Could Trey Burke follow in Damian Lillard's footsteps?
The Utah Jazz point guard is starting to make some noise in the Rookie of the Year race thanks to some huge scoring outbursts in recent days. He may have missed the start of the 2013-14 season while recovering from a broken finger, but he's quickly making up for lost time.
But he's not the only rookie inserting his name in the ROY sweepstakes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is starting to do so as well, moving into the starting lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks and tantalizing everyone with thoughts of what he could do when he's more than an instinctual player.
Those are two of the four favorites at this point, but let's not sell everyone else short. Thus far, nine rookies have emerged as players who deserve featured spots, even if their odds are...rather long.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference and are current as of Dec. 19.
Few players have truly managed to emerge from the 2013 draft class, so instead of picking a 10th player to serve as an extreme long shot, I'm instead grouping the rest together into "The Field."
This includes guys like the following:
- Tony Snell, who may be forced into action for the Chicago Bulls more than Tom Thibodeau would like.
- Nate Wolters, who flashed some point guard skills early in the year but has fallen out of the Milwaukee Bucks rotation.
- Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk and Cody Zeller, who all have a lot of frontcourt talent but either haven't earned major minutes or have failed to shine when they have.
- C.J. McCollum, who still has yet to make his debut for the Portland Trail Blazers.
- Everyone else that doesn't get mentioned in the ranked portion.
Even the combined odds for all these guys aren't going to get it done. You'd be making a major mistake to place a hypothetical wager on this field.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 25-1
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 10.5 PER
Hollis Thompson wasn't supposed to be much of a contributor for the Philadelphia 76ers during his rookie season. After all, he went undrafted in 2012 after a stellar career at Georgetown and spent the 2012-13 season playing for the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League.
But he got an opportunity with the real Sixers and hasn't looked back.
As long as Thompson can continue lighting it up from downtown, he'll remain a rotation member for Philadelphia, which at least allows him to remain in the conversation. Still, even if he keeps shooting 34 percent beyond the arc on two attempts per game, he's an extreme long shot to actually win the award.
Thompson is a nice story, but the weakness of this rookie class is already manifesting itself in these rankings.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 100-1
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 7.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.1 blocks, 9.4 PER
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has already started 20 games for the Detroit Pistons, but he's still playing just under 24 minutes per contest. And even when he's on the court, he hasn't been very heavily involved in the Detroit offense, as everything runs through Brandon Jennings and the big men.
KCP does appear to have the makings of a quality three-and-D guy, but that's not going to happen until we're a little further down the road in his professional career.
While playing at Georgia, the shooting guard was allowed to shoot whenever he wanted. That's causing his rookie season to be full of adjustments, as he actually has to pass the ball away when blanketed by the opposition.
The Pistons should be excited by the long-term future of KCP, but the short-term upside isn't particularly high. He's earning a spot in the ranked portion of the odds due to opportunity, but his play hasn't merited much legitimate Rookie of the Year discussion to this point.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 75-1
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 3.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.9 blocks, 13.5 PER
Steven Adams has flashed his potential a few times throughout the 2013-14 season, but it's still clear that he's a raw prospect who needs a lot more seasoning before he can make a consistently positive impact.
Five games into his professional career, all the tools were on display against the Detroit Pistons. Adams recorded 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks in the victory, outplaying Kendrick Perkins in a big way.
But after 19 more games, the points, rebounds, assists and blocks all remain career highs. After posting that impressive double-double, Adams has yet to break the double-digit barrier in any single category during his rookie campaign.
The upside is tangible, but it's still hidden below the surface most nights.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 50-1
Team: Sacramento Kings
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 8.4 PER
If you watch a Sacramento Kings broadcast and listen to their announcers, you can tell just how excited this organization is about Ben McLemore. The vocal tones change when he touches the ball, and everyone suddenly starts to wonder if something magical is going to happen.
Usually it doesn't, though.
The Kansas product just hasn't been able to find his shooting stroke, and he's rendering his 8.9 points per game nearly worthless since he's knocking down only 35.5 percent of his shots from the field. Thus far, he actually has minus-0.1 offensive win shares, though he's compensating with his impressive defensive play.
McLemore has a great perimeter jumper, but he has to settle into his new role in the NBA. It'll come with time, and he still has as many tools as anyone, hence his ability to jump players who have outperformed him in the countdown of Rookie of the Year odds.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 35-1
Team: New York Knicks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 8.1 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 16.4 PER
There haven't been many bright spots for the New York Knicks during the 2013-14 season. In fact, you could make a serious argument that only Pablo Prigioni, Tyson Chandler and Tim Hardaway Jr. should be free from blame during the putrid start.
