clearly alone at the top.

Read Full Article