Ja Morant Now Favored to Win 2019-20 ROY Following Zion Injury, Williamson Given +300 odds

Ja Morant
Ja Morant is ushering in a new era of basketball in Memphis. Photo from @NBA (Twitter).
  • Ja Morant becomes new Rookie of the Year favorite at +200
  • Zion Williamson fades to +300 as he will rehav from injury
  • Williamson’s college teammate RJ Barrett at +500 as a member of the Knicks

For the first time since he was taken first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson isn’t the favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year. The latest of Rookie of the Year odds put Ja Morant, the second overall selection, as favorite with Williamson trailing at +300. Morant will be the starting point guard for the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies alongside second-year big man Jaren Jackson Jr.

Along with the move from Morant to the favorite, there was a major shakeup across the board as the fallout from Williamson’s injury continues.

2019-20 Rookie of the Year Odds

Player Odds
Ja Morant (Grizzlies) +200
Zion Williamson (Pelicans) +300
RJ Barrett (Knicks) +500
Rui Hachimura (Wizards) +700
Coby White (Bulls) +900
Tyler Herro (Heat) +1200
Darius Garland (Cavs) +2000
Michael Porter Jr (Nuggets) +2000
De’Andre Hunter (Hawks) +2500
Jarrett Culver (Timberwolves) +2500
Cam Reddish (Hawks) +4000

*Odds taken 10/22/19

Morant’s Opportunity

Williamson starred in pre-season for the Pelicans, shooting over 70% from the field and dominating even the NBA’s best interior defenders. He’s set to miss six to eight weeks after a meniscus tear, however, opening the door for Morant to become Rookie of the Year favorite. Williamson’s former Duke teammate and third overall pick RJ Barrett sits third in the market currently at +500.

A brilliant athlete and excellent passer, Morant was locked in as the second pick in the draft long before Memphis confirmed their selection. Comparisons to Russell Westbrook are frequent, though Morant is a better shooter from beyond the arc than the 2019 version of Westbrook. The combination of playmaking, athleticism and shooting from deep gives Morant an immensely high ceiling. He excels at getting to the rim, too.

Playing on a not good, but not woeful Grizzlies team, Morant doesn’t have the downside of competing to be the focal point of the offense. The team is being rebuilt around him and Jackson. While he’s the centerpiece of the team, Morant also has a solid supporting cast including Jonas Valanciunas and Jae Crowder. There’s the opportunity for Morant to post big numbers.

Williamson’s Return

The talent is there for Morant to storm off into the distance in the Rookie of the Year race. He could have one hand on the award by the time Williamson returns. That’s the other looming uncertainty with this market.

Assuming Williamson is back in a couple of months’ time as expected, we don’t know where the Pelicans will be by then. If the season starts slowly – New Orleans’ early schedule is tough – they could be ultra-cautious with Williamson, eliminating his chance of winning Rookie of the Year.

The possibility of significant rest for Williamson and minutes restrictions is worth acknowledging. It could rule him out of contention.

Of course, if Williamson comes back fully healthy and is able to play the vast majority of remaining games, he could still force himself into the Rookie of the Year race over the final 50 or 60 games of the regular season. The performances in preseason only built on the expectation of a dominant rookie year.

A scenario where Williamson comes back from injury, averages somewhere in the high-teens per game and close to 10 rebounds, while leading the Pelicans on a late-season surge, is conceivable. It isn’t plausible enough to make +300 good value, though.

Porter, Hachimura Present Good Value

Away from the top two, Michael Porter Jr. and Rui Hachimura are the standouts. Porter got plenty of minutes in preseason and could become an integral piece for the Denver Nuggets.

Priced at +2000, the former 14th overall pick will attract some attention to win Rookie of the Year, though there’s a risk he doesn’t get enough time on court to play his way into the conversation. The Nuggets are deep and they will be wary of his workload considering Porter’s injury history.

Hachimura has been a big story during preseason and that will continue once the real games get under way. His hustle makes him good to watch, and his mid-range game is impressive. We saw glimpses of his three-point shot in preseason – how he shoots from deep will go a long way to determining his rookie year. On a poor Wizards team, the Japanese 21-year-old could easily become the second-best player on the roster.

With the opportunity to shine alongside Bradley Beal, Hachimura presents the best value of the top five in the market at +700. Porter, like in the All-Star odds, is an intriguing longshot option who could be a pivotal player for one of the best team’s in the NBA.

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