When simply looking at the NBA Rookie of the Year odds board, it seems as if the award is all but wrapped up. The No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, Victor Wembanyama, currently sits as the heavy favorite at -300.
The next-closest candidate is Oklahoma City's second-year player Chet Holmgren, who missed all of last season with an injury, followed by the No. 3 pick in this year's draft, Scoot Henderson at +400. The next-closest player is the Hornets' Brandon Miller, whose odds jump all the way up to +1200.
Essentially, as of now, this is a three-man race. However, we're still a few months away from the season beginning and just under a year away from the award being announced. That means there is plenty of time for things to change.
For good reason, Vegas has Wembanyama as the heavy front-runner for ROTY. After all, not only was he the No. 1 pick, but he was the most highly touted prospect since LeBron James. Does that mean he's going to turn into James? Maybe. But maybe not immediately.
I think Wemby is going to have an outstanding career in the NBA. His size and skillset are an insane combination that we've never seen. However, his success doesn't need to come all at once and certainly not in Year 1.
There's no organization that knows this better than the San Antonio Spurs. Head coach Gregg Popovich is likely to take things extremely slow with Wemby and play the long game. After all, Wemby only played two games in Summer League before being shut down for the remainder of the tournament.
We also saw through those first two games that the level of physicality played in the NBA is much more significant than what he's used to, so I wouldn't be surprised if he struggles at the start of the season. Not to mention, if he gets hurt at any point during the year, the Spurs are going to err on the side of being overly cautious and might keep him out for more games than necessary. And with his lanky, thin frame, adjusting to the physicality of the NBA could leave him with quite a few bumps and bruises at various parts throughout the season.
At -300, laying that much juice for an award that's not even going to be announced for almost a year is just way too steep of a price.
Despite being in his second year in the league, Chet Holmgren is eligible for the Rookie of the Year award because injuries kept him sidelined for all of last season. Even though he didn't see any time on the court, he was able to get his feet wet with the day-to-day of NBA life. That's going to give him a leg up on all the other rookies entering their first season. Holmgren now knows what an NBA travel schedule is like. He knows what proper nutrition and recovery look like. And he knows his team playbook far better than any other first-year player. That's going to allow him to hit the ground running as soon as the season gets underway.
Holmgren played on OKC's Summer League team and averaged 12.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in three games in both Salt Lake City and Vegas. On one hand, you could look at those numbers and say he probably won't average that against true NBA-caliber players. But on the other hand, you could argue that those numbers are only going to get better with true NBA talent feeding him the ball.
Regardless of how you want to look at it, Holmgren is going to be an impact player on a Thunder squad that should be very competitive this year. If he's part of the reason OKC is in the playoff mix at the end of the season, the voters will surely take notice of that.