Before a single regular-season game had tipped, the NBA world was rocked this week when news came down that rookie sensation Zion Williamson could miss up to eight weeks with a torn meniscus in his right knee. Williamson had been the odds- on favorite (-225) at the Westgate SuperBook to win the
Rookie of the Year Award, but that is no longer the case. Not only has the injury raised Williamson’s odds, it has opened the door for plenty of other potential candidates.
The new favorite is Memphis point guard Ja Morant, adjusted from 9-2 to 2 -1 at the SuperBook, followed by Williamson at 3-1. At 4-1 is RJ Barrett of the Knicks. Those three are the lone selections for bettors in the single digits, and behind them is a massive group of players whose odds have been cut partly due to Williamson’s injury and partly due to fantastic performances from the Summer League and the preseason.
Tyler Herro has to be mentioned first among the biggest movers on the board for rookie of the year. Originally hung July 7 at 100-1, the Miami Heat sharpshooter is now 10-1 after the injury to Williamson. Herro followed up a Summer League performance in which he averaged 19.8 points per game with a preseason of 14.2 and 51.9% shooting from deep. His showing throughout the offseason has made him a darling among NBA bettors, but he is hardly the biggest mover for the award.
That honor goes to Carsen Edwards, another guard with insane range from deep. Edwards originally appeared as a 1000 - 1 long shot at the SuperBook but had been moved to 50 -1 as of the beginning of this week. Edwards led his Summer League team in scoring, then averaged 15.2 points per game in the preseason while shooting a very respectable 45.2% from 3-point range. The Westgate has a lot of liability on Edwards, but teammate Tacko Fall is the SuperBook’s largest liability at 1000-1 odds.
Definite cases can be made for Herro and Edwards, which is clearly reflected in the shifting of their odds. Herro will likely start the season on the bench but is already making his case for a starting role in a lineup that lacks shooting. Edwards will almost certainly remain on the bench all season long behind Kemba Walker but is the type of player the NBA game is moving toward. He’s a small guard with the ability to handle the ball and pull up almost anywhere on the floor. Boston lacks depth along the bench, and Edwards will most definitely get the run a rookie would need to win the award.
Those two are not the only ones whose odds have shifted dramatically, but they are the ones with the most popular narratives. Michael Porter Jr. is in a Ben Simmons situation. Simmons missed his entire rookie season so was eligible for the award the next season, when he won it. Porter opened at 100-1 but is now near the top of the board at 20-1 at the SuperBook. Brandon Clarke, a dominant piece in the Memphis Grizzlies’ Summer League title run, was lowered from 300-1 to 50- 1 odds. Rui Hachimura went from 50 -1 to 12-1, and Kevin Porter Jr., who has flashed real potential in the preseason, is now 60-1 after opening at 1000-1 odds.
Overall, the massive moves bettors have seen really reflect the openness of the race for this award. Thanks in large part to Williamson’s untimely injury, a wide range of rookies can now win this award. Here are two selections for you, one short and one long, to potentially tail.
Coby White (10/1)
By all accounts, White has thoroughly impressed in the offseason, leading the Bulls in playing time and total points. He should be their starting point guard by the end of the season.
Matisse Thybulle (1000/1)
Thybulle was average on offense in the preseason, averaging 7.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. However, he will make his money for the 76ers on defense. His game clearly translates to the NBA, as he averaged 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest. Definitely worth a ticket.