Zion Williamson, NBA Star Rookie, Likely to Miss Start of Regular Season Due to Sore Knee

Posted on: October 20, 2019, 09:24h. 

Last updated on: October 21, 2019, 02:26h.

UPDATE (5:20 pm 10/21) – The New Orleans Pelicans announced Monday Zion Williamson had surgery on his right knee to repair a torn lateral meniscus. In a statement, the team expects him to miss up to eight weeks.

Shortly after that news, the Westgate SuperBook revised its Rookie of the Year futures odds, with Ja Morant now the 2-1 favorite. Williamson, who the Westgate listed at 2-3 in July, is now the second choice at 3-1.

The NBA regular season tips off on Tuesday, and even before the first game takes place, a key injury has affected odds for some basketball markets. When the New Orleans Pelicans play at Toronto in the league’s opening game, they likely will be without Zion Williamson, the top pick in June’s draft.

The New Orleans Pelicans will likely start the season without Zion Williamson, the top pick in June’s draft, because of a sore right knee. Oddsmakers listed the 6-6 Duke star as the favorite to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. (Image: Logan Riely/NBA.com)

On Thursday, the team announced the former Duke phenom would miss the team’s preseason finale, which took place Friday, with “right knee soreness.” On Sunday, coach Alvin Gentry told reporters the team would notify them when they have an update on his condition.

When asked if he’d go with the same lineup as he did against the New York Knicks in the preseason finale, Gentry said there was a “good chance” they’d go with that starting five.

Williamson is a 6-6 forward who earned first-team All-American honors and won both the Naismith and Wooden awards for national college basketball player of the year last season with Duke. Despite his 285-pound frame, he features a freakish explosiveness that allowed him to make a number of highlight reel plays last year for the Blue Devils. However, he also missed time with the Blue Devils because of a right knee sprain.

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith said Williamson’s size should give the team some pause.

He doesn’t know how to go any less than 100 miles an hour. He goes after it. He’s constantly aggressive, ferocious, and in attack-mode, and to me, the one thing that could potentially derail him are those legs,” Smith said.

Some reports have indicated he could miss weeks of action as a result.

Williamson averaged 23.2 points per game in the preseason, the fourth-best total across the league, and shot 71.4 percent from the floor. That’s 12 percent better than the next highest percentage shooter who also averaged more than 20 points a game (Zach LaVine).

Rookie of the Year Odds

A week before Williamson’s injury, FanDuel’s sportsbook listed Williamson as the heavy favorite to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. The online and retail sportsbook priced him at -150, meaning a bet of $150 would net $100. Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies was the second choice at +400.

As of Sunday night, FanDuel has removed the award from its player futures betting options.

Other sportsbooks still offer betting on the award, with Williamson still below even money. The best odds currently for him are at William Hill, where he’s -120.

Back in June, right before the NBA draft, Caesars and PointsBet listed him at -450. PointsBet now offers him at -125, with Caesars not currently offering the prop bet.

Pelicans Playoff Chances

Just how much of an impact does Williamson’s injury have on the Pelicans?

While no one labeled them a championship contender, especially since they traded Anthony Davis to focus on building around Williamson and several other young players, analysts thought they would have a chance at a playoff run this season.

Up until Williamson’s injury, FightThirtyEight.com had the Pelicans playoff chances hovering around 50 percent. As of Sunday, those chances have dropped to 35 percent.

The Pelicans play seven games – or nearly 10 percent of their schedule – in the first two weeks of the season. That includes games against the Raptors, the Houston Rockets, the Golden State Warriors, and the Denver Nuggets, all teams expected to make the playoffs if not compete for a title.

With Williamson’s injury, if he misses a couple weeks, and the Pelicans lose a couple of winnable games because of his absence, it could be the difference between being the final seed in the playoffs or just missing out.

PointsBet currently lists the Pelicans at +250 for making the playoffs, while DraftKings offers them at +305. Odds on not making the playoffs are -334 and -400, respectively, at PointsBet and DraftKings.

Williamson’s injury already has an immediate impact. The opening line for the Raptors-Pelicans game was 5.5 points. Since then, as word of the injury has come out, the line as shifted to the Raptors by seven.