NBA Rookie of the Year Betting – Is Deandre Ayton Still the Best Bet?

By Noah Davis
Published on December 06, 2018
Deandre Ayton - NBA Rookie

It’s funny how perception can change when you start factoring team success into things. Anytime sports bettors try to figure out who the NBA MVP will be, they certainly consider the importance of that player, their stat line, and how well their team does because of them.

The latter isn’t necessarily always a key component to figuring out who wins NBA Rookie of the Year.

Unfortunately, the best rookies are drafted to some of the worst teams in the league. Suffice it to say, it’s an arguable crapshoot in actually deciphering who is tangibly making a positive impact and who isn’t.

You can’t ever side-step the numbers, but you still want as much context as possible. I think how much a rookie’s team wins has to be factored into that, as well as how they’re obtaining their production.

Back in the summer, I admitted it was probably going to be a tight race, but due to his overall talent and dominant stature, top pick Deandre Ayton was probably the best bet to win 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year.

My stance has changed.

Odds Disclaimer Box 1

Latest NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

While I do still think it’s a two-man race, Ayton is no longer the favorite in my eyes – or the mind of the NBA betting sites I use – and it’s instead Luka Doncic that is your best bet to win the award.

Top betting sites like have finally released fresh Rookie of the Year odds, with Doncic pulling in as a fairly strong favorite.

At least for now, Ayton is the only other option for bettors to even consider at the sportsbook.

Luka Doncic-200
Deandre Ayton+150

I wasn’t wrong about Ayton. I said he’d have a big role from the jump, he’d make a positive impact, and he’d have an easy path to averaging a double-double in his first year as a pro.

That’s all been true, as Ayton has been an offensive force for the Phoenix Suns and at the time of this writing is averaging over 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s also making 60% of his shots and putting up points at a strong rate despite taking just 11 shots per contest.

Ayton isn’t an asset on defense yet, however. That was a knock to his game coming out of college, and thus far, it’s been a pretty big problem.

I’m not sure you can tear a rookie down for that completely, but it’s a thing, and it’s out there. Ayton has been good, and he has strong numbers, but it also hasn’t translated into wins. The Suns are a dreadful 4-20 as I write this and are leading the way to again pick at the top of next year’s draft.

Doncic has been more impressive across the board.

The Mavericks sensation has played a huge hand in transforming Dallas from one of the worst teams in the league a year ago to a fringe playoff contender.

Dallas is breathing down the neck of the Memphis Grizzlies atop the Southwest Division, and while they’re just the seventh overall seed right now, they’re currently in position to make the playoffs.

Doncic’s scoring and playmaking have fueled the rise, and Dallas (8-2 over their last 10 games) may only be getting better.

Bettors scoffing at a hot start for the Mavs may correctly point out that Dallas may end up regressing as the year goes on and that their early success can’t be attributed completely to a rookie.

True, but Doncic is all over the place statistically (in a good way). He’s averaging more points per game (18.6) than Ayton, he’s active on the glass (6.6 rebounds per game), he’s dishing out dimes (4.2 assists per game), and he’s even snagging a steal per contest.

My Revised Betting Pick for NBA Rookie of the Year 2018/19

Doncic is making a mark in every facet of the game, and his team is benefiting from it on a daily basis. He’s even stepping up against tough opponents and delivering iconic moments like this.

Can we add clutch to the list for Doncic? I believe we can.

I think you can argue that Doncic gives something up defensively like Ayton does and that it’s early, but if you’re looking at a two-man race (and we probably are), Doncic is undoubtedly in the lead.

That’s a different tune than we were singing when these two rookies made their debuts, but sometimes embracing change is better than being obstinate.

PICKLuka Doncic-200

Can Anyone Else Win NBA Rookie the Year This Season?

While Doncic is the pick for NBA Rookie of the Year at this point, let’s keep in mind that regression or injury could always open the door up to Ayton or someone else winning the award.

After all, it was only a couple of years ago that Joel Embiid probably should have won ROY, but injuries and rest kept him off the floor for much of his “rookie” campaign and allowed for Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon to snag the award.

I don’t think we really have anything to worry about here with Doncic, but turning over every stone is rarely a terrible idea.

The list of viable alternatives really isn’t that long, but if you’re looking for pivot plays, the following players are at least somewhat in the conversation.

  • Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks
  • Jaren Jackson, PF, Memphis Grizzlies
  • Wendell Carter, C, Chicago Bulls
  • Marvin Bagley, PF, Sacramento Kings
  • Collin Sexton, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

Everyone here is viable if the top two guys severely regress or get hurt. However, at the moment, their numbers aren’t quite as good, and the only guy constantly playing a big enough role to really compete would be Trae Young.


I think we could see a few of the guys mentioned above pop off a bit later in the year, but it’d take a meteoric rise for them to truly challenge for Rookie of the Year.

Still, it would be nice for Vegas and the betting sites to offer more than a two-man race. There are some solid options to consider, and you never know how a season will unfold.

As it stands, though, the bet to make is on Luka Doncic. The odds aren’t great, but this looks like a pretty safe way to go right now.

NBA Rookie of the Year Betting – Is Deandre Ayton Still the Best Bet?
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NBA Rookie of the Year Betting – Is Deandre Ayton Still the Best Bet?
Deandre Ayton originally looked like a lock for 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year, but could Luka Doncic end up stealing the award?
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JamesEncum | 17 Dec 2018
In the first iteration, Mavs forward Luka Doncic led the field in ROY Rating (rated 0 to 10), with Suns center Deandre Ayton the only guy close to him. Has that changed at all or does it still look like it will be a two-man race?
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