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Ja Morant Now +200 Favorite for ROY; RJ Barrett Fades to +400

Ja Morant on court
Ja Morant is your new NBA ROY Favorite. Photo from @TheCrossover (Twitter)
  • Current Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant leads all rookies in scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game for Memphis
  • Despite missing the entire season so far with a torn meniscus, New Orleans forward Zion Williamson is still the second in the odds
  • New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett has seen his odds fall back to +400, having been at +300 at the start of the month

The 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year race is shaping up to be one of the most closely contested in recent years, with numerous contenders vying to take home the hardware.

With first-overall draft pick Zion Williamson still out following knee surgery, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, who was taken second back in June, has assumed the top spot in the race, averaging 18.5 points per game.

That fast start to his pro career has seen Morant’s Rookie of the Year odds return to the same +200 level that it was at the start of the month.

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

Player Odds
Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) +200
Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) +250
RJ Barrett (New York Knicks) +400
Tyler Herro (Miami Heat) +800
Kendrick Nunn (Miami Heat) +1000
Coby White (Chicago Bulls) +1200
Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards) +1200
Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies) +1800
Eric Paschall (Golden State Warriors) +2000
PJ Washington (Charlotte Hornets) +2500

Odds taken Nov. 21st.

The Case for Ja Morant

The current rookie leader in both points per game (18.5) and assists per game (6.0), the Memphis Grizzlies guard is certainly making his case to be the standout freshman from the Class of 2019.

The 20-year-old has proven to be a team leader with only 13 games on his professional resume, and while the Grizzlies aren’t exactly setting the world on fire with a 5-9 record, Morant has proven to be a beacon of hope. The Murray State product is shooting 46% from the floor this season, and 41.4% from three-point range. He is second on the team in minutes behind Jae Crowder, averaging 27.8 MPG.

Surprisingly, his three-point percentage is significantly higher than the 34.3% that he averaged over two years in college, so there is likely to be some regression there. But if he continues to get the minutes, Morant will have a great platform to take a significant run at Rookie of the Year honors.

The Case for Zion Williamson

Arguably the most-hyped prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James, fans of both New Orleans and the NBA as a league were dismayed to hear that Zion Williamson would miss the first couple months of the season after having a torn meniscus repaired in his knee.

However, it speaks volumes for his potential at the professional level that Williamson is still the second-favorite to win Rookie of the Year (+250) even though he will miss up to a third of the season.

He certainly gave fans a revealing insight into his talents during the preseason, when he averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in four preseason contests.

But given that the 19-year-old is the future of their franchise, the powers-that-be in New Orleans will likely ease Williamson back into game action. It will be challenging for Zion to get enough time on the floor to earn ROY honors.

The Case for RJ Barrett

There has been no shortage of game action for Williamson’s Duke teammate, however. Canadian forward RJ Barrett leads all rookies at 33.7 minutes per game, which may come as no surprise as he toils for the 4-11 New York Knicks.

However, all those minutes may be taking their toll on Barrett, who has seen both his statistics and his ROY odds (+400) slip of late. After scoring double digits in eight of his first nine games, he has done it just three times in his last seven, which could be a sign of fatigue.

The NBA season is very much a marathon, not a sprint, but with Barrett already trailing Morant, Kendrick Nunn and Eric Paschall in points, Morant in assists, and Brandon Clarke in rebounds, it could prove tough for him to overtake his rivals in the race for ROY.

With a sizeable head start over Williamson, Morant (+200) seems the best bet here.

Pick: Ja Morant (+200)

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