Rookie Survey: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant early favorites to shine in 2019-20

The 2019 Draft class picks favorites for Kia Rookie of the Year, best defender and more

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann


Aug 19, 2019 10:47 AM ET

Cam Reddish, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett have gotten high praise from their fellow rookies.

Last season was the first time in 34 years (since 1984-85) that the top five picks of the previous Draft went on to be the five players who comprised the All-Rookie First Team. One year later, the teams that had those top five picks should feel pretty good about their decisions.

Time will tell about the five teams that had the top five picks in this year's Draft. But it's clear that fellow rookies approve of the guys selected in the top two. In this year's Rookie Survey, 62 percent of responders picked the New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson or the Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant to win the Kia Rookie of the Year award. Williamson made Rookie Survey history with how many votes he got in the "Most athletic" question, while Morant was a clear favorite for "Best playmaker."

Take a look back at the best plays from NBA Summer League 2019.

The two top picks received the most total votes on the survey, but it was No. 7 pick Coby White (of the Chicago Bulls) and No. 33 pick Carsen Edwards (Boston Celtics) who each received votes on a survey-high five questions. In total, 38 different rookies received votes on at least one of the seven questions about their class, a deep one if these guys got it right.

*  Complete 2019 NBA Draft coverage

For the 11th time in the last 13 years, sat down with the rookie class at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot. In addition to the seven questions about their fellow rookies, this year's group (of 42) answered a few about the current player they most admire and what they're expecting as they make the jump to the NBA.

* * *


* * *

CATEGORIES:   Kia Rookie of the Year pick? |  Best career? | Biggest draft steal? | Most athletic? | Best shooter? | Best defender? | Best playmaker? | Toughest adjustment to NBA? | Skill to develop in NBA? | Favorite player in NBA?

NOTE: Players were asked not to vote for themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates. (Some still did, and those votes were discounted.)

* * *


Who will be the 2019-20 Kia Rookie of the Year?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 35%

2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 27%

3. R.J. Barrett, New York -- 5%
    Cam Reddish, Atlanta -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Goga Bitadze, Indiana; Brandon Clarke, Memphis; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Kyle Guy, Sacramento; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Romeo Langford, Boston; Coby White, Chicago; Grant Williams, Boston

How far can the Pelicans go in 2019-20 with Zion Williamson?

Last year: DeAndre Ayton and Collin Sexton -- 18%

Worth noting: Williamson feels like a strong pick, but in the previous 10 years of the survey, the top vote-getter has gone on to win the Kia Rookie of the Year award just once. That was in 2007 (the first year of the survey), when Kevin Durant received 54 percent of the vote. Williamson is the first player in the last five years to receive at least one third of the vote, and he might have had more if some of his fellow rookies (those that voted for the six guys selected outside the Lottery) had studied their history. Of the 67 Rookie of the Year winners (that weren't territorial picks in the 1950s and early '60s), 61 (or 91 percent) were selected in the top 10 of the Draft, and 52 (or 78 percent) were selected in the top five.

Rookie Survey history - Rookie of the Year
2007Kevin Durant54%SeattleTexasYes
2009Blake Griffin55%LA ClippersOklahomaNo
2010John Wall39%WashingtonKentuckyNo
2012Anthony Davis47%New OrleansKentuckyNo
2013McCollum / Oladipo24%Portland / OrlandoLehigh / IndianaNo
2014Jabari Parker53%MilwaukeeDukeNo
2015Jahlil Okafor42%PhiladelphiaDukeNo
2016Kris Dunn29%MinnesotaProvidenceNo
2017Dennis Smith Jr.26%DallasNC StateNo
2018Ayton / Sexton18%Phoenix / ClevelandArizona / AlabamaNo
2019Zion Williamson35%New OrleansDuke 

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Cam Reddish, Atlanta -- 19%

2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 16%

3. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta -- 11%

4. R.J. Barrett, New York -- 5%
    Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans -- 5%
    Coby White, Chicago -- 5%
    Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Keldon Johnson, San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele, LA Clippers; Romeo Langford, Boston; Cody Martin, Charlotte; Eric Paschall, Golden State; Tremont Waters, Boston; Dylan Windler, Cleveland

Cam Reddish can see himself becoming an NBA superstar one day.

