Next season’s Rookie of the Year award is likely to be a hotly contested race among many players. Though if history holds true, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ Markelle Fultz should be the favorite.
As the NBA season draws near, the 2018 Rookie of the Year award continues to be a divisive topic of conversation. With a deep and talented crop of rookies set to enter the league, there are many likely to contend for the honor next season.
The Philadelphia 76ers boast the last two No. 1 picks in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, though only the former has received noteworthy recognition from oddsmakers. According to Sportsbook Review, Simmons is currently a +250 co-favorite alongside Lonzo Ball, with Fultz falling behind at +500. The difference is even larger in other forums.
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Despite oddsmakers slighting Fultz – to a degree – history is still on the 6-foot-4 guard’s side regarding his likelihood to walk away with the honor. The last five point guards to be selected first overall are Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Allen Iverson and Magic Johnson. Aside from Magic, who lost the award to fellow Hall of Famer Larry Bird, each lead guard won Rookie of the Year. Furthermore, history does not favor Ball, as the last time a No. 2 pick won the award was in 2008 when Kevin Durant earned the honor.
Fultz has both a strong chance of winning Rookie of the Year and being a perennial All-Star given the success of past point guards selected No.1 overall. Irving and Wall are currently two of the top point guards in the NBA, while Iverson and Johnson are Hall of Famers, with Magic being a consensus top five player of all time. If not for injury, Rose – the youngest MVP in league history – would likely be in the midst of a Hall of Fame career.
There is no denying Ball’s gifted court vision and playmaking abilities, though the list of superstars drafted out of the No. 2 position is far shorter than that of No. 1 overall.
For reference, those drafted immediately after Irving, Wall, Rose and Johnson are Derrick Williams, Evan Turner, Michael Beasley, Tyson Chandler and David Greenwood — who have one combined All-Star appearance among them. While each of those players carved out a nice role in the NBA, their accomplishments fail to match that of those drafted above them.
Furthermore, Fultz enters a far more favorable situation structured to yield immediate success. With considerably more talent surrounding him, Fultz should be able to produce efficiently while Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick give him three-level scoring, affording him more opportunities for assists. The Upper Marlboro, Maryland-native, was the clear-cut No. 1 pick all year while Ball went No. 2 overall to fit a team need. That’s not to say Ball was undeserving of the second pick but had the Los Angeles Lakers already rostered a franchise point guard, it’s reasonable to believe Jayson Tatum or Josh Jackson could have landed in LA.
Despite struggling defensively at Washington, Fultz, with a 7-foot wingspan and strong lateral quickness, possesses the skills necessary to be a gifted defender. Playing for a defensive-minded head coach in Brett Brown should only increase his chances of developing into a skilled two-way player. Likely to shoulder less of a burden offensively, Fultz will be able to focus his efforts to the other end of the floor.
Ball, meanwhile, struggles to score consistently, defend on-ball and will be the focal point of defenses each night, hindering his efficiency. Although his counting stats (points, assists, rebounds, etc.) may be more gaudy than Fultz’s, poor efficiency will negate any advantage this provides.
Truthfully, I’m a fan of both Ball and Fultz’s games. In one of the deepest crop of rookie point guards in recent memory, the PAC-12 foes found themselves atop the list, battling it out for the No. 1 overall pick. Yet history favors Fultz when it comes to becoming a superstar player and winning next season’s Rookie of the Year. He is set to be a tertiary option offensively and that should prove beneficial for both himself and the Philadelphia 76ers.