The race for NBA Rookie of the Year is close

March 15, 2019

The NBA’s Rookie of the Year race has not been won just yet. For the first half of the lengthy 82-game season, most believed that Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks’ small forward, would handily beat out his competition and receive these honors at the end of his first season in the NBA. The Slovenian-born basketball player was a star for Real Madrid, a club team operating out of Spain and competing in the EuroLeague, before being the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, as noted by ESPN. He was originally selected by the Atlanta Hawks, but was ultimately traded to the Mavericks for Young, who was selected at number five, in addition to a 2019 first-round draft pick. Little did he know that Young would ultimately become his greatest competition in regards to this accolade.

Despite Doncic’s impressive statistics that he has maintained for the majority of the season—averaging over 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists per game according to ESPN—Young has made a recent push to give Doncic a run for his money. The Norman, Oklahoma native was a huge hometown success, choosing to continue his college career just down the street from where he grew up despite having hot offers from big-time men’s basketball programs like the University of Kentucky and the University of Kansas. Instead, Young became a household name during his one-year stint as the starting point guard for the University of Oklahoma, playing under famed head coach Lon Kruger. According to Sports Illustrated, Young became the first player in NCAA history to lead the league in both points scored (29) and assists per game (9) during his time with the Sooners, while also tying the league’s record for most assists in a single contest, pouring in 22 during a game against Northwestern State. Such remarkable stat lines do not always translate once players make their transition from college basketball to the big stage, but Young has proven to be one of the league’s most promising rising stars.

Since the All-Star break has concluded, Young has put on quite a show, hitting three pointers from well beyond the arc and fooling his defenders with a variety of moves that wreak havoc on his opponents. ESPN reports that over the past 10 games, Young has scored 27 points, distributed nine assists, and brought in five rebounds per game for the Hawks. Most recently against the Chicago Bulls, Young made a statement to the rest of the NBA, scoring a career-high of 49 points on 17-33 shots taken from the field, including six made threes. It is games like these that prove to NBA analysts and fans alike that there is not only one rookie who might be deserving of this recognition, but rather that the race is far from over.

Although Young’s recent resurgence seems promising, it is just too soon to conclude in whose hands this award will ultimately fall. The two young men play at different positions and have very distinct roles on their respective teams, making it difficult to quantify who has been the better performer over the course of the season. Will Young be able to stun the league with continued impressive performances, or will Doncic’s consistency ultimately prevail? Only time will be able to tell.

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