Breaking down the five biggest sleepers that could win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 2017-18
Marquee rookies like Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz will likely (and deservedly) receive the most action at sportsbooks when bettors make their wagers to predict the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year. Jaysun Tatum, the player that Danny Ainge and the Celtics traded down to draft, despite starting with the top overall pick, will be a favorite as well.
When this year’s rookie class was surveyed just days ago, Summer League standout Dennis Smith Jr. was selected by his peers as most likely to win the award.
Opportunity, style of play, and market will all factor into a rookie’s chances at winning the award. Right now, it looks like the award will be Lonzo Ball’s to lose based on those factors. If Lonzo is simply adequate, the market and hype surrounding the UCLA product will propel his campaign significantly, and already listed as the starter, the minutes will be available for Ball to strut his stuff.
Being a top overall pick makes it somewhat difficult to be labeled a sleeper, so Markelle Fultz won’t be on this list either. The aforementioned Jaysun Tatum and Dennis Smith Jr. are already fan favorites for the award, though I feel like Tatum has very little chance on such a deep team (though the loss of Jae Crowder in the Kyrie Irving trade made them a bit less deep).
A player like De’Aaron Fox has a current line of +1000, which would potentially qualify him as a sleeper for me, regardless of his being drafted fifth overall. Fox won’t be on my list either due to the Kings’ acquisition of George Hill, though before that happened, Fox would have been a player to really keep an eye on.
These familiar rookies all certainly have a great shot at winning Rookie of the Year, yet recent winners like Damian Lillard, Michael Carter-Williams, and especially last year’s winner Malcolm Brogdon (36th pick overall in the 2016 draft) would suggest that NBA fans can expect the unexpected.
In what will likely prove to be a stacked 2017 draft class, almost no player is too far-fetched to bet on. So who are some semi-realistic sleepers that could surprise the NBA world and sneak into the Rookie of the Year conversation?