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Ja Morant Now Odds-On -150 Favorite to Win ROY; Zion Slips to +700 as He Remains Sidelined

Sam Cox

by Sam Cox in NBA Basketball

Dec 20, 2019 · 9:16 AM PST

Ja Morant brings ball up court
Ja Morant remains the NBA ROY favorite despite going on the shelf with back spasms. Photo from @chriskern11 (Twitter).
  • Ja Morant in to -150 to win Rookie of the Year
  • Zion Williamson still hasn’t made his NBA debut, and is now +700
  • Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn is second-favorite

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has been leading the Rookie of the Year odds for some time. His price has moved to -150, putting him as the overwhelming favorite to win the award.

Undrafted Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn follows Morant at +500 ahead of Knicks starlet RJ Barrett and first overall pick Zion Williamson, who are both priced at +700.

The Rookie of the Year market appeared to be opening up when Morant went down with an injury. The second overall pick only missed four games, however, and has played in five of the six games since his return (he sat out against the Bucks on the first night of a back-to-back).

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

Player Odds
Ja Morant -150
Kendrick Nunn +500
RJ Barrett +700
Zion Williamson +700
Eric Paschall +1000
Tyler Herro +1200
Rui Hachimura +1600
Brandon Clarke +2000
Coby White +2000

Odds taken Dec. 20th

Williamson’s Timetable

According to Williamson’s initial schedule, he should be making his NBA debut about now. Instead, Pels EVP David Griffin has claimed the former Duke star is a way off his first NBA appearance.

Williamson is apparently putting full weight on his injured knee after suffering a torn lateral meniscus – but the key thing when it comes to the Rookie of the Year is the Pelicans’ situation.

At 7-22, New Orleans have no reason to put him on the court. There’s a chance he sits out the whole year, and returns to fight for Rookie of the Year in 2020-21 as Ben Simmons did after sitting out his rookie year.

There are 50 or so games yet to be played, but it seems unlikely Williamson will be back before the halfway point at the earliest. The Pelicans aren’t going to throw him out there for 40 minutes a night if he does come back this season. They will be ultra-cautious with his workload, and will likely give him plenty of nights off.

The information we have at the moment makes it very hard to see Williamson competing for Rookie of the Year. New Orleans’ hopes of a playoff berth have pretty much vanished; it’s improbable that Williamson will play enough to build a serious Rookie of the Year case.

Watch Out for Nunn

The Miami Heat are second in the Eastern Conference. Kendrick Nunn has played a major role in that, and he’s recently busted out of a rough slump to consolidate himself as secondary favorite in the Rookie of the Year race.

Between November 23rd and December 4th, Nunn had four single-figure scoring games over a seven-game stretch. In the seven games since then, he’s averaged 20.1 points per outing and made 17 of his 43 three-point attempts.

Nunn is 28th of shooting guards in ESPN’s real plus-minus – Morant is 27th among point guards. The Chicago-born guard ranks well defensively, too. He’s best known as a scorer, but Nunn is an asset to his team beyond his finishing and and three-point shooting.

Another injury lay-off for Morant will give Nunn a real chance at the award. For now, though, his +500 price seems fair. He’s playing a major role in the Heat’s success, but consistency will be the key over the rest of the season.

Morant’s to Lose

Morant has shown himself to be the complete package so far. His shooting, which has been a concern, still needs work, but (albeit on a small volume) he’s been efficient, hitting over 44% of his three-point attempts.

Defensively, Morant has been aggressive and used his athleticism and length to generate plenty of steals. It – like many rookie point guards – is a work in progress, but it isn’t enough to derail his Rookie of the Year candidacy.

Nunn and Eric Paschall have been two surprise packages this season. Tyler Herro has been impressive. The top three in this draft were thought to be far clear of the rest. While there’s clearly plenty of rookie talent this year, Williamson’s injury and Barrett playing for the dysfunctional Knicks has made Morant the overwhelming favorite. If healthy, he should win the award comfortably.

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