The NBA Draft took place on Thursday, June 23, and the Philadelphia 76ers selected LSU forward Ben Simmons with the first overall pick. However, before the draft even took place oddsmakers had already installed Simmons as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award.
The day before the draft, the Irish sportsbook Paddy Power posted early odds for the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Award with Simmons (+130) listed as one of the biggest preseason favorites in recent memory.
Who will be the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year?
Ben Simmons +130
— David Solar (@TheDavidSolar) June 22, 2016
Last season, Karl-Anthony Towns was the first overall pick in the NBA Draft but oddsmakers questioned whether he was ready to make an immediate impact and installed Jahlil Okafor (+350) as the preseason favorite. Towns ended up averaging a double-double (18.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG) en route to becoming the fifth unanimous selection in league history.
This was the second straight year that the number one overall pick won the Rookie of the Year despite not being listed as the preseason favorite. Prior to the 2014-15 season, oddsmakers listed Jabari Parker (+225) as the Rookie of the Year front-runner ahead of number one pick Andrew Wiggins (+400). Parker ended up suffering as season-ending injury while Wiggins (16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG) was a far more assertive offensive player than analysts expected.
Over the last decade, the number one overall pick has been named Rookie of the Year on five occasions but never when they were also listed as the preseason favorite (unless you count Blake Griffin who missed the entire 2009-10 season before winning the award the following season).
The table below displays the pre-season odds for the past ten Rookie of the Year winners (h/t SportsOddsHistory.com).
|2015-16||Karl-Anthony Towns||1||+450||Jahlil Okafor||+350|
|2014-15||Andrew Wiggins||1||+400||Jabari Parker||+225|
|2013-14||Michael Carter-Williams||11||+1200||Victor Oladipo||+300|
|2012-13||Damian Lillard||6||+500||Anthony Davis||+175|
|2011-12||Kyrie Irving||1||+500||Derrick Williams||+350|
|2010-11||Blake Griffin||1||+200||John Wall||+120|
|2009-10||Tyreke Evans||4||+700||Blake Griffin||+120|
|2008-09||Derrick Rose||1||+350||Michael Beasley||+150|
|2007-08||Kevin Durant||2||-350||Kevin Durant||-350|
|2006-07||Brandon Roy||6||+200||Brandon Roy||+200|
Looking at this list of past winners I had a few observations. For starters, Ben Simmons (+130) was the biggest preseason Rookie of the Year favorite since John Wall (+120) in 2010-11 and Blake Griffin (+120) in 2009-10. Neither one of those players won the award despite their lofty pre-season odds.
Based on these odds, there was a 43.48% implied probability that Simmons will be named Rookie of the Year and a 66.67% implied probability that somebody else will win. Although this juice was fairly high, it’s not surprising given the nature and timing of this prop bet.
Although I’m a big believer in Ben Simmons, I explained that it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to take the field at -200 when this article was initially published. I reasoned that there were plenty of more experienced, NBA-ready players in this year’s draft including Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. The 76ers also have a stockpile of young big men including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. That depth could limit Simmons’ playing time and opportunity.
That analysis proved correct on Monday (6/27) afternoon when Bovada posted Rookie of the Year odds for 18 top prospects. Simmons (+325) was still listed as the favorite, but anybody who followed my advice to take the field (-200) at Paddy Power would now have an arbitrage opportunity. The limits on these prop bets are generally very low and it would take roughly ten months to pay off, but it’s curious to see that Paddy Power hasn’t adjusted their odds.
Several weeks later 5Dimes posted their own Rookie of the Year odds, but there were a few curious omissions including Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender and Jakob Poeltl.
On Saturday, October 1, it was announced that Ben Simmons suffered a broken bone in his right foot which would require surgery. Although early reports indicate that Simmons will miss about three months, some sources have already reported that the top pick will miss the entire season. This announcement caused most sportsbooks to take their Rookie of the Year odds off the board.
Paddy Power became the first sportsbook to re-open their Rookie of the Years odds, listing Buddy Hield and Kris Dunn (+400) as co-favorites. This was fairly surprising considering that most books had previously listed Brandon Ingram and Joel Embiid with shorter odds than Hield.
The table below compares the latest odds at 5Dimes, BetOnline, Bovada and Paddy Power. It will be updated as new information becomes available.
|Player||Team||Bovada (1/31)||Bovada (1/5)||Bovada (12/1)||Paddy Power (11/7)||5Dimes (10/18)||Paddy Power (10/5)||5Dimes (9/22)||BetOnline (7/19)||5Dimes (7/7)||BetOnline (6/29)||Bovada (6/28)|
The section below was published on June 28th
One of the most interesting names on this list is 76ers center Joel Embiid. The third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid is expected to make his professional debut after missing his first two seasons due to a variety of injuries. The seven-footer from Cameroon is listed at 12/1 to win the Rookie of the Year Award at BetOnline and 7/1 at 5Dimes. Embiid was a promising prospect before his recent rash of injuries, but it seems unlikely that he’ll earn a starting spot let alone win this prestigious award.
Buddy Hield, who was taken by New Orleans with the sixth overall pick, has the second-best odds (+650) of being named Rookie of the Year at BetOnline, but the fourth-best odds (+800) at 5Dimes. This highlights the importance of always shopping for the best line before placing a wager.
In terms of potential value, I’m intrigued by Lakers forward Brandon Ingram at +650. Some scouts have called Ingram “frail” due to his slight frame, and have speculated that the rangy wingman will get pushed around next season. However, Ingram can easily create his own shot and should have ample opportunity on a young Lakers team looking to find an identity in the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s retirement.
Who do you think will win Rookie of the Year? Are oddsmakers overvaluing Simmons? Please leave any thoughts or comments in the comment section below.
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