Take a look at who has won Rookie of the Year. It’s a pretty incredible list. Winning Rookie of the Year is a pretty
good indicator of just how good a player may be. In the past 13 years, ten of the Rookie of the Year winners have made an All-Star game: Lillard, Kyrie, Blake, Rose, KD, Brandon Roy, CP3, LeBron Amare, and Pau. Those who didn’t make an All-Star game? Carter-Williams, who has only played one year, Tyreke Evans, and Emeka Okafor. Those guys are still good players. Eight of those players are legitimate franchise players: Lillard, Kyrie, Blake, Rose, Durant, CP3, LeBron, and Pau. Three of them would have been perennial All-Stars if not for devastating injuries: Rose, Roy, and Amare. The bottom line the Rookie of the Year list is pretty good company. This year has been called one of the deepest drafts in history. But the list of guys who could win Rookie of the Year isn’t quite as deep.
13. Jerami Grant
This one could really end up being a swing-and-a-miss. He might not even make the Sixers’ roster. He had been projected for the better part of the college season to be a mid-late first round pick. He slid because he’s a tweener without a true position. He’s 6’8″ 214 pounds, but he played the majority of his career at Syracuse under the hoop. He doesn’t have a good jump shot (yet) and will probably need to be on the perimeter more in the NBA. So why is he a sleeper? He’s super athletic and could be a beast on the glass in his first year in the league. He could easily get all of his points off of garbage put-backs, and that’s okay as a rookie. That’ll be better than most rookies. And he’s on the tanking Sixers, so he could see LOTS of playing time next year.
12. Cleanthony Early
The people’s champ. Only a sleeper because of where he was drafted. In reality, Early should be one of the true contenders for the Rookie of the Year award. The Knicks already have one of the most barren rosters in the league, and especially if Carmelo leaves this summer, as seems likely, then Early could even work his way into the starting lineup. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Early average double-digit points and a handful of rebounds in his rookie years.
Don’t Count Him Out, He Gets Buckets
11. T.J. Warren
Warren is on an offensive juggernaut of a team in the Suns that generates a lot of possessions. With the playmaking ability of Dragic, Warren will be able to come off the bench and score in bunches. That’s why the Suns drafted him, and that’s what he’ll do. That’s what Warren does: he just gets buckets.
10. Doug McDermott
The Bulls drafted McDermott because of their problem scoring the ball last year. Thibodeau will help cover for McDermott on defense, so that he can stay on the floor. And he’ll stretch the floor and get open looks from any Derrick Rose kick-outs, and Noah dishes.
9. Nik Stauskas
Very gutsy pick. Picking anyone on the Kings to win any award is questionable. On another team, Stauskas would be a real contender for ROY, but on the Kings, things get murkier. The locker room is a mess, Stauskas doesn’t play much defense, and the team stinks at playing basketball with one ball. Ball-hog city.
Ya Never Know…
8. Noah Vonleh
It’s unclear how much time Vonleh will get. The Hornets aren’t the laughingstock they used to be. They could be a legitimate top 5 team in the East next season. Not that that’s saying much, but still. Vonleh will have to beat out Cody Zeller for minutes at power forward. That shouldn’t read as foreboding as it does–Cody Zeller is very mediocre. Vonleh is still very young, and maybe he sits on the bench all of next season. If he gets on the floor though, he’ll get open shots off of teams doubling Al Jefferson.
7. Kyle Anderson
There’s no doubt what Anderson will do for the Spurs. He’s the prototypical glue-guy who makes his teammates better. Does that win Rookie of the Year awards? Probably not. Heck, the Spurs are so loaded, Anderson might struggle to get on the floor. If he does find himself in their rotation next season, he could lead all rookies in assists.
6. Aaron Gordon
Gordon could be a contender for this award. The only problem is he isn’t a scorer. The Magic aren’t very good, so Gordon should be a starter next year. If he does start, he could lead all rookies in rebounding. Gordon’s stats usually aren’t mind-blowing because he can’t shoot the ball and doesn’t get plays run for him, but he will do all the dirty work. Gordon will get steals, blocks, and rebounds.
5. Dante Exum
Initially, he was left off the rankings altogether because the shock he’s going to face from the difference in competition could kill his confidence. But the Jazz are so bad. You have to think they’ll have him starting for most of the year next to Trey Burke. No one really knows much about Exum. He could be an absolute stud and win the ROY in a landslide, or he could sit on the bench and look like a bust. With the Jazz being so bad and pressed for scoring though, you’d think Exum will have a great chance to contribute.
4. Marcus Smart
There’s a good chance the Celtics will deal Rajon Rondo now that they have Smart. Rondo has been involved in trade rumors for the past few years. If Rondo stays, then Smart’s name drops down this list. The Celtics seem to be content playing for the future though, and Smart is ready to play immediately. He’s one of the most ready prospects and could easily duplicate what Victor Oladipo did last year.
3. Andrew Wiggins
If the Cavs are any smart, they’ll start Wiggins from day one. He’s their future now. He’s not a volume scorer (yet) but still has the tools to score 14-16 points per game. He’s the most athletic prospect in the draft. He’ll score off steals and fast break opportunities. He’ll get a surprising amount of rebounds, just like in college. And it might not be too crazy to think he could end up on one of the all-defensive teams.
2. Julius Randle
The Lakers are bad and pressed for scoring. Kobe will heist harder than he ever has, playing with such bad supporting players, but Randle will also have the chance to take over ten shots per game, at least. He’s a natural scorer, and one of the more ready guys in the draft. There’s a good chance Pau is going to leave, and Randle will not have any competition at the forward position, unless the Lakers make significant moves in free agency. Expecting Randle to put up something like 16 and 8 is not out of the question, and would easily put him in the top three of ROY voting.
1. Jabari Parker
The Bucks are going to let Jabari chuck all he wants. He should be taking 15 shots per game and score around 20 points per game. And he should also be grabbing seven or eight rebounds per game. Jabari has been called the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft, and the most polished offensive scorer. The Bucks don’t have any scorers on their roster and will want Parker to get used to being the franchise player. It would be shocking if Parker didn’t come away with the Rookie of the Year. With many of the other players, it’s not clear that they’ll start, or get the green light. Parker will have both luxuries.