Why Brandon Miller is the best bet to win the 2023-24 NBA Rookie of the Year award

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Brandon Miller is the best bet to win 2023-24 NBA Rookie of the Year

Given the hype surrounding Victor Wembanyama heading into the 2023 NBA Draft, it isn’t that surprising that the San Antonio Spurs big man is a -225 favorite to win Rookie of the Year. People are expecting Wembanyama to be a borderline All-Star right from the jump, and it’s hard to blame them considering he stands at 7-foot-4 with an 8-foot wingspan and has legitimate perimeter skills. Wembanyama also plays both ends of the floor at a high level, and there’s really no denying that he’ll one day be a two-way terror in this league — one that fully lives up to the hype. However, I’m not sure he deserves to be this big of a favorite to be the top rookie in this class.

 

Wembanyama’s jumper should be a weapon for him in the future, but the big man shot just 27.3% from deep in the Jeep Elite league last season. He has now shot under 30.0% from 3 in each of his four seasons as a professional basketball player. With that in mind, he might not space the floor the way people expect — at least not immediately. If that jumper isn’t working for Wembanyama, it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to struggle a bit with his efficiency as a scorer. Wembanyama is going to get pushed around inside the 3-point line, and I think he’s going to be in for a bit of a rude awakening in his first year as far as shooting percentages go.

Where I do expect an immediate impact from Wembanyama is on the defensive end. He’s a flat-out special defender right now, and his combination of size and instincts should stand out in a big way. But Rookie of the Year awards don’t always go to the guy that is impacting winning the most. This is an award that tends to go to offensive-minded players, which is why we have seen guys like Paolo Banchero, LaMelo Ball and Ja Morant winning three of the last four awards. So, I do see some value in going away from the chalk when betting this market. That’s why I love Brandon Miller as a +950 play to win at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Scoot Henderson is probably the most NBA-ready prospect in this class, but the fact that he could be playing with Damian Lillard will make it hard on him to showcase his abilities. Both of those guys are ball-dominant guards, and I just don’t think Henderson will be able to truly cook until Lillard is playing elsewhere. But there’s nobody standing in the way of Miller doing what he does best, which is scoring the basketball from the wing. The Hornets should have at least 30 minutes per game for Miller right away, and I think that will give him a chance to lead all rookies in scoring.

Last season, Miller averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Miller ended up being the SEC Player of the Year and was also a second-team All-American. The biggest weapon for Miller is his jumper as a 6-foot-9 wing with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. Miller shot 38.4% from deep on 7.5 attempts per game as a freshman, and he did so while being the focus of opposing defenses. But in the NBA, Miller won’t have as many eyes on him. Ball is the guy that defenses will need to worry most about in Charlotte, and that should open some great opportunities for Miller.

Miller scored 1.19 points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations at Alabama, according to Synergy Sports. That put him in the 84th percentile in all of college basketball, and that suggests he is an elite spot-up shooter. That should do wonders for him right away in the pros, as there will be good looks to go around in this offense. And he has the size to shoot over smaller defenders anyway.

Miller was also in the 82nd percentile as a transition scorer as a freshman at Alabama, which is yet another thing that should allow him to impact games right away. Ball likes to push the pace and set up easy scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Miller will be one of the main beneficiaries of that style of play. And I also think there will be opportunities for Miller to serve as a screener for Ball, setting up clean looks as a pick-and-pop option in the offense.

Some of the things that Miller struggled with in college were finishing around the rim and scoring in isolation. I think he’ll eventually figure out how to do both of those things at an above-average level. He has a nice handle for a guy his size and improved as an on-ball creator throughout his freshman year. But Miller can be a weapon offensively by just knocking down shots and running the floor. That’s an easy way for him to quietly score a good number of points, and then he’s a few self-creation buckets away from flirting with 18 points a night. When you combine that with his ability to impact the defensive end of the floor — he’s a guy that can defend multiple positions thanks to his length — I think he’s being a bit undervalued as a serious threat to win Rookie of the Year.

Wembanyama and Henderson will probably be the two best players in this class when all is said and done, and Amen and Ausar Thompson also have the potential to be better players than Miller. But I’m not sure any rookie is set up as nicely as Miller to succeed right away. That includes Oklahoma City Thunder big man Chet Holmgren, who is a second-year player but is eligible to win this award after missing his rookie season. I think the Thunder will be very cautious with his minutes in order to keep him healthy.

Miller’s job will be to go out and make shots and I think he can do so in bunches playing off Ball, who is one of the best playmaking guards in the entire league. If he does his part as a scorer, Miller will naturally become a fan favorite and that will make him a big part of the conversation for this award. At his odds, you can’t really beat that.