Every year, the NBA surveys the incoming rookie class to measure how the league’s newest players feel about one another. They are asked to name the best player in their class in several categories, and while some of their responses were to be expected, others will come as enormous surprises.
In perhaps the least surprising choice of the entire survey for the 2019-20 season, Zion Williamson was voted the likeliest player to win this season’s Rookie of the Year award. The superstar forward who was picked No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans is considered by most analysts to be among the best prospects to enter the NBA in several years. There are no guarantees in basketball, but Westgate currently lists Williamson as a minus-140 favorite over the rest of the field for the award.
The rookies went against the grain in picking who they thought would have the best career from the 2019 draft class, however, by selecting a different Duke forward: Cam Reddish. The No. 10 overall pick of the Atlanta Hawks won the category with 19 percent of the vote, whereas Williamson earned only 5 percent — the same as teammate Jaxson Hayes.
Williamson jumped ahead of Reddish in the pecking order after a superior year at Duke, but as high school prospects, Reddish was ranked as the superior prospect. In fact, 247Sports ranked Reddish as the No. 2 player in the 2018 high school class, behind only Duke teammate RJ Barrett, while Williamson trailed behind at No. 5. Given the preponderance of players from that high school class in this year’s crop of rookies, it is likely that many of them played against both Reddish and Williamson on the AAU circuit. That could have informed this surprising result.
Reddish is now the sixth consecutive Duke Blue Devil to win this vote. Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Brandon Ingram and Wendell Carter all won their votes straight up, whereas Jayson Tatum tied with Lonzo Ball in 2017. Duke will have its work cut out for it if it plans to win the honor again next year. Only one of 247’s top 15 recruits for next season, No. 6 overall prospect Vernon Carey, has committed to the Blue Devils for next season.
The results of these surveys tend to be just as unpredictable as the actual NBA Draft. The rookies have hit the nail on the head in a few instances, as they did by handing the “best career” crown to player like Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis, but have also missed the mark with choices like Okafor and Kelly Olynyk. In this instance, perception is not necessarily reality.