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Top 3 Dark Horse 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year Candidates

The NBA preseason has started and we have started seeing how these rookies have looked so far against NBA competition. It’s easy to put out a prediction and say your rookie of the year candidate is Jalen Green or Cade Cunningham. It’s time we put our focus on some of the dark horse candidates that could potentially make some noise to win the award as well.

Chris Duarte, SF, Indiana Pacers

This is based on opportunity and readiness for the NBA. When scouting prospects for the draft, Chris Duarte consistently was at the top of boards for readiness for the NBA. His basketball IQ and composure for a young player were noticeable and you could see it in the summer league and preseason as well. He averaged an impressive 18.3 PPG in the summer league and has been playing well in the preseason as well for the Pacers.

The Pacers have plenty of injuries at the wing position with T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert to miss the beginning of the season. Chris Duarte will most likely be looked at to start out the season as the starting small forward and will be given plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities and composure with starting minutes. Duarte can create his own shot, make plays for others, and also defend at a high level. Don’t be surprised if Duarte ends up being a top ROTY candidate by the end of the year.

Josh Giddey, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

I don’t know why people are forgetting about Josh Giddey in the ROTY race, but here we are. Giddey will get PLENTY of play time and opportunity to not only score but also make plays for others as the point guard of the future for the Thunder. The Thunder aren’t going to be contending any time soon, but they have their set of young players to build and Giddey is one of the premier ones.

Someone is going to have to score for the Thunder, so why not Giddey. Giddey isn’t necessarily the most consistent shooter, but he’s definitely capable. He’s crafty around the mid range and driving inside and has great vision. If Giddey ends up averaging a clean 16 and 7, I wouldn’t be the most surprised.

Alperen Sengun, C, Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) during the team’s media day in Houston on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

When you think of a Rockets rookie that could win ROTY you don’t think Sengun sadly, but you should start doing so. Sengun is extremely talented on the offensive end and could make a lot of noise. He’s not the greatest defender, but he’s definitely shown he’s capable of improving and able to block shots. Sengun might not start out as the starting center in the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, he will be looked at as the future big for the Rockets.

If Sengun ends up averaging 15 points a game, 9 rebounds a game, and 5 assists a game by the end of the season, it shouldn’t be the biggest shock. He’s got a plethora of moves on the inside, can make the outside shot, and also make plays for others from the big man position.

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