Indiana Pacers: Gauging Chris Duarte’s shot at winning Rookie of the Year

Indiana Pacers, Chris Duarte - Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Chris Duarte - Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite flying under the radar in the NBA Draft, Chris Duarte, the Indiana Pacers’ lottery pick, has been been one of the most upstart rookies in the early going. As a result, it’s not a surprise to see his name as a constant in many outlets’ Rookie of the Year forecasts.

Thrust to a bigger role right from the get-go by the Pacers in light of their absent key players, Duarte has not disappointed, averaging 16.1 points (second among all rookies), 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game on impressive 44.3/42.4/92.3 shooting splits. Also, he easily leads all freshmen in three-pointers made, sinking 25 triples through ten games.

For many, Duarte is one of the frontrunners for the ROY hardware. However, with his deep rookie class filled with other talented prospects, how much of a shot does he have to ultimately run away with the trophy at the end of the season?

Will the Indiana Pacers’ Chris Duarte get serious consideration for Rookie of the Year?

Currently, arguably three players have a serious shot at nabbing the Rookie of the Year Award: Duarte, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, and Cleveland’s Evan Mobley. All three freshmen have stood out among their peers at this juncture.

Barnes, the leading scorer (at 17.6 per game) and rebounder (at 8.9 per outing) among all rookies, is perhaps the current favorite for ROY. Not only is his offensive game and defensive aptitude a cut above the rest, but he is one of the pillars for the Raptors’ great start to the season, with Toronto boasting a winning record in the present. He is also in a statistical tie with Duarte for the highest plus/minus rating in the 2021 draft class.

Meanwhile, Mobley has been hands-down the best defender among all rookies, already serving as one of the anchors for the Cavaliers in their wildly successful start to their campaign. While Cleveland will almost certainly slow down, probably through sheer principle (rebuilding) for the most part, his statistical output is sure to improve as the season progresses.

Aside from those three, Chris Duarte also have other competitors lurking to be in the conversation. Orlando’s Franz Wagner has just been as good as advertised, flashing great skills as an all-around forward. Houston’s Jalen Green has been showing signs of his explosive scoring acumen. Detroit’s Cade Cunningham, the undisputed first pick in the draft, has been struggling since setting foot on the hardwood, but will certainly live up to the hype sooner than later with his talent. Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey, Sacramento’s Davion Mitchell, and Orlando’s Jalen Suggs are no slouches, either.

Truth be told, I don’t think that most voters will opt for Chris Duarte to win Rookie of the Year as things currently shape up, especially with the Indiana Pacers touting a mediocre record. Alas, his role may even diminish a bit as the team regains healthy bodies. However, he’s certainly a lock for the All-Rookie teams, and if the Blue and Gold turns their campaign around, look for Duarte to have a more solid argument for Rookie of the Year.

Nevertheless, if I have to leave the a game’s fate in the hands of a rookie, Chris Duarte, take the wheel.

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