Last year: Wendell Carter Jr. -- 13%

Worth noting: This is the sixth straight year that a Duke player has earned (or tied for) the most votes on this question, with Reddish joining Jabari Parker (2014), Jahlil Okafor (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016), Jayson Tatum (2017) and Carter. The seven players who received multiple votes were all selected in the top 10, though there were another eight votes for players selected outside the Lottery.

Rookie Survey history - Best career
2007Kevin Durant56%SeattleTexas
2009Blake Griffin21%LA ClippersOklahoma
2010John Wall24%WashingtonKentucky
2012Anthony Davis41%New OrleansKentucky
2013Oladipo / Olynyk18%Orlando / BostonIndiana / Gonzaga
2014Jabari Parker46%MilwaukeeDuke
2015Jahlil Okafor24%PhiladelphiaDuke
2016Brandon Ingram27%L.A. LakersDuke
2017Ball / Tatum18%Lakers / BostonUCLA / Duke
2018Wendell Carter Jr.13%ChicagoDuke
2019Cam Reddish19%AtlantaDuke

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Bol Bol (44), Denver -- 19%
    Kevin Porter Jr. (30), Cleveland -- 19%

3. Carsen Edwards (33), Boston -- 5%
    Nassir Little (25), Portland -- 5%
    Isaiah Roby (45), Dallas -- 5%
    Coby White (7), Chicago -- 5%
    Grant Williams (22), Boston -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), New Orleans; Brandon Clarke (21), Memphis; Jaxson Hayes (8), New Orleans; Talen Horton-Tucker (46), L.A. Lakers; Keldon Johnson (29), San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele (27), LA Clippers; Romeo Langford (14), Boston; Jordan Poole (28), Golden State; Cam Reddish (10), Atlanta; Luka Samanic (19), San Antonio; Admiral Schofield (42), Washington; Quinndary Weatherspoon (49), San Antonio; Dylan Windler (26), Cleveland

Bol Bol talks after he was taken No. 44 overall in the 2019 Draft.

Last year: Keita Bates-Diop -- 13%

Worth noting: As it often does, this question got the biggest range of answers, including each of the last six picks of the first round. But Bol and Porter, two of the six players from the Pac-12 Conference, clearly stood out among the group. Draymond Green is the only one of the previous 16 players to earn (or tie for) the most votes on this question (which was worded "Which rookie is being most overlooked" through 2014) that has ever been an All-Star, though Donovan Mitchell is certainly a potential All-Star in the years to come.

Rookie Survey history - Biggest steal (most overlooked through '14)
2007Nick Young16%WashingtonUSC
2009DeJuan Blair16%San AntonioPittsburgh
2010Lance Stephenson18%IndianaCincinnati
2012Green / Jones / Nicholson / Wroten9%GSW / OKC / ORL / MEM
2013Ledo / Murphy / Noel / Olynyk9%DAL / CHI / PHI / BOS
2014Kyle Anderson11%San AntonioUCLA
2015Joe Young12%IndianaOregon
2016Dejounte Murray16%San AntonioWashington
2017Donovan Mitchell19%UtahLouisville
2018Keita Bates-Diop13%MinnesotaOhio State
2019Bol / Porter19%Denver / ClevelandOregon / USC

Which rookie is the most athletic?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 87%

2. Brandon Clarke, Memphis -- 8%

Others receiving votes: Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans; Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland

Relive some of Zion Williamson's highlights from his lone Summer League game.

Last year: Zhaire Smith -- 24%

Worth noting: The 87 percent that Williamson earned here is the greatest percentage of the vote that any player has earned on any question in the history of the Rookie Survey, surpassing the 79 percent that Stephen Curry got for "Best Shooter" in 2009. That's good company.

