For the first time in quite a while, purple and yellow is fashionable again.  After four seasons of awful basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers finally landed their blue-chipper: Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Not only is Ball an unusually gifted point guard – comparisons to Jason Kidd are easily made – he’s an Anaheim native who played his one year of college at UCLA.

Ball will get plenty of opportunity to show his stuff this year. The Lakers are still in rebuilding mode with Ball starting at point guard, but they should be more competitive this year; combined with his media presence and the eternal spotlight shining on La-La Land, this makes Ball a compelling choice at +225 on the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year odds list. But is he the best player in this year’s rookie crop? Maybe, maybe not.


Trust the Process

There was a time when Ben Simmons (+275) led the NBA Rookie of the Year odds, but the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft didn’t play a single minute for the Philadelphia 76ers last season after breaking his right foot during their last training camp scrimmage. Simmons will get his chance this year on a Sixers team that has reaped the rewards of former GM Sam Hinkie’s infamous “Process.” But the multi-talented Australian swingman will have to share the court with another ROY candidate and No. 1 pick, PG Markelle Fultz (+800), who was taken ahead of Ball in this year’s Draft.

The Boston Celtics had that No. 1 pick via the last-place Brooklyn Nets, but they traded down to No. 3 and chose SF Jayson Tatum, who also checks in at +800 on the NBA futures odds. Tatum will have to take a backseat for now; the Celtics signed All-Star SF Gordon Hayward during the offseason in their quest to take over the Eastern Conference. That leaves Dennis Smith (+400) as the only strong ROY threat to Ball and Simmons. Smith fell all the way to the Dallas Mavericks at No. 9 this summer – a great spot for both player and team.

The Mavericks could deliver sneaky NBA betting value this year with Smith as their starting point guard. Like Ball, he’ll get a chance to lead a rebuilding franchise with an international fan base, and their skill sets are quite similar. However, Dallas also has PF Dirk Nowitzki returning for one more season, which gives this franchise the opportunity to pass the proverbial torch from Nowitzki to Smith. The Lakers and Sixers don’t have the same line of succession to offer Ball and Simmons; they’ll be thrown into the frying pan right away. That could put Smith over the top in what should be one of the most competitive ROY races in league history.


*Odds as of September 26, 2017