Hobby Musings: 2019-20 NBA Rookies Are Making an Impact in the Hobby – It’s still early in the NBA season, but collectors have been keeping an eye on what this year’s rookie class has to offer. Even with Zion Williamson’s debut being delayed by an injury, some of the other newcomers have picked up the slack and turned in some incredible performances. In terms of what it all means for the 2019-20 rookies’ cardboard performances, I had the chance to catch up with Beckett’s Steven Dalton. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: Steven, the crown jewel of this heralded NBA rookie class is Zion Williamson. How has his injury affected the market for his cards though?
SD: Though certainly disappointing, Zion Williamson’s injury and missing the start of the NBA season has not really affected the market for his cards in a negative way – prices remain beckettmediastrong and these early releases continue to sell well. I think because his injury is not considered “serious”, the hobby fervor for his cards has not been diminished; collectors are proving to be patient, while still expecting Zion to make a major impact when he does finally take the floor.
KS: I’ve seen the prices on his cards so far. It seems astonishing, especially since they’re collegiate cards. In your experience, how has the early sales and pricing for his cards compared to other top picks?
SD: Collector anticipation for Zion Williamson is borderline unprecedented – the excitement surrounding LeBron James back in 2003 is the most adequate comparison. More recently, there was a generous amount of hobby buzz around Lonzo Ball joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017-18, but interest in Ball fell off quickly once the season began, and his lofty card prices were not sustained. Last year, Luka Doncic rookies sold well right out of the gate, but collectors had minimal exposure to him before he entered the league, thus the level of anticipation was not nearly as high as what we’ve seen with Zion.
KS: He’s projected to miss weeks, but should be back later this year. How do you think the market will respond as we get closer to his return, especially as we see more cards and autographs featuring him in a Pelicans jersey?
SD: Yes, November sees the product release of 2019-20 Panini NBA Hoops, 2019-20 Certified Basketball and 2019-20 Absolute Memorabilia – these first rookie/autograph cards featuring Williamson in his NBA uniform will be highly desirable! The market will remain steady – there could be an uptick in prices as his return date inches closer. And a hobby “perfect storm” could be brewing to kick off the month of December, with a possible Zion debut coinciding with the release of collector favorite 2019-20 Panini Prizm Basketball!
KS: There are plenty of other talented rookies in this class like Ja Morant. Since Zion’s injury, how has the market for the rest of the rookie class responded?
SD: There was certainly interest in top rookies like Morant and RJ Barrett even before the Williamson injury. I don’t think Zion’s absence has increased/lessened collector focus on the other freshmen – if they excel on the court, hobby attention will come their way at some point.
KS: Have any rookies in particular seen a sharp rise in prices/interest since Zion’s injury?
SD: Morant and Barrett are meeting expectations so far, and each has cards on the most recent Beckett Basketball Hot List. In a recent duel with Kyrie Irving, Morant scored 30 points with 9 assists, the kind of performance that builds hobby momentum. Tyler Herro, Coby White are doing well – guys that succeeded in Summer League and are now starting and/or getting substantial playing time. A rookie can “pop” at any time with a standout showing and lead to sharp price increases, but the values will inevitably come back down if stellar play is not maintained.
KS: Who’s an under the radar guy who’s surprising you with card popularity and pricing so far?
SD: Well, the season is just getting underway – I guess I’d go with Jaxson Hayes as someone flying under the radar. I thought his cards would be more popular and prices a bit higher at this point – after all, he was the #8 pick in the draft. That being said, as a fellow Pelicans rookie, he is overshadowed by Zion, and he didn’t play in New Orleans’ first three games. However, he scored 19 points in his season debut, and I think, with regular playing time, he could generate some hobby attention.
KS: Conversely, who’s someone from the rookie class that you feel has been underperforming with their trading card performance thus far?
SD: Once again, we’re talking very early on here – I’ll stick with the Pelicans and say Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Regarded as one of the best shooters of the rookie class, the #17 pick in the draft has struggled, managing only 29% accuracy through four games. But it’s only four games! I’m equating his on the court play with his trading card “performance” – if a player isn’t performing well, his card prices usually follow suit.
KS: Last year’s class also had a strong rookie class headlined by Luka Doncic and Trae Young. As we stand today, which rookie from last year seems to be maintaining the strongest card market and why?
SD: Doncic and Young have gotten off to fantastic starts this season, and the card market remains strong for each. Examine any 2018-19 basketball card product and they will be 1-2 as far as rookie card prices are concerned. They are rising hobby standouts – Doncic and Young are playing like All-Stars, and their respective teams look to have reasonable shots at making the playoffs this year.
KS: A lot of players changed teams over the offseason. Which player on a team has seen the biggest difference in their card markets, good or bad, since going elsewhere?
SD: Regarding offseason transactions, Anthony Davis landing with the Lakers made the biggest impact within the hobby. His move to LA bolstered his rookie card prices pretty much across the board, and propelled his 2012-13 Panini Prizm RC to the #1 spot on the Beckett Hot List for that month. Playing alongside LeBron James for a marquee franchise will keep Davis squarely on the hobby radar throughout this season.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.