Rookie Survey history - Most athletic
2007Al Thornton32%LA ClippersFlorida St.
2009DeMar DeRozan47%TorontoUSC
2010Terrico White33%DetroitMississippi
2012Acy / Jones18%Toronto / Oklahoma CityBaylor / Baylor
2013Tony Mitchell47%DetroitNorth Texas
2014Zach LaVine57%MinnesotaUCLA
2015Justin Anderson28%DallasVirginia
2016Jaylen Brown39%BostonCalifornia
2017Dennis Smith Jr.44%DallasNC State
2018Zhaire Smith24%PhiladelphiaTexas Tech
2019Zion Williamson87%New OrleansDuke

Which rookie is the best shooter?

1. Tyler Herro, Miami -- 33%

2. Kyle Guy, Sacramento -- 29%

3. Cameron Johnson, Phoenix -- 13%

4. Ty Jerome, Phoenix -- 8%

5. Jordan Poole, Golden State -- 4%

Others receiving votes: Ignas Brazdeikis, New York; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Zion Williamson, New Orleans; Dylan Windler, Cleveland

Tyler Herro lit up the Magic for 25 points in NBA Summer League.

Last year: Trae Young -- 47%

Worth noting: Guy made twice as many 3-pointers (120 at a 43-percent clip) for Virginia last season than Herro did in his one season for Kentucky (60 at 36 percent). Johnson (47 percent) shot better than both of them and the Suns could benefit from having two of the top four players here. Phoenix ranked 29th or 30th in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint in each of the last three seasons.

Rookie Survey history - Best Shooter
2007Morris Almond21%UtahRice
2009Stephen Curry79%Golden StateDavidson
2010Luke Babbitt32%PortlandNevada-Reno
2012John Jenkins49%AtlantaVanderbilt
2013Ben McLemore19%SacramentoKansas
2014Doug McDermott40%ChicagoCreighton
2015Devin Booker59%PhoenixKentucky
2016Buddy Hield66%New OrleansOklahoma
2017Luke Kennard49%DetroitDuke
2018Trae Young47%AtlantaOklahoma
2019Tyler Herro33%MiamiKentucky

Which rookie is the best defender?

1. Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia -- 37%

2. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta -- 29%

3. Brandon Clarke, Memphis -- 8%
    Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans -- 8%
    Nassir Little, Portland -- 8%

Others receiving votes: Bol Bol, Denver; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Bruno Fernando, Atlanta; Coby White, Chicago

Matisse Thybulle of the 76ers gets loose for a Summer League dunk.

Last year: Jevon Carter -- 29%

Worth noting: This is the only question for which Thybulle received any votes, but he received the greatest percentage of the vote on this question since Victor Oladipo (63% in 2013). While Thybulle is joining a team with a handful of guys that have already proven to be impact defenders, Hunter's defense is more critical to the success of the Hawks, who ranked 28th on that end of the floor last season.

Rookie Survey history - Best defender
2007Corey Brewer39%MinnesotaFlorida
2009Douglas / Thabeet23%New York / MemphisFSU / UConn
2010Avery Bradley42%BostonTexas
2012Michael Kidd-Gilchrist29%CharlotteKentucky
2013Victor Oladipo63%OrlandoIndiana
2014McDaniels / Smart14%Philadelphia / BostonClemson / Okla. St.
2015Rondae Hollis-Jefferson25%BrooklynArizona
2016Kris Dunn24%MinnesotaProvidence
2017Josh Jackson26%PhoenixKansas
2018Jevon Carter29%MemphisWest Virginia
2019Matisse Thybulle37%PhiladelphiaWashington

Which rookie is the best playmaker?

1. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 40%

2. Darius Garland, Cleveland -- 15%

3. Ty Jerome, Phoenix -- 10%
    Coby White, Chicago -- 10%

5. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans -- 8%

6. Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland -- 6%
    Tremont Waters, Boston -- 6%

Others receiving votes: Carsen Edwards, Boston; Kyle Guy, Sacramento

Ja Morant is ready to make a mark in the NBA with the Grizzlies.

