Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans is making his case for Rookie of the Year, but does he have enough time to catch Ja Morant?
On February 13th, NBA.com released its most recent update to the 2019-2020 rookie ladder, and once again, Zion Williamson found himself behind Ja Morant in second place. Zion entered the All-Star break off a career-high scoring performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which he put up 32 points.
Game after game, Zion displays improvement, and he is finally looking like the once-in-a-decade talent that the Pelicans invested in with the first pick of the 2019 draft. Why is he stuck on the second rung of the rookie ladder?
Averaging 17.6 points and 7.1 assists in 48 games played, Morant has made his case for Rookie of the Year since the beginning of the season. And ever since Zion’s debut, Morant has ticked those numbers up to 18.2 points and 7.5 assists per game.
Zion, on the other hand, has averaged 22.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game since returning from his early-season knee injury. Does he have enough time remaining to sneak up on Morant and overtake his top spot on the Rookie Ladder?
Let’s check the stats. Over the last five games, Zion has averaged 26 points per game; over the previous three games, that number jumps to 31.5 points per game. If he can continue scoring through the roof as he has been lately, there should be no argument against him for Rookie of the Year, but the standings will also play a role.
The award is Morant’s to lose and Zion’s to steal: if Morant can average nearly 20 points and eight assists a night for the rest of the season, and the Grizzlies make the playoffs, then he’ll have Rookie of the Year in the bag.
If the Pelicans can swoop in and steal the eighth seed from the Grizzlies with the help of high production from Williamson, Zion comes away with Rookie of the Year. Considering Memphis has the toughest remaining schedule, and New Orleans has the weakest, don’t count Williamson out of the race just yet.
Zion’s Rookie of the Year odds shorten each week
Williamson’s Rookie of the Year odds peaked last summer around -200, then ballooned to a high of +800 in January of this year. Now, they sit around +290, and you should expect his odds to continue to drop over the remainder of the season.
The deficit he needs to overcome? Morant is currently at -375, his best odds yet.
Zion’s next chance to light up the stat sheet will be Feb. 21, versus the Portland Trail Blazers, a matchup with important playoff implications as Portland is currently ninth in the Western Conference.
Make sure you get your popcorn ready: Zion took Portland to school just a week ago with 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes. He had the highest +/- on the court of +25.
The game will be nationally televised on ESPN, with tip-off at 9:30pm Eastern. Check back each week for updated information and odds on Zion’s Rookie of the Year chances.