The 2022/22 NBA season is less than a week from commencing and many fans will be itching to see the first true glimpse of the 2022 Draft Class.
The race for Rookie of the Year is always one of the most interesting subplots of the NBA season and there are a number of highly-touted prospects entering the league this season that will have their sights set on winning it.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball, was the third overall pick selected by the Charlotte Hornets and two of the last three winners of the award have been picked third. Ben Simmons is the last number one overall pick to win Rookie of the Year having done so in 2017/18.
It has been an award that many of the league’s current top stars have to their name such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic and could there be a future star added to that esteemed list?
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Below, we will be assessing the top contenders for the NBA Rookie of the Year award and give you their current odds of winning it ahead of opening night.
Cade Cunningham – 13/5
The current bookmakers’ favourite to win the Rookie of the Year award is the first overall pick, Cade Cunningham. The 6 ft 7 in point guard has been well known to the basketball community for some time and enjoyed an impressive year at college with Oklahoma State. There, he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game whilst shooting 40% from three-point range. Having only just turned 20, Cunningham has a feel for the game that long exceeds his years and he has been handed the keys to the Detroit Pistons franchise. They are in complete rebuild mode and the ball will be placed firmly in Cunningham’s hands and he will be allowed to try things that some of his other teammates wouldn’t necessarily get away with. The Pistons finished with a 20-52 record last season and are expected to have a similar winning percentage this time around, though Cunningham could really put himself in the frame for winning Rookie of the Year if the team can exceed expectations.
Jalen Green – 3/1
Despite plenty of hype in recent weeks from around the NBA, Jalen Green is still the second-favourite to win Rookie of the Year at 3/1. Green was recently voted as the most likely to win Rookie of the Year in the annual GM survey and his price has shortened with a number of bookmakers of late. The 19-year-old is the most natural scorer of all the main contenders and averaged 17.9 points per game for the NBA G League Ignite squad last season. He scored 20 points during the Houston Rockets’ preseason game against the Miami Heat and counting stats often play a big part in who wins Rookie of the Year, something which could aid his call if he can come out as the Rockets’ leading scorer. He joins a solid young core with Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr, Alperen Sengun and Kenyon Martin Jr, but it is Green who is seen as the jewel in the crown.
Jalen Suggs – 7/1
One of the bigger surprises of the draft was that Jalen Suggs fell to number five and to the Orlando Magic. Suggs’ financial loss is the Magic’s gain, with there being a feeling that Suggs has the potential to be a culture-changing, winning player that Orlando has needed for the best part of a decade. He led Gonzaga to the NCAA National Championship game after banking in a 30-foot, three-point, game-winning buzzer beater to defeat No. 11 seed UCLA 93–90 in overtime and helped them to a 31-1 record. While he may not score the ball as frequently as Green or Cunningham, he totalled more assists than the pair in college and could have more of an intangible impact similar to the style of Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton last season. However, he will be competing for minutes in the guard positions alongside Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, Michael Carter-Williams, Terrence Ross and Gary Harris, all of whom could take some extra minutes away from their lottery pick.
Evan Mobley – 9/1
The best big man from the 2022 NBA Draft Class is Evan Mobley. He was selected third overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who many believed had the best spot in the draft due to lack of pressure of having to choose from the top three prospects. Currently priced at 9/1, Mobley’s thin frame means it could take a few years for him to really impose himself in the NBA, although he is extremely skilled and averaged nearly 3 blocks per game in college. Like Suggs, he could see his playing time subdued to a certain extent due to the construction of the roster and players that play the same position as him. Mobley will be competing with Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markannen and Kevin Love for minutes. Though he is not anticipated to hit the ground running like some of the other prospects, Mobley was voted as the player that the league’s GMs believed will be the best player from the draft class in five years.
Scottie Barnes – 12/1
Scottie Barnes went one place higher than many anticipated when he was selected by the Toronto Raptors and the early signs in preseason look promising, particularly from a playmaking perspective. Barnes has 28 assists to his name from the first five preseason games to just nine turnovers, although his outside shooting is a work in progress as expected. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is constructing a roster of versatile, malleable players that can guard multiple positions and Barnes certainly fits that profile. Now back in Toronto after their one unsettled season in Tampa, the Raptors will be eyeing a return to the Playoffs, likely making Barnes the only main contender to be playing for a team with aspirations of competing rather than rebuilding.