- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
Handicapping any rookie of the year race is a combination of art and science.
Getting it right doesn't always mean identifying the top talent in a draft class. After all, Damon Stoudamire, Emeka Okafor and Tyreke Evans were past recipients of the award. A combination of NBA readiness and opportunity can have a major impact as well.
Take Damian Lillard, last year's unanimous Rookie of the Year. Few people, before the season, picked him to win the award. He was the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA draft, was coming out of Weber State and had the consensus No. 1 player in the draft, Anthony Davis, to contend with.
But had I told you last August that he would lead the NBA in minutes for a lottery team, he would've gotten a lot more votes. While virtually every advanced statistical metric said that Davis had a better season, Lillard's raw numbers were overwhelming.
Who will take home the award in 2014? This year is one of the toughest to predict. There are no clear standouts, and some of the top players in the draft may not even start for their teams. Our ESPN Summer Forecast panel has its prediction. Here's mine …
1. Victor Oladipo | G | Orlando Magic
The case for Oladipo: Oladipo is the perfect storm of a ROY candidate. He can physically play in the NBA from day one -- few athletes have had his combination of strength and athletic ability coming out of college. He also has two skills that should earn him major minutes right away: (1) He plays as hard as anyone in the NBA, and (2) he can immediately be a lockdown defender. With the Magic in full tank mode, the team won't be afraid to throw Oladipo to the wolves right from the start.
1dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann