Since making his return to the floor this season, New Orleans Pelicans rookie big man Zion Williamson has been a huge spark plug for the franchise. It ramped the conversation around the Rookie of the Year award that Memphis Grizzlies forward Ja Morant has held firm control of throughout the year. However, the discussion has shifted over to Williamson, getting some real consideration given the level of impact he has had in his brief time on the floor this season. It’s a possibility that Hall of Famer Charles Barkley has weighed in on firmly with his sentiment being against that scenario.
Zion Williamson’s strong start
Following an extended absence due to knee surgery, Williamson didn’t get his rookie campaign underway until Jan. 22. Since then, he has proven to be all the hype as he has been a statistical juggernaut and brought another element to the Pelicans.
Williamson has emerged as one of the Pelicans’ best scoring option as he’s averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 58.9% shooting from the floor and 46.2% from beyond the arc.
His stellar production on the court has put him in some exclusive company in league history. Williamson put himself alongside Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill as the on the only players with seven 20-point outings in their first 10 games career games over the last 30 seasons. He joined O’Neal and Allen Iverson as the third rookie over that span to notch at least 200 points over that stretch of career games played.
Beyond that, Williamson has proven to be the real deal on the court that has put him into the Rookie of the Year discussion despite playing in only 19 games.
Why Charles Barkley would be upset
Williamson’s continued excellent play has garnered him more consideration in the Rookie of the Year award race.
However, many believe he shouldn’t have a place in the conversation given that he’s missed most of the season. Among those is Barkley, who voiced that he will be vocally upset if Morant doesn’t secure the honor, according to David Garner of Bleacher Report.
“I wanna say this about Zion Williamson. He’s an amazing kid from a distance. He’s been a great jolt of energy for the NBA, but if they screw Ja Morant out of this Rookie of the Year thing, I’m going to be really pissed, and I’m going to blow a gasket on TNT.”
Morant has been carrying the load as he has been the driving force to the Grizzlies all season long. His production has been key to Memphis being in the midst of the playoff race this season.
Barkley won’t be the only one that will be up in arms if Williamson wins the honor.
Why Ja Morant deserves the Rookie of the Year award
Williamson has undoubtedly been a huge spark plug for the Pelicans since his return to the court, but Morant has been doing that all season long.
The Murray State product has stepped in the primary option role for the franchise from the get-go, guiding them into playoff contention. There was no expectation for them to compete for the postseason this year, but Morant has them firmly in position to secure the eighth overall spot.
His numbers are not as flashy as Williamson’s, but he is the real deal averaging 17.6 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 49.2% from the floor and 37.3% from 3-point range. Morant is the first rookie in Grizzlies history to record 1,000 points and 400 assists in their first season.
He’s also the youngest player to lead his team in total points this season while being on pace toward becoming only the seventh rookie to average at least 17.0 points and 7.0 assist per game. Beyond that, Morant has put forth more than enough of a campaign to earn him the vaunted Rookie of the Year award. Only time will tell if he will get to receive that honor.