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Zion Williamson may be the most-hyped NBA rookie since Anthony Davis in 2012, and the biggest Rookie of the Year favorite in over a decade. But he might not be worth betting on ahead of Tuesday's season opener.
Williamson was priced as a 5-7 favorite for most of the summer. Kevin Durant was the last odds-on favorite to win the award, taking it in 2007-08 when he was valued at a ridiculously short 2-7. Durant was also the last favorite to be named Rookie of the Year, meaning bettors who trust the top of the oddsboard have swung and missed for 10 straight years.
Now, with news that Williamson is expected to miss several weeks with a right knee injury, bettors have been given even more reason to fade the favorite. Since Durant won in 2008, all but one ROY winner has played in 70-plus games - with Kyrie Irving the exception in a lockout-shortened 2011-12 season - and seven played in 80-plus games.
If Williamson were to miss the first three weeks of the season, he'd sit out roughly 10 contests, assuming he plays the remainder of the season. Given his stocky frame and explosive leaping ability, that's no guarantee.
Even before Friday's news, Williamson's injury history made him a potentially risky bet. He left his summer league debut with a bruised left knee, and the Duke product missed extended time during his lone collegiate season with a mild right knee sprain.
A healthy Williamson is still the best bet to win ROY since, well, Durant. But the cloud of uncertainty over the start of - and potentially throughout - his rookie year means prudent bettors may want to look elsewhere.
Here are the odds for Rookie of the Year (before Zion's injury) with a few candidates to target outside of Williamson:
|Michael Porter Jr.||25-1|
|Kevin Porter Jr.||100-1|
In a non-Zion year, any team would have been thrilled to snag Morant with the top overall pick because of his explosive scoring ability and promising skills as a distributor.
While playing with athletic bigs Jaren Jackson Jr. and fellow rookie Brandon Clarke in the pick-and-roll game, Morant could pilot a sneaky fun squad as he stuffs the stat sheet for Memphis. After what many considered a two-person draft, don't hesitate to grab Person No. 2 at modest odds.
White made his name as a dynamite scorer at UNC, and four of the eight Tar Heel guards to be drafted with a top-seven pick have gone on to win Rookie of the Year. He'll get plenty of opportunities to pad his stats on a bad Bulls team.
The Miami Heat surprised some when they took the Kentucky sharpshooter with the No. 13 pick in June's draft, but he's looked solid thus far and could be the second scorer the team desperately needs alongside free-agent acquisition Jimmy Butler.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.