Winning NBA Rookie of the Year is a two-part equation. Part of it is talent, of course, but the other key ingredient is opportunity — what rookie is going to get to play heavy minutes with the ball in his hands and put up numbers?
NBA GMs predicted a two-man race between the Rockets’ Jalen Green (47% of the vote) and the Pistons’ Cade Cunningham (40%). The oddsmakers see it very similarly, but our partners’ at Points Bet have Cunningham the slight favorite over Green. Is this just a two-man race, or could someone else jump into the picture?
In the latest story in our NBA preview series, Dan Feldman and I make our predictions for Rookie of the Year (check out our MVP predictions here).
Kurt Helin: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Green showed at Summer League in Las Vegas he is a bucket getter — he is going to score at the NBA level. Cunningham showed a more rounded game, and in five years I think Cunningham will be the better player. (NBA GMs may be correct when they predicted Evan Mobley as the best player in this class five years from now, but he needs a lot more development to get there.)
That said, Rookie of the Year is about this season, not the future. Green will both put up better numbers than Cunningham (who has missed preseason time with a sprained ankle) and will be part of an entertaining and exciting team in Houston, playing alongside Alperen Sengun, who could get some down-ballot votes for this award. Jalen Suggs has a long-shot chance in Orlando, but Green seems destined for this award.
Dan Feldman: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
It’s a two-man race for favorite between No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham and No. 2 pick Jalen Green. Cunningham rates as the superior and more polished player. But Green could have more opportunities on the Rockets, who are even deeper into rebuilding than the Pistons, and plays a higher-scoring style that could impress voters. If Cunningham weren’t banged up, he’d be the pick. Alas, Cunningham’s ankle injury gives Green the slight edge.