NBA rookie Ja Morant has been one of the breakout stars of the 2019-20 season. In a season where everything was expected to revolve around Zion Williamson, Morant took advantage of Williamson’s late start to sway things in his direction. With everything going his way, people are beginning to speculate that Morant isn’t just having a great rookie season; he’s having the type of season stars have early on in their careers.
Ja Morant’s amazing start as an NBA rookie
Morant played two years at Murray State. While Murray State isn’t a hotbed for NBA talent, the team made waves thank in large part to the play of Morant.
His first season, in which he gave the team 12 points, six rebounds, and six assists, showed that Morant was a complete player, but his second season, in which he put up 24 points, ten assists, six rebounds, and two steals, showed that he could be a star.
The Racers might not have made it deep into either of their runs in March Madness, but they went much further than anybody could have predicted, and Morant secured his spot as a top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
After landing on a Memphis Grizzlies squad that already had a promising young core led by Jaren Jackson and Dillon Brooks, Morant stood out among the crowd almost immediately.
Through 48 games, Morant leads the Grizzlies in scoring and assists. His 18 points and seven dimes are the types of numbers even established point guards live for. On top of this, after a slow start, the Grizzlies have shown that they can hang with several of the biggest names in the NBA and snuck in and out of the playoff picture throughout the season.
Whether or not the playoffs come this year, Morant has already proven that he can lead a team to wins, and at just 20 years of age, the sky is the limit on his potential.
How good is Ja Morant?
Jared Dubin of FiveThirtyEight recently did a breakdown of Morant’s year. The way that Dubin sees it, the young point guard can only go up from here. Already, the team who won just 33 games in 2018-19 has won 28 with nearly 30 games remaining. They have already surpassed the over for wins that Vegas set.
Morant’s shooting has been a major key to his success. Through the first two-thirds of his rookie season in the NBA, he has shot nearly 50-percent from the field and 37.6 percent from behind the three-point arc. His flashy dribbling does not just help him look good on SportsCenter, it keeps defenses on their toes. His ability to switch direction at the drop of the hat keeps them guessing.
Morant can go inside and out, upwards and down. With less than a year of experience, he might only be getting started. Morant has a driving ability largely unseen by players his size.
His frequency of going to the rim is only matched by De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings and Derrick Rose of the Detroit Pistons, and he assists on 30-percent of his teammate’s baskets.
So much of Morant’s feel for the game at such a young age combines with his intelligence, speed, and leadership in a way that makes it hard not to have big dreams for him. Just how special, though? Fans can only wait to find out.
Where can Ja Morant go from here?
Morant is not a perfect player. His already adequate three-point shot can still get better. Like most undersized young guards, his defense can be a mark against him.
Still, for somebody who was just a teenager when he was drafted, Morant is way ahead of the curve. There are lots of factors that can make his career go one way or another, but few players with the intangibles that Morant possesses go on to disappoint unless extenuating circumstances intervene.
Barring catastrophe, Morant could very well become a superstar in the next year or two. From there, he might be even better. He has shown an ability to win, improved at every level since he first got into college, and has a team that’s built to feed off of each other’s successes. Now, all he needs is patience, consistency, and good luck to become one of the next big stars in the NBA.