The 2018 NBA Draft is over, early grades are in, and the league is set for free agency and Summer League to kick off over the next few weeks. However, it is never too soon to look ahead to the start of the 2018-19 campaign and, given the emphasis on what is an intriguing rookie class, there should be plenty of chatter about this year’s pursuit of Rookie of the Year honors.
It might be difficult to replicate the plain madness of the 2017-2018 battle between Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons but here are five players that have clear paths to contention, at least in the traditional sense of what the voting rewards.
In the least surprising outcome of the draft, Ayton led things off by landing in Phoenix and he’ll be in a fantastic Rookie of the Year situation, to the point where betting markets see him as the favorite. Questions about Ayton’s defensive projection are real but he is a player that seems destined to put up a ton of counting numbers at the next level. Beyond that, the Suns have every incentive to give him a ton of minutes and opportunities from the first game of his NBA career and, with the Rookie of the Year award, per-game numbers often play a significant role.
Ayton may not average 20 and 10 as rookie because, well, basically no one other than Tim Duncan actually does that. He can, however, produce at a high level on the offensive end and that puts him in a fantastic position as arguably the front-runner for the hardware.