NBA Rumors: Rookies Pick Surprising Player To Have Best Career Of 2019 Draft Class

Zion Williamson (L) and Cam Reddish (R) of the Duke Blue Devils have a discussion during their 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament game against UCF.
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson may be the hands-down choice for most people — including many players from this year’s NBA draft class — to win the league’s Rookie of the Year award in 2020. However, these same rookies chose someone else as the most likely 2019 draftee to have the best overall career, and it happens to be Williamson’s former college teammate at Duke — Atlanta Hawks wingman Cam Reddish.

As reported by Sporting News, Williamson was an easy choice for his fellow incoming first-year players in the league’s annual rookie survey, as 35 percent of respondents saw the beefy former Blue Devils forward as the most likely recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year award. However, things changed drastically when the rookies were asked about which player from their draft class could have the best overall career in the league.

Having garnered 19 percent of the votes from his fellow NBA newcomers, Reddish was a far more popular choice than Williamson, who ended up with a mere 5 percent share in the “best career” question. The Pelicans’ first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was also beaten out by Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (16 percent) and Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter (11 percent) and tied with Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, Knicks wingman R.J. Barrett, and Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, who also received 5 percent of the votes.

As seen on Duke’s Sports-Reference page for the 2018-19 season, Zion Williamson was arguably the best player for last year’s Blue Devils as he put up averages of 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks and shot an excellent 68 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Cam Reddish had a less impressive, albeit well-rounded statistical line, averaging 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. His shooting percentages, however, left a lot to be desired, as he shot just 35.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range.

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Despite concerns about his subpar shooting in college, Reddish was picked 10th overall in this year’s draft by the Atlanta Hawks. As projected by Bleacher Report, he could potentially win a starting role in Atlanta as a “three-and-D” specialist who could connect from long range and contribute on the defensive end with equal ease.

As the NBA’s rookie survey was done anonymously, CBS Sports speculated that Reddish may have gotten the “best career” vote over Williamson because many of the respondents played against both ex-Blue Devils in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit. In addition, it was noted that Reddish was ranked No. 2 by 247Sports in its list of top prospects from the high school class of 2018. That put him three spots ahead of the fifth-ranked Williamson and one spot behind Barrett, who averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists for Duke last season and was picked third overall in the 2019 draft by the New York Knicks.