With Zion Williamson sidelined, here are five players who could steal NBA Rookie of the Year

USA Today Sports 3 weeks ago

Zion Williamson's arch nemesis in his young NBA career thus far has been his health. The 19-year-old rookie was ruled out 6-8 weeks after undergoing knee surgery, meaning he probably won't be back for the upstart New Orleans Pelicans until December. 

That could leave room for other rookies to move ahead in the Rookie of the Year race that Williamson is -- or at least was -- heavily favored to win.

With Williamson down for a few weeks, this is a look at five rookies who could win the NBA's Rookie of the Year, taking advantage of the No. 1 pick's injury-plagued start to 2019-20. 

Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

Having missed all of 2018-19 with a back injury, the No. 14 pick of the 2018 draft finally appears to be healthy and his upside will be on full display this season for a Nuggets squad forecasted to be a top seed in the West. Porter is a versatile 6-8 forward who was expected to be the No. overall 1 pick before injuries knocked him back. If he can stay on the floor and show good flashes, he'll have the benefit of playing for a Finals-contending team — something most other rookies won't be doing. 

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Williamson's former teammate at Duke, Barrett will have a key role and see loads of minutes for the basement-seeded Knicks, meaning his numbers could be solid and rarely do overall team records become the biggest factor in ROY voting. 

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

 Of all the rookies who have outperformed their draft order, Herro is already shatter his No. 13 pick. The smooth-maneuvering 6-6 sharpshooter from Kentucky used the summer league and preseason to make teams that passed on him cringe. He shot 51.9% from beyond the arc in preseason and his overall feel for the game — weaving through pick and rolls and creating his own shot — should shift him in the lineup right away for Miami. He also has an ideal scenario with the Heat, as Jimmy Butler has embraced the role of mentor to Herro. 

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

The No. 2 pick, Morant will have some growing pains while running the point for the Grizzlies, transitioning from Murray State to the bright NBA lights. But all the ingredients are there for Morant to have a mid-major-to-All-Star type transformation similar to Steph Curry and Damian Lillard.

Coby White, Chicago Bulls

White will have to define his role and earn his minutes for an intriguing Bulls roster. His preseason outburst of 29 points in 23 minutes on Oct. 17 against Atlanta was a signal to some of the sparkplug point guard's abilities. 

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