Ben Simmons was the frontrunner for the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award since he plays for the lowly Philadelphia 76ers and his stats will surely be impressive. However, Simmons will miss about three months or possibly more after fracturing his right foot in practice.
The injury is bad news for Simmons and the Sixers organization but it blew the race for the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award wide open. As part of Sportsrageous’ 2016-17 NBA season preview, here are the five players who can win the award.
1. Buddy Hield, SG – New Orleans Pelicans
The 2016 National Player of the Year just became the frontrunner to win the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year. Buddy Hield will get a lot of touches in his first two months playing for the Pelicans as the second scorer behind Anthony Davis.
Hield is going to play point and shooting guard with Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans out for the rest of the year. Holiday is on leave as her wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor while Evan has blood clots following his offseason knee surgery.
The 22-year-old is an explosive scorer and the best shooter in this year’s class. With heavy minutes on his way, he is the favorite to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year.
2. Kris Dunn, PG – Minnesota Timberwolves
Kris Dunn was voted by his fellow rookies as the best defender and playmaker while also being the favorite to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award, even before Simmons’ injury. Just like Hield, Dunn is an NBA-ready player and he can help the Timberwolves make it to the playoffs.
However, he will be behind Ricky Rubio in the lineup which means he might not put up great numbers in his first year. Also, new head coach Tom Thibodeau is known for not giving big minutes to rookies on his team.
3. Joel Embiid, C – Philadelphia 76ers
Many people forget that Joel Embiid is still a rookie despite being drafted in 2014. He is still eligible to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year because he has not played a single minute in the NBA.
Embiid is finally healthy but he is not higher on this list because he will be on a minutes restriction at the start of the season. There is also the possibility that he could re-injure his foot once again and halt his progress.
Nevertheless, Embiid has shown glimpses of his potential on the practice court. He has expanded his range and his 7-foot, 240-pound frame got even bigger. He just needs to stay healthy.
4. Brandon Ingram, SF – Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers fans might get upset but Brandon Ingram is not the favorite to win the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year. He can still win if something happens to Luol Deng but I doubt it. The Lakers plan on bringing Ingram slowly which will affect his chances of winning the award.
The 19-year-old has all the potential to become a superstar but his thin frame worries the Lakers. He is slowly putting on the weight but it remains to be seen if he can take a lot of hits from NBA bodies for the course of 82 games.
5. Dario Saric, PF – Philadelphia 76ers
Just like with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric is eligible to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year despite being drafted in 2014. Saric played in Europe in the past two years to hone his skill and now he is more than ready for the NBA.
The 22-year-old will surely get more minutes with Simmons’ injury and Nerlens Noel possibly getting traded before the season. He can knock down the three-point shot while also having the ability to make plays in the post.