The Rookie of the Year (R.O.Y) award is a prestigious award that lets the league know that a player is the real deal. The award goes to a player with a bright future ahead of them, and that player makes an impact in the league for years to come. 

LeBron James won the award, and now, he’s one of the greatest players to play the game. Players like Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan won the award, and they went on to become Hall of Famers. The Rookie of the Year is a stepping stone for young players, and with so many talented players in the 2021 class, the R.O.Y race is pretty exciting. But who are the standouts? What players are having solid seasons (so far) and are climbing up the R.O.Y ladder? Well, let’s see. 

Here are the top three Rookie of the Year candidates at this point of the season.

1.) Scottie Barnes

Scottie Barnes is a forward for the Toronto Raptors. He was the fourth pick of the 2021 draft, and it’s safe to say that he is exceeding expectations. 

Barnes leads his draft class in scoring with 15.2 points. He also averages 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. 

The young forward came into the league known for his defense. He can defend multiple positions, and playing alongside players like OG Anunoby, the Raptors have the makings of a defensive threat. 

But as Barnes’s stats show, he can contribute on the offensive end as well. 

Barnes has played well this season, and if he stays consistent, he might be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. 

2.) Evan Mobley

Evan Mobley has been impressive. He averages 14.4 points and eight rebounds this season. He also leads the league in contested shots per game

Mobley does it all. He can score, he can pass, and he is an exceptional defender. Like Barnes, he can guard multiple positions and block shots when necessary. 

The young Cleveland Cavaliers forward was arguably the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, but an injury got in his way. He suffered an elbow injury a few weeks ago but returned last Saturday. And, he’s back like he never left. 

Mobley is a special player, and he’ll obviously be a building block towards the Cavs’ future. The Rookie of the Year award would only be the tip of the iceberg for what Mobley can do. And regardless of whether he wins or not, keep an eye on this young player. 

3.) Chris Duarte

Chris Duarte has been a pleasant surprise this season. He was the 13th pick of a talented class, and so far, he’s playing better than most of his peers. 

Duarte is averaging 13.1 points this season, and in his regular season debut, he scored 27 points while shooting 66 percent from 3-point range. 

Duarte is a veteran in a young player’s body. He is the oldest player to be drafted in the first round since 2005 (at 24 years old). He attended two years of junior college at Northwest Florida State and two years at the University of Oregon. At a time where college players are usually “one-and-done,” Duarte remained in school. He is mature, has the experience, and as his season shows, his work has paid off. 

While Duarte has tough competition in Barnes and Mobley, don’t sleep on him. He just might win Rookie of the Year. 

The Rookie of the Year race is heating up, and if these three players play well, it’s up for grabs. 

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