If you’ve got a favorite NBA rookie already, congrats to you because you’re just as much of a fan as the rest of us. Summer league went as quickly as it came, but not before showcasing the talent of the future and giving a glimpse at who just might rise into superstardom for years to come. It’s way too early to be sure who’ll win the coveted ROY award, but a closer look at the candidates could give us some insight into who has the best chance to take home the grand prize. In no particular order, here are the 5 rookies that stand a chance to win ROY.
With the public support of Magic Johnson, and a stellar Summer League in which he was named MVP, Lonzo seems primed to take the league by storm during his rookie campaign. With D’Angelo Russell being sent away to rot in Brooklyn, Ball’s starter position is all but cemented and he’ll have a good chunk of minutes to produce the stats to garner him the recognition his play will deserve. We all know Summer League can’t compare to competition in the NBA, but his 9.3 apg should translate to the regular season very well.
2. Dennis Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. is arguably the most surprising rookie so far. Many counted him out after tearing his ACL in college at NC State, leading him to drop to the 9th overall pick in the draft. His impressive showing in Summer League, only losing one game, shows that he is dedicated to winning in a town that is accustomed to having an elite ball club. Even though Dallas, has 3 other point guards on their roster, none of them are capable of doing anything close to this. It’d be a safe bet for him to get the starting nod from Rick Carlisle and put up the numbers for him to be a favorite in the ROY race.
3. De’Aaron Fox
Fox is my personal favorite out of this talented draft class, simply off of this play alone. He’s got every physical tool to become an elite player as a combo guard. There’s just one problem standing in his way, newly acquired teammate and veteran George Hill who will likely start at point guard for the Kings. Besides Hill, the Kings have 5 other guards that will vie for time at both positions. Out of all 7 guards on their roster, I’d rank Fox 3rd best overall behind Hill and Buddy Hield by a whisker. It will be interesting to see what lineups David Joerger puts together, but if he opts to give Fox significant minutes then his ability will put him right up there with the best rookies in the league.
4. Markelle Fultz
The number one overall pick would be an obvious choice to contend for ROY, right? He’s already got the support of his fellow Maryland Native Kevin Durant. After the Sixers traded up to get Fultz as the number one overall pick, it follows that they’ll trust him with the keys to the offense right out of the gate. His offensive bag of tricks is a deep one, and there’s few defenders in the league that’ll be able to slow the youngster down. In fact, his biggest obstacle might be outperforming his fellow rookie teammate…
5. Ben Simmons
After sitting out an entire season due to injury, the time is now for Ben Simmons to show why the Sixers selected him. Most recently, he received the endorsement of LeBron James, seen as the highest praise in the league. Simmons is known as a passer, and with the likes of Joel Embiid coming into his own alongside Markelle Fultz, Ben will have nice targets to dish the rock to. If Simmons can make shots at consistent clip, his numbers will round out to compete with any of the rookies with similar usage rates. Between Simmons and Fultz, Brett Brown has one of the best problems in the league.