Hot Start For Chris Duarte Throws Him Into Rookie Of The Year Race

Instead of a scoring spark off the bench, the Pacers' No. 1 pick has been excelling as a starter
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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.

After starting the season as a +3500 longshot on DraftKings, he’s all the way down to +800 on BetRivers — though at the time of this writing, he’s inexplicably +4000 at both PointsBet and Caesars.

And his shrinking odds are well deserved — did you happen to catch him juke and jive Giannis Antetokounmpo out of his Nikes Monday night?

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 …

Other contenders

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 …

Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY

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