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The silly season is upon us in the NBA.

While you can call it a continuation of what we’ve seen to date, what with a previously unprecedented 3-1 Finals comeback and Milwaukee’

s selection of the ageless Thon Maker at 10 in the NBA Draft, attention turns to free agency this weekend.

Remember last year, when the Clippers recovered DeAndre Jordan’s services by essentially baby-sitting him following his change of heart while the Mavericks attempted to chase him down?

Who doesn’t love a visual involving Mark Cuban with a rose in his mouth, Bachelor-style? Not saying that happened (litigious much?) but it’s a fun thought.

Kevin Durant is the prize, but there are key pieces like Al Horford, Nicolas Batum, Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons and Hassan Whiteside who will be available.

We’ll look at props regarding the 2016 free agent crop in this space next week, but for now, due to time constraints, we’ll be grading the NBA Draft here while looking at a Rookie of the Year odds courtesy of Bovada.

It’s no shock that Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the No. 1 selection, has been established as a 13/4 favorite to become the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, garnering the favorite’s role over New Orleans’ Buddy Hield (11/2) and the L.A. Lakers’ Brandon Ingram (13/2).

Simmons didn’t lose his standing as amateur basketball’s top prospect despite failing to lead LSU to the NCAA Tournament, a development that allowed him to be scrutinized and criticized throughout this process.

While it didn’t help that his jump shot is very similar to LeBron James in terms of accuracy, the fact his game is similar is definitely an asset. An athlete of his caliber hasn’t come into the league boasting this on-court IQ and ability to handle the ball and pass it well since James first took the nation by storm.

Simmons is destined to be great. His first NBA head coach, the capable Brett Brown, coached his father. Mutual respect and admiration is already there and won’t have to be learned or forced. Although Ish Smith is the 76ers playmaker, he’s going to have to step aside for Simmons to become the primary ball-handler.

With little pressure to make the playoffs, the opportunity is there for Simmons to work on his skills as a rookie. While that will certainly lead to a healthy share of mistakes, it’s going to lead to numbers too.

There’s no question Simmons deserves the Rookie of the Year favorite’s role, but the call here is that he’ll live up to billing and earn the award. Go chalk and ride with Simmons to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.

For the contrarians among my readership, riding a favorite is a no-no, so of course I’ll appease them with other options. Hield (11/2) has a great shot despite sliding all the way down to No. 6, where the Pelicans happily selected him.

Although I believe Canadian shooting guard Jamal Murray out of Kentucky will be the better player, the fact is that playing ball in New Orleans carries additional responsibility made him the right selection. Hield, a native of the Bahamas, is a remarkable personality, able to blend in anywhere and one of those rare people who have the perfect blend of star power and humility to be instantly likeable.

That played a large role in the Pelicans’ decision to select him and makes him a great potential tag-team partner for Anthony Davis.

The Lakers were able to keep their draft pick by not falling out of the top three and were able to come up with a tremendous prize in Duke’s Brandon Ingram (13/2).

Because of his exceptional shooting range and rail-thin frame at 6-foot-9, Ingram has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant, albeit a smaller version. He’s impossibly long, but still will have issues adjusting from college to the pros.

I wouldn’t recommend a play on him in spite of the likelihood he’ll play 30-plus minutes throughout his rookie season, a prerequisite when handicapping this award.

I’d put Minnesota point guard Kris Dunn (15/2) in the mix if Ricky Rubio is dealt, but not before. There’s still a chance that Dunn could end up elsewhere in a major trade, so don’t move a muscle until it becomes apparent that he’s staying put with the Timberwolves, where he’d be a tremendous asset to Tom Thibodeaux as a long point guard who can effectively pester opponents defensively.

The aforementioned Murray (15/2) has a great shot to make an impact in Denver and would also be a great bet, as would Joel Embiid (14/1), Wade Baldwin IV (16/1) and Marquese Chriss (16/1).

Baldwin could be in for a great role with the Grizzlies if they lose Conley, while Chriss, the power forward the Suns coveted at No. 4 but ended up picking up via trade at No. 8, has the most upside of anyone in the draft. It wouldn’t be shocking to see any of these guys win if Simmons struggles or gets hurt.

Guys you should stay away from include Maker (16/1), Taurean Prince (16/1), Dragan Bender (20/1), Jaylen Brown (20/1), Malachi Richardson (20/1), Brice Johnson (20/1) and Caris LeVert (20/1) due to a lack of opportunity that awaits.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at Email: [email protected].

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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