In the lead-up to the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will be rolling out predictions for each end of season award.
Today, we're focusing on Rookie of the Year.
It appears to be Zion Williamson's award to lose, but can another rookie make a run at the award?
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): With respect to Ja Morant, RJ Barrett and Darius Garland, each of whom have the potential to be special players in the NBA, it's Zion Williamson. Have you seen what he's been doing in preseason? Unless he gets injured and misses 30-plus games, I'd be shocked if Williamson doesn't take home the award.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The basketball world has never seen anyone like Zion Williamson, and he's prepared to take the NBA by storm in his rookie season.
Zion finds himself in a position with a blend of young players he can develop with and established veterans that understand how to make things easier for him. Add that to the fact he is physically gifted and has an innate feel for the game, and we could see a historic season from the 19-year-old.
I envision Williamson disproving any preconceived notions or logic, too. In other words, at the point that most rookies hit the proverbial wall, I think Zion will only get better, and that's scary to think about.
It's often said to the point where it becomes cliché, but the sky is truly the limit.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm not going to be the one to bet against Zion Williamson.
This guy has been an absolute wrecking ball in the preseason. He showcased ball-handling skills that we didn't see in college. He showcased passing ability that we didn't see in college. It was more about what he did that I didn't know he was capable of doing than it was his ability to get to the rim and score with ease against NBA competition.
Even though people had their doubts if he could score that easily against grown men, I don't think anyone is that surprised to see he's had no issue with it thus far.
I think the talent surrounding him has just as much to do with his likeliness to win the award as his talent individually. When he is one of the top scorers and rebounders on a team contending for the playoffs, that should separate him from the likes of Ja Morant, Darius Garland and RJ Barrett.
He has a lot of hype to live up to, but that hasn't been a problem for him at any point of his career thus far. I think Williamson is going to be a star from Day 1 and this Rookie of the Year award is certainly his to lose.
Honestly, he should have this award locked up 30 games into the season just like Luka Doncic did last year (with a nod to Trae Young's late-season push).
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): The correct answer is Zion Williamson
BUT ... there's a candidate lurking in the background that could well shock the league. Enter Denver Nuggets swingman Michael Porter Jr.
While the top three picks in this year's draft - Zion, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett - will have everyone's attention, Porter Jr. is a legit wildcard to compete in the ROY race.
He finds himself in a winning situation in Denver, with a real shot to claim the starting small forward position. The 21-year-old has been beset with injuries and on a deep Nuggets team, a ton won't be asked of him right away, but on talent alone, he deserves to be included in any ROY discussions.
It will take a lot to unseat the rightly-favoured Zion, but if MPJ can stay healthy, don't be surprised if he's balling like the McDonald's All-American MVP that he is.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Zion Williamson.
If preseason is anything to go by, he is a huge favourite to be named ROY. He seems to have no problem playing alongside the grown men in the league and his efficiency has been just mind-boggling.
Zion is a problem already. 💪👀- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 10, 2019
29 points in 26 min vs. the Bulls. #NBAPreseason pic.twitter.com/wBLiLfsXHZ
The only way I don't see him winning the award is if his season were to be derailed or shortened with any injury (hope not). There are the likes of Ja Morant and RJ Barrett that could make this ROY an interesting three-man race at certain points of the season but I don't see them posing a serious challenge to Zion over 82 games.
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