2015-16 NBA Picks and Predictions: Early Rookie of the Year Favorites and Contenders: Another NBA Draft is in the books, and while many rookies will begin their careers in the D-League or off the bench as role players, a few first-year players will shoulder a big load right off the bat. Not surprisingly, the players that are receiving more minutes and being asked to do more have the inside track on winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Just ask Andrew Wiggins, who took home the honor last year after seeing all the minutes and shot opportunities he could handle for the Minnesota Timberwolves. With that in mind, here are a few early frontrunners for ROY honors in 2015-16.
2015-16 NBA Picks and Predictions: Early Rookie of the Year Favorites and Contenders
The Los Angeles Lakers surprised some by selecting point guard D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick, and they certainly didn’t select him to have him play a small role. Russell is going to have the ball in his hands a lot, and he has the smooth stroke and the passing skills to deliver solid point and assist totals throughout the season. Thanks to his ability to be either a score-first guard or a facilitator, Russell Rookie of the Year chances shouldn’t really be impacted by whatever moves the Lakers make during free agency.
By drafting center Jahlil Okafor with the No. 3 pick, the Philadelphia 76ers created an overcrowding problem in their frontcourt, especially if Joel Embiid is healthy. However, Okafor is never going to be the odd man out in the rotation. It has been years since a young big man has entered the league with the footwork and back-to-the-basket game of Okafor, and he will immediately become the 76ers’ best offensive weapon. Sure, his defense needs work, but it’s not like he is going to be benched for poor defense on a team that already knows it is headed back to the lottery. Okafor could easily lead all rookies in scoring this year on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
A series of trades ended up with point guard Jerian Grant landing in New York, and while the Knicks don’t project to be a great team, Grant’s stock is on the rise. The lack of talent on the roster means that Grant should not only start as a rookie, but he should have the ball in his hands a lot. Outside of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks don’t have much offensive firepower. Grant has the size and skill to create his own shot, knock down shots from the outside and create looks for teammates. He will be asked to do a lot, and if he takes advantage of the situation, Grant could snatch Rookie of the Year honors from players drafted well ahead of him.
With rumors heating up that Ty Lawson is going to end up in Sacramento, Emmanuel Mudiay appears very likely to open the season as the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets. Mudiay has the size athleticism to get into the paint and attack the rim effectively, and his style will be a perfect fit for Denver’s up-tempo offense. In many ways, he is very similar to the above-mentioned D’Angelo Russell, but until Lawson is officially traded, there is always a chance Mudiay gets stuck in a rotation that bogs down his numbers. Still, he has enough upside to warrant a futures bet right now because his odds of winning Rookie of the Year are only going to improve if Lawson is out of the picture.
Although he was the No. 1 pick, Karl-Anthony Towns is by no means a lock to win the Rookie of the Year Award. That being said, the versatile big man still has a great chance to take home top honors, but with a young, improving supporting cast in Minnesota, he won’t have to do it all like some of the other top rookies. Towns would vault close to the top of the list if center Nikola Pekovic is traded, but even if he stays, Towns’ ability to score, rebound and block shots will give him the all-around numbers to put him in the mix.
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