The NBA is still a whole month away from tipping off. One of the most exciting facets of the new season will be seeing how Zion Williamson adapts to the pro game. The majority of people in the basketball world think he has the most potential for an incoming draft pick since LeBron James or Anthony Davis. Still, there's a chance his true potential may not unfold until past his rookie year for one reason or another.
He still has to adjust to the speed of the NBA game, lose some weight, sharpen his handling skills, and craft a reliable jumper. Not to mention, there's the ever-present opportunity that he could get hurt. That would leave the New Orleans Pelicans with the decision to play him or preserve his body for the future. It happened to Anthony Davis in his rookie year, who came into the league with comparable hype, then got injured and lost the race to unexpectedly NBA-ready Damian Lillard.
One only needs to look back at last summer's title expectations of the Golden State Warriors to remember that a surplus of talent doesn't beat the force of poorly timed injuries. Here are some intriguing bets to mull over in case Zion Williamson's year goes awry.
Ja Morant +300
Ja Morant has a clear pathway to putting up a monster statistical season for the Memphis Grizzlies. On the other hand, Zion Williamson's team is going to have a lot of mouths to feed between himself, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and JJ Redick. That may lead to Williamson pouring in lower averages as the team dynamic figures itself out. The Grizzlies, however, are set up for Ja Morant and Jarren Jackson Jr. to succeed. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol's departures all but ensured that.
Also, consider that six of the past 10 ROY award-winners are point guards, and eight of the past 11 have been primary ball handlers. It's a little man's league, especially one with spectacular vision and three-point shooting. Trae Young made a late push in last year's race based off of late-game heroics and a flurry of passes and threes. If Morant gets going early, he could succeed where Young failed.
R.J. Barrett +550
The opportunity is there for the taking if R.J. Barrett works for it - just like it is for Ja Morant. Outside of Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett won't be heavily competing for shots against the other New York Knicks players. He has publicly stated that working to win the award is important for him this year. If Barrett's scoring and play making come together, he could make a successful Rookie of the Year run.
Barrett still managed to nab 22.6 points per game while playing next to guys like Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish who need the ball in their hands. He'll invariably take a step b as he gets used to NBA game speed and size, but he'll have the green light to fire away and play through his mistakes.
I could see R.J. Barrett winning if for some reason he appears as the more consistent player in the early half of the season compared to Williamson and Morant. I eventually see them catching on in the latter half of the year, but if Barrett comes with the consistency from day one then voters may have no other choice.
Michael Porter Jr. +1800
The true dark horse pick of the lot is the Denver Nuggets' Michael Porter Jr. He didn't play at all last year thanks to injury and missed out on all of summer league for that same reason. Porter Jr. has yet to put in meaningful NBA practice minutes on a consistent basis. But if he didn't carry such an injury risk, he would've been in contention for the number one pick of the 2018 draft.
The Denver Nuggets are deep, but if Porter Jr. manages to prove his worth in practice and in games, there's a need for him at Small Forward. Jeremi Grant will certainly be competing for minutes, but the path is there for Porter Jr. to thrive. He can handle the rock like a point forward as well as stroke from deep. The opportunity is there for him to be a reliable sixth man in Denver.
Recent news revealed that he is expected to miss time until the middle of November. If he can come back and stay on the floor, he has the scoring chops, defensive potential, and handles to challenge any other Rookie of the Year contender.
Thank you for following @steemsports and you can find me @mateonav53
**Disclaimer:** This is a @steemvoter subscription payment post. Thank you to Steemvoter customers for allowing us to use your Steem accounts to upvote this post by virtue of your free subscription to the Steemvoter.com curation automation service. @steemvoter is proudly a @buildteam subsidiary and sister project to @dlease, @tokenbb, @ginabot, @steemsports. @steemsports-es and @minnowbooster.
**BURNPOST:** This is a 20% Steem burnpost by setting @null as beneficiary.