Published on January 7th, 2020 | by Landon Buford0
NBA Rookie of the Year Odds Strongly Favor Grizzlies’ Ja Morant
When the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year odds first opened, sportsbooks saw the competition as a one-horse race. Zion Williamson, the #1 overall pick of the New Orleans Pelicans, was a runaway favorite after dominating college basketball in his only season at Duke.
But a knee injury to Zion lowered the drawbridge to the Rookie of the Year castle, and one player has brazenly strode through the gates.
Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, taken #2 overall in the 2019 draft, has become a -250 favorite. Not only does Morant lead all rookies in scoring at 17.6 points per game, the Murray State product also leads all rookies in assists, dishing out 6.6 dimes per game.
Morant is so far ahead of the field when it comes to the Rookie of the Year race that the second-favorite is still Zion Williamson (+200), who has played exactly zero games through the first half of the season.
There have been other solid rookie performances around the league. Undrafted Kendrick Nunn (15.4 PPG, 3.7 APG) has played a big role in Miami’s surprisingly strong start. His Heat are 26-10, sitting third in the Eastern Conference.
Eric Paschall (14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG) has been one of the lone bright spots in a lost season for the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors (9-29), while Rui Hachimura (13.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG) is playing a major role for the rebuilding Washington Wizards, keeping them team in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the East.
But the other first-year players pale in comparison to Morant. An electric scorer in college, he’s been more efficient than many expected, shooting over 40% from beyond the arc, while still facilitating for his teammates.
Team success doesn’t generally factor too heavily into Rookie of the Year voting in the NBA. But that’s another factor that could wind up boosting Morant’s resume at the end of the year. Memphis was projected to win about 28 or 29 games this season by oddsmakers. They are currently on pace for about 34 wins and are just one game back of the final playoff spot in the top-heavy Western Conference.
Barring injury, or an otherworldly second half of the season from Zion, Morant will have some new hardware on his mantle come June.Tweet