Rookie sensation Zion Williamson, of the New Orleans Pelicans, has been dubbed the best prospect the NBA has seen since LeBron James, and many other hype-based predictions.
Sadly, Zion will not play in the NBA for at least six-to-eight weeks with a torn meniscus. There has been much discussion about how his injury occurred and if the 285-pound body Williamson carries around had anything to do with it. But, that’s a story for another day.
What is interesting is the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in the PA sportsbooks market, as the odds have shifted dramatically with Zion’s injury.
Per DraftKings Sportsbook PA, two charts showing where the odds were before Zion tore his meniscus, and after:
NBA Rookie of the Year Odds
If you want to bet Zion against the field…
Rookie of the Year Odds: Zion vs. Field
A six-to-eight week injury is very significant, especially in the NBA with rookies as teams are very cautious as we have seen with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Michael Porter Jr., and more. As for the Rookie of the Year award, it now becomes much more exciting with many players being able to steal the spotlight. Zion Williamson isn’t as much of a favorite anymore, and the field is currently -165 to win.
Let’s look at some players who could push for the award in 2019-2020.
Players to Watch
Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
Morant was the second overall pick out of Murray State, coming off one of the better college basketball seasons we have seen in quite some time. Last season, Morant averaged 24.5 points per game and 10.0 assists per game, and recorded a massive 17/11/16 triple-double against Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Morant is thought of highly enough by the Grizzlies organization that they traded Mike Conley, handing the keys to the rookie. Memphis is not expected to be a great team this season, but Morant could put up some huge numbers with the rest of the starting lineup being filled by Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jonas Valanciunas. Without other threats to handle the ball or score, Morant will have ample opportunity when on the floor to post numbers.
Expect Morant to be given a plethora of minutes in his rookie campaign, and he is likely to have the highest usage and assist rates among rookies. Morant is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year, given the likelihood of the numbers he will post nightly. Morant is currently +200 to win Rookie of the Year on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Rui Hachimura, F, Washington Wizards
The longshot to win Rookie of the Year is Rui Hachimura, an “older” rookie out of Gonzaga. He is currently +1600 to win the award, after being +3300 before the Zion Williamson injury.
Hachimura plays on a Wizards team that, like Morant, will afford him ample opportunity to post volume stats. The Wizards are led by Ish Smith, Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, and a slew of others to play with Hachimura. He will likely start at power forward and play as a stretch four, accruing points, rebounds, and likely some stats in transition.
Morant is certainly better-suited to win the award, but a player that will get a ton of minutes on a team without much statistical competition, 16-1 is a bargain bet.
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