Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 26, 2015.
The NBA Draft took place in Brooklyn, New York and despite the wealth of rumors floating around, it was a surprisingly quiet night. Teams like the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings, who were expected to be among the most active on draft night, were inactive and simply made their scheduled picks.
There were a few surprises including the Lakers selection of D’Angelo Russell ahead of Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow’s inexplicable slide, but otherwise most mock drafts were fairly accurate.
Sportsbook.com was the first major oddsmaker to post 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year odds following the draft. It should surprise nobody that the top three picks had the shortest odds, although it was noteworthy that the #2 pick D’Angelo Russell (+750) had longer odds than the #3 pick (Jahlil Okafor).
Later in the day, the much sharper Greek and 5Dimes sportsbooks posted their own Rookie of the Year odds. These lines featured a few notable differences including Mudiay, Winslow, Grant and Vaughn. The Greek also listed “field” as an option, which will consist almost entirely of second round draft picks, undrafted free agents and overseas signings. Days later, Bovada joined the party by posting their own odds.
Any bettors taking this prop bet should also avoid taking the tempting long shots at all costs. A lottery pick has won the Rookie of the Year award in every season since 1987-88 when Knicks guard (and former Warriors coach) Mark Jackson took home this prestigious accolade. During that span, the number one overall pick has won the award 13 times.
The table below displays the pre-season Rookie of the Year odds for the past six winners:
As you can see, the longest odds in recent history belong to Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams. At the time, MCW was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers with +1200 odds to win the award — fairly short odds considering he was the 11th overall pick. In contrast, Pacers C Myles Turner was the 11th pick in this year’s draft and is currently listed at +2000.
The table below compares the current Rookie of the Year odds at Sportsbook, The Greek, 5Dimes and Bovada and will be updated throughout the offseason as more oddsmakers post their lines.
|Player||Team||Bovada (3/1)||Bovada (2/2)||BetOnline (11/27)||5Dimes (10/27)||5Dimes (8/11)||5Dimes (6/26)||Bovada (6/30)||Sportsbk (6/26)|
|Kelly Oubre Jr||ATL||N/A||N/A||N/A||+10000||+6000||+5000||N/A||+5000|
|Larry Nance Jr||LAL||N/A||N/A||N/A||+15000||+15500||+5000||N/A||+5000|
One of the first things you may notice is that Joel Embiid, the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, currently has the fourth shortest odds. Embiid missed the entirety of the 2014-15 NBA season due to a broken bone in his foot, and recently suffered a setback which could force the big man to miss the start of the upcoming season. For that reason, he seems entirely overpriced at +800.
Typically opportunity is the largest factor for Rookie of the Year winners, so searching for players who will receive significant playing time on teams with few offensive options is a smart move. Based on those criteria, there are a few players potentially offering value:
- 76ers C Jahlil Okafor (+500) – Although Okafor is the favorite, history tells us that top-three picks traditionally win the Rookie of the Year award. Philadelphia should be without Embiid for a long stretch, and Okafor has the type of polished post game that should immediately translate to the NBA game.
- Nuggets G Emmanuel Mudiay (+1000) – Although Ty Lawson still projects as the starting point guard, this draft pick seems to indicate that Lawson may soon be trade bait. The former Tar Heel star has been rumored in trade talks for a long time, and his departure would create immediate opportunity for Mudiay. Players who dominate the ball typically post lofty statistics, and with limited competition I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mudiay duplicate John Wall’s rookie season (16 ppg, 8 apg, and a low field goal percentage).
When this post was first published, a number of marquee free agents remained unsigned and many teams did not know how their rotations would look for the upcoming season. However, there have been a handful of significant transactions and injuries that have potentially altered the Rookie of the Year race.
Nearly two months ago we highlighted the value of Denver’s first round pick — Emmanuel Mudiay. The 6’5″ point guard posted huge numbers while playing in the China last season and looked phenomenal in his highlight reel. We also noted that a Ty Lawson trade was imminent, and that move would pave the way for extended playing time and opportunity.
