What, if anything, can Zion Williamson do to overtake Ja Morant for the 2020 Rookie of the Year Award?
Kevin: He needs to stay healthy and bump Memphis out of the playoffs.
Morant had a tremendous lead on Williamson, but with Zion proving that the preseason wasn’t just a hot single — he’s delivering banger after banger — he’s gaining ground like Mr. Fantastic at the porn theater. With Zion’s incredible brute strength, his second jump (don’t know if you guys noticed all the guys that noticed this) and his will on the offensive glass, I can’t see any dip in his numbers or the efficiency of those numbers.
It’ll come down to games played and team success. I believe voters will ignore the games missed if the Pelicans can make the playoffs, but it’s hard to see them not going with Ja and his highlight reel if the Grizzlies hang onto the 8th seed.
Chris: If Zion can continue or surpass the production he’s putting out currently, he’ll already have an argument in my opinion. But to win? It’s going to take much more than numbers; the Pelicans will need to pass the Grizzlies in the standings and secure a playoff spot with Zion playing a crucial part.
If Zion is putting together highlight reels, statistical showcases, while helping overcome a 5.5 game deficit, I have a hard time seeing voters shunning Williamson — no matter how many games he’s played.
Jamile: Honestly, we can most likely put the ROTY conversation to bed. Zion has probably already missed too much time to catch Ja Morant; however, there is a narrow chance.
To grab the award, Zion would have to put up huge numbers while leading the Pelicans on a big winning streak to overtake the Grizzlies for the 8th and final spot in the playoffs. Morant would also likely have to go into a bit slump. If all that happens, I could see Zion eking out a narrow victory.
However, Williamson putting up MVP level numbers — something like 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one block — might raise the eyebrows of enough voters to get Zion across the ROTY finish line. At this point, it’s highly improbable but not impossible. Morant has, after all, been playing since the first game of the regular season so perhaps he hits that dreaded rookie wall?
Regardless, the most important part of Zion’s case will be his perceived impact on winning for the Pelicans. If New Orleans gets into the playoffs, Williamson’s chances of winning ROTY go up exponentially.
David Fisher: Go back in time and not get injured? We shouldn’t be prisoners of the moment here. The Rookie of the Year is for the whole season and Ja is likely to play 70+ games. Availability matters, and while Zion has been incredible, Ja has been very, very good over a very large sample.
The ROY doesn’t go to the best rookie or the rookie with the highest ceiling. It goes to the rookie with the best rookie season. That’s Ja Morant — unless Zion averages 30 a night for the rest of the year and leads New Orleans to some incredible 22-5 like finish.
David Grubb: I don’t see how it could be possible for Zion to overtake Ja Morant without the Pelicans making the playoffs. Remember that this team had already started to turn things around before he joined the active roster and is just 5-5 with Williamson in the lineup. If he plays the maximum of 37 games this season, the only thing that could sway voters is a postseason appearance. Morant has already proven to be a difference maker in the win-loss columns, Williamson has to prove that he can be the same.
Zachary: It’s the easy answer, but Zion will have to get New Orleans into the postseason for people to seriously think about giving Rookie of the Year to him instead of Ja. Frankly, I’m not too concerned if Zion gets a pretty meaningless regular season award. You won’t hang a banner in the Smoothie King Center because Zion won Rookie of the Year, you’ll hang banners for championships. That’s what I’m after; and that’s what Zion can bring to New Orleans.
Oleh: Joel Embiid put up averages of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his rookie season with Philly, but he finished third in the 2017 ROY race because he only appeared in 31 games. Malcolm Brogdon, who played in 75 games, walked away with that trophy despite meager averages of 10.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.2 rebounds.
In my opinion, there exists only one possible scenario for Zion Williamson to leapfrog Ja Morant: Put up noticeably better numbers here on out and get the Pelicans into the playoffs at the Grizzlies expense. If there’s one thing we’ve learned after just 10 games, Zion is an incredibly special talent so maybe he’ll find a way to convince voters.
Travis: So, if the Pelicans make the playoffs and Zion is just as good (at least offensively) as he has been so far, there’s a slim shot. I think it’ll take either a multi-week Ja injury or poor performance for just as long. The games played mark between those two is too much to overcome — realistically, it’s 48 to 10 right now — but this obviously is not an indicator for who will be the better pro. I really like Ja’s future as a Grizzly. I prefer Zion’s future as a Pelican. Hall of Fame here we come!