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Zion, Barrett, Edwards Lead Naismith Player of the Year Odds

Purdue guard Carsen Edwards driving to the hoop.
Purdue guard Carsen Edwards is a top-three Naismith favorite after a month of play. Photo by Alexander Jonesi (Wikimedia Commons) [CC License].
  • The early Naismith Player of the Year odds have Duke’s freshman phenoms at the top. 
  • Purdue’s Carsen Edwards rounds out the top-three.
  • Is the betting value on the favorites or players with longer odds?

The first set of Naismith Player of the Year odds have been released at Bovada. Despite having their perfect season spoiled by Gonzaga in Maui, Duke’s two leading scorers — RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson — are at the top of the list, followed by the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, Carsen Edwards of Purdue.

Here’s the full list from Bovada, followed by a breakdown of the best/worst bets.

2018-19 Naismith Player of the Year Odds

Player (Team, Class) AP Poll Team Ranking Odds to win Naismith Player of the Year at  Bovada (Dec. 5) Stats
Zion Williamson (Duke, Fr.) #3 +450 20.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG
RJ Barrett (Duke, Fr.) #3 +550 23.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.0 APG
Carsen Edwards (Purdue, Sr.) Unranked +550 24.4 PPG, 4.0 APG
Dedric Lawson (Kansas, Jr.) #2 +600 19.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.1 APG
Luke Maye (UNC, Sr.) #14 +600 14.0 PPG, 9.4 RPG
Caleb Martin (Nevada, Sr.) #6 +700 19.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.9 APG
Tyus Battle (Syracuse, Jr.) Unranked +1000 17.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG
Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, Jr.) #1 +1500 21.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG
Kyle Guy (Virginia, Jr.) #4 +2000 13.3 PPG, 2.8 APG
Ethan Happ (Wisconsin, Sr.) #12 +2000 17.7 RPG, 10.8 RPG, 5.0 APG
Grant Williams (Tennessee, Jr.) #7 +2000 20.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 4.3 APG
Markus Howard (Marquette, Jr.) Unranked +2500 22.4 PPG, 4.8 APG, 4.6 RPG
Cassius Winston (Michigan St., Jr.) #10 +2500 16.8 PPG, 7.7 APG
Bol Bol (Oregon, Fr.) Unranked +3000 21.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.9 BPG
Mike Daum (South Dakota St., Sr.) Unranked +3000 23.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG
Romeo Langford (Indiana, Fr.) Unranked +3000 17.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG
Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s, Jr.) Unranked +3000 22.4 PPG. 4.6 APG

Zion and Barrett Are Not Good Bets as Freshman

To start with, only two freshmen have ever won this award. They were named Kevin Durant (2007) and Anthony Davis (2012). Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

This year’s freshman class has some great players, obviously headed by Barrett and Williamson, but none of them are the generational talents of Durant and Davis.

Past Naismith Winners

Naismith Winner Year
Jalen Brunson (Villanova, Jr) 2018
Frank Mason (Kansas, Sr.) 2017
Buddy Hield (Oklahoma, Sr.) 2016
Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin, Sr.) 2015
Doug McDermott (Creighton, Sr.) 2014
Trey Burke (Michigan, So.) 2013
Anthony Davis (Kentucky, Fr.) 2012
Jimmer Fredette (BYU, Sr.) 2011
Evan Turner (Ohio St., Jr.) 2010
Blake Griffin (Oklahoma, So.) 2009
Tyler Hansbrough (UNC, Jr.) 2008
Kevin Durant (Texas, Fr.) 2007

If Duke was still undefeated and had a chance to do something historic, there would be more value on Zion and RJ to win this award. As things stand, Duke is going to wind up a really good team with fairly balanced scoring at the top. That’s not a recipe for the Naismith.

Carsen Edwards Won’t Win Because Purdue Isn’t That Good

Purdue has already lost three games and is slotted as a no. 5 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket. The last player to win this award from a team that was a no. 4 seed or worse was Kevin Durant, whose Texas Longhorns were a no. 4 seed in 2007. KD averaged 25.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, and 1.9 BPG as a freshman. Edwards is 1.4 points shy of that and isn’t contributing nearly as much in other areas.

Rui Hachimura and Ethan Happ Are Good Value

Enough of people to fade. Let’s accentuate the positives.

Rui Hachimura is the leading scorer on the top-ranked team in the country, one that has a small but also non-zero chance of going undefeated in the regular season. He’s also grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game and shooting over 60% from the field. If Gonzaga finishes the year no. 1, which they very well might as long as they split their upcoming games with no. 7 Tennessee and no. 14 UNC, Hachimura will get a lot of looks from Naismith voters.

If Gonzaga finishes the year no. 1, … Hachimura will get a lot of looks from Naismith voters.

As for Happ, he’s leading the Badgers back to respectability (and beyond). He leads no. 12 Wisconsin in points, rebounds, and assists, and it’s pretty likely he’ll end the season that way. As long as the 8-1 Badgers earn a top-four seed, Happ will get a similar amount of attention. He is everything to this team, Brad Davison’s charge-taking notwithstanding.

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Sascha was a hockey player in his youth, a lawyer in his capricious mid-20s, and has been SBD's lead oddsmaker/number cruncher since 2014. He writes about everything you can possibly put odds on. He's happiest when those things are football, baseball, hockey and basketball (in that order).