Last year: Trae Young -- 35%

Worth noting: Morant led the nation in assists by a pretty wide margin. In Memphis, the latest winner on this question is replacing the first; Mike Conley received 45 percent of the vote for best playmaker in the initial, 2007 survey. The Grizzlies would surely love to see Morant stick around as long as Conley did. Winning this category as a Laker -- as Lonzo Ball and D'Angelo Russell both once did -- apparently means that you're going to be traded less than two years after doing so.

Rookie Survey history - Best playmaker
2007Mike Conley45%MemphisOhio St.
2009Jonny Flynn40%MinnesotaSyracuse
2010John Wall68%WashingtonKentucky
2012Kendall Marshall46%PhoenixNorth Carolina
2013Trey Burke47%UtahMichigan
2014Tyler Ennis24%PhoenixSyracuse
2015D'Angelo Russell40%L.A. LakersOhio St.
2016Kris Dunn29%MinnesotaProvidence
2017Lonzo Ball72%L.A. LakersUCLA
2018Trae Young35%AtlantaOklahoma
2019Ja Morant40%MemphisMurray St.

What will be the biggest adjustment for you, playing in the NBA?

1. Speed or pace of the game -- 40%

2. Physicality (athleticism, size and strength of opponents) -- 21%
    Schedule/Length of season -- 21%

4. Lifestyle/Time management -- 12%

Also receiving votes: Longer 3-point distance, Playing NBA defense

Relive some of the best moments from NBA Summer League 2019.

Last year: Speed or pace of the game -- 31%

Worth noting: According to the great Ken Pomeroy, the average pace in NCAA Division I was just 69.0 possessions per 40 minutes last season. When adjusted for a 48-minute game (82.8), that would be almost 18 possessions per 48 slower than the average NBA pace (100.7 per 48). So yeah, speed of the game should be an adjustment.


What is the most important skill you need to develop?

1. Shooting -- 32%

2. Ball-handling -- 16%

3. Passing -- 9%

4. Strength -- 7%

5. Decision-making -- 5%
    Defense -- 5%
    Everything -- 5%
    Money management -- 5%

Also receiving votes: Leadership, Mindset, Patience, Playmaking, Playing off the ball, Post skills, Time management

These players stood out most in the NBA Summer League.

Last year: Ball-handling and shooting -- 19%

Worth noting: Self-improvement is both a physical and mental thing. There are five votes in here for the mental aspects of improvement (even more if you consider "passing" and/or "defense" to be more of a mindset than anything else), and a few more for managing things (time and money) off the court.


Who is your favorite player in the league?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 38%

2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn -- 20%

3. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 8%
    Damian Lillard, Portland -- 8%

5. Devin Booker, Phoenix -- 5%
    James Harden, Houston -- 5%

Others receiving votes: Jamal Crawford; Kevin Garnett; Paul George, LA Clippers; C.J. McCollum, Portland; Steve Nash; Pascal Siakam, Toronto; Russell Westbrook, Houston

The 2019 Draft saw a cast of potential future stars realize their NBA dreams.

Last year: LeBron James -- 29%

Worth noting: In the 10-year history of this question, only three players have been the top vote-getter. James, named the top guy for the fourth time, separates himself from Durant (3) and Kobe Bryant (3). Interestingly, Bryant wasn't one of the two retired guys -- Garnett and Nash, this time -- to get votes.

Rookie Survey history - Favorite NBA player
2007Kobe Bryant24%L.A. Lakers
2010Kobe Bryant38%L.A. Lakers
2012LeBron James31%Miami
2013Kobe Bryant15%L.A. Lakers
2014Kevin Durant25%Oklahoma City
2015Kevin Durant21%Oklahoma City
2016Kevin Durant30%Golden State
2017LeBron James32%Cleveland
2018LeBron James29%L.A. Lakers
2019LeBron James38%L.A. Lakers

* * *

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

Copyright © 2020 NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

If you are having difficulty accessing any content on this website, please visit our Accessibility page.

Privacy Policy | Accessibility and Closed Caption | Terms of Use |
Do Not Sell My Personal Information is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company.