Entering the NBA, Zion Williamson is the most hyped rookie in years. He has a combination of size, speed, and athleticism that could be deadly for opponents. Many already predict he’ll be Rookie of the Year, an NBA All-Star, and even an eventual superstar before seeing him compete in the NBA. The incoming rookies, however, see him differently than the media, fans, and front offices do.
The Rookie Survey
Every year, the NBA releases the Rookie Survey. The league asks the rookies several questions about their fellow newcomers. This can range from who they think will be the Rookie of the Year to who will have the best career. They also ask about individual skills, athleticism, and potential. While the young players are gifted and informed, the survey isn’t necessarily a reflection of reality.
One category, in particular, has been particularly unforgiving to the incoming rookie classes — their prediction for Rookie of the Year. The last time the incoming class correctly predicted the Rookie of the Years was 2007 when Kevin Durant first entered the league. How will they fare this year?
Zion Williamson as Rookie of the Year
Immediately, the incoming rookies seem to buy into the Zion Hype, as Williamson got 35% of the rookie votes. It wasn’t a runaway, however, as Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant received 27% of the votes himself. The rest was an utter crapshoot, as Knicks rookie RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish were the only others to receive multiple votes. The rest included everyone from lottery picks to second-round pick Kyle Kuy.
As far as who will have the best long-term career, the rookies were not sold on Zion. Not only did he get snubbed for first place, which went to Atlanta Hawk Cam Reddish with 19%, but he didn’t get second or third, either.
Those went to Ja Morant and Reddish’s teammate De’Andre Hunger, respectively. Perhaps some of this is sour grapes for all of the hype that doesn’t trickle down everywhere else. But Williamson’s fourth-place vote ties him with R.J. Barrett, Jaxson Hayes, and Coby White.
As the first pick, Williamson wasn’t going to fare well in this category. It went to Bol Bol and Kevin Porter Jr., both of whom dropped far below where many believed they would end up.
Williamson ran away with this category, receiving 87% of the overall vote. Perhaps, this is indicative of the thought that Zion’s athleticism will help him right away but could hurt him throughout his career.
Never Williamson’s strong suit, Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat and Kyle Guy of the Sacramento Kings received the most votes with 33% and 29%, respectively. He did appear to get one vote, however.
Perhaps the only snub more surprising than the longest career is Zion’s complete absence from the best defender category. While he wasn’t believed to be the top defender by any means, Zion has been lauded for his defense in the past. Philadelphia 76er Matisse Thybulle won this category with 37% of the vote.
While this is a skill set typically saved for guards, Zion’s total absence from the list could be notable, as his ability to make plays at center has been lauded many times. Ja Morant ran away with the title, receiving 40% of the vote.
Favorite (current) player?
Although this includes only current NBA players, there is still a notable snub on here, as Stephen Curry was left off of every ballot, with LeBron James and Kevin Durant running away with the vote.
What to make of this?
While it is fascinating to see what rookies think of each other, there isn’t much to place on the survey past an interesting study. Players may vote for friends, teammates, or those they don’t know anything about to shake things up. Because of this, Zion’s snubs are not indicative of what he will become, but a fascinating study into the mindset of his peers.