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The NBA season has very quickly run into the second half of the season, with most teams heading into the last 30 games of the season over the next 2 days. We have seen upsets, Hall of Fame players waived, trades galore, and a few surprises at the high end of both conferences. In select organizations, it has been established players who have lead the way.
Plenty of franchises are still in with a shot of making the playoffs, as the rookie class has begun to shine through experience. Every fan and analyst had pointed out Luka Doncic as a contender, with plenty of experience in the top flights of European Basketball as a key factor.
There are plenty of other revelations that may give Doncic a run for his money if matters fall apart in the last 2 months. Here are the 5 key contenders for the NBA Rookie of the Year award:
All statistics accurate prior to the games on 2/4/2019
Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks (averages 20.7 ppg/7 rpg/5.4 apg)
The favorite, similar to that of Ben Simmons at this stage of last season. Luka Doncic is listed as an NBA rookie, yet has already shown abroad prior to this season that he has all the skills required to have a lengthy career. The trade that saw Trae Young and a 2019 first-round pick go to Atlanta for Luka Doncic seems to have worked for both teams, but it is Doncic who has benefited the most.
Doncic is ranked as the top rookie in the NBA Rookie Ladder, with 10 double-doubles and 2 triple-doubles highlighting a strong first 50 games. A 35-point triple double, the only teenager to do so, is the standout performance so far with the All-Star break coming up. If Doncic continues his form, he should get the accolades. If he slumps or gets hurt, that could change.
DeAndre Ayton – Phoenix Suns (averages 16.3 ppg/10.2 rpg/2 apg)
The #1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Phoenix and DeAndre Ayton are enjoying their relationship so far. Alongside Trae Young as the 2 players who potentially could take the award from Luka Doncic, Ayton has been efficient under the rim at both ends of the court for the Suns.
The Suns have been able to rely on Ayton as a consistent performer; one who can provide a near double-double every game he plays. The 7-foot rookie has 28 double-double performances in 48 games, and an impact rating that ties Doncic for the best rookie rating in the league. It hasn’t converted to a win-loss record of note, but combining with Devin Booker for years to come may be the recipe that Phoenix needs to have a huge 2019-20 season.
Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks (averages 16.9 ppg/7.4 apg/3.2 rpg)
Trae Young has been the player that Atlanta wanted and more throughout this season, with the rookie showcasing more than just his ability to knock down shots at will. The Oklahoma alumni in his only year is now doing the same with Atlanta, albeit with a little more help in the form of John Collins and Jeremy Lin.
The distribution of Young has been unparalleled in this rookie class, averaging 2 assists per game more than the next best player in Doncic. It has given John Collins plenty of opportunities, who is averaging 9 points per game higher than last season. It is a long shot, but Trae Young could be that outsider that knocks Doncic off his throne.
Marvin Bagley III – Sacramento Kings (averages 12.9 ppg/6.8 rpg/1 apg)
Marvin Bagley III was taken by Sacramento as the 2nd pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, and he has been a pivotal part in the Kings run towards playoff territory. Bagley, along with the likes of Fox, Bogdanovic, Hield and Cauley-Stein (among others) have been superb this year after a lackluster 2017-18 season.
Bagley is the outsider of the lot in contention, with Ayton and Young ahead of the Kings forward. Doncic is a ways ahead here, but Bagley is making a late run. He is a solid rotation player with the ability to step up and break a game open. The movement of Bagley on the court is smooth, with transition offense viewed as a specialty. If he can continue his form, he could be a smokey pick to win.
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