Who are the best bets to win the 2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year award?
In late August, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced rookie Chet Holmgren would miss the entire 2022-23 after he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his right foot during a Pro-Am game in Seattle.
As a result, Paolo Banchero’s Rookie of the Year odds skyrocketed.
Before Holmgren’s unfortunate injury, Banchero was still the favorite to win the award, but a slight favorite. According to an article written by Chinmay Vaidya of Draftkings Nation on July 6th, Holmgren was receiving the most money on Sportsbooks to win Rookie of the Year
Fast-forward to the present day with Holmgren expected to miss the entire season, Banchero is the heavy favorite heading into the season, as his odds have dropped to +200 on WynnBet.
In his two Summer League appearances, Banchero looked as good as advertised. The former Duke Blue Devil averaged 20 points, five rebounds, and six assists. He carried that impressive summer league performance into the preseason where he scored 53 points on 52.9% front the field and grabbed 19 rebounds over the Magic’s final three preseason games.
Banchero is the Magic’s most talented player. He may struggle at first as most rookies do, but expect his confidence to grow as he gets more and more acclimated to the NBA game.
Back in June, after the NBA draft, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer gave the Magic’s selections of Banchero an A+ saying:
"“The Duke freshman was no. 1 on my big board all spring and has the upside to blossom into a star in Orlando. Of all the top picks, Banchero is the most ready to get NBA buckets as soon as he steps foot on an NBA floor.”"
That analysis rang true throughout the summer league and preseason as Banchero looked extremely comfortable on an NBA floor.
Despite the drop in odds since Holmgren’s injury, Banchero is still the best bet to win ROTY.
Looking for value in the Rookie of the Year race
Having said all of that, if you’re looking for more value, there is plenty to be found.
Jeremey Sochan at +5000 odds is one of those value plays.
If you are unfamiliar with Jeremey Sochan, let me introduce you.
As a freshman at Baylor, Sochan was awarded the Big-12 sixth man of the year award and was selected to the conference’s All-Freshman team. He averaged just 9.2 points per game in 25.1 minutes off the bench, but, what he lacked in scoring, he made up for in defensive prowess.
At 6’9”, 230lb, with a 7’0” wingspan, Sochan has the perfect body type for the modern NBA. He has the quickness and reflexes to guard smaller, quicker guards and the strength to guard big wings.
The thing is, defense alone won’t win him the Rookie of the Year award.
Out of the 22 winners of the Rookie of the Year since 2000, only three have averaged less than 15 points per game: Malcolm Brogdon in 2017 (10.3), Amar’e Stoudemire in 2003 (13.5), and Mike Miller in 2001 (11.9).
Sochan is not a scorer. Far from it. But, he does have an incredibly high basketball IQ. He always makes the right decision. He’s an unselfish player that only cares about doing whatever he can to help his team win. That was evident by his one year at Baylor and by his preseason play.
An encouraging sign for Sochan is after the Spurs defeated the Utah Jazz last Tuesday, coach Gregg Popovich was asked if he’ll stick with the Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremey Sochan, and Jakob Poeltl starting lineup into the opener:
"“I think it’s likely, but it could change. We’ll see.”"
Sochan is as long as a long shot gets when it comes to Rookie of the Year. However, at +5000 odds you’re getting a top-10 pick who’s going to play a lot of minutes as a starter the entire season, barring any injury, for a team that’s all-in on tanking. That’s not too bad. Not bad at all.
Other rookies that could win the ROY award
As high as I am on Sochan, there are other rookies with lower odds who have a more realistic shot of winning the award. Keegan Murray at +400 and Benedict Mathurin at +500 stick out as the best bets behind Banchero.
Keegan Murray has been nothing but exceptional for the Kings. In the Summer League, the former Iowa Hawkeye balled out. He averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting 50.0% from the field and 40% from three-point range in four games in Vegas which was good enough to earn the Most Valuable Player award of the Summer League.
Murray carried that impressive play over to the preseason where, in two games, he averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 70.5% from the field and 87.5% from three in just 22 minutes per game.
Murray, along with previously discussed Banchero and Sochan, is projected to be a starter. However, unlike Banchero and Sochan, Murray’s team: the Sacramento Kings, are in a position to be a competitive ball club.
The Kings have a surprisingly good roster. Their top eight go as follows: De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, Davion Mitchell, Malik Monk, Richaun Holmes, and Murray. Those are eight solid guys.
This is the best roster the Kings have had in a while. Unlike Bancero and Sochan, Murray has an opportunity to contribute to winning, and winning is what it’s all about.
Just take a look at who won the rookie of the year last season. It was Scottie Barnes. Why did Barnes win it? Because not only did he put up impressive numbers, he did so in a way that contributed to winning basketball. The Raptors finished as the fifth seed in the East in large part due to the play of Scottie Barnes. Keegan Murray has the opportunity to do what Barnes did last season.
Now, will the Kings finish in the top five in the West? Probably not, but it’s logical that the Kings take a step forward, make the play-in tournament, and sneak into the playoffs.
Bank on Murray being a big part of the Kings’ success this season as he’s proven through his play in the summer league and preseason that he, maybe more so than Banchero, is the most NBA-ready rookie of this year’s class.
Last but certainly not least, there’s Benedict Mathurin. No rookie has been more impressive this preseason than the former Arizona Wildcat.
Mathurin averaged 19.7 points on 48.2% from the field, including a 27-point outburst against the New York Knicks.
The Pacers are projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. However, Indiana does have one of the most exciting, young backcourts in the league in Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton.
Halliburton is the perfect point guard for Mathurin. In 26 games as a Pacer, Haliburton averaged 9.6 assists per game. At 22 years old, Haliburton has already established himself as one of the best passers in the league, so for Mathurin, a scorer in the truest sense of the word, there is no better point guard to have set him up.
Haliburton will find Mathurin, and Manthruin will get plenty of opportunities to light up the scoreboard. As mentioned before, the Pacers are projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. They are also one of the youngest teams in the league. The organization is all in on the tank for the prize of next year’s draft, Victor Wembmenaya, but, more importantly for Mathurin, they will be all in on developing their young talent.
The Pacers may not do much winning, but Mathurin will do a lot of scoring. He could easily lead all rookies in scoring which may not be the biggest factor for voters but it’s certainly one of the biggest. At +500, through his impressive play in the preseason, Mathurin is the best value play to win Rookie of the Year.
Even though Paolo Banchero is the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and for good reason, there is still value to be found in guys like Keegan Murray, Benedict Mathurin, and Jeremy Sochan. It’ll be exciting to see how the rookies perform and which rookies emerge throughout the season.