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There's no Ja Morant in this year's NBA rookie class. There's no Luka Doncic. There may not even be a Malcolm Brogdon. But somebody needs to win Rookie of the Year, and there's even more value in this year's field than usual.
Unlike last year, when Zion Williamson opened as the prohibitive favorite, LaMelo Ball (+390) has been given more modest odds as the top betting option. He leads the clear top tier alongside a volatile group that also features No. 8 pick Obi Toppin (+500), top-two selections Anthony Edwards (+550) and James Wiseman (+600), and No. 7 pick Killian Hayes (+850).
Here are the full Rookie of the Year odds, with my five best bets to take home the award in 2020-21.
|Kira Lewis Jr.||+4500|
Every conversation about the Rookie of the Year Award should start - and possibly end - with Ball, as most draftniks consider him the best prospect in this year's class. Yes, the Hornets committed $120 million to Gordon Hayward a week ago, but using the No. 3 pick on Ball was a more significant investment because he'll be the only rookie with the keys to his franchise from Day 1.
Ball should get free rein to play his exciting brand of basketball while potentially leading a compelling Charlotte roster to its first postseason berth since 2016. The favorite hasn't won since Kevin Durant in 2007-08, but the Rookie of the Year winner has been a top-three pick in seven of the last 10 seasons, and nine of the 12 winners since Durant have been point guards. Ball is made for this award.
Hayes comes from a similar mold as a splashy point guard on an underwhelming roster. And while his situation isn't quite as conducive to winning the award as Ball's circumstances, he's talented enough to steal the hardware in an uncertain field, and Hayes will get opportunities.
The French guard was the No. 1 prospect in the eyes of The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, who saw shades of James Harden in Hayes' feel and shot-making ability. Stats and highlights often dictate how these races go, and few players can produce both better than Hayes, who's set to receive plenty of chances in a Pistons offense that ranked 20th in efficiency this past season.
Haliburton was one of my favorite prospects coming out of the draft after his ultra-efficient career at Iowa State, where he showed his versatility. I'm unsure about his fit with the Kings, yet I'm still bullish enough on him to take a shot.
The 6-foot-5 point guard isn't much of a scorer, but he was among college basketball's best passers and is elite at generating steals, which is often a tell-tale sign of future NBA success. Haliburton will fill up the box score as arguably the most pro-ready rookie in the class, possibly setting him up for a Brogdon-like path to winning the award in a weaker talent pool.
Are oddsmakers being too quick to dismiss Anthony as a legit contender here? The former top-five prospect struggled to acclimate during his lone collegiate season at North Carolina, though he still showed flashes of offensive brilliance, and Anthony could work his way into a starting role in the Magic's uninspiring backcourt.
Act soon if you like Anthony's chances. His price opened around 60-1 at most shops, but it's quickly narrowed to this range, which still offers relatively good value. The former New York high school star is more talented than his draft slot (No. 15) suggests, making him a solid buy outside of the top 10 on the oddsboard.
While much of the attention on eligible "second-year rookies" is focused on Bol Bol, don't forget about Okeke, who was taken at No. 16 in a better draft last year and sat out on a medical redshirt of sorts, giving him an extra year to prepare for his rookie campaign.
If he's healthy after tearing his ACL in March 2019, Okeke can fill up the stat sheet on a bad team. The Auburn product skyrocketed up draft boards after a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament, even with the prospect of missing a year. That sort of ascent piques my interest when assessing a wide-open field, especially at this price.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.