The NBA unveiled the finalists for the 2019 Rookie of the Year award Friday: Dallas Mavericks swingman Luka Doncic, Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young and Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton.
Doncic is the favorite after averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 72 appearances for the Mavs.
Young made a late charge. He averaged 24.7 points and 9.2 assists per game while shooting 34.8 percent from beyond the arc after the All-Star break, turning what had been a runaway for Doncic into a tight race.
Ayton had a solid campaign that was mostly overshadowed by the Suns' internal dysfunction and 19-63 record. The No. 1 overall draft pick posted 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in 71 appearances.
By almost any advanced metric, Doncic was the clear top performer from the 2018 rookie class.
According to Basketball Reference, he finished with 4.9 win shares to Young's 3.3 win shares (Ayton had 5.8 win shares yet was on a markedly worse team) . Doncic was also 86th (plus-1.27) in ESPN.com's real plus-minus, with Young all the way back in 429th (minus-2.71).
The comparisons between Doncic and Young are only getting started.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk effectively made Young the face of the franchise's rebuild when he traded Doncic to the Mavericks for Young and what became the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft on June 20. Schlenk bypassed one of the surer things in the draft in order to take a player who showed obvious promise but faced a difficult transition to the NBA.
Early in the year, Dallas looked to have the edge, but based on the entirety of the season, both teams may walk away happy with their returns.