Zion Williamson Closing in on Ja Morant for NBA ROY at US Sportsbooks

On Sunday night, Zion Williamson met LeBron James on the hardwood for the second time in less than a week. The New Orleans Pelicans fell short both games, but Williamson proved, at the young of 19, he’s already a superstar in the NBA.

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Williamson combined for 64 points and 13 rebounds in the two meetings with King James. Similar performances for the 19-year-old phenom have shot the Pelicans up the Western Conference playoff standings. As the Pelicans make a late playoff push, Williamson is making a similar push for the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Though Williamson was the odds-on favorite (-450) to win ROY before the season tipped off, the Pelicans opted to play it safe with their franchise player. Sidelining Williamson for more than half of the season before making his long-awaited NBA debut, Williamson didn’t see the hardwood until 2020, and his ROY odds fell to +1400 ahead his first NBA game.

As we pointed at the time, it was was going to take an injury to Memphis guard Ja Morant or an absurd second half of the season for Williamson and a Pelicans playoff birth for Williamson to make a true ROY campaign.

Fortunately, the former hasn’t happened, but the latter events are occurring right before our eyes.

Williamson is averaging 24.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his short time in the NBA. These numbers are even more impressive considering Willamson started on a minutes restriction.

By the time the All-Star break rolled around, Williamson’s odds to win the coveted award shortened to +225.

Williamson +280 to win ROY at US sportsbook

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So how close is the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year race between Williamson and Morant now? Morant is still the odds-on favorite at US sportsbooks, but PointsBet puts the race at Morant -400 and Williamson +190.

Odds are slightly closer at DraftKings Sportsbook where Morant remains -400 but Williamson is +250. The best place to wager on Williamson (+280) is at FanDuel.

Sign up at FanDuel Sportsbook to get these odds.

Maybe we underestimated the effect Williamson would have on the Pelicans and the ROY race. How could we have known Zion would be scoring the most points per minute of any rookie ever?

So is there any value betting on Williamson going forward? Well, it depends.

Mainly, it depends on how likely you think a Pelicans are to earn a playoff birth. And if they do, will voters give Williamson the 2020 Rookie of the Year?

Models like Pelicans to make NBA playoffs

If Williamson and the Pelicans make the playoffs, that almost certainly means Morant and the Grizzlies will be watching the postseason their homes.

Considering the Grizzlies had a 5.5 game lead on the eve of Williamson’s first game, the narrative surrounding the Pelicans’ turnaround if they make the playoffs will rightfully be all about Zion.

It is tough to imagine voters denying Williamson of the honor if this scenario plays out.

How likely are the Pelicans to make this happen, though? More likely than you probably think.

FiveThirtyEight is very bullish on the Pelicans, giving them a 62% chance to make the playoffs. The Grizzlies? Only 10%. Yikes.

62% converts to -163 in American betting odds. If you agree with FiveThirtyEight, and if you think a playoff birth locks in enough ROY votes for Williamson, then his current +250 price tag is a steal.

ESPN’s NBA BPI is not as bullish, but still likes the New Orleans (31.8%) more than Memphis (22.7%).

FOX Bet leans closer to FiveThirtyEight, putting the Pelicans at even money to make the playoffs, and the Grizzlies +250 to do so.

The Pelicans’ remaining schedule is more manageable than the Grizzlies’, which should aid their playoff quest. In fact, they’re 12-point favorites over the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night.

As USbets’ Eric Raskin points out, betting on this year’s NBA Rookie of the year is just as much about predicting how media members will vote as it is anything else.

NBA betting tip: If you have a Morant ticket, I think now is the time to hedge at FanDuel. And if you don’t already have money on Morant, well, it still might be time buy Williamson +280, especially if you think he’ll be dunking in late April.

Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images

About the Author

  • Matt Schmitto (schmitto)

  • Matt Schmitto is the sports betting editor for RotoGrinders. He grew up in Texas, graduating from Texas Tech University. After a short stint in law school, Schmitto joined RotoGrinders as a staff writer in 2019 and is a contributor to Sports Handle and other sites in the US Bets network.

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