Jul 10, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans player Zion Williamson arrives on the red carpet at Microsoft Theatre.

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

NBA rookies think Zion wins Rookie of Year, but won't have best career

It's Williamson's former Duke teammate who wins that vote

Seth Dunlap
August 19, 2019 - 7:05 pm

NBA rookies love Zion Williamson to be a breakout star this season, but think two of his former college teammates will go on to have better or equal careers.

In the league's annual survey of incoming rookies, just 5% of voters tabbed Williamson to have the best career of any rookie.  Conversely, 35% picked Williamson to win Rookie of the Year.   Also, 87% said Zion was the most athletic rookie, a record-shattering number that eclipsed any vote total for any category in the survey's history.  

Right behind Williamson in Rookie of the Year predictions was Memphis point guard Ja Morant, who was selected one spot behind Williamson at No. 2 in this summer's NBA Draft.  R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, two of Williamson's teammates at Duke last season, grabbed 5% of that vote each.   Winning this vote hasn't correlated to winning the actual award.  The last nine rookies projected by their peers to win Rookie of the Year have failed to do so.  That hasn't happened since Kevin Durant won the vote and the award in 2007 with the Seattle Sonics.

Interestingly, it was Reddish who was selected as the rookie that will have the best career.  The forward was selected at No. 10 in the draft by Atlanta, but may scouts are high on his raw athleticism and playmaking abilities, although he failed to flash those consistently while at Duke.   Reddish received 19% of the 'best career' vote, with Morant getting 16% and Hawks' forward DeAndre Hunger receiving 11%.  Williamson was tied with his Pelicans' teammate Jaxson Hayes, Barrett, and Bulls' guard Colby White.  It's unclear if any scout, coach, or former player would go on-record to predict an equitable career for Hayes and Williamson, but that's a quandary for future league philosophers to sort out.

Williamson's 87% tally for 'most athletic' was the highest percentage of vote any player has received in any category of this survey since Steph Curry received 79% of the vote for 'best shooter' in 2009.  Only four players in this year's class received votes in the 'most athletic' category, with Memphis forward Brandon Clarke receiving 8%, and Hayes along with Cleveland's Kevin Porter Jr. each receiving votes.  

Hayes also received some love in the 'best defender' category.  He received 8% of that vote, tied for third place with Clarke and Portland forward Nassir Little.  

There was a small Easter egg for Pelicans fans hidden towards the end of the survey.  Rookies were asked to name their favorite player in the league and, as expected, LeBron James won with 38% of that vote.  His superstar Lakers' teammate, however, was conspicuously absent from the list.  Anthony Davis did not receive a single vote from rookies as their favorite player.  That is perhaps unsurprising with the public relations fallout Davis has taken after he flailed his way through a trade demand this spring.  Non-superstars like Devin Booker, Jamal Crawford, and Pascal Siakam received votes in that category, but no Davis.  There was even at least one vote cast for Steve Nash, who hasn't played in the league since 2014.

So the basketball gods giveth, then taketh away, then giveth again to Pelicans fans with this survey.  

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