Zion Williamson is entering the NBA season as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. But are there any other players that should be on our radar?
Zion Williamson is entering the NBA season as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year but are there any other players that should be on our radar? Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post‘s Ben Golliver discuss Ja Morant, Tyler Herro and more first year players who deserve early consideration for the award on the latest Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: Who will win the Trae Young runner up ROTY award this year? Among rookies we all know Zion is the favorite if he’s healthy. So who do you think is positioned to get some shine and some hipster talking points as the runner up? What do you think Ben do you have any nominations for the Trae Young award this year?
Ben Golliver: I would nominate Ja Morant. I don’t think we’ve talked about him nearly enough. We’ve definitely talked about RJ Barrett. We picked apart what the Hawks did with the lottery. We talked about Rui [Hachimura] just from a Wizards angle. I think you even mentioned Cam Reddish at some point. I do feel like Morant just because he didn’t play in the summer league and he wasn’t that super hyped up high school prospect maybe that some of his other guys were because he went to a small market in Memphis and I think they’re gonna be really bad this year.
I’m not sure we’re giving him enough love. So if you’re saying who’s gonna get some of the hipster League Pass diehard love? Who’s gonna be getting some clips from you random basketball video Clippers, you know look at this incredible pick-and-roll that he ran or look at this insane dunk off two feet or whatever. I think it’s gonna be him. I’m not sure he’s going to win Rookie of the Year but I think he has a chance to put up some really big numbers on a really bad team in Memphis.
Sharp: That is a great nomination.
Golliver: I dug really deep. I went all the way to the second pick [laughs].
Sharp: But to your point I forgot the Ja Morant exists when I saw this question. I have been preparing for the Darius Garland revolution for four months now and I can’t wait.
I do have a feeling that it’s going to take him a year or two before we start to see him in that star mold just because he doesn’t necessarily have the strength to dominate right away and I don’t know, I could be wrong but I think Garland has the ceiling but it’s going to take a little while. Ja Morant, I was not super high on coming into the draft, so I can’t get with you on that. It is a good pick though.
Golliver: Don’t you think he is set up for this question though?
Sharp: I mean yeah well because he’s gonna get a ton of touches. Look the lobs to Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson jr. are gonna be there all year long and the Grizzlies will be fun and beloved among a specific set of NBA hipsters who spend way too much time talking about any of this stuff, so all of that’s working in his favor. The other name that I would throw at you is Tyler Herro from the heat. Have you seen any of him? Have you heard any of the buzz out of Miami?
Golliver: Well Miami specializes in buzz. You know they’re good at overrating stuff down there wouldn’t you agree with that? I feel like every year we hear about the Heat and every year they’re basically like the Magic with better branding.
Sharp: Oh Boy! That is ether! I’m a huge believer in the Heat but I really respect the hate there.
Golliver: He was good in summer league. He’s a dynamic player. He’s gonna get some numbers. He’s already fitting into that like Jimmy Butler’s little brother role you know. That seems lined up perfectly for him to thrive. He’s got that swag. So, you really think he’s gonna get the Rookie of the year convo though?
Sharp: Well here’s the thing. The Heat desperately need shooting and he is one of the only guys on that roster who could fill that void. So, I think he’s going to get opportunities. Erik Spoelstra came out and said some pretty glowing things about him. Look that’s all part of the hype machine down there but I do think that he’s going to have every opportunity to play meaningful minutes on a team that I hate. To me the Heat could finish in the four-five-six range in the East which to you probably isn’t saying much but they’re going to be playing relevant basketball games for the next six or seven months. So, I think Herro is going to have a chance to kind of make some noise in this conversation.
Then a lot of the other guys in the top 10 like Cam Reddish or even someone like Jarrett Culver—those guys are multi-year projects to me but Herro can help immediately.