New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson made his highly anticipated debut Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs and in spite of his team's 121-117 loss, Williamson scored 22 points - including 17 straight in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter. The following morning, national pundits took to the television airways to not only show their excitement about his performance but also - in my opinion - irrationally crown Williamson as the new favorite for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award over Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. Today I respectfully say - enough already.
Willamson came into the league as one of the most heralded prospects in NBA history. His unique skill set is something that sounds like more of a description of a superhero more so than an athlete, and he has the physique to match. He's a bull with a basketball - a true freak of nature to say the least. Williamson's phenomenal game comes with a hype train, but I for one believe that his merit will prove itself and the added nonsense and hype are from being a necessity for his success.
He will have crazy highlight plays, he will be a multi-time all-star and possible MVP candidate, he has the tools that can make him the new face of the NBA, but as far as suggesting that he will do enough to pass the current Rookie of the Year favorite, Ja Morant is not only ridiculous but borderline disrespectful.
I get it. Guys who write or talk about sports on television have a responsibility to generate conversation. It comes with the territory. But as I stated earlier, Williamson's exciting and unique brand of basketball will generate enough buzz on its own. There is no need to attempt to create propaganda that tries to downplay the incredible rookie campaign that Ja Morant has put together so far - especially not after one game.
Morant has been a monster on the court as well this season. In his 38 games played so far, he is averaging 17.5 points, 7 assists, and 3.4 rebounds. He is also shooting 48.7% from the field and 40% from three-point range. He has won the past two Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards and would surprise no one by winning for January as well. So far in 10 games in January he is averaging 17.6 points, 8.4 assists, and 4 rebounds. Zion Williamson will do his thing but let's not pretend that Morant hasn't been bringing his game with a side of flair and excitement all season long.
The Pelicans probably have a roster that is further along overall than the Grizzlies and even though Memphis has overachieved tremendously so far in year one of their rebuild, it would come to no one's surprise for the Pelicans to end up landing in the eighth spot in the West in spite of being four games out. They are a talented team and adding Williamson should definitely help but he simply won't play enough games to be considered to pass Morant in my opinion. He was used sparingly Wednesday, and I would expect the Pelicans to continue to be precautious in their approach with him.
If Williamson continues to stay healthy and gets his conditioning under control he will definitely be a force in this league. He will get all of the attention and accolades that he deserves. As someone that covers the Memphis Grizzlies, I am absolutely excited to see the possible matchups that are to come with Memphis' possible division rival. I'm excited to see these two exciting rookies as headliners for the future of the league for years to come but in my opinion, there is no need to water down or diminish the accomplishments of Ja Morant to promote the accomplishments of Zion Williamson. Trust me. Zion Williamson's game comes with enough justified hype on its own.