The Pacers may have dropped to 1-3 on the season in their 119-109 loss Monday night to the Milwaukee Bucks, but rookie Chris Duarte continued to assert himself, pouring in another 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field and adding five boards.
Duarte, the team’s first round pick in the 2021 NBA draft, may be old for an NBA rookie — he’s 24, having come to the game late after spending his childhood in the Dominican Republic — but he has been filling in more than admirably for the injured Caris LeVert. As a result, he’s seen his Rookie of the Year odds get shorter than Spud Webb playing limbo.
And his shrinking odds are well deserved — did you happen to catch him juke and jive Giannis Antetokounmpo out of his Nikes Monday night?
The Pacers haven’t had anyone that can create space like this consistently against an average defender for the last couple years and Chris Duarte is doing this to a DPOY. pic.twitter.com/uLuNxLf0p4
— iPacers.com (@iPacersblog) October 26, 2021
Of course, the question remains: When LeVert — and T.J. Warren — come back, will there still be enough space on the floor for Duarte? At +800, betting on it may not be worth the gamble. But at +4000 …
So who is Duarte up against? Right now, the ROY favorite is Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green, who can be had at +350 at Caesars, though again, PointsBet is quite an outlier, listing him at +200.
Top overall NBA draft pick Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons, the preseason ROY favorite, has yet to suit up this year due to a sprained ankle. He’s currently the second favorite at +450 on PointsBet. But again, the discrepancy in prices is astounding — he’s at +250 on PointsBet.
After that, the pricing becomes an even bigger mess. Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors can be had for as little as +550 at BetMGM to as much as +1200 on PointsBet and Caesars. Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley ranges from as little as +700 on BetRivers to as much as +1200 on PointsBet. Jalen Suggs, the Orlando Magic guard? Try +700 at Caesars all the way to +1200 on PointsBet.
It hardly takes a math whiz to see the Rookie of the Year race is a little wide open at this early juncture of the season. And while it certainly isn’t Duarte’s to lose, he is quickly making a case as the most NBA-ready of the rookies. Maybe ROY is underselling it, even …
"MVP" chants for Chris Duarte from the section next to me as he sinks the free throws that iced the game.
— Tony East (@TEastNBA) October 24, 2021
Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY