Although it’s very early in the season, Ja Morant has already shown that he belongs in the NBA. The fiery and explosive point guard out of Murray State has shown each game that he’s more than a super athletic rookie as he marks his name on the Rookie of the Year list for this season.
Granted that his athleticism is a big part of his game, Morant made his transition from college to the NBA look effortless. Not just because he’s a great athlete, it’s his high IQ and skill level that allow him to shine on the big stage. He’s averaging 17.5 points and 7 assists per game on 49% from the field and 39% three-point shooting while holding 77% accuracy from the stripe.
In this article, we’ll break down the things that made him perform well at NBA level and how he’s already ahead of the curve compared to other rookie point guards
Mastering the pick & roll
It’s great to see a young point guard utilising the pick & roll so effectively, Morant applies the basics in reading the defence reaction and keeping his defender guessing every time he attacks.
When you watch Morant’s play, you’ll notice his cold nerves and patience when using the pick.
If the defender decides to go under the screen, he doesn’t force the contested shot by facing the help defender. Instead, he stays poised waiting for his defender to switch back on him and then makes the quick lob or pass for the big man to finish.
And if the defender chose to fight over the screen, he takes advantage of it by stepping inside and keeping his dribble alive to pin his defender behind him with his body. This puts the defence under pressure to guard both ball and the man and forces the help defender to cut him off leaving his man wide open.
Morant sets up his teammates in other ways too. His speed and athleticism obviously make him a threat attacking the basket, so Morant is doing a great job in drawing attention from help defenders and kicking it to the open man on the perimeter.
I must admit that I was impressed by his efficient scoring. It’s not surprising that Morant can get to the rim whenever he wants at the NBA level, but there was some concern coming to the league that if he can finish consistently around the rim since he has such a skinny frame.
But so far, the Memphis Grizzlies rookie is not having much trouble adjusting to the physicality.
The kid is a lot stronger than people expected and you see it when he gets banged up. His athleticism and body control allows him to finish through the contact – that’s a regular occurrence
With that being said, Morant has shown that he knows when and when not to attack the basket, he knows how to slow things down when he’s attacking the basket and rise up to knock down high arching floaters which became one of his most lethal weapons. A move like that is important to have in your arsenal if you’re a young guard since you won’t be able to dunk or finish over every big man in the league.
Having a move like that will benefit him greatly in the long run.
Morant’s jump shot was another concern coming into the season.
Right now, he’s making defenders pay for sagging off or going under the screen. If he keeps up his consisting shooting the defence will have no choice but to contest the shot and that opens up more ways for him to attack the basket, which is his bread and butter in the first place.
From a player perspective, despite his ability and skill-set, we can’t ignore his high turnover numbers.
When you give the keys to the franchise to a young point guard, he is expected to have some troubles taking care of the basketball.
So, it’s really not much of a red flag at the moment. This is something that will be a work-in-progress throughout the season, but his current performance overshadows this one flaw.
On the other hand, He embraces the moment in game time situations. Against the Brooklyn Nets he really carried the load offensively in the fourth quarter and then he takes on the challenge of guarding arguably the best one-on-one scorer in the league in Kyrie Irving and blocks his shot. And against the Houston Rockets he accepted James Harden challenging his shooting by making 10/11 from the field and 3/4 from three-point line.
Having confidence is a huge factor in player’s development.
You can have all the talent in the world but that doesn’t matter when you step on the court if you don’t have confidence in your game. And it looks like Morant doesn’t have that issue.
I’m excited to see what type of year Ja Morant will have when it’s all said and done considering that there are other talented rookies playing well right now.
But regardless of Rookie of the Year, one thing is for sure: The future is bright for this kid.