Winning the Rookie of the Year accolade isn’t something that always translates to success or guarantees a long and memorable career in the NBA, but it definitely sets you up to start with the right foot and could be the beginning of a new legacy.
Of course, this title it’s pretty much always saved for a guy in the top 5 picks as they’re the most hyped and highly ranked prospects in the world and are very likely to have a lot of touches on a very bad team during at least their first couple of NBA seasons.
Nonetheless, every now and then, an underdog winds up overplaying everybody and taking the league for assault, like recently Malcolm Brogdon did with the Milwaukee Bucks this prior campaign, taking home the silverware after a very good season out of nowhere.
This upcoming campaign is one of the most talent-loaded when it comes to rookie talent, with the likes of Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons as clear frontrunners to take the Rookie of the Year award.
Still, considering the huge amount of talent and how many bad teams are set to tank this season and let their youngsters develop, we could be in for yet another surprise, so today we’ll let you know about our top 5 dark horses that actually have a big chance to overplay the aforementioned and win the Rookie of the Year.
5. Malik Monk
Everybody expected Malik Monk to go way higher than he did at the 11 spot of this year’s NBA Draft, but truth to be told, it seems like the Charlotte Hornets landed a major steal in the Kentucky product, as the shooting guard’s offense is actually kind of NBA ready and he doesn’t have much competition for the starting spot.
Monk is an outstanding shooting and one of the best offensive talents in this year’s NBA Draft, and considering how much the Hornets are in need of scoring from beyond the arc and the fact that they will have an easy path in the weak Eastern Conference to at least hold on to the 8th seed, he could prove his doubters wrong with some impressive performances. Of course, some growing pains and inconsistency are to be also expected from him.
4. Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell was the 13th overall pick of this NBA Draft after a couple of seasons playing for the Louisville Cardinals, and even though he’s going to find it tough to get some steady playing time in the Utah Jazz crowded backcourt, it’s pretty much an open competition with the starting shooting guard spot up for grabs.
He’s going to have to fight with both Rodney Hood and Alec Burks to get some touches but seeing what he’s capable of doing on both ends of the floor, and considering the Jazz parted ways with Trey Lyles to acquire him, it’s safe to say that they have a lot of confidence in him becoming a huge part of the franchise plans for the future.
3. Josh Jackson
For some scouts, Josh Jackson was actually the best talent in this draft ahead of Fultz, Ball and Tatum, mostly because what he’s capable of doing on the defensive end of the floor and his offensive upside, and the Small Forward out of Kansas is very likely to grab the starting job from day one.
Jackson’s shooting needs a lot of work to do, but he could have a major impact on a Phoenix Suns squad that couldn’t stop anybody this past couple of seasons, so if he manages to find some consistency and stroke, he could become one of the league’s rising stars from day one.
2. Dennis Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. was the 9th overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks this year and considering how confidently he played during Summer League and the fact that he’s set to have the keys of the car to run the Mavs’ offense for the whole campaign (barring injury), he’s going to get a lot of offensive volumes.
Smith is an athletic freak and he already is a lock to have the starting point guard spot over Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry, with both Carlisle and Mark Cuban being very confident that he’ll deliver. His quickness, strength and ability to finish through contact make him one of the most interesting prospects to follow up this year.
1. Lauri Markkanen
For most people, Lauri Markkanen is just going to be a major bust, but to be fair, that’s exactly what people said about Kristaps Porzingis and both present very similar skillsets as very good ball handlers and shooters for his height, as well as being very committed defenders with some room for improvement.
Seeing what Markkanen did with his national squad in this year’s edition of Eurobasket, he jump at the top of our darkhorse list, averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and almost 1 assist per game in just over 21 minutes, shooting almost 56% from the floor, 48% from deep and 90% from the charity stripe. The Bulls are going to be a major mess, so they can just free Markkanen to hog as many shots as he likes, and with that kind of volume he could be in for a breakout year this season.