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Zion Williamson among 3 finalists for NBA’s Rookie of the Year award

Pelicans, Grizzlies, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, NBA Rookie of the Year

New Orleans Pelicans star rookie power forward Zion Williamson is among three finalists for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in spite of appearing in 23 regular-season games thus far.

The 2019 NBA Draft’s first overall pick out of Duke is joined by Memphis Grizzlies standout rookie point guard Ja Morant and Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn as the three finalists for the distinction.

Morant, a former teammate of Williamson’s on the same AAU squad, was selected one spot behind the Pelicans rookie by the Grizzlies at No. 2 in last year’s draft class. Morant has been a fiery floor general with immaculate hops and currently leads Memphis with a narrow grip on the last spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Morant has averaged 17.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game in 64 appearances during his rookie season.

Williamson, who missed a big chunk of the first half of the 2019-20 season due to knee surgery, arrived on the scene in Jan. 2020, making his debut against the San Antonio Spurs in a widely publicized game wherein he scored 22 points on 11 shots and a perfect 4-for-4 from long distance.

Injury concerns continue to haunt Williamson even in the NBA’s Orlando “bubble,” forcing him to sit out New Orleans’ win against the Washington Wizards on Friday along with a minutes restriction that held him out of a tight loss to the Utah Jazz last Thursday.

Kendrick Nunn rounds out as the third finalist for the rookie award; he first played for the Golden State Warriors’ G League affiliate last season, and this year has become a fixture in the Eastern Conference playoff-clinching Heat’s starting lineup, averaging 15.2 points and 3.3 assists per game.