You don’t usually see a column open with an author admitting he was dead wrong, so feel free to cut and paste this baby and send it to your friends. Mock away, but the goal remains to try and make you some money so a mulligan is necessary.
Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green will not be the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
That wasn’t my opinion less than two months ago. Green was going to get the keys to the Rockets’ offense with John Wall essentially being deactivated until a trade partner could be found or a buyout could be reached. We’re still waiting on that, but Wall asked to return to the team in part because we’re also still waiting on Green to have the impact that was expected when he was selected No. 2 in July’s NBA draft.
Rockets Winning Without Jalen Green
Through the first 18 games of Green’s rookie season, he averaged 14 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. Worse yet, the Rockets were 1-16 when a hamstring pull caused him to be removed from the lineup in November. Houston stunned the Bulls and then won three straight without him, pulling off an upset of the Hornets and sweeping a home-and-home with the Thunder. The Rockets are favored to win a fifth straight game without him on Friday night over the Magic.
Being associated with the term “addition by subtraction” isn’t a good look when chasing hardware, and, if we’re not pulling punches, that’s been the case for Green. He’s shot 38 percent from the field, 27.8 percent from 3-point range, and racked up more turnovers than assists.
Green likely won’t be a bust. He’s going to mature physically and mentally and use the experience he’s gaining as a 19-year-old NBA starter to eventually get where he wants to go, but there’s no question the learning curve looks to be steeper than anticipated. Even if he starts figuring things out down the stretch the way last season’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Anthony Edwards did, that first impression is going to work against him. The Rockets have been better off without him. Other names have passed him on the pecking order for top honors among first-year players.
Also Read: NBA MVP betting odds update
Other NBA Rookies To Follow
There are three names to keep an eye on as we take a look at the Rookie of the Year race as we dive into the final month in 2021 and we’ll also add a longshot to back in case there’s a huge payday to be had.
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
As far as the best bet goes, your most reasonable investment should target Cleveland forward Evan Mobley, who was actually missed terribly in the few games in which he failed to participate due to an elbow injury originally expected to cost him a month. He missed four games. We touched on Mobley in late October.
Although the continued emergence of center Jarrett Allen and point guard Darius Garland has been a major factor, Mobley averaging 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game is right up there as to why Cleveland has been one of the NBA’s most improved teams a quarter of the way in. After going 22-50 before drafting Mobley with the No. 3 pick, the Cavs (11-10) are already halfway to matching last season’s win total.
FanDuel has been slowest to react to Mobley’s run and still lists his betting odds at +290 behind top pick Cade Cunningham (+250) and Toronto forward Scottie Barnes (+270). Green, who was in the 2-to-1 range to open the season, is now +650.
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
After missing the opening stretch of his pro career to ensure an ankle injury wouldn’t linger, Cunningham has hit the ground running and is gaining momentum. He closed November with a season-best 26 points and grabbed seven boards and opened this month with a smooth 19-point effort against the Suns, although he couldn’t prevent Phoenix from setting a franchise record with an 18th consecutive win.
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
Barnes has put up numbers consistently (15.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and has benefited from increased touches due to fellow forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby both missing time with injuries, but he’s clearly a matchup problem night after night.
Mobley, Cunningham, and Barnes are all terrific rookies, but the Cavs’ standout is the most likely winner because he’s got his team in the playoff mix unexpectedly. If that continues, he’ll be the runaway winner in first-place votes.
NBA Rookie Of The Year Longshot
Oklahoma City guard Josh Giddey is the longshot worth backing. The 6-foot-7 Aussie guard missed games against the Rockets and Grizzlies due to illness and the Thunder dropped both. Even without Ja Morant, Memphis pulled off the most lopsided win in NBA history over OKC, rolling 152-79. Giddey, averaging over 10 points, seven rebounds, and 5.8 assists, is +1500 at FanDuel and +1600 at DraftKings and BetRivers. If he continues to stuff the stat sheet and OKC improves, he’ll wind up in the final conversation and currently looms as a great value bet.
Clearly, the Thunder miss him when he’s gone, which is a very simple way to handicap how the Rookie of the Year race stacks up.