The Boston Celtics have not had a rookie win the rookie of the year award since Larry Bird in the 1979-1980 season. Point guards have won the award seven out of the last ten years and three years in a row. One of those trends will not continue this season.
While the majority of people within NBA circles feel the rookie of the year award will be a battle between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart has the best chance at being the dark horse third candidate, most likely to knock Parker and Wiggins off. Let’s take a look at what would have to happen for Smart to win ROY, and why that is the most likely scenario.
Jabari Parker will be eclipsed by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is set to make a huge breakout. He has been dominating stretches of the summer league in such a way that only a player who will be a future starter, and who probably shouldn’t be in the summer league can do.
Jabari is going to have a nice year, but Giannis is going to be the face of the Bucks and easily their best player. The ROY voters will be blinded by Giannis’ ridiculous reach and athleticism and will not notice Jabari like they might in a different situation, which will cost Parker votes.
The moment LeBron James announced his decision to go to Cleveland was the moment Wiggins lost the ROY award. LeBron will definitely make Wiggins a better player, but James is so dominant, he is going to take points and possessions away from Wiggins.
The Cavs will reach the playoffs, but it won’t be because of Wiggins’ dominance. LeBron will take all the headlines away from Wiggins, and therefore take away the award.
Aaron Gordon has the best chance at being the player we look back at the 2014 draft and name as the weak link. Joel Embiid isn’t playing this year. Danté Exum is only 19 and is going to go through some major growing pains in his first year. Julius Randle is going to play for a terrible Lakers team and will not be able to make a significant enough impact to help his ROY campaign.
Marcus Smart is going to shine, whether it is playing off-ball as a shooing guard, or backing up Rajon Rondo at the point. He’s showing in summer league that he is capable of shooting, even three pointers, which was one of his biggest doubts coming into the draft.
Smart is looking more and more like he is the fiercest competitor of the draft class. He also has the best support system when it comes to the coaching staff and front office. Parker might be playing for the biggest megalomanic in the NBA, Jason Kidd. Wiggins will be playing for a rookie head coach with no NBA experience. Wiggins might also end up playing for the Timberwolves, which in reality, would probably help his campaign.
Smart also has the best chance at contributing the most for a contender. Jabari and the Bucks are a shoe-in for the lottery. The Cavs will most likely end up in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it will be because of LeBron and Kyrie, not Wiggins. Aside from Rondo, Smart has the best potential to lead the Celtics in scoring and contribute more than any other Celtic. If the Celtics make the playoffs, or even come close, Smart will receive the second most credit, after Rondo.
For these reason, I feel very confident in predicting that Marcus Smart will be the Rookie of the Year.