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NBA Rookie of the Year Future Odds: Evan Mobley Leads the Way

Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley's strong production on a contending team has made him the heavy betting favorite to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

There’s been a trend in recent years for the NBA Rookie of the Year to not just be the best player among their class but to also be a contributor to a playoff team.

Four of the last five players to win the award have been on playoff (or play-in) teams: LaMelo Ball last season, Ja Morant the year before, Ben Simmons in 2018 and Malcolm Brogdon in 2017. The lone exception was Luka Doncic for the 33-49 Mavericks in 2019, who was also maybe the best rookie of the last 10 years. That must be taken into account when looking at the betting field for Rookie of the Year.

It’s a bit of a conundrum because the contenders for ROY were usually taken at or near the top of the draft, meaning the teams they’re joining were bad enough to be drafting in the lottery. But there are a few rookies who fit the recent mold this season, none more so than Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley, the heavy favorite.

I think the award is certainly Mobley’s to lose given his stellar play on an impressive Cleveland team, and SI Sportsbooks agrees. I’ll make the case for the favorite, a value bet and a sleeper pick as part of this ongoing NBA Futures betting series.

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Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) guards Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley -300
Raptors forward Scottie Barnes +800
Pistons guard Cade Cunningham +900
Thunder guard Josh Giddey +1400
Magic forward Franz Wagner +2300

(All stats updated as of Feb. 16)

The Favorite: Evan Mobley (-300)

The Cavaliers are one of two teams that drafted in the top five currently in the playoff picture. Mobley is a large part of the quick turnaround in Cleveland. Drafted third out of USC, Mobley is third in scoring among rookies (14.9 PPG) and first in rebounding (8.1). He plays the second-most minutes (34.1) of any rookie and the second most on his team, which shows how much the Cavaliers rely on their first-year big man.

The fit next to center Jarrett Allen has worked out very well for both players, a credit to Mobley’s versatility. Allen is having a career year alongside Mobley, who doesn’t demand a high number of shots. Outside shooting is still not a strength for Mobley (26.5% from three) but he still hits better than 50% of his field goal attempts and he’s a plus on defense, swatting a team-leading 1.6 blocks per game.

Karl-Anthony Towns was the last center to win ROY in 2016. He averaged a double-double, but he did so on a bad Timberwolves team. What Mobley has been able to do alongside another big man on a Cavs team that’s contending for the best record in the Eastern Conference is incredible. It won’t be surprising to see him named ROY.

Value Bet: Josh Giddey (+2300)

If this award were based on hype and highlights, Giddey would have it locked up. But the award comes down to much more than that and Giddey is much more than his flashy passes, hilarious TikTok presence and overall likability. The 19-year-old Australian plays for the dreadful Thunder, who seemingly have no interest in winning anytime soon. But Giddey’s play might be a barrier to that plan. He’s a winning player.

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Giddey leads the team in rebounding (7.7, second among rookies) and assists, (6.3, first among rookies and 19th-most in the league). While his playmaking is truly a wonder to watch, scoring is not the 6-foot-8 guard’s strong suit—yet.

He shoots less than 42% from the field and well below 30% from three. Giddey’s respectable 12.3 PPG average is eighth among rookies and his scoring numbers have improved each month of the season alongside his shooting percentages. He averaged a hair above 10 points in October and November and he’s up to 16.4 PPG in February so far. That includes a triple-double against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday (his second in a row and third of the season). Giddey went for 28 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a rare Oklahoma City win.

The Thunder’s status as league bottom dwellers in a year with rookies like Mobley and Scottie Barnes contributing for playoff teams hurts Giddey’s case. Still, he just keeps on filling up the stat sheet for OKC. If there was an award for making an 18-39 team watchable, Giddey would be the favorite.

Ayo Dosunmu (12) brings the ball up court against the Toronto Raptors.

Sleeper: Ayo Dosunmu (+6000)

Donsumu was a second-round pick out of nearby Illinois for the Bulls. On a team already with Zach Lavine and Coby White that added DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in the offseason, there weren't a lot of minutes to go around for Dosunmu early on. He played less than 20 minutes per game in October and November and his numbers were paltry but also on par for the 38th pick.

Injuries to Chicago’s backcourt players forced more minutes on Dosunmu. He responded with a double-digit scoring average in the new year and he’s up to 7.6 assists per game in February with an impressive 15-point, 14-assists outing. His season averages are far from special: 8.1 PPG, 2.7 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists. That’s on 25.6 minutes per game, though, 11th among rookies. His per 36 numbers are more representative of his play as of late (he averages 38.4 minutes per game this month): 11.3 PPG, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Dosunmu is also an uber-efficient shooter: 52.8% from the field and 41.3% from deep on 2.3 attempts per game.

Dosunmu has to be graded on a curve given his unconventional road to big minutes. That’s not to say his five weeks of good play should be held against months of sustained excellent play from Mobley, Barnes, Franz Wagner or Giddey. You shouldn’t have to squint hard to see greatness when it comes to awards voting, but what Dosunmu is doing for the Bulls (tied for first in the East) should not be ignored.

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