This past draft saw many highly touted players get drafted to teams, who desperately needed them. With so many high profile rookies looking to win Rookie of the Year honors, I will break down the five players with the best chance of winning the award, as well as a few big names, who I do not believe will be in consideration for it.
Emmanuel Mudiay: With the recent debacle of Ty Lawson, the stage is now set for Mudiay to take control of the Nugget’s, and lead them in a new era. Before the start of the college season, Mudiay was looked at as the number one pick for the 2015 NBA draft, but due to a injury in China, Mudiay was only able to play around 12 games. Even without the injury plenty of people wondered about Mudiay, and if his skill set was worth a top five selection. Mudiay has a jumper that is a work in progress, his three point range also needs work, but his ability to attack the basket, and find an open man is uncanny. All of this lead to Mudiay slipping in the draft, all the way to the Nuggets, who were happy to take him. During the few summer league games Mudiay has played in, Mudiay has looked dominant. Yes, this is against competition that few will see the court at the NBA level, but for a young kid this is still impressive. With Lawson set to be traded at some point, or even released, Gallinari expected to be traded shortly to Boston, and Faried on the trade block, Mudiay will have full control of the offense, and will be leaned upon for their offense. For this reason, Mudiay should average around 17 points per game, and 8 assists per game, which should make him a strong candidate to win rookie of the year.
Karl-Anthony Towns: Being the number one selection overall usually warrants you to be in consideration for early rookie of the year predictions. Town’s possesses an elite blend of skills. His offensive potential is being showcased against the weaker competition of summer league, but even watching him against this competition, you have to believe it will translate against stiffer NBA competition. Defensively, Towns can be a force. As long as Towns stays out of foul trouble, he will be able to anchor the defense of the Timberwolves for years to come. Playing alongside Kevin Garnett, Towns will develop a nice mean streak within himself, which should further allow for him to dominant his opponent. With the further development of LaVine, Wiggins, Dieng, and the return of Martin and Pekovic, Towns will not put up the gaudy numbers like Emmanuel Mudiay can, but I still think 9 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and 1.7-2.0 blocks per game will have many people consider him for rookie of the year. I think Towns is a long shot for rookie of the year, just giving his circumstance on a young team, and not being the main guy, but crazier things have happened.
Mario Hezonja: Hezonja is a dark horse candidate, as Hezonja, like Towns, is on a young roster full of players trying to develop their own games, and he is not the main guy. Even with the being said, Hezonja has an amazing ability to score the ball from practically anywhere. There is a reason Hezonja was called the European Kobe, as he is very determined to be successful, and possesses incredible amounts of confidence in himself. Orlando does a have a glaring need for a reliable offensive weapon, and with his persona, I think Hezonja is capable of filling that, and is capable of averaging 10-12 points per game, while tossing in a bonus of 4-5 rebounds per game. Neither of these two stats are breathtaking, but in such a crowded environment, some may view these stats as great for the rookie, and give him a vote for Rookie of the Year.
Jahlil Okafor: Okafor has probably the best chance out of anyone to win this award. The 76ers have no reliable offensive presence, and Okafor will be leaned upon for this. Okafor has been utterly dominant against his summer league opponents. Okafor was held out of a game for “rest” purposes, but I think the 76er’s have seen enough, and do not want to worry about injuring their future offensive star. Okafor has been blocked quite a few teams this summer, and will need to improve on this, as the rim protectors at the NBA level are of a different breed. Even with that being said, I think Okafor will average 19 points per game, and 9 rebounds per game. These stats will rival that of Emmanuel Mudiay, as these two are looked to be the predicted forerunners for the award.
Myles Turner: Turner has also been dominant at the summer league level, and is looking like a steal of the draft. We have to keep in prospective that it is summer league, and Turner has a lot to do to be successful at the next level. With the Pacer’s trading away their former center, Roy Hibbert, then losing David West and Luis Scola to free agency, Indiana has a major hole for an interior presence, and scoring threat. Rumors have it that the Pacer’s want to use Paul George at the four position. This would allow for them to have a stretch four capable of stretching the floor, as well as being able to blow by the slower big men in the game. With George at the four, Turner would be anchoring the post, which is not exactly a strength of his. Turner prefers to work in the mid-range game, and with his lanky body, without major strength added, Turner may not be able to back down his stronger opponent’s, causing him to struggle. Even with that being said, Turner will be looked upon to be a major contributor this next season, as Indiana looks to make the playoffs again. Turner will likely start the season off slow, but once he is comfortable, Turner should be a decent rookie contributor, averaging around 8-10 points per game, 7-8 rebounds per game, and 1.9-2.2 blocks per game. These are nothing spectacular, but with a majority of good rookies having to battle for stats among other young players, the Rookie of the Year stats may be less than usual, as their is just so much talent and competition for the award this year.
D’Angelo Russell: I am not leaving D’Angelo Russell out because of summer league play. Russell has what it takes to be a star in the league, but I just think his supporting cast may hold him back this year. During summer league, Russell has struggled greatly, and being a player for the Lakers, Russell will draw a lot of microscopically detailed hate. Once the season starts, Russell has to deal with Kobe needing his shots, Clarkson’s continued development, their post players needing the ball, and then he will come into play. Russell may end up averaging more assists per game than points, as his passing ability is mouth watering. That is one thing Kobe is going to love having. I think Russell will average around 7-8 points per game, and 6-8 assists per game. For being the second overall pick some may say this is not very good, but when you take in what he is surrounded by, those are decent numbers. If the Lakers were not pursuing a playoff spot, and wanted development, Russell would be at the top of this list, but under his circumstances, he will miss out on this award.
Justise Winslow: As many of you know, I loved Winslow coming out of the draft, and still think he will be one of the top two players from this draft. Miami was dumbfounded to see Winslow still available at tenth overall, and scooped him up without hesitation. Although this is a great place for Winslow to learn and develop behind Wade and Deng, coming off the bench will provide little help for trying to chase ROY honors. Winslow will likely average 5-6 points per game, and 3.5-5 rebounds per game. Although Winslow may not be a star this season, the future holds unlimited potential for him, and after learning from the great leaders ahead of him, Winslow with his amazing defense, and explosive offense will soon take over as a new face of the franchise for Miami.
Stanley Johnson: Johnson is getting no love from anyone this summer, even after he has been pretty good at summer league. Well Johnson and Piston fans here you go. Johnson will be a good player at the next level, but his limited offensive attack at the moment will not be good for getting the flashy stats that win this award. Johnson will do the dirty work this year of guarding the perimeter, rebounds, hustle stats, but these things do not catch the eye of the voters, and that is why I think he will not even be close to consideration for this award. Johnson will need a few seasons to development his offense, but once this is completed, as everyone else predicts, Johnson should be like another Jimmy Butler. For the season, I only expect Johnson to average 5-6 points per game, 5-6 rebounds per game, and 1.5-2.0 steals per game. Nothing gaudy by any measurement, but with Detroit looking to sneak into the playoffs, his often over looked contributions will be a great part of why they do sneak in.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17