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Doncic vs Ayton: Who is the Better Bet to Win NBA Rookie of the Year?

Trae Young defends fellow rookie guard Luka Doncic
Trae Young defends fellow rookie guard Luka Doncic (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire)
  • Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton have identical odds to win the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year Award
  • Will the Mavs’ superior record work in Doncic’s favor?
  • Can Ayton gain the upper hand with more dominant head-to-head encounters?

Mavericks swingman Luka Doncic and Suns center Deandre Ayton couldn’t be more different. One is a sharpshooter from Slovenia who and is fluent in four languages. The other is a bruising big man from the Bahamas whose first love was the tuba. And yet, despite their many differences, the two players have identical odds to win the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Let’s delve into their numbers to see which player is more deserving of the honor.

2019 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds at MyBookie

Player Team 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds at MyBookie (11/28/18)
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks +115
Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns +115
Trae Young Atlanta Hawks +300
Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies +1500
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Los Angeles Clippers +2800
FIELD N/A +650

Making a Case for Doncic

Doncic is a rookie in name only. The Slovenian phenom signed his first contract at the age of 13 and became the youngest player ever to win Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP honors after leading Real Madrid to a title in 2018.

Some wondered whether Doncic could adapt to the speed and athleticism of the NBA, but so far it’s been NBA players who have had to adapt to him.

Some wondered whether Doncic could adapt to the speed and athleticism of the NBA, but so far it’s been NBA players who have had to adapt to him. The 19-year-old is leading all first year players in scoring, and has already had ten 20-point performances, including a 31-point gem against the Spurs on October 29th.

Doncic is also second among all rookies in player efficiency and assists, and third in rebounding and three-point percentage. He’s been especially deadly from the right corner, where he’s hit 60% of his three-point attempts.

Luka Doncic vs Deandre Ayton Statistical Comparison

Doncic
VS
Ayton

19.1 Points Per Game 16.4
6.5 Rebounds Per Game 10.4
4.2 Assists Per Game 2.5
1.0 Steals Per Game 0.6
0.3 Blocks Per Game 0.9

Making a Case for Ayton

The NBA may be getting smaller, but there’s still plenty of room for talented bigs like Deandre Ayton. The 7’1″ center leads all rookies in rebounding and player efficiency, and is eighth in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 62.1%. That number rises to 71.4% when Ayton muscles his way into the restricted area, which he does often.

Ayton’s ability to score in the paint is hardly shocking, but the Suns have been pleasantly surprised by his advanced playmaking skills. The Arizona product is averaging 2.5 assists per game and has had five dimes or more in a game five times. His willingness to share the rock bodes well for the team’s long term development.

For what it’s worth, Ayton also outduelled Doncic in their previous head-to-head matchup on October 17, finishing with 18 points, 10 boards and six assists in a breezy 121-100 win for the Suns.

Mavericks vs Suns October 17th Statistics

Player Points Rebounds Assists
Deandre Ayton 18 10 6
Luka Doncic 10 8 4

Which Rookie Will Rule Them All?

Doncic and Ayton are both putting up gaudy stats, but the difference is that Doncic’s numbers are actually translating into wins. Dallas is 10-9 and in sole possession of the eighth seed in the West, while Phoenix is dead last in the conference at 4-17. The Rookie of the Year often comes from one of the worst teams in the league, but when two players are playing at similar levels voters look for other metrics to separate them. In this case, wins are an easy divider.

Doncic and Ayton are both putting up gaudy stats, but the difference is that Doncic’s numbers are actually translating into wins.

Voters will also invariably look to plus/minus ratings, and once again Doncic comes out on top in that category as well at +0.3 compared to -4.5 for Ayton. You won’t get much value at selecting Doncic at +115, but he remains the clear cut choice for Rookie of the Year honors after the quarter mark of the NBA season.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.