2019-20 NBA Season Awards: ROTY and All-Rookie Teams
With reports saying that the NBA management is inclined towards proceeding immediately to the playoffs if and when it becomes safe for teams to play games against each other. The very optimistic timetable for a probable resumption of the season will be at least a couple more months. Should the league decides to hold the playoffs right away, then it obviously means that the regular season has ended.
Thus, we can already conclude the regular season performances of the players and predict who will win the individual awards. We’ll start off with our predictions for the winner of the Rookie of the Year award, and the young gunners who will make up the All-Rookie NBA Teams.
Rookie of the Year
(G) Ja Morant – Memphis Grizzlies
2019-20 Season Averages: 17.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 49% FG, 37% 3-pt, 77% FT
If there weren’t any suspended games and New Orleans Pelicans’ rook Zion Williamson stayed healthy, we would have a very close race for the award. But now that all signs are pointing towards the cancellation of the rest of the regular season, it is just difficult for Zion to make a really solid case for the award knowing that he just played 19 games against Morant’s 59. That’s a difference of 40 games.
Even so, Morant indeed deserves this award. He has been the leader of a Grizzlies squad that wasn’t even expected to be a good team. After trading away long-tenured center Marc Gasol last season and shipping point guard Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz last summer, the Grizzlies were suddenly without any of the key core players they had for the past decade. But Morant exceeded even the loftiest individual expectations on him, and even garnered consideration for the All-Star game.
His play also attracted the attention of former Seattle Supersonics defensive point guard Gary Payton. In an appearance on the All The Smoke podcast hosted by Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, Payton loves the fact that Morant “doesn’t back down to people.” In a straw poll conducted by the ESPN last month, Morant also got unanimous votes to win the ROTY plum.
All-Rookie First Team
(G) Kendrick Nunn – Miami Heat
2019-20 Season Averages: 15.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 44% FG, 36% 3-pt, 84% FT
Embodying the tough, grind-it-out culture that the Heat organization has been widely-known for, Nunn has went from an undrafted player to a starting point guard for the 4th-ranked team in the Eastern Conference. His consistency and high level of maturity on both offense and defense have earned him the trust of head coach Erik Spoelstra. In fact, Nunn topped the rankings early in the season when Williamson was still recovering from his injury and Morant still figuring out the pro game.
As per the Sun Sentinel, Nunn even considers himself the winner of this award. The 6-foot-2 combo guard pointed out how he has positively impacted the Heat’s team success this season.
"I'm a starting guard in this league. I've done that all season long and we've been a winning team, a playoff team. So I definitely proved myself there.
I'm Rookie of the Year. I think people will say that [Morant] is Rookie of the Year, but I don't believe it. The most value should be in the wins. And we're both starting guards on teams, and our team has been holding it down. We're a playoff team, so go ahead and give that Rookie of the Year to Kendrick Nunn."
To be fair with Morant, he has also steered a superstar-less Grizzlies team to the playoffs in a very stacked Western Conference. We admire Nunn’s confidence in his game and the value that he places on team success, but Morant edges him out on this one.
(F) Zion Williamson – New Orleans Pelicans
2019-20 Season Averages: 23.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 59% FG, 65% FT
This could have been a different story, and Zion’s name could have been on top of this list. The 6-foot-6 uber-athletic power forward brought energy and motivation to the Pelicans, and he had the stellar on-court production and efficiency to go with it. We may have been robbed of a possible Zion-LeBron James match-up in the first round of the playoffs, but the Duke product certainly has given us a glimpse of the superb athleticism and efficiency he can inject on both ends of the floor.
He may have lost the race for the best rookie this season, but Williamson is not licking his wounds. During an NBA Together episode where he discussed his rookie season with TNT’s Ernie Johnson, he says that Morant has earned the award and he gives respect “when it’s due.”
“Ja being a brother of mine, I’m happy for Ja. Ja has worked for it, he’s earned it. I give respect when it’s due. I always do. But you know, as a competitor — I’m just a competitor — I want to win at everything, I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t want to win, I want to win at everything. So, my goal was if I could rally my team into the playoffs hopefully I could make a run for [ROY]. It’s just God’s plan at this point.”
Despite not winning the award, it’s still safe to say that Zion is the best player on this rookie class. With another offseason of preparing his body and building up his chemistry with his teammates, there’s no doubt that he will steer the Pelicans to greater heights next season.
(F) Brandon Clarke – Memphis Grizzlies
2019-20 Season Averages: 12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.8 bpg, 62% FG, 79% FT
Clarke’s Per 36 minutes averages of 20.0 points and 9.7 rebounds should be enough evidence that he has been one of the most efficient rookies in NBA history. A power forward who has the ability to score from the inside and from long-range, Clarke has been a solid scoring punch off the bench. His player efficiency rating of 21.8 is second behind Zion, but is already a very high rate for a first-year player in the NBA.
Nathan Chester of SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues wrote that Clarke has wiped out every doubt that scouts and general managers placed on him before the draft.
“To be sure, Clarke’s raw statistical production alone definitely merits a first team all-rookie selection and a place in the Rookie of the Year discussion along with the Memphis Grizzlies’ own Ja Morant. Yet it’s his advanced numbers and general efficiency that place him in a class entirely of his own among NBA rookies—both this year and for all time.
His dominance in both production and efficiency among his rookie class certainly cannot be overstated. While his shooting was a question mark coming into the draft,it has clearly become an asset for him and has improved his shooting efficiency across the board.”
Drafted 21st by the Grizzlies last year, Clarke is certainly the best steal in his class. He should form a dynamic trio with Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr as Memphis’ core for the years to come.
(F) P.J. Washington – Charlotte Hornets
2019-20 Season Averages: 12.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.8 bpg, 45% FG, 37% 3-pt, 65% FT
The choice for the last spot in the frontcourt was a toss-up between Washington, New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett and Golden State Warriors’ Eric Paschall. But Washington’s efficiency and impact on both offense and defense eventually won out. The 21-year old power forward has been quietly putting up the numbers across the board, while also exerting tremendous effort on the defensive end.
Like Clarke, Washington also packs and excellent inside-outside offensive game. He has injected the scoring that the Hornets frontcourt has lacked in the past few years. In fact, Washington has scored at least 15 points in 23 games this season, and he is doing it very efficiently.
Along with the drastic improvement of young point guard Devonte’ Graham and young assets like Terry Rozier and Malik Monk on the backcourt, Washington’s arrival has filled the team’s need for a solid presence on the frontcourt.
All-Rookie Second Team
(G) Coby White – Chicago Bulls
(G) Tyler Herro – Miami Heat
(F) RJ Barrett – New York Knicks
(F) Rui Hachimura – Washington Wizards
(F) Eric Paschall – Golden State Warriors