It is only eight days since Williamson made his NBA debut and showed us what we were missing while he was out injured.
After three modest quarters in that first game against the San Antonio Spurs, Williamson erupted in the fourth, scoring 17 points straight in just over three minutes. He made all four of his three-point attempts in that time.
Despite only playing 18 minutes of the game, he recorded 22 points and was the New Orleans Pelicans’ joint top scorer.
The Pelicans management has given him more minutes in each of the three games he has played since then.
Against the Boston Celtics on January 26, he secured his first double-double for scoring 21 points and recording 11 rebounds.
Williamson may still be only 19 and have only played four games, but the rookie has already done enough to show he has the potential to be a NBA superstar.
However, he isn’t the only rookie to be making waves.
Williamson’s Pelicans play the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.
As anticipated, while the Pelicans chose Williamson with their pick, the Grizzlies then picked the player who ranked as the second-best prospect in the draft: Ja Morant.
However, with the rookie season Morant has had, his team won’t be disappointed to have missed out on selecting Williamson.
Friday marks the first time the 2019 NBA Draft’s No. 1 and No. 2 selections will face off since they entered the league.
The origin stories
Morant’s path to the NBA couldn’t have been more different from Williamson’s.
They briefly played together for the South Carolina Hornets in the Amateur Athletic Union during high school, but that’s where their paths split.
Coming out of high school, Williamson was a consensus five-star recruit. ESPN had him as the second-best high school basketball player in the nation, while 247Sports had him as the best.
He received offers from 16 NCAA Division 1 programs, and on a live ESPN telecast he committed to Duke, a blue-chip college program led by legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Williamson has had cameras on him ever since.
At Duke, he played only one season. That was all he needed to make his mark.
Video clips of him dunking in increasingly theatrical and athletic ways went viral. He averaged 22.6 points per game (PPG) and 8.9 rebounds per game (RPG), and was certain to be the No. 1 overall selection as soon as he declared for the NBA Draft.
Whenever he has played — be it at college or now in the NBA — the team result seems almost secondary to how Williamson performs. He recently said the attention he receives “is a lot to take in sometimes.”
Morant has had a very different journey to the NBA. He was not ranked coming out of high school and an offer from South Carolina was the only top-tier Division 1 college that reached out to him. He ended up committing instead to Murray State, a mid-tier college that plays in the lesser known Ohio Valley Conference.
In his rookie season at Murray State, Morant recorded a modest 12.7 PPG and 6.5 RPG but an encouraging 6.2 assists per game (APG).
He took off from there. In his sophomore season, while his RPG decreased to 5.7, he made up for it in an increased PPG of 24.5 and his record of 10.0 APG was the best in all of Division 1 basketball.
Morant hasn’t looked back.
The big leagues
While Williamson has been out with injury for most of the year, the 20-year-old Morant has established himself as frontrunner for NBA Rookie of the Year.
He’s won two Rookie of the Month awards already and recorded an average of 17.5 PPG, 7.2 APG and 3.5 RPG. Morant also ranks 12th on the overall list for APG and among rookies he ranks top for PPG and APG.
He has exceeded expectation, even for a No. 2 overall selection, narrowly missing out on selection for the NBA All-Star game.
While Morant made his mark, Williamson was on the sidelines recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery after picking up an injury in preseason.
Morant has been supportive of Williamson, tweeting a series of positive messages during the 19-year-old’s NBA debut.
Ahead of tonight’s game, Williamson said that he is “excited” to play Morant
“We came a long way,” said Williamson. “I’m happy for him … but when we’re on the court, I’m not really thinking about that, I’m just trying to get the win.”