It's actually a bit shocking that Hardaway hasn't started to receive even more playing time during his rookie season, especially with J.R. Smith struggling both to hit shots and to keep himself from firing away with reckless abandon.
The 21-year-old shooting guard from Michigan has been scorching the nets from the outside, and that figures to be his primary calling card throughout his first professional season.
Thus far, he's shooting 42.7 percent beyond the arc on 3.1 attempts per game. While that's a percentage that seems almost certain to take a dip as he regresses to the mean, it's still an impressive start to his tenure with the Knicks.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 32-1
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, 14.0 PER
Giannis Antetokounmpo was supposed to take years to develop into a quality NBA player.
The key phrase there is "supposed to."
The Greek small forward has laughed at his developmental timetable and become the first serious contender for Rookie of the Year to appear in this countdown. After all, the Milwaukee Bucks already gave him his first start, and he didn't look out of place against the New York Knicks.
Throughout that double-overtime loss, Antetokounmpo played during crucial moments, pestered Carmelo Anthony into a poor outing and recorded 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in that first start.
As Jonathan Wasserman, B/R's NBA Draft Lead Writer, wrote after the game:
Antetokounpo might have a ceiling a mile high, but the elevator is only currently at the second or third floor. He's got a long ways to go, although the early playing time should be good for him.
Right now, the second or third floor is good enough for the Greek Freak to start making some noise in the ROY race.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 9-1
Team: Orlando Magic
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 12.2 PER
Victor Oladipo is one of the few rookies who can make an impact across the board during his first season in the NBA.
Splitting time at point guard and shooting guard for the Orlando Magic, Oladipo has shown flashes of brilliance in just about every way possible. Some games he chooses to highlight his athletic ability with a burst to the rim and big finish. Others he displays his passing skills and locks down on the defensive end.
Regardless of the method, he's been able to make an impact for the Magic.
According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), the former Hoosier has allowed opponents to score only 0.56 points per possession in isolation sets. That's a mark that only six players in the NBA have topped thus far, so you should be quite impressed.
But for Oladipo to ascend into the No. 1 spot in the Rookie of the Year odds, he has to do more. Specifically, he must become more comfortable navigating pick-and-roll sets while starting to hit his perimeter jumpers with more consistency.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 4-1
Team: Utah Jazz
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 16.3 PER
Trey Burke is the real deal at point guard, though he's fighting an uphill battle after an injury-related delay to the start of his rookie campaign.
The most impressive part of his early returns has been the cerebral play. Though he's struggled with his shot—much like he did during summer league—Burke has minimized the cough-ups, recording only 1.4 turnovers per game. For a player controlling the ball as much as this 21-year-old floor general, that's an insanely low number.
All of Burke's skill were on full display on Dec. 18 against the Orlando Magic.
In the hard-fought victory, the Michigan product recorded 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting and added another seven rebounds and eight assists while turning the ball over just twice. After the game, he said via NBA.com:
That wasn't my main goal (making a statement), but I definitely wanted to come out and be really aggressive today. For me, I'm trying to do whatever it takes for the team to win. I saw early on that my shot was falling, that I could get in the paint and get some good looks so I just tried to stay aggressive.
Well, he's definitely helping the Jazz win.
Since his debut, Utah has gone 6-10. Without him, the team is a putrid 1-11.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 3-1
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 3.1 steals, 0.7 blocks, 18.8 PER
Michael Carter-Williams has been—by far—the most impressive rookie during the 2013-14 season.
That 18.8 PER is sparkling, and it's an accurate representation of just how valuable he's been. MCW is scoring the ball quite well (though his percentages could stand to go back up), he's playing aggressively on the boards and he's proving himself to be an underrated distributor.
Oh, and his defense has been surprisingly effective. Though he still gambles too much—part of the reason he's leading the league with 3.1 steals per game—his lanky arms and quickness allow him to recover nicely more often than not.
There's just one thing preventing Carter-Williams from running away with the award. In fact, as you can tell from the odds, his stranglehold on the favorite spot is starting to slip away.
Thanks to a bacterial infection on his right knee, MCW hasn't done much playing lately. He hasn't suited up since Dec. 3, and that's prevented him from playing more than 15 games. Even Trey Burke has stepped onto the court more at this stage of the season.
If he doesn't return soon, he could lose the No. 1 spot. No matter how well you play, you have to play in order to win an award.
Rookie of the Year Odds: 2-1