Rookie Survey: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant early favorites to shine in 2019-20

NBA.com Global on Aug 20, 2019 05:46 AM
Rookie Survey: Zion, Morant early favorites to shine
Photo c/o @NBA

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

Last season was the first time in 34 years (since 1984-85) that the top five picks of the previous Draft went on to be the five players who comprised the All-Rookie First Team. One year later, the teams that had those top five picks should feel pretty good about their decisions.

Time will tell about the five teams that had the top five picks in this year's Draft. But it's clear that fellow rookies approve of the guys selected in the top two. In this year's NBA.com Rookie Survey, 62 percent of responders picked the New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson or the Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant to win the Kia Rookie of the Year award. Williamson made Rookie Survey history with how many votes he got in the "Most athletic" question, while Morant was a clear favorite for "Best playmaker."

The two top picks received the most total votes on the survey, but it was No. 7 pick Coby White (of the Chicago Bulls) and No. 33 pick Carsen Edwards (Boston Celtics) who each received votes on a survey-high five questions. In total, 38 different rookies received votes on at least one of the seven questions about their class, a deep one if these guys got it right.

For the 11th time in the last 13 years, NBA.com sat down with the rookie class at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot. In addition to the seven questions about their fellow rookies, this year's group (of 42) answered a few about the current player they most admire and what they're expecting as they make the jump to the NBA.

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NOTE: Players were asked not to vote for themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates. (Some still did, and those votes were discounted.)

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Who will be the 2019-20 Kia Rookie of the Year?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 35%
2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 27%
3. R.J. Barrett, New York -- 5%
    Cam Reddish, Atlanta -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Goga Bitadze, Indiana; Brandon Clarke, Memphis; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Kyle Guy, Sacramento; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Romeo Langford, Boston; Coby White, Chicago; Grant Williams, Boston

Last year: DeAndre Ayton and Collin Sexton -- 18%

Worth noting: Williamson feels like a strong pick, but in the previous 10 years of the survey, the top vote-getter has gone on to win the Kia Rookie of the Year award just once. That was in 2007 (the first year of the survey), when Kevin Durant received 54 percent of the vote. Williamson is the first player in the last five years to receive at least one third of the vote, and he might have had more if some of his fellow rookies (those that voted for the six guys selected outside the Lottery) had studied their history. Of the 67 Rookie of the Year winners (that weren't territorial picks in the 1950s and early '60s), 61 (or 91 percent) were selected in the top 10 of the Draft, and 52 (or 78 percent) were selected in the top five.

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Cam Reddish, Atlanta -- 19%
2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 16%
3. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta -- 11%
4. R.J. Barrett, New York -- 5%
    Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans -- 5%
    Coby White, Chicago -- 5%
    Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Keldon Johnson, San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele, LA Clippers; Romeo Langford, Boston; Cody Martin, Charlotte; Eric Paschall, Golden State; Tremont Waters, Boston; Dylan Windler, Cleveland

Last year: Wendell Carter Jr. -- 13%

Worth noting: This is the sixth straight year that a Duke player has earned (or tied for) the most votes on this question, with Reddish joining Jabari Parker (2014), Jahlil Okafor (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016), Jayson Tatum (2017) and Carter. The seven players who received multiple votes were all selected in the top 10, though there were another eight votes for players selected outside the Lottery.

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Bol Bol (44), Denver -- 19%
    Kevin Porter Jr. (30), Cleveland -- 19%
3. Carsen Edwards (33), Boston -- 5%
    Nassir Little (25), Portland -- 5%
    Isaiah Roby (45), Dallas -- 5%
    Coby White (7), Chicago -- 5%
    Grant Williams (22), Boston -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), New Orleans; Brandon Clarke (21), Memphis; Jaxson Hayes (8), New Orleans; Talen Horton-Tucker (46), L.A. Lakers; Keldon Johnson (29), San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele (27), LA Clippers; Romeo Langford (14), Boston; Jordan Poole (28), Golden State; Cam Reddish (10), Atlanta; Luka Samanic (19), San Antonio; Admiral Schofield (42), Washington; Quinndary Weatherspoon (49), San Antonio; Dylan Windler (26), Cleveland

Last year: Keita Bates-Diop -- 13%

Worth noting: As it often does, this question got the biggest range of answers, including each of the last six picks of the first round. But Bol and Porter, two of the six players from the Pac-12 Conference, clearly stood out among the group. Draymond Green is the only one of the previous 16 players to earn (or tie for) the most votes on this question (which was worded "Which rookie is being most overlooked" through 2014) that has ever been an All-Star, though Donovan Mitchell is certainly a potential All-Star in the years to come.

