When the NCAA season began last year, Zion Williamson was considered the favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors this season in the NBA. When his college career ended, and he was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans with the No. 1 pick in the draft, he was considered a lock to win Rookie of the Year honors.
But then he missed the first half of the season with an injury.
While he was out, another of the talented members of the current rookie class, Ja Morant, played very well—and became the new favorite.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Rockets, he was averaging 17.6 points a game (best amongst rookies), 3.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists (also the best amongst rookies). His efficiency rating of 17.6 is also a rookie-best this season.
Morant has turned the Grizzlies into a potential playoff team this season. They will not make it past the first round if they do get in, but this year’s squad is almost unrecognizable from last season’s dreadful team. While Morant isn’t the sole reason for the turnaround, he is a large part of it.
If he is named the Rookie of the Year, it will not come as a surprise to anyone. He has earned the honor. Barring a meltdown down the stretch, he should run away with it—unless Zion Williamson steals it from him.
Many oddsmakers are not even offering odds on Rookie of the Year anymore. BetMGM is one of the few but in a limited capacity:
Who Will Be The 2019/2020 Rookie Of The Year Odds?
- Ja Morant -400
- Zion Williamson +300
- K. Nunn +2200
- RJ Barrett +2800
- M Porter Jr. +4000
- R. Hachimura +4000
- T. Herro +4000
- C. White +6000
- B. Clarke +6000
According to those odds, Williamson still has a 25 percent chance of winning ROY honors, but Morant has an 80 percent chance.
That seems pretty generous for a guy who will not even play half of the season and has only played in 13 games—but they have been 13 very impressive games. He has scored at least 20 points in his last nine and in 11 of those 13 (average of 23.3/game). He is hitting the boards pretty well (7.1/game) and has a ridiculous PIE of 14.6 (Morant’s is 13.0).
Had Williamson played the entire season, there is no doubt that his numbers would blow every other Rookie out of the water. There wouldn’t even be a discussion; he would be the Rookie of the Year. But he will appear in less than 40 games this year while Morant is going to play in 70+ barring an injury.
Should Williamson win it if he can keep up his current pace even though he will have played in roughly half as many games as Morant? The answer to that is easy—no. But there is an upside to Williamson losing this year.
When he plays as well or better next season in 60+ games, he will still be eligible for Rookie of the Year honors since he will not play in over half the Pelicans games this season.