The NBA drafted its newest star rookies, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, exactly a year ago. From hyped debuts to steadily improving themselves, the duo showed the community that they were here to stay. We take a look back at how they made themselves, upcoming stars.
After the New Orleans Pelicans drafted him and he became known as the No.1 pick, Zion Williamson was so happy, he cried. Unfortunately, Zion could not live up to his hype at first, due to a knee cap injury. The 19-year-old was recovering from the injury, when the season started, and missed 44 games.
However, after that, the 6’7”, 285 pound rookie debuted with a bang. With his first NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs, Williamson recorded 17 points in about three minutes! And if that isn’t enough, he scored a total of 22 points for the Pelicans, the crowd chanted ‘MVP! MVP!’ that night for him!
Further into the season, Williamson already made history. He posted 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists through his first 19 games. In the last 35 years, no one has scored more than Zion, their first 19 games.
After his powerful performance, the community wondered how a huge athlete like Zion moves the way he does. From defense to rebounds to offense, Zion Williamson seems to be born with a natural basketball IQ. The Pelicans power forward knows when to use existing techniques and when to put on a show.
If the ‘MVP!’ chants during his debut in the league weren’t proof enough, Williamson’s physical strength and game knowledge should take him up the ladder in his NBA career.
The Naismith College Player of the Year awardee cannot be a candidate for the Rookie of the Year award as of now. This is because no player in NBA history has won the award by playing less than half the regular season. However, with Williamson’s performance so far, and him gearing up for the resuming season, who knows.
The Memphis Grizzlies must obviously have drafted No.2 Pick Ja Morant with much expectation. However, surely, they didn’t know he would become the most favorable candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.
From coaches, fellow NBA players, to fan voting results and media speculations, everyone seems to be rooting for Morant. Here’s why.
In his debut game in the league against the Miami Heat, it seemed Morant wished to let everyone know that he was going to be the ROTY. He scored the first six points for the Grizzlies, additionally showing off with an alley-oop. Morant recorded 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in the 25 minutes he played.
Even though his debut wasn’t as hyped up as Williamson’s, Morant showed the league who he really was in his performances throughout the rest of the season. One of the most impressive moments, though, was when the 20-year-old destroyed Brooklyn Nets’ star Kyrie Irving.
Around the end of the matchup, Morant faced Kyrie Irving during the final possession of regulation. Morant defended Irving fiercely as he blocked the Nets’ PG’s potential game-winning shot. This move sent the game into overtime, which helped the Grizzlies win.
That game against the Nets helped Morant make history. He is now one of just three players in the league to record at least 30 points and 9 assists in their first three games.
Morant arguable had the best season as a rookie point guard. Along with posting impressive numbers, he also got the Memphis Grizzlies a position in the playoffs.
The Western Conference has fierce giants like the Los Angeles Lakers. So, having a spot in the seeds is a big thing for a team like the Grizzlies of whom the community didn’t expect much.
Leaving stats aside, Morant was also unanimously voted as the Rookie of the Year on ESPN’s straw poll of 70 eligible voters.
Zion Williamson put up an amazing performance in the short span of time he played. However that may not be enough to put him up there with Ja Morant for the ROTY. We will have to wait for Williamson’s play once the season resumes, to see if he can catch up with Morant.
Let’s see who wins.
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