2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds: Zion Williamson Massive Favorite Before Draft

Jun 20, 2019 9:45 AM EDT
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Photo credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zion Williamson

  • Caesars Palace opened its NBA Rookie of the Year odds for the 2019-20 season, led by projected No. 1 pick in Thursday's draft, Zion Williamson (-450).
  • He's followed by the projected second and third picks, Ja Morant (+450) and RJ Barrett (+450). See the full list of odds below.

We haven’t even had the 2019 NBA Draft yet — that’s coming Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET — but Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has already released opening odds for the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year.

No surprise, Zion Williamson — deemed to be a generational NBA prospect and all but certain to go No. 1 on Thursday — is the heavy favorite at -450 odds.

The odds largely fall in line with the projected draft order, with Ja Morant and RJ Barrett — the likely second and third picks — next in line with +450 odds to win the ROY award.

Here are the full odds:

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year Odds

  • Zion Williamson: -450
  • Ja Morant: +450
  • RJ Barrett: +450
  • Darius Garland: +1000
  • De’Andre Hunter: +1200
  • Jarrett Culver: +1500
  • Cam Reddish: +2500
  • Coby White: +3000
  • Jaxson Hayes: +3000
  • Rui Hachimura: +3500
  • Sekou Doumbouya: +3500
  • PJ Washington: +4000
  • Nassir Little: +4000
  • Mfiondu Kabengele: +5000
  • Tyler Herro: +5000
  • Keldon Johnson: +5000
  • Bruno Fernando: +5000
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker: +6000
  • Bol Bol: +6000
  • Goga Bitadze: +7500
  • Kevin Porter Jr.: +7500
  • KZ Okpala: +7500
  • Field: +2000

The ROY award is one of the easiest to handicap in all of sports. I wrote this last year:

First, let’s talk about what doesn’t matter in the ROY race. Unlike MVP voting, in which voters heavily weigh team performance — Russell Westbrook was a bit of an outlier winning as the West’s No. 6 seed in 2016-17 — wins and losses are essentially meaningless for ROY award.

In fact, there’s a negative correlation between team win rate and ROY voting, which makes sense because ROY winners are typically playing for bad teams that just picked high in the draft the previous summer.

The ROY race is actually fairly easy to handicap. I first read about the predictability of using a player’s combined points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton years ago, and man is it predictive.

The leader in that category has won the ROY in a ridiculous 15 of the last 18 races. Obviously that’s the biggest chunk of the model, and honestly a model doesn’t need much more than that. Simplicity is good and ensures you aren’t overfitting.

Raw stats are the most important factor for predicting the race, and thus the players picked first in the draft have the biggest edge — not just because they’re likely superior prospects, but also because they’re going to worse teams and should have larger roles in their first season.

For betting value, look to the players who will have the largest roles in Year 1. Zion is likely to, but so will Morant and Barrett, both of whom have significant plus odds at this point.

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