In three of the past four NBA seasons, a player who was drafted No. 1 overall has won the Rookie of the Year award. The New Orleans Hornets’ Anthony Davis is the +160 favorite to join that group this season.
Last season in leading Kentucky to the national title, Davis averaged 14.3 points — on a team with six double-figure scorers — 10.0 rebounds and 4.6 blocks while shooting 64.2 percent from the field.
His block total was a school record and third-best ever for a freshman. He won every national player of the year award, was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player and the Southeastern Conference’s Player, Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year.
Davis became the first Kentucky player and second freshman (Kevin Durant) to be selected The Associated Press’ Player of the Year. No Kentucky player had won the award which started in 1961. Davis averaged the fewest points ever for an AP Player of the Year. The previous mark was held by Patrick Ewing of Georgetown (14.6 ppg) in 1984-85.
Davis was considered the top big man prospect, some say, since Tim Duncan, whose career has turned out pretty well. The Charlotte Bobcats finished last season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history and were desperately hoping to rebuild around Davis. But the Hornets won the NBA draft lottery, with Charlotte dropping to No. 2.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard, the No. 6 pick in the draft, is the +300 second-favorite. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Lillard was considered the top point guard in the draft. Lillard averaged 24.5 points, 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds for Weber State.
He had an outstanding solo workout for the Blazers, who passed up North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes for Lillard, who has been tremendous in offseaon workouts and the preseason. Ironically, the last player drafted No. 6 overall to win the Rookie of the Year award was Portland’s Brandon Roy in 2006-07.
Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Davis’ Kentucky teammate, went No. 2 to Charlotte and is +575 on WagerWeb.com to win ROY honors. He’s followed by Washington’s Bradley Beal (+925), who went No. 3 overall. No player drafted lower than No. 10 has won top rookie honors since the Knicks’ Mark Jackson in 1987-88.