Chet Holmgren Injury Shakes Up B/R NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings

Jonathan WassermanAugust 25, 2022

Chet Holmgren Injury Shakes Up B/R NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings

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    Keegan Murray (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

    The NBA Rookie of the Year odds received an update Thursday following the news that Chet Holmgren will miss the season with a foot injury.

    Our projections since last month have also changed.

    It's a brutal blow to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the No. 2 pick, who flashed his ridiculous upside in summer league, showed a different level of skill than he could at Gonzaga and sat No. 3 in our initial rankings.

    The injury may open the door for a few other prospects selected outside the top five. While the favorite hasn't changed, another rookie has entered the discussion.

5. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers SG/SF

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    Bennedict Mathurin (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

    FanDuel's Rookie of the Year odds: +1100

    The Rookie of the Year debate loses Holmgren and adds Bennedict Mathurin.

    He's coming off an outstanding summer league, where he averaged 19.3 points in just 22.4 minutes through three games for the Indiana Pacers.

    Mathurin possesses a plug-and-play combination of NBA physical tools, explosiveness and shot-making. And at 6'7", 210 pounds, he's playable at the 3, which will maximize his opportunities to log minutes in a rotation that already features Chris Duarte and Buddy Hield.

    Mathurin's Rookie of the Year chances will really get interesting if the Pacers trade Hield, who's seemingly always in rumored deals.

    The 2022 No. 6 pick still has room to improve as a creator, and Indiana will presumably let Tyrese Haliburton make the majority of the offense's decisions. Regardless, Mathurin is built for off-ball scoring right away thanks to his shooting versatility, transition play and power/athleticism for finishing off line drives and cuts.

4. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons SG

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    Jaden Ivey (AP Photo/John Locher)

    FanDuel's Rookie of the Year odds: +500

    At +500, Jaden Ivey is suddenly a top-three betting favorite to win Rookie of the Year following Holmgren's injury.

    Holmgren was undoubtedly going to be more efficient and productive defensively than Ivey, so the No. 2 pick's setback makes Ivey's path clearer.

    The Detroit Pistons rookie should have a favorable role slashing, cutting and spotting up alongside Cade Cunningham, who'll handle most of the creation. Ivey can play more to his strengths, tapping into his special explosiveness and rhythm shot-making, rather than be forced to run too much offense and have to create something from nothing.

    Given Ivey's three-point results through two years at Purdue (32.2 percent), it's safe to assume he'll go through tough shooting slumps. But between his jets, improved handles and passing and ability to sporadically catch fire from outside, he should produce enough scoring and secondary playmaking to challenge for top-three Rookie of the Year votes.

3. Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets PF

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    Jabari Smith Jr. (Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)

    FanDuel's Rookie of the Year odds: +600

    Holmgren's projected efficiency and shot-blocking initially gave him an edge over Jabari Smith Jr. for Rookie of the Year. With Holmgren out, Smith's combination of usage and shot-making should propel him into the top three.

    He'll have every opportunity to play through mistakes with the Houston Rockets, which should lead to a low field-goal percentage for a starting forward. But Smith is too skilled of a shooter not to produce, particularly one who doesn't need many dribbles and has a release point that's difficult to contest.

    Smith also looked outstanding at times defensively in Las Vegas, mostly by sliding his feet. He might not block shots at a high rate, but he will contest most in one-on-one situations with how well he sits in a stance and moves laterally. Scottie Barnes didn't put up wild steal (1.1 per game) or block (0.7) numbers last year, but his defense presumably played a role in the ROY votes he received.

    If there is a reason to hesitate before betting on Smith, it should be because of his expected reliance on his teammates' playmaking and concerns over his 43.5 two-point percentage at Auburn. The Rockets lack passers, and Smith's underwhelming explosiveness can limit him inside the arc.

2. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings PF

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    Keegan Murray (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

    FanDuel's Rookie of the Year odds: +500

    Keegan Murray was our projected runner-up even before the Holmgren setback.

    Aside from injury concerns, the fear with Holmgren for 2022-23 focused on his scoring output and whether he was creative or strong enough to put up big offensive numbers right away.

    That won't be an issue for Murray, the summer-league MVP who just turned 22 years old. He also produces with enough scoring versatility to generate offense in a variety of ways without needing featured touches.

    While the self-creation flashes at Iowa may not translate immediately, his shooting, transition play, cutting, post finishing and defensive activity do seem likely to carry right over.

    Considering the Kings took him fourth, they must feel comfortable playing him big minutes next to Domantas Sabonis, so the rookie should have plenty of opportunities to make plays both on and off the ball.

1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic PF

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    Paolo Banchero (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    FanDuel's Rookie of the Year odds: +200

    Paolo Banchero looks like an even safer Rookie of the Year bet following Holmgren's injury. He was the favorite coming out of summer league based on the high skill level he flashed as a shot-maker and passer—plus the fact that he's physically ready at 6'10", 250 pounds.

    Banchero is also looking at a high-usage starting role in a lineup that needs more creation and frontcourt offense. He may immediately be the Orlando's Magic's No. 1 option and biggest threat to defenses with his combination of big-man playmaking, pull-up shooting, post play and physicality around the rim.

    Holmgren could've been his No. 1 challenger, considering he was also looking at a full-time role and was ready to produce with a unique differentiator stat like shot-blocking. Banchero's is assists for his position. And when they're added to his projected scoring output and rebounding numbers, Banchero remains in the driver's seat to follow Barnes' 2021-22 win.

    Odds via FanDuel.

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