Some have expressed doubts about Ja Morant’s game and how it will translate to the NBA. Here’s why he’ll be fine for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Going into the 2019 NBA Draft, Memphis Grizzlies draftee Ja Morant was the consensus second or third-best player on most analysts’ draft boards.
The young point guard out of Murray State wowed fans and haters alike with his gaudy stats and electric highlight reels for the past year, and for a team like the Grizzlies that had just traded away its franchise point guard, drafting Morant at No. 2 overall seemed like a no-brainer.
Some big question marks still surround Morant and his ability to transition from NCAA superstar to NBA rookie.
Strength of college competition
The biggest knock on Morant is that he played his college ball in the Ohio Valley Conference against a lackluster slate of opponents.
During the 2018-2019 season, Morant averaged 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game, but he did it against the likes of Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, and similar competition.
There were some bright spots last year though.
In a 78-72 loss to Alabama, a bubble team that barely missed last year’s NCAA tournament, Morant dropped 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists on 16-29 shooting.
Against Auburn, a Final Four team, Morant recorded 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists and nearly led the Racers to an upset victory.
Morant succeeded in leading his team to an upset over No. 5 seed Marquette in the 2019 NCAA tournament, logging 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists in the process.
In a blowout loss to #4 seed Florida State a few days later, Morant scored 28 of his team’s 62 points.
The level of competition in the star-studded NBA Western Conference is a few giant leaps ahead of the OVC competition that Ja eviscerated in his sophomore season, but he faced some respectable teams and fared very well against them.
In addition, he was Murray State’s first, second, and third option on offense in college, which will no longer be the case while he’s sharing the court with proven NBA scorers like Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson, and Jae Crowder. There will be a bit of a learning curve as Morant gets acclimated with NBA speed and size, but those are normal growing pains that all rookies endure.
Furthermore, today’s NBA is filled with stars who played against subpar college competition (Steph Curry at Davidson, Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State, CJ McCollum at Lehigh, etc.), proving that you don’t have to have played for a typical blue blood college program in order to be successful in the league.