The 2015-16 Rookie of the Year race is the most entertaining in years

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The 2015/16 NBA season has thrown up one of the most intriguing Rookie of the Year battles in recent memory with a number of first-years enjoying impressive debut seasons in the league.

The winners of the award in the last few years; Andrew Wiggins, Michael Carter-Williams, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, all won rather unanimously. That may not be the case this time around.

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, has taken the NBA by storm both on and off the court. It's fair to say the Latvian has received the most publicity among all rookies in the league whilst others have quietly been going about their business under the radar.

The first name that immediately comes to mind is number one draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On Tuesday, the 7-foot big man claimed his third consecutive Rookie of the Month award. In January, Towns led all qualified rookies in rebounding (10.9 rpg), blocked shots (1.63 bpg) and free throw percentage (87.2%), while ranking second in minutes played (31.2 mpg) and third in scoring (16.9 ppg) and field goal percentage (53.5%).

Overall this season, Towns is averaging an impressive 16.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The 20-year-old also has 27 double-doubles, the most among all rookies.

Playing in one of the NBA's smaller markets and representing a team with a 14-36 record, Towns hasn't generated much attention in the media, but he is surely the favourite to be crowned Rookie of the Year.

As well as Towns, another guy putting up strong numbers in his debut season is Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor.

Despite playing for the team in the NBA with the worst record, Okafor has put up some strong numbers. The 20-year-old is averaging 17.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game and has been one positive in a rather forgettable season for the franchise.

Ish Smith's arrival in Philly has only improved the rookie's game and the 76ers are showing signs they have finally turned a corner after their awful start.  

Rookies are drafted by the league's poorer teams, so a losing record really shouldn't come into question when voting for the Rookie of the Year. But unlike Towns and Okafor, Porzingis has the advantage of playing in the second largest market in the NBA and the widespread media attention that comes with that.

An honourable mention must also go to Miami Heat rookie Justise Winslow, who, despite not lighting up the NBA with his offensive stats, has been making a name for himself as a lockdown defender.

Winslow's production and influence on the defensive end of the floor isn't reflected in the box score on a nightly basis but, in a short space of time, Winslow has become the Heat's best perimeter defender and is often tasked with guarding the opposition's top scorer. 

Although he doesn't start, Winslow routinely closes out games and has played more fourth quarter minutes than any other rookie.

At just 19, Winslow will undoubtedly improve his offensive game, but the man who was described by many experts as one of the steals of the draft is certainly making an impact in South Beach.

Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has also had a steady first season in the NBA. The team were happy to trade long-time point guard Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets last summer as they had confidence in their rookie to assume the position.

The 19-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo is averaging 11.1 points, 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds in his first season and is part of a young, rebuilding Nuggets team who have an outside chance of securing the eighth spot in the Western Conference and a place in the playoffs.

Mudiay's season hasn't been plain sailing, though, as he has endured ups and downs, particularly shooting and turning the ball over.

The youngster plays in one of the toughest positions in the league and it has definitely been a learning curve for him playing against some of the best players in the league in that position.

Other rookies who deserve recognition include Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers and D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers who have all contributed to a strong rookie class.

Who will be the 2016 Rookie of the Year? Leave your comments below

Minnesota Timberwolves
Northwest Division
Western Conference
Karl-Anthony Towns
Emmanuel Mudiay
Denver Nuggets
Philadelphia 76ers
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Kristaps Porzingis
New York Knicks
Justise Winslow
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Jahlil Okafor

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