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NBA Rookie of the Year: Has LaMelo Ball locked up award?

Hornets rookie has been in the starting lineup and led Charlotte to a blowout win on Monday night. Can anyone take ROTY from Ball?

LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets passes the ball against the Houston Rockets during their game at Spectrum Center on February 08, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Following the 2020 NBA Draft, many believed that the Rookie of the Year race would be wide open. Well, we’re about two months into the 2020-21 season and that sentiment hasn’t held true at all. Sure, it took a little bit, but Charlotte Hornets rookie guard LaMelo Ball has made it clear he wants the award through how he’s played in his first season. For about a month, there were other rookies involved in the race: James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, etc. While Haliburton may have an outside shot, it’s still Ball’s award to win/lose.

Let’s take a look at the updated NBA Rookie of the Year odds on DraftKings Sportsbook and break down if anyone has a realistic shot at catching Ball.

Week 8 update — As I alluded to above, Ball should run away with the award. The Hornets are dealing with an injury to Devonte’ Graham, which has shoved Ball even further into the spotlight in the starting lineup. Really, Ball should have been starting from the beginning of the season.

Ball has pretty much everything going for him, right? He’s got the stats; he’s averaging 14.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.9 rebounds with 1.4 steals per game. This is all while starting just five of 25 games this season. If said season ended today, the Hornets would be back in the postseason for the first time since 2015-16. A lot of that has to do with Gordon Hayward’s signing. The other reason Charlotte is this improved? Ball. On top of all of that, he’s a walking highlight reel. Only someone as talented as Ball can turn Miles Bridges into an alley-oop machine.

So this begs the question: Can anyone catch Ball? Haliburton seems to be the only realistic option in the betting market right now. Haliburton had been having a similar rookie season to Ball off the bench for the Sacramento Kings. The Iowa State product has been primarily coming off the bench, starting just one out of 21 games this season. Haliburton has the stats at 11.9 points and 5.4 assists with 1.2 steals per game this season. Similar to the Hornets, if the season was done on February 9th, the Kings would be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06 (way longer than Charlotte). Is this all Haliburton? Of course not. Has he been a spark plug off the bench? Absolutely.

It would take a lot for Haliburton to overcome the deficit and win ROTY ahead of Ball. At this point, it would take something like an injury (knock on wood) to stop Ball from winning. Even before Graham and Terry Rozier went down, Ball had been in the lead. The Hornets will likely keep him in the starting lineup, which gives him an edge over Haliburton. So unless De’Aaron Fox goes down (again, knock on wood), then Haliburton should continue to come off the bench.

2021 NBA Rookie of the Year odds

Player Team ROTY Odds
Player Team ROTY Odds
LaMelo Ball Hornets -400
Tyrese Haliburton Kings +400
James Wiseman Warriors +1200
Anthony Edwards Timberwolves +1400
Immanuel Quickley Knicks +1600
Cole Anthony Magic +2500
Tyrese Maxey Sixers +8000
Payton Pritchard Celtics +10000
Deni Avdija Wizards +15000
Desmond Bane Grizzlies +15000
Saddiq Bey Pistons +15000
Isaac Okoro Cavaliers +15000
Obi Toppin Knicks +15000
Patrick Williams Bulls +15000
Xavier Tillman Grizzlies +15000

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