When the Memphis Grizzlies got the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, they had a few choices to steer the team into the future. After already striking gold with Jaren Jackson Jr. in 2018 with the No. 4 pick, they selected Murray State University’s Ja Morant, believed to be the best guard in the draft.
Ja Morant’s excellent start
So far, Morant is averaging 17 points and six assists per game, while shooting 40% from three-point range. Although the media was initially concerned about his shot selection, the 20-year-old has been great for the Grizzlies.
Morant has scored 20-plus points in 14 games this season, while the Grizzlies currently rank ninth in the West with a 15-22 record. The Western Conference will be extremely tough for the next several years. But this doesn’t mean the Memphis front office should completely blow things up and start over.
This route will see Morant and Jackson Jr. hitting their prime right as fans will see a shifting of the guard in the Western Conference due to player retirements. A bonus for Memphis: Morant has meshed well with Jackson Jr. who is averaging 17 points and five rebounds in his sophomore season.
Other Rookie of the Year candidates
We think a few other candidates have a shot at winning Rookie of the Year:
Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards
Entering the season, we thought this was a good pickup for the Wizards. Hachimura is a capable scorer, and the backcourt needed a punch with John Wall out for the entire season.
The Gonzaga alum is putting up 13 points and nearly six rebounds per game — the latter stat leads all rookies in the category. Hachimura’s only issue is on the defensive end, but we think it has more to do with scheme than skill set.
Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat
Although Miami’s Tyler Herro receives a lot of praise, Kendrick Nunn also looks like an excellent pickup for the Heat. The guard is averaging over 15 points per game. Nunn is also one of the NBA’s most-used players with a top-75 usage rate.
Why it won’t be Zion Williamson
Although Zion Williamson is expected to begin playing within the next few weeks, don’t expect him to win the award unless he comes out and averages 30 points per game.
New Orleans is currently 12-24, second to last in the West. So there’s no reason for Williamson to play at all this season. The smarter move would be to have the Duke product sit out the rest of the year, miss the summer league, and be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season.
Could someone make a second-half surge?
For most of the 2018-19 season, it looked like Luka Doncic would run away with the Rookie of the Year award. However, after the All-Star break. Trae Young got hot, averaging 25 points and nine assists per game.
Doncic still ultimately won the award, but Young made it interesting. Will we see another rookie do that this season? Our guess will be a player like Herro, who meshes well with Jimmy Butler and could be a potential candidate in his own right.
Do you think Morant will win Rookie of the Year?
Is Morant a lock to earn the award? We think if he continues this level of play and the Grizzlies stay in contention for the final playoff spot, he could run away with it.
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