Knicks' RJ Barrett Talks Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, NBA Rookie of the Year Race

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 15, 2020

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12:  RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks heads for the net in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on February 12, 2020 in New York City.The Washington Wizards defeated the New York Knicks 114-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett commented on the NBA Rookie of the Year race at a press conference prior to the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday in Chicago.

"A lot of people deserve [Rookie of the Year], a lot of people work hard for it. I don't know. It's kind of hard not to vote for myself," Barrett said per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

"I feel like a lot of guys are playing really good. There's a lot of good rookies out there. Ja's been doing his thing all year. Kendrick [Nunn of the Heat]. Zion's back now. Guys are playing really well. I'm never going to stop believing in myself."

Of course, no one can fault Barrett for having self-confidence and a belief in his skillset. The third overall 2019 draft pick out of Duke has shown flashes of the star he can be in scoring 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

But he's also exhibited some inconsistency and struggles, notably shooting 38.8 percent from the field.

He is unlikely to win this year's NBA Rookie of the Year, especially considering that the clear frontrunner and likely winner is the Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant, who is on pace to lead his team to the playoffs after the team went 33-49 last year.

Morant is averaging 17.6 points and 7.1 assists per game for the Grizzlies. His fellow rookies praised him in their own pressers.

"Of all the young guys in the league, that's a star right now," Heat guard Kendrick Nunn said per Evan Barnes of the Commercial Appeal. "He's playing well. I'm happy to share the court with another young talent."

Grizzlies teammate Jaren Jackson Jr. also gave his endorsement to Morant in the Rookie of the Year race.

"Ja. It's not close," Jackson said, per Barnes.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson would have assuredly joined that race, but he suffered a torn meniscus and sat until mid-January. He's lived up to the massive hype so far, however, with 22.1 points on 57.6 percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Williamson and Barrett were teammates at Duke, and the Knicks wing said he would relish the challenge of guarding him if called upon.

"Hell yeah. Hell yeah. I feel like I know better than anybody how to guard him," Barrett said.

Morant and Williamson will start for Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge. Barrett will start for Team World.

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