NBA Rookie of the Year Report

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Three months after the Washington Wizards selected him with the third overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Otto Porter suffered a hip injury during a pickup game. The injury kept him out of the Wizards first 18 games before the former Georgetown star made his NBA debut against the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 6.

In his first career game, Porter missed all three field-goal attempts and had more fouls (two) than points (zero). He was the only top-three pick to go scoreless in his 2013 debut and was the only top-three pick to go scoreless from 2013-19 until LaMelo Ball did the same in his 2020 debut. Ball, the Charlotte Hornets’ third overall pick and a popular Rookie of the Year pick in NBA odds, went 0-for-5 from the floor in recording zero points, becoming the first top-three pick since Porter to register a goose egg. 

Ball scored 13 points in his second career game and is averaging 6.3 through three games, 14th among all rookies, and, despite the historically bad start, remains a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. 

After one week of games, where do other players sit in the Rookie of the Year race?

Lottery Picks

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On the same day of Ball’s dud, the player selected one pick after him, Patrick Williams, scored 16 points and had zero turnovers in 33 minutes. The first draft pick of the Billy Donovan era, the former Florida State star had the highest-scoring debut of any rookie this season and is one of only three rookies averaging at least 10 points in their first three games.

“He is really, really good when he gets into that elbow, paint area where he can shoot those one-handed lean-in shots, he’s very good at that,” Donovan said of Williams (via NBC Sports). “I thought he played very, very well considering the fact that there was no real Summer League or build up to training camp, and he had to kind of come here after the draft and kind of get started. I thought he did a really nice job tonight.’’

The other two 10-point scorers were also lottery picks, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman, both of whom sat alongside Ball as the Rookie of the Year favorites in online sports betting. And like Ball (and Williams), both play on teams projected to finish below .500, which, for what it’s worth, historically bodes well for candidates. Since 2000, more Rookies of the Year have played for last-place teams than made the playoffs, and since 2003, only two winners played for an above-.500 team (Ben Simmons and Malcolm Brogdon).

Among other lottery picks, Tyrese Haliburton is shooting 42 percent from deep for the Sacramento Kings, Obi Toppin went 3-for-7 in the New York Knicks’ opener but is expected to miss five games with a calf injury, and Deni Avdija ranks second among rookies in rebounds, is 4-for-8 from three, and has just two turnovers in 79 minutes.

Rising First Rounders

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A five-star recruit in the 2019 class, Precious Achiuwa fell to the Miami Heat at No. 20, and wasted no time in providing an immediate return on their investment. Achiuwa scored eight points, posted a plus-six, and didn’t commit a turnover in 14 minutes in the Heat’s season-opening loss to the Orlando Magic. 

“Obviously, his athleticism, his quickness, his fluidity, his ability to play multiple positions, particularly on defense, that jumped off the screen,” Heat head coach Spoelstra said of Achiuwa. “We had good conversations with their coaching staff … There are a lot of things that they felt that translated to this level. I think he was coached in a pro system.”

Buried in preseason Rookie of the Year odds, Achiuwa is shooting 73 percent entering the Heat’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. His shooting clip is eight percentage points higher than the next highest rookie (min. five attempts).

Payton Pritchard had a quiet debut for the Boston Celtics, scoring three points on 1-for-4 shooting in 13 minutes, but the 26th pick is now tied for the rookie lead in three-pointers. He went 3-for-3 from deep (and 5-for-5 overall) against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday and is shooting 71 percent from three through three games. Obviously, Pritchard won’t shoot anywhere near that for a full season but he hit 41 percent of attempts in two of his four seasons at Oregon. 

Other first-rounders to keep an eye on: Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony leads all rookies in offensive rebounds and has 27 points in just 55 minutes, while Memphis Grizzlies’ guard Desmond Bane has four three-pointers in his first 33 NBA minutes

Second Rounders

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In 2017, Malcolm Brogdon became the first second-round pick to win Rookie of the Year in more than 50 years, and is one of only two winners selected lower than 18th since the award began in 1953. NBA teams have struck gold with second-round and undrafted players but rarely do teams pluck a Rookie of the Year from the second-round or UDFA haystack.

Nonetheless, two players are worth monitoring for future reference: Brooklyn Nets’ forward Reggie Perry and Milwaukee Bucks’ Sam Merrill. Perry, drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers and dealt to the Nets in the Luke Kennard-Landry Shamet trade, has only played 10 minutes in three games but is routinely praised by head coach Steve Nash and the team’s veterans.

“I love, Rook. I love what he’s doing,” DeAndre Jordan said of Perry. “He’s a tough player. No fear out there, very strong guy, skilled player who can shoot the basketball.”

Merrill, meanwhile, was the last pick in the draft and is perfect from deep (3-for-3) in his first three games. The former Utah State sharpshooter could find a spot in the Bucks’ rotation as they look to improve mediocre perimeter shooting from a year ago.

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor, a college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @adoughty88.

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