After this year’s draft, most people had Ben Simmons as the overwhelming favourite to win Rookie of the Year in 2017. However, after he suffered a broken bone in his right foot late last month, the award will in all likelihood be given elsewhere.
During a scrimmage on the 76ers’ final day of training camp, Simmons rolled his ankle and suffered what was later identified as a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot.
As the current timetable stands, Simmons will likely be out until January at the earliest, but due to the nature of the injury, there has been talk that the rookie could miss more time, possibly the entire season.
This is just the latest of a long line of disappointing circumstances for the Sixers, but for the rest of the league it means somebody other than the initial favourite will be honoured as the Rookie of the Year. In no particular order, here are the four leading contenders to take home the hardware.
In the recent 2016-17 survey of NBA general managers (which was conducted after the Simmons injury), Dunn was the most popular choice for Rookie of the Year with 46.7 percent of respondents picking the 22-year-old point guard.
Dunn was drafted by Minnesota fifth overall, which was a steal as many predicted him to be taken higher. He played four years at Providence, earning the Big East Player of the Year and Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards twice each.
He is quick, he’s explosive and athletic, he’s a terrific playmaker and an excellent defensive player. After four years of college ball, Dunn seems NBA ready too. In the two games he played at the Las Vegas Summer League, he put on a show, averaging 24 points, seven rebounds and three assists, as well as a few nasty crossovers per contest.
The only thing that could hinder Dunn taking home the ROY is where he has been drafted. He was selected by a Timberwolves team that is stacked with young talent, including the last two Rookies of the Year, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Not only that, but Dunn will be part of an established backcourt that features the likes of Ricky Rubio and human pogo stick Zach LaVine. It is still undetermined if Dunn will start or play a sixth man role.
Regardless of the clutter, he will receive plenty of playing time, as he has the talent and skillset to make an immediate impact on the Wolves. There is a reason that NBA GMs picked him to win this award.
Like Dunn, Hield played four years in college and comes into this season as one of the older rookies.
He played his college ball at Oklahoma, where he was an absolute stud. After his junior season, Hield hoped to enter the draft, but heard from NBA teams that he was a mid-second-round pick at best. He decided not to go to the pros just yet and returned to school for his final season. That turned out to be the right decision, as the Bahamas native had a stellar senior year in which he led Oklahoma to the Final Four, won the Naismith Trophy as the national college player of the year and turned himself into a lottery pick.
He is an outstanding scorer, and a lights-out perimeter shooter who can fill it up in a hurry. He put up a nice stat line in the Summer League with averages of 16.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists, and continued to play well for the Pelicans in the preseason.
Hield is in a good spot with New Orleans. The Pelicans lost two of their best outside shooters from last season in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. They will also be missing two of their starting perimeter players as Jrue Holiday has taken time off to look after his sick wife, and Tyreke Evans is rehabbing after knee surgery.
Hield will be called upon to step up and help fill these roles, and as a result will receive plenty of opportunity to shine. His outside touch is also a perfect fit for a team that is built around a dominant big man like Anthony Davis, who will receive a lot of attention inside.
Ingram was taken second overall in this year’s draft by the Lakers, behind Simmons.
He played one season at Duke, where he put up exceptional numbers as a freshman, averaging 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds with 44.2 percent shooting from the floor. His play last season earned him All-ACC second team honours and ACC Freshman of the Year.
Before the draft, most scouts and analytics experts had picked Ingram as the player most likely to become an All-Star in his first five seasons as a pro, so it goes without saying that the kid has a ton of potential. He’s 6-foot-9 with a 7-3 wingspan, is very athletic and has an ability to score that just seems all so natural.
His long frame and scoring touch have drawn comparison to Kevin Durant, so if all pans out, he could be special.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 20, 2016
Don’t let all the tattoos fool you, Ingram is very young. In fact, having just recently turned 19, he is one of the youngest players coming into the NBA this season. He’s pencil thin and there have been plenty of question marks surrounding his strength and physique.
Ingram is currently set to come off the bench this season, as Luke Walton has opted to start the veteran Luol Deng in favour of the rookie. This could, however, be a temporary decision, as Ingram has the scoring ability and potential to elevate himself into a starting role.
Whether he starts or not, you can bet that he will receive significant minutes as a key member of this young Lakers team. Despite the fact that his lack of strength will hinder him this season, the guy can still shoot and knows how to use his lanky frame to get buckets.
Embiid was selected third overall back in 2014 by Philadelphia. He then missed the entirety of his first two NBA seasons, his first year due to a broken bone in his foot, and the second year because of a setback to that same injury. Clearly, Philly fans just can’t catch a break.
Despite the setbacks, Embiid is still just 22 and will be making his highly anticipated NBA debut this season. He sat out of Summer League play but put in an impressive showing in the preseason, albeit in limited action.
Embiid has tremendous size (anybody who can make Andre Drummond look small must), he has a nice array of low-post moves, and he can protect the rim and dominate the glass.
What’s most impressive about him is the way he plays defence, which we have seen during both the preseason and his time in college. Embiid played at Kansas as a teammate of Andrew Wiggins, and was dominant on the defensive end, earning himself the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award in his only season for the Jayhawks.
It’s not just the shot-blocking that’s impressive, but also the way he anchors the defence and directs traffic on that end of the floor, a skill that often takes big men a number of years to learn.
Health will be the biggest factor for Embiid going into his first official NBA season. He has all the physical tools to be great, but obviously injury-prone big men are a cause for concern—just look at a guy like Greg Oden. That’s not to say that Embiid will continue to be plagued by injuries, it could go either way.
If the Cameroonian big man can stay healthy and get to the point where he can play 25-30 minutes a night and not miss time, he has more than enough talent to take home Rookie of the Year.