Following yet another arrest for DUI, the Nuggets shipped the diminutive guard to Houston for essentially a future first round pick. This led to 5Dimes moving Mudiay’s Rookie of the Year odds from +1000 to +375.
Another interesting case involves the third overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft — 76ers center Joel Embiid. The former Kansas star missed the entire 2014 season after breaking a bone in his right foot, but opened with the 4th best odds (+1000) of winning the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year award. Unfortunately, it was revealed that Embiid suffered a setback in his rehab and would likely miss the entire 2015-16 season.
This surprise caused 5Dimes to take Embiid off the board while teammate Jahlil Okafor, who will likely benefit with additional playing time, saw his odds jump from +500 to +350. Other major moves include: D’Angelo Russell (+750 to +400), Justise Winslow (+1800 to +1000), Stanley Johnson (+2500 to +1700) and Willie Cauley-Stein (+2500 to +4000).
With the season ready to tip-off tonight, it’s interesting to see that Emmanuel Mudiay has actually jumped Jahlil Okafor as the Rookie of the Year favorite. This marks the first time that a player selected outside the top three started the season as the front runner.
Anybody who took our advice to take either of these two players when the article was initially published should be happy to see that the odds for both Okafor (+500 to +400) and Mudiay (+1000 to +300) have improved significantly in the past few months.
Other major risers include Detroit’s Stanley Johnson (+12500 to +1400) and Kristaps Porzingis (+2500 to +1500) while the biggest fallers have been Willie Cauley-Stein (+2500 to +4000), Devin Booker (+3500 to +6000) and Frank Kaminsky (+2500 to +3500).
We should also point out that on July 14, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Nemanja Bjelica — a 27-year old Serbian forward. Last season Bjelica averaged 12.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for Fenerbahçe Ülker from the Turkish Basketball Super League. Although no odds were posted for Bjelica when this article was first published, he’s now listed with the 9th shortest odds at +2000.
It’s only one month into the NBA season and the Rookie of the Year odds have already shifted dramatically. When BetOnline posted their latest update, only six players were listed — all of whom were top ten draft picks. Karl-Anthony Towns, who is averaging 14.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, has moved from +450 to +100 and is now listed as the favorite.
The biggest early surprise has been Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis. The 7’3″ forward has been incredibly impressive, averaging 13.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while showing off exceptional athleticism for a big man. “Zinger,” who opened the season listed at +1500, has improved to +225 and now has the second best odds of winning Rookie of the Year.
D’Angelo Russell has struggled to earn playing time this season and is averaging just 10.2 points and 4.5 assists per game. This performance has caused Russell to drop from +600 to +1500.
The Rookie of the Year has effectively become a three-man race between Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (-250), New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (+210) and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor (+650). Towns is currently averaging 16.6 point per game, 9.9 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game. Porzingis is currently averaging 13.9 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game. Okafor is currently averaging 17.3 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game and 1.1 blocks per game.
Although Okafor has the highest scoring output, he has been atrocious defensively and the 76ers continue to be the league’s worst team. Okafor has also been involved in several off-court incidents that could adversely impact voters.
Porzingis has produced the most highlight plays, and his rare combination of size, athleticism and shooting touch make him an interesting prospect. That said, he’s only shooting 42.5% from the floor and has the least impressive statistics of these three major candidates.
Despite being the first overall draft pick and posting incredible numbers, Towns continues to be vastly overlooked and under-discussed. The 20-year old is effectively averaging a double-double while shooting 53.8% from the field and 85.2% from the free throw line. His PER (Player Efficiency Rating) ranks 17th in the league, ahead of highly touted big men like Andre Drummond, Brook Lopez, Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh. Assuming he stays healthy, Towns looks like a lock for Rookie of the Year.
In our last edition we pointed out how bettors continued to undervalue Karl-Anthony Towns, but it looks like the market has finally made the proper adjustments. Towns is currently averaging a double-double (17.4 points, 10.3 rebounds) while posting the 15th best PER (22.91) in the league. In the last month his odds of winning Rookie of the Year have improved from -250 to -1200.
Do you think any of these players are offering value? Are oddsmakers overlooking anybody? Please leave any thoughts or comments in the comment section below.
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David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@sportsinsights.com.