It was a tough decision here between Hakeem Olajuwon and Carmelo Anthony, one with a strong similarity: In any other season, both of them would have taken home Rookie of the Year for their first-season contributions – with ease, too.
They just had the misfortune of sharing rookie seasons with two of the sport’s top GOAT candidates, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Raw numbers-wise, Olajuwon and Anthony both put up strong first-year seasons: Olajuwon averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.7 blocks per contest while Anthony put up 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Team success was also close: Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets went 48-34, losing in the first round of the playoffs; Anthony’s Denver Nuggets went 43-39 and were also eliminated in the first round.
Where Olajuwon dominates is in the advanced metrics, where he beats Anthony in Value Over Replacement Player (3.0 to 1.5), Box Plus/Minus (2.1 to 0.0), Win Shares (10.2 to 6.1) and Player Efficiency Rating (21.1 to 17.6).
That, plus the fact that Olajuwon was an All-Star and 2nd Team All-Defense member in his first season, gives the edge to the Hall-of-Fame big man in this race, though Anthony deserves a ton of credit for posting that type of campaign as a 19-year-old (Olajuwon was 22 his rookie year).