This season, two NBA rookies will garner a majority of the headlines, as they rightfully should. Jabari Parker (5/2) and Andrew Wiggins (15/4) are the odds on favorites to take home the NBA Rookie of the Year award come seasons end. However, if you look beyond Parker and Wiggins there are a few names that have longer odds with a real potential to win the ROY award as well. It may seem obvious, but my biggest contributing factor when making a rookie of the year prediction is if they play for a bad team. Typically this forces players to rack up major minutes and fill the stat sheet due to the volume of opportunities on they have on the court. Some previous winners of the award fit this description perfectly, including Michael Carter-Williams and Tyreke Evans. Both Evans and Carter-Williams played for teams that needed an instant impact player and they were able to produce on a nightly basis. For me, four players stand out as having the opportunity to contribute right away.
(7/1) Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be a bad team once again this season. For all the talk of their talent, they are simply getting blown out this preseason. With Kobe Bryant returning for an ACL injury, he will need help shouldering the load. Julius Randle has the ability to score from both inside and from the wing. In addition, he can put up solid rebounding numbers to go with his point totals. If he can average anywhere near a double-double this season, he should be in the conversation come seasons end.
(12/1) Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart is in a situation that is loaded with potential. Currently Rajon Rondo is the starting point guard in Boston. However, with trade rumors flying around, a trade involving Rondo would all but assure Smart massive minutes. If Rondo is not moved, all hope is not lost. Between Smarts ability to play both guard spots and the Celtics not being afraid to use a undersized back court, Smart could see time next to Rondo. Smart could find himself providing scoring for a Celtics team that needs it badly. Smart currently provides a ton of value, and a trade could push Smart way up and his odds could become much shorter.
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(18/1) Dante Exum – Utah Jazz
Dante Exum is probably my favorite rookie from the 2014-2015 NBA Draft Class. He has all the ability to win Rookie of the Year and will get a ton of opportunity to showcase his talent. My biggest concern about Exum is the amount of minutes he is going to receive. After watching him play in Summer League, he seemed to tire quicker than his teammates. If he is able to get in better shape between then and the seasons start, that may be a moot point. Exum is a dynamic player that has the ability to get where he wants to on the court. His shot will need work, but he can rack up the assists and steals totals to help balance out his subpar scoring.
(18/1) T.J. Warren – Phoenix Suns
T.J. Warren is more of a dark horse candidate for me. I love his skill set, and the potential he brings to the suns backcourt. He has the versatility to provide the Suns with a ton of scoring from both guard and small forward positions. Because of this, this allows the Suns to give Warren more playing time this season. While the Suns will likely contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, I don’t worry about a lack of opportunity for Warren. Both Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic should be able to get him the ball in opportunities to be successful.
*T.J. Warren has a fractured thumb. Depending on how long he is out it may be worth still taking a shot on him. I suggest waiting until the season starts, you will get even better odds. An impressive run down the stretch could have him in the conversation come seasons end.