Smart Bets On Chet For Rookie Of The Year

After Victor Wembanyama dropped 38 points on the Phoenix Suns in a 132-121 Spurs victory on Nov. 2, his Rookie of the Year odds went to -450 on some sports betting sites. That was just the fifth game of the regular season, but San Antonio, then 3-2, seemed poised to be more competitive than anyone thought thanks to a top draft pick who was warranting every bit of his considerable preseason hoopla.

But the Spurs haven't won since, dropping 12 straight games. The 7'4″ Wembanyama, meanwhile, has remained extremely productive and at times brilliant, averaging over 19 points, nearly 10 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. On Sunday in a loss to Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets, he finished with 6 blocks and 4 steals to go with 22 points and 11 rebounds in just 25 minutes of floor time.

“Wemby’s an alien,” said Kevin Lawler, the head of U.S. Trading for PointsBet, a Fanatics Experience, who attended the game in person. “He’s just crazy. Players need to change the trajectory of their shot just to get it over his arms.”

Priced at the start of the week at -145 to win Rookie of the Year at DraftKings and -180 at PointsBet, Wembanyama is still the odds-on favorite to win the award. But Lawler's not betting on that outcome, and neither is Jonathan Von Tobel, NBA betting analyst for Vegas Sports & Information Network.

“If you remove the names and break down the statistical profile of these guys, Chet Holmgren is clearly the better rookie,” said Von Tobel of the Thunder's beanpole center, who's played more efficiently than Wembanyama thus far. “Holmgren would be your favorite at this point and you could make an argument that a guy like Ausar Thompson (currently 40/1 at DraftKings) would be closer to Wembanyama.”

Both DraftKings and PointsBet have Holmgren at +110 to win ROTY, but Lawler thinks “you'll see those odds flip” with Wembanyama's by midseason.

“I think over the course of the season, you’re just going to see Chet continue to shorten,” Lawler added. “He’s on a very serious team that I think is going to finish third in the [Western Conference] race. Player A versus Player B, there’s no doubt Chet would be favored.”

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A rivalry in the making?

Of course, neither player is as anonymous as this scenario would suggest. Plenty of astute NBA observers were bullish on Holmgren, the second pick in the 2022 NBA draft who missed all of last season due to a foot injury, but expectations for Wembanyama are through the roof.

With the possible exception of LeBron James, Wembanyama is the most hyped rookie in NBA history. Hype leads to enthusiasm among recreational bettors, and recreational enthusiasm leads to outsize liability at sportsbooks – a factor that is clearly built into the current price, explained Von Tobel.

The 7'1″ Holmgren's counting stats are virtually identical to those of Wembanyama, but the Gonzaga product has emerged as the second-best player on what's currently the second-best team in the Western Conference, while the Frenchman's Spurs occupy its cellar.

“It’s going to hurt [Wembanyama] being surrounded by those players on the Spurs roster versus Chet being surrounded by the players on the Thunder,” said Lawler, who feels that if the Wemby-Chet rivalry is to really take off, “the Spurs will have to add to their roster and do something to put better pieces around Wemby.”

Added Von Tobel, “They’re both rookies. Their profiles, how they look with their game, are very similar. Both play in the Western Conference. Both teams hope that this would be the start of two young teams who meet in the postseason down the road. This has the potential to be one of those where we watch this for quite a while.”

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