There are high expectations for Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers in the coming season, but Ball’s fellow rookies don’t see him as the favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year. While a recent sportsbook may have given Lonzo the role of odds on favorite to win the award, other young players entering the league don’t see it that way. However, they don’t see either of the other favorites as the clear-cut winners either, as Ben Simmons was picked by another sportsbook as the favorite to win the award in the upcoming season.
A survey was recently conducted by NBA.com asking 39 rookies a variety of questions. Among them was the big question of “Who will be the 2017-18 Kia Rookie of the Year?” Lonzo Ball of the L.A. Lakers finished second with 20 percent of the votes. However, it wasn’t the No. 1 pick who edged him, it was No. 9 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks who received 25 percent of the rookie players’ votes. Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers finished in third place with 17.1 percent of votes. Surprisingly, Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns, De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings, and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics weren’t amongst those in the top four. Others receiving votes in the top 10 were Kyle Kuzma (Lakers), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), and Ben Simmons (Sixers).
Just recently, two different sportsbooks released their odds for who will win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honor in the coming season. It marks the first time that Nevada books have taken bets on this particular situation for the NBA. One sportsbook, the William Hill, gave Lonzo Ball the top spot as favorite. Another one, Westgate Superbook, listed the Sixers’ Ben Simmons as their favorite, according to ABC News.
One has to think that the rookie votes were swayed through NBA Summer League performances or perhaps by a breakout rookie performance. Dennis Smith Jr. surprised people during his run at Las Vegas, although some could say Lonzo Ball made a heavy case for himself as top rookie. Ball received the Summer League Las Vegas MVP Award as his team won the tournament in Las Vegas. Ball led all players at Vegas in assists, averaging 9.33 per game. Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz led in points (28 ppg) and steals (6 spg) for the players who participated.
Dennis Smith Jr. averaged 17.8 points per game during the Las Vegas sessions, and he’ll get valuable playing time on a team that includes veteran Dirk Nowitzki this coming season. While Lonzo Ball is being touted as the potential savior of the Lakers franchise, he will also be adjusting to the learning curve in the NBA and without too many star veterans around him. Magic Johnson will be around, but probably not as much as necessary. Instead, Ball will be expected to fill in early as the team’s point guard, but it remains to be seen how he performs over the course of the season.
In another category, rookies were asked which rookie was the biggest steal at their particular spot in the draft. Dennis Smith Jr., who was the ninth pick overall, was voted second here, trailing Donovan Mitchell. He was selected by Utah with the 13th pick this summer. John Collins, now a member of the Atlanta Hawks, was third in the rookie survey for this question. Collins and Ball have already been involved in a bit of a Twitter situation over EA Sports showcasing a screenshot of Collins dunking over Ball’s teammate in their new video game.
As the ESPN website noted, rookies have only correctly picked the NBA’s Rookie of the Year once since 2007. Back then, former Texas basketball player Kevin Durant was the top vote getter. Last season, former Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Kris Dunn received the majority of votes from fellow rookies. However, Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks actually claimed the Rookie of the Year Award once the season was over.
Interestingly, Lonzo Ball received the most votes in another survey category that Los Angeles Lakers fans may be more pleased with. The former UCLA star was tied with Boston’s Jayson Tatum for the question “Which rookie will have the best career?” Both of these players received 18.4 percent of the overall votes. Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson tied with Dennis Smith Jr. for second with 10.5 percent of the votes while Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox was fifth with 7.9 percent.
Magic Johnson and the Lakers fan base are certainly hoping that they picked right with the No. 2 draft pick this best summer, and if he continues to improve, it looks like they may have a future franchise star.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]