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Buddy Hield’s odds of winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award

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The New Orleans Pelicans player faces long odds, but team success will not be one of the barometers.

2016 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

It’s still August so that means the NBA schedule is fast asleep and relevant news is at a crawl. The Olympic Games in Rio provided some relief from the basketball doldrums, but we’re back to mostly perusing predictions. Always one of the hotter topics, the Rookie of the Year Award has already received a lot of discussion.

Towards the end of July, ESPN’s Summer Forecast predicted Buddy Hield would finish fourth in the 2017 ROY race. That remained unchanged last week as writers from both the NBA and ESPN websites echoed a top 5 result; however, what specifically caught my eye was that Fran Blinebury tied Hield’s chances to the success of the New Orleans Pelicans next season.

If his performance matches his personality, the Pelicans could bounce back from a miserable 2015-16 season to make an outside run at the playoffs and that would get "Buddy Buckets" plenty of votes.

Is this a correct assumption to make? A number of awards are normally dependent on team success, but if memory serves me correct, Rookie of the Year honors are not one of them. Case in point, the last ten winners saw their teams finish slightly worse than an average position of 25th in the overall standings and post a median record of 27-55.

By and large statistics matter most and the flashier the numbers, the better. For instance, have a look at how the previous ten winners fared in certain categories. The numbers in parenthesis are the player’s rankings in comparison to the rest of their rookie class, players who appeared in a minimum of 500 minutes.

Games Played Games Started MIN/G PTS/G TRB/G AST/G Usage% PER BPM
Karl-Anthony Towns 82 (1) 82 (1) 32.0 (1) 18.3 (1) 10.5 (1) 2.0 (11) 24.9% (3) 22.5 (2) 2.8 (3)
Andrew Wiggins 82 (T1) 82 (1) 36.2 (1) 16.9 (1) 4.6 (7) 2.1 (10) 22.6% (3) 13.9 (8) -2.3 (19)
Michael Carter-Williams 70 (14) 70 (1) 34.5 (1) 16.7 (1) 6.2 (1) 6.3 (1) 25.7% (1) 15.5 (3) -0.2 (6)
Damian Lillard 82 (T1) 82 (1) 38.6 (1) 19.0 (1) 3.1 (18) 6.5 (1) 24.2% (3) 16.4 (6) 0.3 (5)
Kyrie Irving 51 (23) 51 (3) 30.5 (3) 18.5 (1) 3.7 (16) 5.4 (2) 28.7% (1) 21.4 (2) 3.3 (5)
Blake Griffin 82 (T1) 82 (1) 38.0 (1) 22.5 (1) 12.1 (1) 3.8 (2) 27.3% (1) 21.9 (1) 3.2 (1)
Tyreke Evans 72 (20) 72 (5) 37.2 (1) 20.1 (1) 5.3 (5) 5.8 (2) 26.2% (1) 18.2 (2) 1.6 (1)
Derrick Rose 81 (T8) 80 (3) 37.0 (2) 16.8 (2) 3.9 (14) 6.3 (1) 22.6% (5) 16.0 (10) -0.6 (11)
Kevin Durant 80 (T4) 80 (1) 34.6 (1) 20.3 (1) 4.4 (9) 2.4 (3) 28.1% (1) 15.8 (4) -1.4 (10)
Brandon Roy 57 (27) 55 (2) 35.4 (1) 16.8 (1) 4.4 (7) 4.0 (1) 23.0% (2) 18.0 (1) 2.1 (2)

Two categories immediately stand out: minutes played and points per game. The last ten ROY winners finished first in both categories an overwhelming majority of the time. Outside of Kyrie Irving finishing third in minutes per game from among the 2011 rookie class, Derrick Rose was the only other winner to not top his competition.

During the 2007-08 season, Rose finished second in both columns to O.J. Mayo, yet the Chicago Bulls player received 111 of 120 first place votes to easily beat the representative from the Memphis Grizzlies. The previous time the leading rookie scorer failed to win the Rookie of the Year Award occurred during the 2003-04 season when LeBron James bested Carmelo Anthony by totaling 508 points and 78 of the 118 first place votes.

Sense a pattern?

In both of the above cases, the greater stat-stuffing, higher-drafted rookie went on to take home the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy.

Interestingly, the 2016 rookie class could be poised to play out the same way as point forward Ben Simmons was drafted first overall this past summer. His 19.2 PPG at LSU lagged well behind Buddy Hield’s 25.0 PPG at OU, and his 10.8 PPG average across six summer league games failed to inspire much confidence he is primed to be the scoring leader among his class next season.

Despite this seemingly important detail, Simmons remains the odds on favorite to take home the prestigious ROY trophy. The reasoning is simplistic in nature but obviously instrumental: he has the clearest path to necessary playing time. In addition, it will help he was the first pick of the draft and should put up a wide array of tantalizing statistics outside of the scoring department.

Brandon Ingram has to deal with Luol Deng, Kris Dunn must do battle with Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine and Buddy Hield faces a slew of competitors including E’Twaun Moore, a free agent signee who expects a sizable role under Alvin Gentry.

Injuries or an impressive training camp by a player not named Ben Simmons could change the playing field dramatically, but it’s foolhardy to bet on divine intervention or hope. And while logic would dictate a playoff berth might greatly aid Hield’s campaign, remember that it didn’t help Melo when his Nuggets made the postseason while LeBron’s Cavaliers were forced to watch from home in their very first years in the league.

No, if Buddy Hield is going to be declared the 2017 Rookie of the Year, he must deliver an unrivaled special season, while playing alongside high usage players in Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis, and be fortunate surrounding circumstances hinder the competition to varying degrees.