Ja Morant – Draft Profile

Photo credit, Maddie Meyer – Getty Images

Ja Morant is a nineteen year old Point Guard and second year player out of Murray State. Morant is mocked on almost all Draft boards at number two, being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies. He has drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook and Steve Francis with his speed and athletic play.

Morant has exploded in the last 24 months after only being lightly recruited when he left High School. In his first year at Murray State, Morant averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. In his second year Morant had one of the great point guard years of recent times, averaging 24 points 5 rebounds and 10 assists.

At 6’3 and 190 pounds Morant will be one of the lighter point guards in the NBA. His 6’7 wing span means he has a high ceiling defensively though. NBA conditioning will be important for Morant, he will need to get stronger to match up defensively against bigger players. He may be the most athletic player in this Draft. He is a great leaper and athletically will only get better with NBA coaching and strength training.

Scouting

The first thing you notice when watching video of Morant is his handle. He has the best handle in this Draft class, when he makes the NBA he may be one of the best ball handlers in the league. His repertoire of dribbles moves are elite. With a quick first step and the ability to change speed and direction with his crossover, he is a nightmare to guard in the open court.

Passing

In the open court he pushes with purpose and uses his speed to make opportunities for others or himself. As a passer Morant has strong court vision, he can pass of either hand and has good accuracy on these passes. He can also pass out of double teams, whether hes getting trapped in a pick and roll or attracting extra attention on drives to the rim. While he could become an elite floor general in the NBA, Morant needs to balance the amount of great reads with the bad reads he makes. He sometimes make wild turnovers in the half court, being it an alley-oop pass or throwing over a cutter’s head. With potential NBA teammates having better anticipation and reactions, Morant will have more room for error. But NBA coaches wont put up with wild turnovers in the half court.

Offense

Offensively Morant has a well balanced game. He is an excellent finisher at the rim and uses superior body control to finish around opponents. His elite quickness and change of pace means he can get to the rim at will. This aggression was rewarded with 8.2 trips to the foul line per game this season. His slight body meant he sometimes went for more complex finishes around the rim rather than finishing through contact. If he packs on some extra muscle he has the tools to get multiple and-ones in game situations. He can finish with his right hand but prefers the left, he will need to work on his right to be elite at the next level.

As a shooter he has all the skills to be a great shot creator, he makes a lot of space for himself with speed and dribble moves. Though Morant is a confident shooter, his shooting form may be of concern for potential teams. He releases from his head and with the elbow sticking out. These mechanics mean he struggles to get his shot off when shooting off the dribble. Shooting 36.3% from three this season may be an outlier, but if he were to improve his mechanics he could be an above average shooter in the league.

Defense

Morant is an excellent man defender, with his long arms he can steal or tip the ball away from his opponent. He also blocks some shots with his leaping ability. He can move his feet well in either direction and has good instincts when defending one on one.

On the other hand, his off ball defense needs some work. Defending one on one he has good instincts, but he can get stuck ball watching when playing off the ball. He sometimes forgets to box out, and he often gets caught out of position. His elite quickness meant a lot of his gambles paid off, but at the next level he cant rely just on athleticism. Morant got a lot of rebounds by using his superior leaping ability rather than great technique. As he carried such a massive offensive load he can be forgiven for some of these mistakes. Though NBA coaching may iron a lot of these habits out, if he wants to be the engine of an NBA offense he will need to be a passable team defender.

Summary

Morant is the consensus number two pick in what is considered a weak Draft. Though he had an excellent year at Murray State he didnt come up against many elite teams at NCAA level. He will need to be tested at the highest level to see how much of his game translates well. With elite athleticism and speed he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star. If he works on his shooting and defense he could have a long career as a starter on a playoff team.

If the Grizzlies pick Ja Morant at number two they are getting a key cog to rebuild around. He will be an excellent fit next to Jaren Jackson Jr, these two could provide the core to put the Grizzlies back in playoff contention.

Four NBA teams that should blow it up

Each year there are several NBA teams that sit in NBA mediocrity, either being on the edge of the Playoffs or at the back of the Draft Lottery. Frustrating for players and fans alike, these teams are best to offload assets and blow it up!

Charlotte Hornets

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of Basketball shoes. But a great player does not always make a great owner. Charlotte are in salary cap hell and have no conceivable way of improving the team in the short team. Short-sighted trades and mammoth contracts for mediocre players have been the hallmark of Jordan’s ownership of the team.

Having only made the playoffs once in the last four years, management have been reluctant to push the rebuild button. This is probably because they have All-Star Kemba Walker on their books.

Rather than pair Walker with another all-star, Marvin Williams, Nicholas Batum, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were all paid like All-Stars. Though they are good role players, spending 65% of your cap on four-year deals for these guys was a terrible decision.

This year they are one game out of the Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. If they were to make the Playoffs they would likely be bounced in the first round. It gets worse for the Hornets as Walker is a free agent this year. He will demand a max salary which will go on top of the 102 million that the Hornets owe to their current players. Rather than pay the luxury tax for a team that can’t contend for a title they may be better to let Walker go. If they feel they have to pay Walker rather than lose him for nothing, then the best course of action would be to trade everyone else and rebuild through the Draft.

Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards are having their worst season in recent memory, John Wall is out for at least 12 months while key players Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre have been traded away. With no cap space and only one fit star in Bradley Beal, Washington have no hope of improving their team in the short term.

Wall’s $170 million contract starts next year. Between him, Beal and Ian Mahinmi they are capped out with no way of signing free agents. Though they have their first-round picks moving forward they have given away their second-round picks for the next five years.

They could theoretically make the playoffs, but they are four games back from the eight seed so this is near impossible. It would be better for the team’s future if they looked forward to next year and work on improving their draft pick while also developing their young guys.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have had one of the stranger seasons in recent memory. After starting the season twelve and five, only eleven more games were won till the All-Star break. Young rookie Jaren Jackson Jr was one of the shining lights through an up and down first 50 games.

Around the trade deadline, franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were both put on the trade block. Season ending injuries to Jackson, promising youngster Dillon Brooks and free agent acquisition Kyle Anderson killed any chances of Memphis making the playoffs. Unable to find a trade for Conley, Gasol was eventually traded to Toronto.

Though they have now won three of their last four it seems they have now embraced the tank. Trading away a lot of the pieces from previous years teams they have a small group of guys that they can now focus in the immediate future. Finding a home for franchise great Conley should be a priority for the offseason. They could also benefit from taking on bad money to get more picks and young assets.

New Orleans Pelicans

If the New Orleans Pelicans haven’t already blown it up, the time is right to push the reset button. Having never really been in the playoff race this year, Anthony Davis put the league on notice when he requested a trade. Having stupidly turned down a mega offer from the Lakers for superstar Davis, New Orleans now move into an uncertain off-season. Though they may have a strong offer round the corner from the Celtics, New Orleans should have looked to move Davis and others with the first strong offer that was received.

With plenty of expiring contracts and intriguing prospects on the books, NOLA should look to be sellers in the off-season. Through the last 20 games they can play their lottery picks from 2017 and 2018 to see who is worth investing in. Though Anthony Davis is as good as gone this off-season, its important they look to secure the future of the franchise.