This 2019 NBA draft class has a lot of potential to be special, and not because of just Zion Williamson. Ja Morant and RJ Barrett also bring a lot of upside to the table, and do not sleep on Coby White in Chicago. You also ave Michael Porter Jr. still listed as a rookie because he did not play last year with the back injury. Could he take the Ben Simmons approach to a Rookie of the Year award? We shall see. Below are a list of FanDuel Sportsbook odds for the Rookie of the Year award.
Looking at last year, Luka Doncic took home the award with Trae Young coming in second for voting. Doncic finished with 98 first place votes. First overall pick, DeAndre Ayton finished third in voting. Is it a coincidence that a guard of some sort has won seven of the last ten years? Maybe, but from 2000-2010 just three guards won the award. We have seen versatile guards win in each of the last three years. Ben Simmons and Malcolm Brogdon were the other two before Doncic. The guard from Slovania posted a 21-7-6 line with 1.1 steals per game. Brogdon averaged 10-2-4, while Simmons averaged 15-8-8. Being able to tack on peripheral stats as a guard is going to help your case.
Brogdon did not have much competition for his line, resulting in one of the more average stat lines to win the award. He was also the second lowest draft pick to win the award. When looking at the historical picks and where they were drafted, the odds of winning and being an outside top ten pick is not ideal. Only six picks outside of the top ten have won the award. 21 winners were drafted first overall, and if you want to bank this for future use, 16 of these winners have also won a league MVP award. Is Zion about to be the next number one overall pick to take home the award? Well, oddsmakers sure think so.
Zion Williamson (+400)
Everything points towards Zion Williamson taking home the Rookie of the Year award next spring. The hype around Williamson has been building for the last year, and the term “generational talent” is quite the description for any one player. The thing is we really haven’t seen a player like Williamson before. He has flashed a lot of next level defense at the college level, and his athleticism gives him an advantage against most positions. He draws some comparisons to Draymond Green on the defensive side. We saw Williamson play against every position at Duke, and he did it well. Obviously this is a different story here in the NBA, but he possesses the IQ and athletic ability to do so. His ability to push in transition and make plays is already at an above average level. He is a high motor player who can work in the post and rebound well.
We saw a Summer League game sell out for Williamson, and the hype is going to be there all year long. He is a human highlight reel, and the attention on him is going to be far higher than any other rookie. This certainly plays a part into the voting. While we’d think that it is all about on the court, there is certainly a narrative built around Williamson that he is the next real thing. It is going to be tough sledding for those trying to derail him from winning Rookie of the Year.
Ja Morant (-139)
Ja Morant comes in as the next favorite to win the award. Morant’s talent is there to be the next top point guard, and overall Memphis’ core of young players is impressive. Morant’s mistakes are likely going to be more present than Williamson’s. His high energy play and decision making will lead to turnovers early on. Morant might take a Trae Young like approach in his first year, where the first half was about growing into the league, and the second half looked like more his potential. The positive for Morant is that usage and offensive production is going to be there in year one. He won’t have to share the scoring spotlight with anyone else. Mike Conley’s usage was at 27% last season. This ranked 30th among qualified players.
Morant averaged 24 points per game last season, on 49% shooting. He also averaged 10.0 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game. Adding in 5.7 boards per game, Morant produced across all categories. Sure he won’t be shooting 49% in his rookie year, but even a 5% drop off still puts him with a good field goal percentage. He also shot 36% from three. Morant has all the tools to be a premier point guard. If Williamson disappoints or gets injured, Morant is my pick to take home the award.
RJ Barrett (+500)
Duke University is putting up two names in the Rookie of the Year award race early. RJ Barrett played alongside Williamson at Duke, and was overshadowed a bit. He averaged 22 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He shot 45% from the field, 30% from three, but 66% from the line. Shooting is going to be sporadic, and that will likely hurt his overall numbers at times. We saw the shooting downside in the summer league already. Efficiency likely isn’t going to be there in year one, but volume will be. I like Barrett going to the Knicks, and his overall mindset can handle the big lights, headlines, and expectations.
Barrett has a lot to work on in year one for both sides of the ball. I think this year is going to be more about those growing pains and working on them. He should see a sizable usage rate, but they still have some decent usage guards and newly acquired Julius Randle to take some of the shine on offense. Barrett is going to be a great player, but he is a tough prospect to see take home this award over the other two in healthy seasons.
Dark Horse: Darius Garland (+6000)
Darius Garland landed in Cleveland, which was somewhat of a surprise due to them already having Collin Sexton. Cleveland has already come out and said the two will start together, although they may stagger them at some point during the season. Because he won’t have as many names around him limiting rookie potential like Coby White and Jarrett Culver, he is an interesting dark horse in this one. With the Cavs letting this play out, it should mean good volume for Garland. He has decent size for the position, and can shoot the ball from long range. It will be interesting to see who runs the offense more, and if Sexton is off the ball, Garland has more assist potential to add to his name.
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