Before the NBA season, fans and pundits across the board were penciling in Duke superstar Zion Williamson as the undisputed Rookie of the Year. However, Williamson suffered a torn lateral meniscus and was ruled out for the first six-to-eight weeks of the season. And let's be real, there's no way the Pelicans rush him back. With Zion out of commission, the Rookie of the Year award has been up for grabs, and here are four major contenders to earn the achievement.
4. Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
The Kentucky product famously lit up the NBA preseason with amazing scoring outbursts that had many claiming him as the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft. While Herro hasn't been able to carry his preseason production over into the regular season, he's still having himself a solid rookie year thus far, seeing minutes next to the likes of Justise Winslow and Jimmy Butler. As long as he continues to see steady playing time, there's no counting out Herro when it comes to the Rookie of the Year race.
3. Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors
With the inordinate amount of injuries the Warriors have suffered so far this season, Paschall has stepped up as one of the team's best players. Drafted in the second round of this year's draft out of Villanova, he's averaged 16.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, numbers that will definitely be on the rise as he continues to see heavy minutes in the Warriors rotation, even when Draymond Green returns from injury. Just two games ago, Paschall led the Warriors to a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, posting 34 points and 13 rebounds. If Paschall has more performances like that, we might be looking at a viable Rookie of the Year candidate.
2. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Barrett's proved that he's ready for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. He's served as a steady source of points and rebounds for a hapless Knicks team, averaging 18.3 and 6.1 while playing 37.1 minutes per game. And to think that David Fizdale was talking about RJ having to earn minutes in the rotation! He's certainly earned a starting spot now, especially without any real competition behind him for minutes.
1. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja's already having himself a heck of a season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Drafted No. 2 out of Murray State as the heir to Mike Conley's spot as the starting point guard, Morant is currently averaging 19.7 points and 5.5 assists per game, and he'll continue to receive massive minutes on the court as long as he stays healthy. His handles are proving too much for even some of the league's savviest defenders, and he's more than capable of finishing at the rim.