Why Zion Williamson is Not the Best Bet to Win NBA Rookie of the Year

June 21, 2019 - 1:34 pm

By Eli Hershkovich

With the 2019 NBA Draft concluded, most will have their attention turned towards free agency and title futures. But there’s also value to be had while betting on the Rookie of the Year (ROY) award.

Considering six of the past 10 winners manned the point guard position, it’s clear playmakers possess an advantage because they govern teams’ touches. Among them, ex-76ers lead guard Michael Carter-Williams tallied the longest odds (12-1) en route to winning the 2013-14 ROY honor. Mavericks point guard Luca Doncic is the favorite to take home the prize on Monday, closing as the favorite (+250) at the beginning of the campaign.

Duke-turned-Pelicans forward Zion Williamson opened as the obvious favorite (-450) for next season, but his odds have risen since the draft’s conclusion. Here’s the updated list, as well as a pick and dark horse candidate.

 

Odds:

  • Williamson -150
  • Ja Morant +400
  • RJ Barrett +550
  • Darius Garland 14-1
  • Coby White 20-1
  • Jarrett Culver 20-1
  • DeAndre Hunter 20-1
  • Rui Hachimura 30-1
  • Michael Porter Jr. 33-1
  • Nassir Little 33-1
  • Cam Reddish 33-1
  • Romeo Langford 50-1
  • PJ Washington 50-1
  • Sekou Doumbouya 75-1
  • Jaxson Hayes 75-1
  • Bol Bol 75-1
  • Brandon Clarke 75-1
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker 75-1
  • Goga Bitadze 100-1
  • Kevin Porter Jr. 100-1
  • Tyler Herro 100-1
  • Cameron Johnson 100-1
  • Ty Jerome 100-1
  • Keldon Johnson 100-1

 

The Pick: Morant +400

With ex-Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley shipped off to Utah, Morant will collect plenty of opportunities to produce well-rounded numbers. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound athletic specimen notched the highest assist rate (51.9%) in college basketball last season, and his perimeter game increased 5.6 percentage points (36.6%) as well.

While Knicks wing RJ Barrett will be the trendy play, his game doesn’t translate into a stat-sheet stuffer at the next level.

Morant won’t match his possession rate (36.4%) from his sophomore campaign at Murray State (fourth-highest in the country), but Memphis presents enough scoring around him where he shouldn’t get trapped off the dribble. He finished tied for seventh in fouls drawn per 40 minutes last season.

If free-agent center Jose Valanciunas (15.6 points per game) sticks around, he’ll open up even more room in the lane.

 

Dark Horse: Michael Porter Jr. 33-1

Ben Simmons (+225) and Blake Griffin (+200), respectively, are the latest instances of players who sat out their first NBA campaign before winning ROY. Keep in mind, the then-Missouri freshman was projected to be the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft before suffering a back injury in November 2017 — his first-ever college game.

The 6-foot-10 forward represents a three-level scorer with an established jumper, along with a sound handle in isolation sets. If veteran forward Paul Milsap departs Denver, Porter could showcase his ceiling as a dominant third scorer behind the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. His size should allow him to own the glass, too.