Season after season, year after year, the NFL (National Football League) and the NBA (National Basketball Association) provide all manner of entertainment – both in and out of the stadiums and football fields. Countless blog posts and articles are devoted to the wealth of players like Michael Jordan, the athleticism of J.J Watt and the all-round superstar legendary status of Magic Johnson; and it’s not just the sports fans who are enthralled by their antics.
With another exciting season currently underway, once again it’s time to honor those up and coming players who have made a mark on the game this year. There are a total of 30 teams in the NBA and 32 in the NFL, all with new picks who are vying for recognition during their debut seasons. There’s still a while to go before any awards are handed out, but let’s take a look at the hottest NBA and NFL rookies currently in contention for the prestigious title of Rookie of the Year in their respective fields.
Zion Williams (NBA)
New Orleans Pelicans 2019-20 draft, Zion Williams is certainly looking like the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award this season. The Pelicans’ No.1 overall pick in the draft had a spectacular season as a freshman playing at Duke. Now installed at the Power Forward position – despite his 6’7″ stature – Williams brings some impressive stats from his freshman season: averages of 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 2.1 steals and 21.1 assists over 30 minutes per game.
After moving on from Anthony Davis over the summer, the Pelicans have an opportunity for this promising rookie that will utilize his talents to the max and should earn him the Rookie of the Year title.
Despite being the heavy favorite with fans and pundits, however, there’s a little dissension within the ranks about Williamson’s future as a top player. Results of the annual rookie survey held earlier in September show that only 5% of his fellow NBA rookies believe that he will have the best career, choosing Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant (16%) and Atlanta Hawkes’ Cam Reddish (19%) as the top players most likely to achieve long term success.
Devin White (NFL)
One of the current favourites to scoop Defensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL, Devin White may have been Tampa Bay’s fifth overall pick, but he’s certainly making his presence known on the football field. The powerful linebacker has impressed fans and pundits alike with his work ethic and speed (at the NFL Scouting he shot out a 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds).
The talented rookie may currently be nursing a – thankfully – “not so serious knee injury”, but he’s got the talent and skills needed to anchor and lead the team. If he can pull through and get back on the pitch ASAP, and Tampa Bay’s defense follows his lead, he’s likely to get a lot of much-deserved credit for their performance this year and secure that career-making award.
Tyler Herro (NBA)
Another surprise pick, this time in the NBA, Tyler Herro was Miami Heat’s 13th overall pick for the draft back in June. Eyebrows may have been raised over his selection, but Herro’s performance during the Summer League has more than put any doubts or critics to rest. Over the course of just six games, he averaged 4.3 rebounds, 19.5 points, 1.5 steals and 3.8 assists in an average of 29.6 minutes per game. His overall shooting average was 39.6%, with 33.3% on 8.5 -point attempts per game.
A top shooter in the making if ever there was one, racking up the scores for Miami will put Herro in a good position to win Rookie of the Year. If he does so, he’ll be the first Miami Heat player to win the award in its history. The best the team has ever reached is third in the voting, first in the 2002-03 season by Caron Butler and a year later (2003-04) thanks to Dwayne Wade.
Kyler Murray (NFL)
He may be outsized by some of the other players on the field, but the dynamic Murray has the goods to play under pressure. The Arizona Cardinals’ starting quarterback is the obvious choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Although that position will place him at the forefront for any rookie awards, it also comes with a lot of new responsibility that’s been placed on his shoulders. However, the Cardinals’ general manager, Steve Kleim, more than believes he’s got the skills to thrive – “…we didn’t draft him one overall to ride the pine”, he stated during an interview for The Rich Eisen Show.
Arizona’s head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, has described Murray’s offense game as similar to the one Lincoln Riley developed for players at Oklahoma. Add that to his unique ability to extend plays, as well as his defence-wrecking scrambling skills, and things should shape up nicely for the QB this season on both the success and award front.
Ja Morant (NBA)
The Grizzlies No.2 pick had some big shoes to fill – he replaced Memphis icon, Mike Conley, who was traded to Utah Jazz this summer – but point guard Ja Morant holds the title for being the first player in the history of the NCAA to average a minimum of 20 points and 10 assists per game in one season. He’s already spent two seasons at Murray State, averaging 24.5 points, 10 assists, 1.8 steals and 5.7 rebounds across jut 36.6 minutes per game.
As briefly mentioned above, Morant is a favorite with his fellow rookies to enjoy a long career in the game, but his solid numbers and relatively easy transition into the Grizzlies also stand him in good stead to snatch Rookie of the Year honors. Just one Memphis Grizzlies player has scooped the award before – Pau Gasol in 2001-02 – so all eyes are on Morant to break the two-decade drought.
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