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Ja Morant Remains ROY Favorite Despite Being out Week-to-Week With Back Spasms

Sam Cox

by Sam Cox in NBA Basketball

Dec 2, 2019 · 8:35 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 has been ruled out for the near future and is week-to-week with back spasms
  • The Memphis Grizzlies’ point guard is still Rookie of the Year favorite
  • Injury gives opportunity for other rookies to make case for ROY

Ja Morant’s Rookie of the Year odds have moved to +175 after news broke over the weekend that he is week-to-week with back spasms. The second overall pick, per a Grizzlies announcement, aggravated the back issue against the Utah Jazz that he initially suffered against the Indiana Pacers last Monday.

Morant remains the strong favorite to win Rookie of the Year despite his absence ahead of first overall pick Zion Williamson, who is yet to make his NBA debut.

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

Player Odds
Ja Morant +175
Zion Williamson +200
RJ Barrett +500
Tyler Herro +1200
Coby White +1800
Rui Hachimura +2000
Brandon Clarke +3300
PJ Washington +3300

Odds taken Dec. 2.

Injury Absence

It’s touch and go whether Morant will be back in action before Williamson’s debut for the New Orleans Pelicans. Memphis said “a period of short-term off-loading is needed”, and back spasms can heal relatively quickly, but the Grizzlies are naturally going to be cautious with their prized asset. There’s no reason to rush Morant back, and it’s unlikely we see him take the floor before mid-December.

The most recent update from New Orleans claimed that Williamson’s rehab is on schedule. The first overall pick, if everything goes to plan, will likely make his debut in the next week or two.

There’s a good chance Williamson debuts before Morant returns. Of course, the Pelicans will be equally cautious with Williamson as Memphis will be with Morant, making sure he’s in peak physical condition and likely managing his minutes early on.

Morant Warrants Favorite Status

The NBA ROY debate can shift quickly (just ask Kendrick Nunn and Eric Paschall). Morant’s status as favorite won’t last if he’s injured for a prolonged period, but he deserves it for the moment, such has been the standard of his play to date.

Morant leads all rookies in points per game and assists per game – 18.6 and 6.4 respectively – and has used his athleticism well on defense.

This draft was considered top heavy, and while we’ve seen good play from a number of rookies, Morant has been a cut above the rest to date. Until there’s more news about his injury, he warrants being favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

There has been no settling in period for Morant – he’s taken over the team (29.8% usage rate) and quickly proven himself as the player (alongside Jaren Jackson) that the Grizzlies can build around. His PER is good for 59th in the NBA ahead of Eric Bledsoe and just behind Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

Strong Chasing Pack

Williamson’s injury opened up the Rookie of the Year conversation. Morant’s may well do the same with Nunn, Paschall, RJ Barrett and others looming. It’s been a great start to the season for plenty of rookies, and with neither Morant nor Williamson in action for the next few games, this could be an opportunity for an outsider to really make their case.

Tyler Herro is a name to keep an eye on as Miami rack up wins. He’s been coming off the bench since the fourth game of the season, but the 13th overall pick is still averaging 29.2 minutes per game and getting over 11 field goal attempts per outing. Herro is a deadly shooter, owning a 54.4% effective field goal percentage.

A very different player from Herro, Rui Hachimura might just be the best outsider to back at the moment, however. The Washington Wizards forward scored a career-high 30 points against the Clippers on Sunday – if he can find shoot consistently, he could flourish in Washington’s impressive offense.

Priced at +2000, Hachimura presents good value; he’s got sufficient upside to push himself into contention. Morant is likely the best bet at the moment, however, providing he returns to full fitness in the next fortnight or so.

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