Which rookie is the most athletic?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 87%
2. Brandon Clarke, Memphis -- 8%

Others receiving votes: Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans; Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland

Last year: Zhaire Smith -- 24%

Worth noting: The 87 percent that Williamson earned here is the greatest percentage of the vote that any player has earned on any question in the history of the Rookie Survey, surpassing the 79 percent that Stephen Curry got for "Best Shooter" in 2009. That's good company.

Which rookie is the best shooter?

1. Tyler Herro, Miami -- 33%
2. Kyle Guy, Sacramento -- 29%
3. Cameron Johnson, Phoenix -- 13%
4. Ty Jerome, Phoenix -- 8%
5. Jordan Poole, Golden State -- 4%

Others receiving votes: Ignas Brazdeikis, New York; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Zion Williamson, New Orleans; Dylan Windler, Cleveland

Last year: Trae Young -- 47%

Worth noting: Guy made twice as many 3-pointers (120 at a 43-percent clip) for Virginia last season than Herro did in his one season for Kentucky (60 at 36 percent). Johnson (47 percent) shot better than both of them and the Suns could benefit from having two of the top four players here. Phoenix ranked 29th or 30th in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint in each of the last three seasons.

Which rookie is the best defender?

1. Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia -- 37%
2. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta -- 29%
3. Brandon Clarke, Memphis -- 8%
    Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans -- 8%
    Nassir Little, Portland -- 8%

Others receiving votes: Bol Bol, Denver; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Bruno Fernando, Atlanta; Coby White, Chicago

Last year: Jevon Carter -- 29%

Worth noting: This is the only question for which Thybulle received any votes, but he received the greatest percentage of the vote on this question since Victor Oladipo (63% in 2013). While Thybulle is joining a team with a handful of guys that have already proven to be impact defenders, Hunter's defense is more critical to the success of the Hawks, who ranked 28th on that end of the floor last season.

Which rookie is the best playmaker?

1. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 40%
2. Darius Garland, Cleveland -- 15%
3. Ty Jerome, Phoenix -- 10%
    Coby White, Chicago -- 10%
5. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans -- 8%
6. Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland -- 6%
    Tremont Waters, Boston -- 6%

Others receiving votes: Carsen Edwards, Boston; Kyle Guy, Sacramento

Last year: Trae Young -- 35%

Worth noting: Morant led the nation in assists by a pretty wide margin. In Memphis, the latest winner on this question is replacing the first; Mike Conley received 45 percent of the vote for best playmaker in the initial, 2007 survey. The Grizzlies would surely love to see Morant stick around as long as Conley did. Winning this category as a Laker -- as Lonzo Ball and D'Angelo Russell both once did -- apparently means that you're going to be traded less than two years after doing so.

What will be the biggest adjustment for you, playing in the NBA?

1. Speed or pace of the game -- 40%
2. Physicality (athleticism, size and strength of opponents) -- 21%
    Schedule/Length of season -- 21%
4. Lifestyle/Time management -- 12%

Also receiving votes: Longer 3-point distance, Playing NBA defense

Last year: Speed or pace of the game -- 31%

Worth noting: According to the great Ken Pomeroy, the average pace in NCAA Division I was just 69.0 possessions per 40 minutes last season. When adjusted for a 48-minute game (82.8), that would be almost 18 possessions per 48 slower than the average NBA pace (100.7 per 48). So yeah, speed of the game should be an adjustment.

What is the most important skill you need to develop?

1. Shooting -- 32%
2. Ball-handling -- 16%
3. Passing -- 9%
4. Strength -- 7%
5. Decision-making -- 5%
    Defense -- 5%
    Everything -- 5%
    Money management -- 5%

Also receiving votes: Leadership, Mindset, Patience, Playmaking, Playing off the ball, Post skills, Time management

Last year: Ball-handling and shooting -- 19%

Worth noting: Self-improvement is both a physical and mental thing. There are five votes in here for the mental aspects of improvement (even more if you consider "passing" and/or "defense" to be more of a mindset than anything else), and a few more for managing things (time and money) off the court.

Who is your favorite player in the league?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 38%
2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn -- 20%
3. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 8%
    Damian Lillard, Portland -- 8%
5. Devin Booker, Phoenix -- 5%
    James Harden, Houston -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Jamal Crawford; Kevin Garnett; Paul George, LA Clippers; C.J. McCollum, Portland; Steve Nash; Pascal Siakam, Toronto; Russell Westbrook, Houston

Last year: LeBron James -- 29%

Worth noting: In the 10-year history of this question, only three players have been the top vote-getter. James, named the top guy for the fourth time, separates himself from Durant (3) and Kobe Bryant (3). Interestingly, Bryant wasn't one of the two retired guys -- Garnett and Nash, this time -- to get votes.

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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