Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year

These are tips for betting the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Key Points

– Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year is all about past winners.

– Bettors should build a historical profile of the ideal NBA Rookie of the Year candidate.

Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year

Each year, the best rookie in the NBA receives the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy. It is one of the league’s major awards and each season bettors flock to bet the NBA Rookie of the Year (ROTY) in the futures market.

Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year is one of the wagers bettors love to make. The odds are great, especially early, and the payouts can be big. But, what exactly constitutes the best NBA rookie? Does the award always go to the “best” rookie? 

That brings up a question for bettors. How does one choose the best rookie in a given class? Well, building basketball strategies for winners starts with taking a look at the past and then building a profile for the perfect ROTY pick.

Historical Results

You start with the most recent ROTY award winners while creating your historical profile. Then, you can look at a number of elements that are shared by those winners.

When betting the NBA Rookie of the Year,  bettors should search for patterns among the previous winners. To place this wager, they should also look for a reputable sportsbook. The last 10 ROTY winners are shown below.

  • 2022: Scottie Barnes, Toronto
  • 2021: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte
  • 2020: Ja Morant, Memphis
  • 2019: Luka Doncic, Dallas
  • 2018: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia
  • 2017: Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee
  • 2016: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
  • 2015: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota
  • 2014: Michael-Carter Williams, Philadelphia
  • 2013: Damian Lillard, Portland


Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year – Patterns

One of the patterns recognized in the race for the NBA ROTY is related to scoring. Rookies must score in order to receive an ROTY award. When it comes to betting the NBA Rookie of the Year, points are king.

All but one Rookie of the Year winner since LeBron James in 2004 averaged at least 15 points per game. Only Brogdon failed to accomplish this feat in 2017.

The previous 19 ROTY award recipients over this time period averaged 17.6 points per contest. The leading scorer among all rookies in a given class was a ROTY winner in 13 of the last 20 seasons.  

In betting the NBA Rookie of the Year, one of your strategies should include predicting a rookie’s points per game average in his first season. Candidates have a solid chance of earning the award if they can average at least 15 points per game. Betting futures is a lot different than betting NBA point spreads.

Players have a higher chance if they lead all NBA rookie scorers. It’s important to keep in mind that scoring is king, and rookies who score are better prospects than those who don’t.

PRA Is a Better Measure

A rookie is not necessarily the Rookie of the Year just because he leads his team or the league in scoring. The overall rookie scoring leader was not the winner of four of the previous five ROTY awards. 

However, a rookie’s PRA – points plus rebounds plus assists – went a long way in determining his ROTY status. Over the past 20 years, 65 percent of ROTY winners had the highest rookie scoring average. Over the past 18 seasons, 15 winners have had the highest PRA numbers. 

That is 83 percent and would have been higher had Zion Williamson and Joel Embiid not been injured in their rookie seasons. Since James, all but two ROTYs have had at least a 25 PRA. The previous five champions had scoring averages of 17.2, 6.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. 

Efficiency & Defense Don’t Matter

Unlike some other sports, betting the NBA Rookie of the Year is not about intangibles. If a rookie doesn’t play defense, it doesn’t matter. If he’s a poor shooter, that doesn’t matter either. 

Emeka Okafor earned the ROTY in 2005, mostly as a result of his prowess as a defender. Since then, defense has only sometimes been important. Efficiency is another metric that hasn’t really mattered in the hunt for ROTY.

Only five of the previous 15 ROTYs were more effective than all other rookies in their class as measured using Box Plus-Minus figures. Less than half of those ROTY winners placed in the top two, and the average finishing position in Plus-Minus was 3.6.

Additionally, players who play for poor teams are not penalized. That’s actually advantageous because the worst teams in the league typically choose the league’s top rookies.

The teams of the previous 15 award winners won 32.8 games each season on average. Four ROTYs were on a playoff team. A good rookie on a weak team frequently assumes a larger role and that helps him become a strong candidate for ROTY.

The No. 1 Pick

Top NBA draft picks are typically in the running for ROTY. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year then should include a look at the season’s top draft picks.

Since the 1950s, only four ROTYs – Malcolm Brogdon (No. 36), Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11), Mark Jackson (No. 18), and Jamaal Wilkes (No. 11) – have been chosen outside the top 10. Sixty of the last sixty-two ROTYs were chosen among the top 11 (96.8%), and only one ROTY was ever chosen outside the top 18.

This reduces a bettor’s prospective field, but it does more than that. Of the 62 ROYs, only 13 came after the first five picks. The majority of ROTY winners (79%) were chosen in the top five.

Of the 34 award winners since 1990, 23 have been selected in the first three picks of the draft, and 44 percent have gone first overall. Nine ROTYs were top-3 picks in the last 15 years and if not for injuries, that number would have been 11.

A player selected in the first three picks historically has a very strong chance of winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award. This completes your strategy for betting the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Betting the NBA Rookie of the Year – The Ideal Candidate

When betting the NBA Rookie of the Year, you should have a strong profile. Defense and efficiency don’t matter nor does playing on a bad team. Bettors should be looking at a top five pick who will average at least 15 points per game. His PRA will be 25 or higher.

With your profile built, all that is left is to browse the betting board and choose the best ROTY candidate.