Welcome to PBT’s regular roundtable on issues around the NBA, where our writers weigh in on the topic of the day.
Today: Who will win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award?
Kurt Helin: There’s a formula to this — you need a guy with the ball in his hand on a bad team that is going to ask him to make plays and put up numbers. Damian Lillard did that last season, and seven of the last eight ROY winners fit that formula (Blake Griffin being the exception). The guy that fits the mold for me this year is Trey Burke in Utah. He is going to be the starting point guard for a bad Jazz team that will need him to make plays. And we saw from his time at Michigan he can make some plays. Utah could use a win here too — it will be about the lone piece of good news out of their season.
Brett Pollakoff: I agree on the formula part, but am going with a more conventional choice. Victor Oladipo in Orlando is skilled enough, and will have plenty of opportunity with the ball in his hands playing both guard positions. He should have no trouble putting up numbers immediately in the Magic’s system, whether points or assists.
Burke is a solid choice, though Im not convinced Tyrone Corbin (coaching without a net, by the way) will let him go as unchecked as Lillard was allowed to in Portland last season — especially without the same skills as a floor general that Lillard possesses.
DJ Foster: Kurt, you’re right about the formula. On top of that, no player selected outside of the top-10 has won the award since Mark Jackson (he’s a coach now! We’re all so old!) did it way back in 1988. So if we stick with guards taken in the top-10, Trey Burke is the most logical choice. C.J. McCollum is hurt, Michael Carter-Williams will play on a team only people in hostage situations should watch, and Victor Oladipo’s contributions won’t pop out on a losing team. It’s Burke’s award to lose, in my mind.
Darius Soriano: Not only do I agree with Kurt’s formula, I also agree with the rest of the group that Burke and Oladipo are the frontrunners to win the award. If I had to choose between those two, I’d go with Burke simply because I think Oladipo will be competing for shots with too many other wings in Orlando for much of this season. Not only are Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo likely to maintain key roles, but Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless are both up and coming prospects who flashed good potential last year (especially Harris). That’s a lot of mouths to feed on the perimeter and I envision Oladipo settling into a role where he mostly impacts the game on defense and by doing the dirty work that helped define his college career. That may help his team win games, but it won’t get him the rookie of the year award.
When the NBA created a hotline for players to anonymously report violations inside the bubble, numerous questions emerged. How often would it get used? What consequences would told-on players face? Would other players resent how often Chris Paul called?
Some answers are emerging.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Kings center Richaun Holmes and Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo are each quarantined after breaking protocols. It’s unclear how their violations were detected.
Yes, there is a culture against snitching. That this report is snitching about snitching is truly something.
But there’s too much at stake – health of hundreds of people and a lot of money – to take these protocols lightly. Everyone at the NBA’s Disney World campus is entrusting their safety (and, for players, whose salaries are tied to revenue, livelihood) to those around them. It’s important everyone involved acts responsibly.
The Kings have been hit especially hard by coronavirus.
Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker and Alex Len all tested positive. Richaun Holmes is quarantined after violating the NBA’s bubble protocols at Disney World.
And now Harrison Barnes reveals he was diagnosed with coronavirus.
Presumably, Barnes was among the 19 players the NBA announced tested positive for coronavirus in July in home markets.
“Primarily asymptomatic” is a strange assessment. Does Barnes mean he’s mildly symptomatic?
The Kings already faced an uphill climb for making the playoffs. At best, several of their players are falling behind in training. At worst, Sacramento will have its rotation depleted when games begin.
Hopefully, Barnes recovers and joins the team as he hopes. He has a personal stake in it. Even during the lengthy hiatus, Barnes stuck with his pledge not to shave or cut his hair until the Kings reach .500 (or, as he amended it, make the playoffs) or the season ends.
Among the continuing 22 NBA teams, players not playing in the resumption at Disney World essentially fall into two categories:
Pacers star Victor Oladipo lands in the gray area.
Oladipo, who returned from a year-long absence shortly before the season got suspended in March, said he was sitting out due to elevated risk of injury during a quick buildup. But he also traveled with the team to Orlando and is even practicing so well, Indiana is reportedly becoming increasingly optimistic he’ll play.
Is Oladipo healthy enough to play?
At stake for Oladipo:
- $2,763,158 if the Pacers get swept in the first round
- $2,993,421 if they play exactly five playoff games
- $3,223,684 if they play six or more playoff games
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
The union believes Oladipo, who went to Orlando with the Pacers and then cleared quarantine so he could practice, should be paid his remaining salary, sources said.
The league, largely in an effort to set a precedent in case other players who are deemed healthy want to leave Orlando and no longer play, believes Oladipo has opted out and should not be paid, sources said. His public comments about feeling healthy has only solidified the league’s position on the matter, sources said.
The Pacers support Oladipo’s decision and are willing to pay him the salary whether he plays or not, sources said.
Presumably, if Oladipo plays, he’ll get paid like anyone else playing in the resumption. This controversy lingers only if Oladipo doesn’t play.
It’s unsurprising the Pacers don’t want to pick this fight with their star player, especially as he approaches 2021 free agency. Trying to avoid alienating their own players but not necessarily eager to pay for services not rendered, teams collectively want the league to handle these issues.
If teams had ample discretion, the Wizards might have said Davis Bertans – who chose to sit out – had some lingering injury. NBA players are rarely perfectly healthy. There’s always some physical issue to point to. Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and they want to re-sign him. What an easy way to build goodwill – and maybe even get a discount on Bertans’ next contract.
Obviously, the league doesn’t want those type of shenanigans. That’s why on outside rulings on players’ health can be important.
Oladipo might not be the only borderline case:
Oladipo’s situation might take care of itself if he decides to play. But the league might inquire more deeply into other situations.
When Russell Westbrook revealed he had coronavirus, speculation immediately turned to the Rockets’ other star who also didn’t travel with the team to Disney World.
James Harden is “feeling fine,” working out and might travel with Westbrook to Orlando, according to Shams Charania of Stadium:
Was Harden also diagnosed with coronavirus? Is he just waiting for his friend before entering the restrictive bubble? Is there another issue?
These questions beget even more questions.
If both players have coronavirus, they won’t necessarily recover on the same day. Would the first to get cleared wait for the other? Or is traveling together just an idea in case it works out?
If Harden is fully healthy and just waiting for Westbrook, how do their teammates inside the bubble feel about that? Those already at Disney World are spending more time away from friends and family in less-than-ideal conditions.
If there’s another issue… who knows?
The lack of transparency around the situation only invites rumors and guesses.
At least it’s good news that Harden feels fine.