After finally getting the first win in the bubble yesterday against the Thunder, perhaps good news will start to be the trend for the Grizzlies after a less than ideal start to the restart of the season. Saturday presented proof that could actually be the case, as the NBA revealed the three finalists for the 2019-2020 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
◾️ Ja— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 8, 2020
Here are the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year finalists pic.twitter.com/zyCDKCgABw
While the inclusion of one Memphis Grizzlies rookie should come as no surprise at all, the exclusion of another Grizzlies rookie should be a huge surprise based of his production this season. Morant’s candidacy for the award has been on display since the opening week of the season, and when it was clear that Zion Williamson would miss an extended amount of time, Morant ran away with the award. He averaged 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game this season. In fact, on multiple occasions, including this straw poll in May, awards experts from ESPN have voiced their opinion that Morant is the overwhelming favorite to eventually win the award. At this point, Morant could even emerge as one of the most unanimous choices in NBA history.
However, for Grizzlies fans, the more interesting news may be the exclusion of Brandon Clarke. Though Clarke has had a few issues with injuries this year as well, his quality of play certainly made him worthy of inclusion as a finalist. However, both Kendrick Nunn and Williamson will be Morant’s competition when the award is announced in the near future.
Without a doubt, both Nunn and Williamson have been impressive in their debut seasons in the NBA. Nunn has arguably been the most consistent rookie producer this season when compared to anyone other than Morant. Williamson, once he returned from injury, has certainly verified he is the best natural talent from the 2019 draft, and arguably one of thebest talents to come in the NBA in recent memory.
However, when compared to Clarke, its hard to see how both Nunn and Williamson both received nods over him as finalists. In terms of statistical totals, Nunn may have higher marks. However, it terms of quality of play, the numbers above clearly show that Clarke made more impact than Nunn when on the floor.
Obviously, Zion is a better natural talent than Clarke. However, Clarke played more games (50 to 19), and offered similar quality as Williamson when they played. In fact, Clarke had a higher WS/48 mark than Williamson, and made more impact on the defensive end of the floor. With both quantity and arguably quality of play in his favor when compared to Williamson, its hard to point to anything other than hype as to the reason why Williamson was included over Clarke.
Though Clarke certainly had a strong case to be included among the finalists, Nunn and Williamson are certainly sensible choices to share the spotlight with Morant as we wait for the winner officially to be announced once the playoffs begin. Fortunately, there should be no debate or surprise as to who will eventually take home the coveted award in the near future.