NBA Top 3 Candidates for Rookie of the Year 2015-2016
This year's draft class contains many exciting players and players who can make an impact on their franchises immediately. That being said, there is no clear-cut favorite to win rookie of the year. There are many factors to consider when projecting who will end up winning rookie of the year, but the most important of them all being what type of situation they are put into. If given the reins to a franchise right away, they are bound to produce some good numbers based merely on the fact that they will have the ball in their hands much more compared to someone who may not have an important role on their team. What I took into consideration in making this list was not just the situation their put in, but also their NBA-readiness, offensive abilities, defensive presence, and ability to put up solid numbers on a nightly basis. Although some players may have a higher ceiling or more potential than others, that does not necessarily mean they will be ready to put up quality numbers their first year or two in the league. One of those players involves D'Angelo Russell, who I don't believe is as NBA-ready as most make him out to be. Now that the criteria I look for in a rookie of the year candidate has been established, the list begins with:
#3: Karl-Anthony Towns
The No. 1 overall pick has the size and potential to be a superstar one day, but for this year, he is not ready to put up rookie-of-the-year type numbers. He will see plenty of minutes on the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he lacks a strong offensive game. His offensive game needs work, but given his potential and size, he can be a scary-good offensive player in years to come. But for now, he mainly provides a strong defensive presence and some scoring down low. He is an excellent free-throw shooter already, as he shot 81.3% from the line as a Wildcat at Kentucky, which should certainly help him contribute to the team's offense. One of the biggest reasons he was picked 1st overall was because of his defense and rim protecting abilities, shown by his 2.3 blocker per game at Kentucky, but foul trouble could prove to be an issue for him. He was a foul machine during the Summer League, as he averaged 7.3 fouls per game during a three game stint, each player being allowed 10 fouls before fouling out. Although it is not necessary to take the Summer League as a huge factor in projecting a player's success, and rightfully so, it certainly does not help his case given that he committed that many fouls during that time. Overall, expect Towns to see plenty of playing time for the T-Wolves, and his defense should be on point throughout the season. It's the offense that will be inconsistent, like most rookies. He most definitely has what it takes to be one of the best players in the game, but he is going to need one or two more years for him to really become what he is cut out to be.
#2: Emmanuel Mudiay
The rookie point guard, picked 7th overall by the Denver Nuggets, fits all the physical tools of a guy who can fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. The 6' 5", 190 pound guard has the playmaking and athleticism to make an immediate impact in the NBA. He can get to the rim at will, and will receive plenty of playing time due to the most recent move made by the Nuggets. They traded former starting point guard Ty Lawson to the Rockets for a handful of bench players and a draft pick, essentially handing the offense to Mudiay to run at his will. He will basically have the ball in his hands every time down the court, so he should have no problem getting a solid amount of assists. Turnovers will be a problem for him, as he tends to try and make the flashy play or pass a bit too often, but that can be overlooked by his strong playmaking abilities and passing skills. His athleticism allows him to blow by opposing defenders with little effort, and he will get the majority of his points around the rim this year. Although he can get to the rim and is a strong finisher, his free-throw shooting is abysmal. During his time spent playing overseas in China, he shot 57% at the charity strike. If he wants to truly get to the next level, that is something he'll have to work on doing the next few off seasons. With his athleticism and playmaking comes very raw offensive skills and decision making. His jump shot is not NBA ready and he turns the ball over too often considering how good he really is. Expect him to shoot around 40/41% this year from the field, with around 3-3.5 turnovers per game. He'll experience plenty of growing pains this year, which will be shown in his field goal percentage and turnovers, but he is capable of putting up outstanding all around numbers. With his height, he should be able to grab a solid amount of rebounds per game, and he will definitely be given the opportunity by Denver to go out there on a nightly basis and put up quality numbers. He is a rookie who has what it takes to win Rookie of the Year.
#1 Jahlil Okafor
My favorite candidate to win Rookie of the Year is Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. He is the most NBA-ready player by far on the offensive end of this year's draft class, and he is a relentless rebounder on the offensive glass. At 6' 11" and 270 pounds, he has the size to make an immediate impact on the low block, providing both scoring and rebounding. The skills he contains in the post are a rarity for a player his age. During his lone year at Duke, he averaged 17.3 points per game on 66% shooting, and had 8.6 rebounds per game. He led all of college basketball in field goal percentage, and led them to a National Championship during his time there as well. He is a player who has the ability to put up a double-double on a nightly basis as a rookie, due to his smooth play on offense and tendency to get himself in good position for offensive rebounds. His biggest flaws include being a poor defender, a liability in terms of rim-protecting, and occasionally showing disinterest in what is going on around him during a game. His defense and shot-blocking will be a process that will take awhile for Okafor to develop, if he ever does develop in that field, but his offensive talents and rebounding skills are at a level that makes him a player worth starting. He will get plenty of time on the court with Philadelphia, as he and Nerlens Noel are expected to share the frontcourt in what could be an exciting duo to watch. What makes Jahlil stand out from the rest is that he will be able to put up big numbers from day one, which is not the case for just about every other rookie. Another fact that makes him the most NBA-ready rookie is that he has the highest floor out of all the rookies, meaning that even if he doesn't maximize all of his potential, he still will be able to be an all-star caliber Center in the league for a long period of time. He may not have the highest ceiling out of the 2015 class, but he has the highest chance of being a solid NBA player. With everything working his way, from being on a team that will need his help and offensive presence right away to being the most NBA-ready player in the draft, Jahlil Okafor is my favorite to be the best rookie in basketball and win the Rookie of the Year award.