As of now, consider Evan Mobley the favorite to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
Mobley, the No. 3 overall pick out of USC, has been one of Cleveland’s best and most important players from the beginning of the 2021-22 season. On defensive, he’s arguably been an all-defense level player from the get go, often shutting down guards on switches, blocking and contesting shots at the rim and, in concert with Jarrett Allen, forming the backline of Cleveland’s defense.
For the year, Cleveland has a top-five defense, per nba.com/stats, That’s would not be the case without Mobley. That’s a big, big reason why he’s a favorite for Rookie of the Year right now at -330 per DraftKings. The Cavs’ turnaround this year, in large part fueled by their defense, also is part of Mobley’s case. With a few games to go, the Cavs have already secured their first .500 or better record since the 2017-18 season. Again: This is not happening without Mobley.
Interestingly, Mobley is a listed betting option for Defensive Player of the Year too. He is a long shot to win the award at +10,000, but even being listed among the top candidates as a rookie is an accomplishment.
Now, the Rookie of the Year race isn’t entirely over. Mobley is the betting favorite, but Toronto’s Scottie Barnes has also been impressive for most of this season and has the second-best odds at +225. After Barnes, the odds have a big drop off to Detroit’s Cade Cunningham (+700), Orlando’s Franz Wagner (+10,000) and Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey (+10,000). It would seem that, as of right now, Mobley is the favorite with only Barnes and Cunningham have realistic shots at winning if Mobley doesn’t.
What is worth watching is how the end of the season impacts the Rookie of the Year race. Mobley is currently out with an ankle injury and it’s unclear when he’ll be back. At the same time, the Cavs have fallen out of the Eastern Conference’s top-six and are mostly likely going to have to secure a playoff spot via the play-in tournament. Barnes and the Raptors, meanwhile, will likely make the playoffs outright. Mobley’s availability in the season’s final stretch and the Cavs’ final spot in the standings could ultimately have some affect on Rookie of the Year and his current status as the frontrunnr for the award.