Ja and Zion balling for the rookie of the year

Zion is making a run at rookie of the year

With the return of Zion Williamson, the NBA Rookie of the Year race between him and Ja Morant is just getting started.

Morant has been terrific this year and is the frontrunner to win the award at this point. He is averaging 17.5 points, 6.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game this year. Hia hooting an efficient 49 percent from the field. Most impressively however, he has the Memphis Grizzlies in the eighth spot in the west, which would mean if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs.

The story with Williamson at this point is will he play enough games to give him the clear edge over Morant. He’s appeared in only 13 games this season, but when he has been on the court, he has played at a near superstar level. Zion is averaging 23.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting an insane 57.3 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three (on less than one attempt per game). The only players to average 23 points and seven rebounds on 55 percent shooting or better in their rookie seasons are Zion (so far) and Shaq.

Morant has certainly left the door open for Williamson though. The Grizzlies have been hit hard by injuries and currently see themselves just three games ahead of Zion’s Pelicans in the standings. Morant is also shooting just 15 percent from three in his last eight games and his assists are down to five per game in the month of February.

This race feels a little bit like the 2017 Rookie of the Year race when Malcolm Brogdon won the award even though Joel Embiid had way better numbers. However, Embiid was only able to play in 31 games that year and the voters felt like he didn’t play enough to win the award.

Morant should be able to hold on to his lead as long as he stays healthy down the stretch, even if the Grizzlies miss the playoffs and the Pelicans get to the eight seed. It would take a superhuman effort from Zion (which he is more than capable of) to push his way past Morant at this point, as the most games he’ll be able to play this season is 37, assuming he doesn’t miss anymore.

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