Mark Strotman for

By Mark Strotman | | 3 mins

Zion Williamson NBA Rookie Of Year Odds Dip After Injury

Zion Williamson NBA Rookie Of Year Odds Dip After Injury

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Not since LeBron James in 2003 has the NBA seen a more highly touted rookie than Zion Williamson. But the league, its fans and its bettors will have to wait to see the 19-year-old sensation take the floor in the regular season after it was announced the New Orleans Pelicans are shutting down the top pick with right knee soreness. It’s the same knee Williamson injured while at Duke that cost him five games.

Williamson Still Rookie Favorite

Williamson still stands as the prohibitive favorite to win Rookie of the Year. His odds have dipped slightly from -162 to -143 on 888sport, but they might not fall much farther than that considering Williamson is only being shut down for precautionary reasons.

Still, in a scenario in which Williamson misses three weeks, that would put him out of the first eight games of the regular season. The last seven Rookie of the Year winners have played in an average of 77.7 games.

But there’s also concern around Williamson’s ability to stay healthy. Though that injury at Duke that occurred when his sneaker exploded was a freak incident, Williamson was shut down at Las Vegas Summer League after suffering a bruised left knee in his debut.

Because of that, there’s reason to believe the Pelicans will be incredibly cautious the remainder of the season, even if and when Williamson returns to full health. That could mean keeping him out of back-to-back sets (the Pelicans have 12 of them) and keeping him out with minor bumps and bruises, which seems likely to occur given his style of play and physical frame.

Granted, when Williamson is playing he’ll be the league’s top rookie. In four preseason games, he averaged 23.3 points on 71.4% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in just 27.2 minutes per game. He’s the real deal, and if he appears in anywhere close to 70 games he’s a lock to win Rookie of the Year. Whether he can get there remains to be seen, especially with Friday’s news.

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Door opens for Ja Morant

Zion Williamson NBA Rookie Of Year Odds Dip After Injury 1
Ja Morant would be the likely choice for 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year if Zion Williamson cannot play a full season.

If Williamson doesn’t win the award, someone else will. Next in line as far as favorites go is second overall pick Ja Morant. He has been decent in preseason, averaging just 9.7 points on 41% shooting and 7.7 assists in just 20.7 minutes, but the fact that he’s a point guard and will play significant minutes makes him a logical choice if Williamson is truly bitten by the injury bug all season long. His odds shortened from +400 to +325 on 888sport and stand out as good value in the wake of Williamson hitting the shelf.

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About the Author

Mark Strotman for
Mark Strotman

Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on,, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.