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Breaking down the odds movement for NBA Rookie of the Year in 2020 [UPDATE]

We take a look at how the lines to win the award have shifted on DraftKings Sportsbook since Opening Night.

New Orleans Pelicans small forward Zion Williamson works out before a game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Week 14 Update

The Rookie of the Year race has widely been a one-man show, but things get a bit interesting Wednesday when Zion Williamson is set to debut. Zion won’t have much time to make his case for Rookie of the Year, but we’ve seen players do this type of thing before — Joel Embiid in 2016-17. Zion will still be a longshot considering how well Morant has played and the position he has the Grizzlies in. I still think Williamson will make some noise and could close the gap a bit in terms of these lines. RJ Barrett injured his ankle and his odds dropped, while Rui Hachimura remains out with a groin injury. Both weren’t realistic options, but now they likely won’t get many votes at the end of the season.

Update: Zion Williamson expected to debut next week

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is on track to make his NBA debut on Jan. 22 vs. the Spurs, GM David Griffin told reporters Wednesday.

Zion is listed at +1800 to win Rookie of the Year currently on DraftKings Sportsbook, and I’d view him as a long-shot to beat out Ja Morant (-500) for the award. Still, Zion is going to play almost half the season — most likely in a limited fashion. Morant put on a show in an impressive win over the Rockets on Tuesday and the Grizzlies face the Pelicans next Monday, before the targeted date for Zion’s return. We’ll have to wait until Jan. 31 for the first Ja vs. Zion matchup.

Week 13 Update

The Grizzlies have been one of the hotter teams in the NBA recently, entering Tuesday on a five-game winning streak. Over that stretch, Morant is averaging 18.6 points, 9.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 55.9% from the field. He’s a big reason why Memphis is holding down the No. 8 seed in the West at 18-22. If the Grizz continue to be in the playoff picture and Morant keeps this up, he should run away with Rookie of the Year. This is demonstrated by his odds increase below.

The NBA Rookie of the Year race in 2019-20 is shaping up to be a one-man race. The injury to New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson has really stunted what could have been a very exciting race for ROTY with Memphis Grizzlies PG Ja Morant. Or is this thing still wide open? We take a look at the line movement since Opening Night for Rookie of the Year, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook:

NBA Rookie of the Year Odds Movement

Player Opening Odds Last Week Current Odds
Player Opening Odds Last Week Current Odds
Ja Morant 215 -335 -500
Zion Williamson 120 1000 1800
RJ Barrett 500 1000 1200
Rui Hachimura 1600 4000 5000
Coby White 2000 6600 6600
Michael Porter Jr 2000 6600 6600
Kendrick Nunn OTB 1000 1200
Provided by DraftKings Sportsbook

So clearly the book doesn’t believe that Zion can return and do enough to win the award. At this point, Morant is running away with the thing. But not so fast. Right now, the Pelicans are hoping Williamson will return from injury this month. If that happens — and he doesn’t take too much time to get up to speed — I think Williamson has a good narrative to win the award. New Orleans enters Tuesday 12-25, but is only 4.0 games back of the San Antonio Spurs for the 8-seed in the West. Let’s say Zion returns and helps the Pels get into the playoffs, I’d say he has a pretty decent case at Rookie of the Year. The issue is Morant could do the same for the Grizzlies, who are 15-22 and only 1.0 games back of the Spurs currently.

As far as darkhorse candidates, there are two I kind of like who are way down on this list. P.J. Washington and Michael Porter Jr. Washington, who just returned from injury for the Charlotte Hornets, is playing really well lately. Charlotte is also another team nobody thought would sniff the playoffs and the Hornets are only 3.0 games out of the 8-seed in the East.

Porter would likely need a significant injury to happen in order for him to get enough playing time to justify consideration for ROTY. But the Nuggets are also a top team in the West and if they were to secure the No. 1 overall seed, it could be thanks to Porter’s play off the bench. It’s a long-shot, but there’s still a lot of the season to be played.

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