2023 NBA Rookie of the Year odds: Magic's Paolo Banchero, Rockets' Jabari Smith early betting favorites

Odds for the 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year already have been released.
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The top of the 2022 NBA Draft went as expected in terms of the three players chosen, but not in the order most were projecting.  Duke's Paolo Banchero was the first overall pick by Orlando, Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren No. 2 to Oklahoma City and Jabari Smith No. 3 to Houston. Banchero had been slight favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year entering the draft but is now a +350 co-favorite at Caesars Sportsbook with Smith – who was the favorite for weeks to be the top pick.  

Recent history says a top-4 pick is going to win the award because it has happened every year since 2015 (Andrew Wiggins), other than in 2017 when Malcolm Brogdon (then with Bucks) took home the award as the No. 36 overall pick. He remains the only second-rounder to win it in the modern era. Toronto Raptors fourth-overall pick Scottie Barnes is the most recent winner.

Orlando has had two ROY winners. One was Shaquille O'Neal (1991) and the other… Mike Miller (2001). Unless you are a Magic fan, you likely don't remember Miller. Houston has had two winners: Ralph Sampson in 1984 and Steve Francis in 2000.

The last player from Duke to win NBA ROY was Kyrie Irving with the Cavaliers in 2012. Who knows where Irving might be playing next season after he reportedly gave the Nets a list of six teams (Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Mavericks, Heat, 76ers) where he'd like to be signed-and traded if he and the Nets can't agree to an extension, but that's a story for another day.

Banchero was considered arguably the most NBA-ready of the first three picks, so he should slide right into the starting lineup at power forward in Orlando. Don't rule out the marketing reasons for throwing Banchero right into the fire, either, as the Magic have been terrible the past two seasons and last year, they ranked 26th in attendance.

You can pretty much say the same things regarding Smith and Houston, which was 23rd in attendance despite playing in the fourth-biggest media market in the USA. The lone player from Auburn to win NBA ROY was Chuck Person in 1987 with the Pacers.

Holmgren and Pistons guard Jaden Ivey, the No. 5 overall pick, are both +550 to win. Then there's a drop-off to Kings forward Keegan Murray, the No. 4 pick, at +900.

The one concern with betting Holmgren is that he probably will get pushed around at first in the NBA until he bulks up – although he should be a rebounding/shot-blocking demon right from the get-go. It's tough to see Holmgren putting up big offensive numbers as a rookie, though, and ROY winners generally have to. No player from Gonzaga has won the award.

My early lean could be Ivey (even though he would break that top four trend) as he's landed in an incredible spot playing alongside last year's top pick Cade Cunningham. Detroit might not be done, either, amid rumors the Pistons will try to sign Suns free agent Deandre Ayton. The team has the cap space to do so, but it may take a sign-and-trade with Phoenix. The better a rookie's team does, assuming he's a key contributor, the better his chances to win ROY are -- see Barnes as he helped lead Toronto into the 2022 postseason. Detroit is making the 2023 playoffs. 

NBA free early pick: Ivey at +550

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