With the New Year here, Bovada has released updated NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP odds.
Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the No. 11 overall pick out of Syracuse, is the 5-4 favorite to be the league’s top rookie.
The 76ers haven’t had a Rookie of the Year since another guard from the Big East: Allen Iverson in 1996-97. Carter-Williams is nothing like Iverson, who was a scoring machine. Carter-Williams slipped to No. 11 despite excellent size (6-foot-6) because he was a very poor shooter. However, he’s shooting a decent 40.1 percent from the field, although his 3-point shooting (29.3 percent) needs work. Carter-Williams fills up the box score nearly every night. He averages 16.1 points, 6.9 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Carter-Williams announced himself to the league in Philly’s first game, in which Carter-Williams had a stat line of 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds against the two-time NBA champion Heat. The Sixers are in full rebuilding mode but are around a .500 team with Carter-Williams in the lineup (1-10 when he’s been out). No player taken outside the top 10 has won Rookie of the Year since the New York Knicks’ Mark Jackson, the No. 18 pick out of St. John’s, in 1987-88.
The Boston Celtics haven’t seen Carter-Williams yet, as their first game against Philadelphia is Jan. 29. Boston also hasn’t faced the second favorite, Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke (2-1). He has closed the gap a bit on Carter-Williams since the last time Rookie of the Year odds were posted. Boston beat Utah 97-87 on Nov. 6, but Burke was out after surgery on a broken finger. The former Michigan star is averaging 13.3 points and 5.2 assists. Boston’s final meeting with Utah is Feb. 24 in Salt Lake City.
The remaining options for Rookie of the Year are the Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo (5-2), New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. (12-1), the Sacramento Kings’ Ben McLemore (15-1) and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (20-1). Oladipo was the preseason favorite and is averaging 12.8 points and 4.3 rebounds. Hardaway has been mentioned in trade talks because he’s about the only guy on the Knicks that other teams want. McLemore is averaging 8.4 points per game.
If teams were drafting this group again knowing what they know now, the Bucks’ Antetokounmpo likely would go No. 1 overall over bust Anthony Bennett of Cleveland. The “Greek Freak” is so named because of his tremendous athleticism. Just 19, he’s expected to grow to 7 feet (he’s listed at 6-foot-9). He’s starting to get heavy minutes for the lousy Bucks and is averaging 9.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in the past 10 games. He had one of his best games of the season so far Nov. 30 against Boston with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The MVP race is a two-man duel between four-time winner LeBron James (11-10) of the Heat and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (10-11), who is looking to secure his first MVP award. Most of James’ numbers are down a bit from last season, but he’s playing slightly fewer minutes, as the Heat only care about the postseason. He’s shooting an obscene 58.8 percent from the field. Durant leads the NBA in scoring by a wide margin at 29.0 points per game and has career-best rebounding and assist numbers.