We are rapidly approaching the home stretch of the 2021-22 NBA season. With only two months left in the regular season, we are slowly beginning to differentiate the contenders from the pretenders as far as title contenders are concerned. In addition to that, we are also starting to see which players are separating themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of earning various individual honors, such as Rookie of the Year.
In four of the past five seasons, the Rookie of the Year has been claimed by a guard. This includes Charlotte Hornets’ guard LaMelo Ball, who the award last year. With this trend in mind, will the award go to another guard for a fourth consecutive season, or can Evan Mobley bring it home over the final two months of the season?
This time three months ago, Jalen Green (+15000) was the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and Evan Mobley (-500) was an afterthought with +1300 odds. Here is a live look at the current ROY odds at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Latest Odds from DraftKings SportsBook
Here’s a look at the five players that currently have the best odds to win the Rookie of the Year award, per DraftKings. While it is still possible for a rookie outside of this top 5 to make a run at the award over the next few months, it seems likely that one of these five players brings home the hardware in 2022.
Franz Wagner was selected two spots later at the No. 8 spot by the Orlando Magic. The Magic were coming off a season in which they won just 21 games. Not only that, but Orlando has only three postseason appearances on its resume over the last decade, and they were eliminated in the first round each time. However, their first-round pick has been a good fit thus far.
Wagner has scored at least 15 points or more in four of the team’s last five games and he is the leading scorer among rookies with 15.6 points per contest. Wagner is also a decent floor-spacer as he’s converting 36.2 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. If he can sustain his early-season success, there’s no doubt that he will continue to improve his position in the ROTY odds race.
Giddey was taken at the No. 6 spot by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2021 NBA Draft. The good news is Giddey is sixth among rookies in scoring with 12.4 points per contest. Giddey is also averaging a respectable 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per contest as well.
The bad news is that his efficiency isn’t much to get overly excited about. He is shooting just 41.8 percent from the field and a frigid 26.7 percent from beyond the arc. While Giddey is having his best month of the season thus far (13.0 PPG, 46.5 percent shooting, and 50 percent from 3-point range), the chances of him overtaking the other players on this list aren’t that great.
Cade Cunningham was the top overall pick in last year’s draft and he was selected by the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and they won just 20 games in both of those seasons. Although the Pistons are off to another rough start (nine wins through 39 games), Cunningham has been one of the few bright spots for this ball club.
He is tied with Wagner in scoring among rookies with 15.7 points per outing. Cunningham is also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest as well. And he’s averaging over 17 points per contest for the second straight month. Despite the uneven shooting numbers (39.4 percent overall and 32.7 percent from 3), Cunningham is a player we should keep an eye on this race down the stretch.
The Raptors posted a 27-45 record in 2020-21. Given that fact, the team needed to improve its roster. They selected Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Barnes was named ACC Freshman of the Year following a season in which he averaged 10.3 points per contest and was a force at both ends of the floor. So far, that trend has continued during his rookie campaign.
In 49 appearances for the Raptors, he is averaging 14.4 points (fourth among rookies) to go along with 7.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest on 47 percent shooting from the field. Barnes has been held to single-digits in two of his last three games, but based on how he’s played overall, it is reasonable to presume that his numbers will pick back up soon.
Evan Mobley was the third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Following their last appearance in the NBA Finals (2017), the Cleveland Cavaliers have won a total of 60 games over the past three seasons. Having said that, they were hoping to add a game-changer to their roster and Mobley has not disappointed.
He is third among rookies in scoring (14.9 PPG), first in rebounding (8.1) and he is first among rookies in shooting (50.3 percent) and blocks (1.6). And during the month of January, Mobley averaged 17.4 points per game, which was his best month of the season thus far.
It has been some time since the last time a center won the ROTY award (2005), but Mobley can break that streak if he continues to play at his current pace. As long as Mobley can stay healthy the rest of the season, he's almost a lock to take home the Rookie of the Year award.