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NBA Rookie of the Year: Are the books missing a trick on Barnes?

NBA ROTY contender Scottie Barnes

In an NBA season where it felt like a lock that Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley was going to win the Rookie of the Year, now may be the time to bet against him. As it stands right now, he is the consensus favorite with -300 odds. It’s for good reason also – the Cavs have surprised everyone this season as they are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Mobley is averaging 14.8 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game and playing meaningful minutes for a good team.

There is, however, another player who is on a surprise team playing their best basketball as of late. The Toronto Raptors stunned everyone by picking 6’7″ do-it-all point forward Scottie Barnes as the fourth overall pick but it looks like it is paying dividends. The Raptors have risen up to the sixth seed in the East and are currently in the midst of a six-game winning streak.

This run is due, in large part, to Barnes’ play. On the season he is averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while playing strong defense. Like Mobley, they are both overachieving and their stats reflect the multiple skill sets they possess. While I will not argue against the fact that Mobley deserves to be the favorite, Barnes’ ROTY odds are as high as +800 with the top betting sites, which is just ridiculous. The difference should not be that large.

Their stats are nearly identical. Mobley is shooting a little bit better from two point range but Barnes beats him from beyond the arc. While the Cavaliers are shocking NBA fans, the Raptors are rising quietly. Both teams missed the playoffs last year but due to the Raptors’ recent success, their rise this season has gone somewhat unnoticed. Eventually, if they keep playing well, people will start to raise their brows and recognize the difference Barnes is providing on the court.

When that happens, Barnes’ odds of winning the ROTY should start to closely resemble Mobley’s. Even if all things stay the same, they should be tighter. That being said, the Raptors have a better team that could easily pass the Cavaliers in the standings by the end of the season. If that happens, and they have similar stats, it will be difficult for voters to pick Mobley over Barnes.

While I do not think Mobley and the Cavs will completely fall off a cliff in their remaining games, recent history says that they are overachieving right now. They made a trade for Caris LeVert and have the ninth-easiest strength of schedule over the rest of the season. It is entirely possible that they stay in a home-court position and Mobley runs away with the award.

But the Raptors have the seventh-easiest remaining schedule and have the pedigree to make a run to the top of the standings. Pascal Siakim and Fred Van Vleet are proven studs who have been on very good Raptor teams in the past. Now with Barnes, they have the team and the schedule to stay hot for the rest of the season and end up towards the top of the Eastern Conference.

Overall, Mobley deserves to be the favorite at this point in time. He is an absolute beast who frequently wows fans with his amazing athleticism. The same thing can be said about Barnes, however, and the value of his ROTY odds at this current point is just way too good to pass up. He is playing at a very similar level to Mobley and right now his team is just three games behind the Cavaliers.

If the Raptors catch the Cavaliers and people start picking up on Barnes’ surprisingly elite play, you will feel like a genius for getting the value that is available right now. It’s definitely not a lock, but at +800, you are getting longshot odds for a guy who mirrors the favorite in every statistical category on an ascending team and who is getting better as the year progresses. If that’s not value, then we don’t know what it.

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