Zion Williamson will start the 2019-20 NBA season on the shelf for the New Orleans Pelicans, who should have realized something was amiss when an earthquake struck Las Vegas the night he made his Summer League debut.
A bum knee is the culprit, and there is no telling how long it will be before the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft will be overpowering opposing forwards the way he was doing in the preseason before sustaining his latest injury. The latest news from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said he will be out for weeks. (Editor’s note: Since this story was published, it was reported that Zion could miss six to eight weeks.)
Williamson was averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.4% in the Pelicans’ first four preseason games and averaging 27.3 minutes.
If the monster man from Duke misses a substantial amount of time (more than “a few weeks”), somebody else is likely to win Rookie of the Year. And in the sports betting industry, that presents a myriad of opportunities for those who wager. As of last week, Williamson had produced an astounding 58 percent of all bets and 32 percent of the handle at DraftKings Sportsbook to win the honor.
The Zion injury actually forced some books to close the market altogether.
“We closed Rookie of the Year wagering with the Pelicans being so ambiguous,” said Jeff Sherman of the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas. “Weeks could mean a lot of things. If he is out three months, that takes him out of the running, so we need to know something more definitive before we open that market.”
Sherman said his book took a $3,000 bet on R.J. Barrett of the Knicks at +800, and dropped Tyler Herro of Miami from +10000 to +2000 after significant action came in. The Westgate is also exposed on Carson Edwards, Kevin Porter Jr. and Tacko Fall, who drew a wager at odds of 1,000-1.
There are no odds posted yet on Kendrick Nunn of the Miami Heat, who dropped 40 points on the Houston Rockets on Friday night in the Heat’s preseason finale. He may have won the starting job over Goran Dragic, but we will have to wait and see.
Still Zion’s award to lose
For now, Williamson is still the prohibitive favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, where he was -162 on Monday but moved to +130 on Tuesday. More adjustments are expected to be made at many sportsbooks before the regular season tips off on Tuesday night. Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies is the second choice at +215.
“I think Zion will win in a landslide if he plays enough games. David Griffin is a smart dude, but they’ve got to figure out what his proper weight is,” said former Manhattan and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez to TheLines. “He is 270 pounds and incredibly quick, like a football lineman playing basketball. If he plays 65-70 games, I think he’s a lock.
“If not, R.J. Barrett is going to get a lot of minutes, points and publicity in New York, and I also like Ja Morant a lot in Memphis,” Gonzalez said. Barrett led all NBA players in preseason minutes at 37.2 per game. He is +500 at DraftKings to win the award.
Any ROY longshot candidates?
What we try to do in these columns is find wagering opportunities that offer the biggest payoffs, so with that in mind here are some options as we all prepare for the season opener.
PG Coby White, Chicago Bulls: The speedster all-hair team cinch out of North Carolina is expected to come off the bench behind Tomas Satoransky, but minds can be changed. He went off for 29 points (10-14 FG, 6-8 3Pt, 3-3 FT), six rebounds, and one block in 23 minutes during Thursday’s 111-93 win over the Hawks and has been stellar here in the preseason, consistently scoring in double figures and ranking 7th in the NBA in preseason ppg. He is +2500 at DraftKings. Those who bleed powder blue may want to pony up a few shekels.
SF Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards: The Japanese-American rookie out of Gonzaga has made the starting lineup in the nation’s capital and figures to log heavy minutes playing alongside Bradley Beal for what is expected to be one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. And remember: When voters make their Rookie of the Year choices, winning records seldom matter. This is purely a production award.
The No. 9 overall pick of the 2019 draft is listed at +3300 at DraftKings. “I don’t think he is the favorite, but he will put up good numbers considering the Wizards are not the deepest team in the NBA. He will play a lot of minutes, so he should be a dark horse,” said Daisuke Sugiura of DunkShoot Magazine.
SF Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets: The 14th pick of the 2018 draft sat out all of last season due to back surgery. He is playing for a team that is expected to contend for the No. 1 seed in the West, and he had a blah preseason with averages of 9.3 points, 4.0 boards and not much else on 55.2 percent shooting. Still, the talent is there … He was projected as the overall No. 1 pick back in 2017 before injuries knocked him out. He is on the board at +2000 at DraftKings.
SF P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets: The 12th overall pick out of Kentucky is playing on a horrible team that wants to do nothing more than develop young players. “He’s athletic, he’s long, he plays bigger than I thought. He gives us size on the defensive end, and IQ at both ends of the floor,” coach James Borrego said. “Looks like he’s been doing this for a couple of years.” It seems there’s a legitimate chance he’ll be an opening night starter. He is on the board at +10000 at DraftKings. Again, players who log major minutes on bad teams are legit ROY prospects.
As always, good luck!