Dejan Vasiljevic and Josh Giddey fighting over NBL Rookie of the Year award according to NBL’s greatest Andrew Gaze

The NBL’s greatest player Andrew Gaze believes this season’s Rookie of the Year race is a two-way battle, with Sydney Kings sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic leading Adelaide’s NBA-bound star Josh Giddey.

Vasiljevic has been the standout candidate with his 17.87 points per game and potent three-point shooting, but projected first-round NBA draft pick Giddey is surging home with his impressive all-round game in what Gaze believes is one of the best rookie fields in league history.

Josh Giddey has a fight on his hands to be crowned NBL Rookie of the Year. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

“I think it is a pretty even race right now and it is a little too early to call, with DJ maybe just marginally ahead because of the impact he is having with the Kings,” declared Gaze, a two-time NBL champion, a seven-time NBL MVP and the NBL’s Rookie of the Year in 1984.

“But Giddey is right there with him because has been special with the numbers he is putting up.

“I think Giddey and DJ are the leaders right now, but there is still a long way to go in the season and others could step up.

“I don’t think the chasing pack is that far behind that with half a season to go they can’t show that they are worthy of the award.”

Gaze says the NBL is blessed with quality rookies this season, including Melbourne United forward Jack White, Illawarra’s Golden State Warriors draft pick Justinian Jessup and Cairns shooting guard Mojave King.

At the season’s end, each club nominates one player for the rookie award with the head coach, one assistant coach and the team captain then voting in a 3-2-1 format (3 votes being indicative of the most deserving).

Voters are not allowed to vote for players from their own team.

Gaze is happy with the rookie candidates but says 22-year-old American-born Perth import forward John Mooney also deserves to be in the conversation.

Mooney isn’t eligible for rookie status because he is an import whereas last year’s winner – Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball – wasn’t considered an import as he was part of the NBL’s Next Stars program.

NBL great Andrew Gaze insists Perth Wildcats import John Mooney deserves to be in the Rookie of the Year race. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Gaze respects the rules but insists they need to be looked at to consider a worthy rookie recipient in Mooney, who is averaging 17.54 points and 11.77 rebounds for Perth this season.

“The anomaly that I find, and it is just a rule thing, so I’m not being critical, but maybe they need to look at the rules because I don’t understand why John Mooney is not eligible,” he said.

“I understand the rules that he is an import, but he has gone basically the same path as DJ in that he is straight out of college. The only difference is his passport.

“Last year we had LaMelo win, so how can Jessup be eligible and Mooney not?

“To me, there needs to be some refinement with the rules about eligibility.

“Because Mooney is right there when you consider DJ and Josh. You could possibly make the argument that he has his nose in front, but he isn’t eligible.”

NBL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CLASS 2021:

Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)

Dejan Vasiljevic (Sydney Kings)

Jack White (Melbourne United)

Mojave King (Cairns Taipans)

Justinian Jessup (Illawarra Hawks)

Melbourne Tigers legend Andrew Gaze claimed the NBL’s second Rookie of the Year award in 1984. Picture: NewsCorp.Source:Herald Sun

NBL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HONOUR ROLL:

1983: Jamie Kennedy (Canberra Cannons)

1984: Andrew Gaze (Melbourne Tigers)

1985: Mike McKay (Adelaide 36ers)

1986: Steve Lunardon (Nunawading Spectres)

1987: Greg Hubbard (Illawarra Hawks)

1988: Shane Heal (Brisbane Bullets)

1989: Justin Withers (Illawarra Hawks)

1990: Justin Cass (Hobart Tassie Devils)

1991: Andrew Vlahov (Perth Wildcats)

1992: Lachlan Armfield (Canberra Cannons)

1993: Chris Blakemore (Adelaide 36ers)

1994: Sam Mackinnon (South East Melbourne Magic)

1995: John Rillie (Brisbane Bullets)

1996: Scott McGregor (Newcastle Falcons)

1997: Matthew Nielsen (Sydney Kings)

1998: David Smith (North Melbourne Giants)

1998–99: Damien Ryan (Canberra Cannons)

1999–2000: Derek Moore (Sydney Kings)

2000–01: Axel Dench (Wollongong Hawks)

2001–02: Travis Lane (Sydney Kings)

2002–03: Gary Boodnikoff (Sydney Kings)

2003–04: Steven Marković (West Sydney Razorbacks)

2004–05: Brad Newley (Townsville Crocodiles)

2005–06: Mark Worthington (Sydney Kings)

2006–07: Joe Ingles (South Dragons)

Utah Jazz and Boomers star Joe Ingles claimed the NBL Rookie of the Year while playing for the now defunct South Dragons in 2006/2007. Picture: AAP Image/Joe Castro.Source:AAP

2007–08: Nathan Jawai (Cairns Taipans)

2008–09: Aaron Bruce (Adelaide 36ers)

2009–10: Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats)

2010–11: Ben Madgen (Sydney Kings)

2011–12: Anatoly Bose (Sydney Kings)

2012–13: Cameron Gliddon (Cairns Taipans)

2013–14: Tom Jervis (Perth Wildcats)

2014–15: Angus Brandt (Sydney Kings)

2015–16: Nick Kay (Townsville Crocodiles)

2016–17: Anthony Drmic (Adelaide 36ers)

2017–18: Isaac Humphries (Sydney Kings)

2018–19: Harry Froling (Adelaide 36ers)

2019–20: LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks)

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