Three Under-the-Radar NBA Rookie of the Year Candidates
This year’s rookie class is one of the most hyped classes of all time, and the Rookie of the Year race is sure to be exciting. But ROY races are often filled with not just top picks, but with surprises. After all, the reigning winner of the award, Malcolm Brogdon, wasn’t even a first-round pick. Everyone knows about the guys like Fultz, Simmons, Ball and other top picks, but let’s take a look at a few under-the-radar players who can make a run at the trophy next season.
#1: Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith might have the best chance of winning out of anybody. He’s in the perfect situation to win the trophy- he’s a dynamic athlete who will be given free reign right away for the Mavericks, and will surely put up impressive stats. Having an elite rim-runner in Nerlens Noel and one of the all-time best stretch bigmen in Dirk Nowitzki will definitely be more than helpful for DSJ. Expect Smith Jr. to put up numbers in year one.
#2: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Mitchell falling to 13 was a travesty, he was the steal of the draft for Utah. He’s been nothing short of excellent in Summer League, scoring in bunches and defending anybody he’s assigned to with success- whether his assignment is a little Point Guard, or 6'8 Jayson Tatum. His defensive versatility makes him an impact player on opening night, and his scoring and shooting ability continues to develop. Gordon Hayward may be gone, but the Jazz may have a new stud on the wing.
#3: John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are officially entering a rebuild. With new GM Travis Schlenk at the helm, it’s all about acquiring young talent and focusing on player development. And John Collins is the first piece of the rebuild. Taken at #19 out of Wake Forest, Collins likely should have gone earlier. He’s a player who can contribute right away, but also has a chance to improve as he gains more experience. He’s looked excellent in Summer League as well, even dominating a player taken 12 picks before he was, Lauri Markkanen. Given that the Hawks are a rebuilding team, Collins will likely get minutes and touches early and often, which makes him a nice sleeper candidate to shock the NBA and win the Rookie of the Year Award.
The NBA has experienced an unprecedented wave of new young talent, and while the next Rookie of the Year may very well be a highly-touted top pick, it’s always smart to look out for sleeper candidates like these, because anything can happen in the NBA.