Hear me out, though.
It’s what’s nearly become a yearly tradition, this season’s incoming rookie class has been asked a bunch of things and they’ve answered them incorrectly. Yes, sure, it would be nice to think that Minnesota’s Kris Dunn could be the Rookie of the Year, but there are so many obvious hurdles, it seems nigh impossible. I like Kris Dunn. I think he’s going to have a good year, but he’s not going to start and he’s behind at least Ricky Rubio and possibly Zach LaVine (depending on how Thibodeau thinks about his rotations and who comes off the bench first). Barring injury, he maxes out at about 25 minutes per game. Philadelphia alone has three guys who are better ROY candidates in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.
Basically, I’m Ferris Bueller in this situation and the rookies are Cameron Frye.
But what, really, are we to expect? The Rookie Survey hasn’t picked the correct Rookie of the Year since 2008, when they tapped second overall pick Kevin Durant over Greg Oden. Last year they picked Jahlil Okafor over Karl-Anthony Towns, Jabari Parker over Andrew Wiggins the year before that, and the year before that, C.J. McCollum and Victor Oladipo were first with Michael Carter-Williams receiving as many votes as Anthony Bennett, Ray McCallum and Otto Porter.
This reflects a couple of things.
First, predictions are stupid. There mostly just a chance to remind ourselves that no one knows anything. Often, the player the rookies tapped for ROY ended up injured between the poll and the beginning of the season. In 2009, the rookies picked Blake Griffin, who didn’t play that year. The next year, they picked John Wall over Griffin, when Griffin actually won.
Second, this is a small sample size being asked to make judgments based on ridiculously incomplete data. It’s only 38 players, being asked these questions at a photo shoot. How many times do you think they’ve matched up against Kris Dunn and in what circumstances? AAU tournaments? College games? Summer League? A college game would probably provide the best competitive context, but the game is in many ways an entirely different animal.
Third, these guys are mostly between 18 and 22 years old. I’ve both been and taught this age, and I think anyone who’s been and done the same can tell you they have lots of ideas, but not very many of them are fully contextualized or sufficiently seasoned. It doesn’t mean they’re not right. When I was 18, I was an aspiring musician and thought the pinnacle of musical expression was Jimi Hendrix. I wasn’t exactly wrong about this, if you know what I mean, but I hadn’t yet fully experienced the breadth of what was possible in music. I didn’t know Coltrane or Mozart or Television or Big Star. I knew a lot about the little bit that had come across my path, and I thought that was enough.
The forces that are about to go to work on these guys over the next season are wide-ranging and tremendous. Asking them what this next year or few years is going to result in is a little like asking a bunch of electrons where a few of them will be in an hour. There’s a difficulty of measurement here on the quantum level.
But of course the Rookie Survey isn’t bad or wrong or harmful. It’s just kind of, well, silly. Although their whole lives have been driving toward playing in the NBA, this is kind of the last time they get to be amateur fans like the rest of us, on the outside looking in. They can vote for Kris Dunn for best shooter, or Thon Maker as the best playmaker, or Ben Simmons as the biggest steal in the draft — with the first pick.
Soon enough, this stuff will get incredibly real.