- With Zion Williamson expected to make his NBA debut in January, his odds to win Rookie of the Year are set at +800
- He trails only the odds-on favorite, Memphis’ Ja Morant (-250)
- Williamson will have approximately half a season to make his case for the award
With #1-overall pick Zion Williamson set to make his debut by the end of January, his Rookie of the Year odds are now at +800, putting him second behind Ja Morant, who is the odds-on favorite at -250.
The Pelicans forward has been out since the preseason, but with an electric second half of the season, as well as a dip in production from Morant, Zion could still sneak up and steal the award.
2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds
Odds taken Jan 2.
Williamson suffered a torn meniscus during the preseason, which has kept him out of action so far this year. However, according to Stadium, both sides now hope to see him make his regular-season NBA debut some time in January.
On Thursday, the Pelicans forward reportedly went through his first full practice since the knee injury, which only increases the likelihood that on-court action is imminent for Zion.
“I’m told both sides are hopeful of a January season debut for (Zion) Williamson.”
— Stadium (@Stadium) December 31, 2019
Can Zion Do Enough in Limited Time?
The two biggest obstacles between Williamson and the award are Morant, and the limited sample size that Zion has to catch the Grizzlies guard.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Zion’s small preseason glimpse was historic. Before him, no rookie had ever averaged over 20 points per night in the preseason. Additionally, his true shooting percentage of 73.7% was the highest seen from a rookie in a long time as well.
Among rookies, Williamson was first in traditional shooting percentage for players who took more than 10 shots per game (71.4%). He also finished 2nd in points per game among rookies (23.2), as well as 7th in rebounds per game (6.5).
He has half the time to make an impression of Rookie of the Year voters as Morant, but the numbers suggest that Zion will certainly be in the hunt.
Will New Orleans’ Caution Cost Him?
With every game that passes without Zion’s return, the harder it will be for him to grab the award. Prior to the year, it was his award to lose. Now, Morant is in the driver’s seat, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
The initial prognosis was that Williamson would miss 6-8 weeks after his injury. The high end of that prediction was blown past weeks ago, but New Orleans remains cautious. Williamson is their future, and potentially competing for the 8th seed in the playoffs is now essentially off the table.
As the odds show, Morant is now a heavy favorite to take home the award, and that margin only continues to grow. The caution displayed by New Orleans has significantly hurt the chances of Zion taking home the award, but their eyes are on a much more important trophy in the coming years.
Can Anyone Take the Award Away From Morant?
It may feel as though Morant is running away with the Rookie of the Year, but aside from Zion, two players have kept themselves within striking distance with impressive rookie campaigns.
The one who has truly exploded has been Kendrick Nunn. He’s right behind Morant, ranking 2nd among rookies in both points per game (16.0) and assists per game (3.5). The Heat guard has not only been a solid player, but he’s announced his presence with several highlight moments already in his young career.
He even opened his career by being named the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month.
RJ Barrett is having a strong year as well, and he’s contributing in every phase of the game. Among rookies, he ranks 6th in points per game (13.5), 5th in assists (2.7), and 4th in rebounds (5.2)
Both have +850 odds to steal the award, which is a nice value for two players who have established themselves in the first half of the season.
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