Past the midway point of the NBA season, the Rookie of the Year race is heating up following a run of great performances from the top three candidates to win the award.
Listed as the DraftKings favorite at -225, Cleveland Cavaliers center and number three pick in the draft Evan Mobley, has delivered strong games on both sides of the floor.
The former USC big-man is currently on a 12-game double digit scoring streak recording 17.3 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game in that stretch.
With the Cavaliers now the third spot in the Eastern Conference, head coach J. B. Bickerstaff cited Mobley’s rigid determination to grind out wins as one of the most influential parts of his game.
“It may not seem that way because of his demeanor, but he’s got a burning desire to do whatever it takes to win basketball games,” Bickerstaff said. “And he knows that he’s got the skill to go get it done.”
While Mobley’s contribution to Cleveland’s success has been indisputable, Detroit Pistons point guard, Cade Cunningham, has put in some record-breaking displays most recently joining Michael Jordan as the only rookies with 30 plus points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in a single game.
The number one draft pick is averaging 16.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists during the 2021-22 season shooting 52.9 percent in January.
At +650 to win rookie of the year, Cunningham admitted there are parts of his game he needs to improve upon to not only grow as a player, but also increase his chances of taking home the trophy.
“I was jump passing too much.” “If you don’t find a receiver in that little window you’ve got [while in the air], that’s a turnover,” Cunningham said. “Coaches have been on me about that and we’ve repped that out.”
Conceding 3.6 turnovers per game, the former Oklahoma State guard has to work on his ball retention so solidify himself as one of the more dangerous backcourt players in the league.
Lastly, with the second-best odds to win the award at +450, Toronto Raptors small forward, Scottie Barnes has established himself as a reliable scorer, on-ball defender and paint protector.
The number four overall draft pick is averaging 14.7 points per game, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season despite recently recovering from COVID-19 and a knee tendinitis injury.
“I would say I’m up to speed, I’m up to the physicality and things like that, it’s just me getting back into it, just being able to trust my body, trust how it’s feeling,” Barnes said.
Since the virus, the former Florida State forward’s offensive production has taken a hit posting 9.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and 15.8 percent from three-point range over his last six games.
With where the live odds stand and Mobley’s consistency not seeming to falter, I predict the Cavaliers forward will take home rookie of the year at the end of the season as Cunningham finishes a close second.