The Memphis Grizzlies’ MVP candidate Ja Morant set a franchise single-game scoring record with 52 points on Monday night in a win over the San Antonio Spurs. Morant was electric, scoring from all over the floor, dunking on 7-footer Jakob Poeltl and adding acrobatic buzzer beaters.
But the first-time All-Star and soon to be first time All-NBA hasn’t made a believer out of FS1’s Colin Cowherd. The sports pundit doesn’t think Morant’s game is built to last, and compared him to other players who started their careers hot and fizzled out.
“I am very skeptical of the long-term championship odds for springy, athletic guards that drive and score,” said Cowherd. “The multiple MVP guard winners, Magic with three, Steph with two, Nash with two, are distributors and shooters. The guys that knock your socks off. The little guys that drive to the basket because they’re not great shooters do not last.”
.@ColinCowherd is skeptical of Ja Morant long-term…
"Fans in the media have fallen for this. It's called John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose." pic.twitter.com/RtL6qKU6Xf
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 1, 2022
The thing is, Cowherd has a point. This is a fair criticism to have of Ja Morant. Some 63 percent of his shot attempts occur from 10 feet and in. He’s 6 feet 3 and around 174 pounds. He takes a beating scoring that close among the NBA giants.
Cowherd also compared Morant to other athletic guards that have seen their careers slow due to injury.
“[John] Wall hurt, [Russell] Westbrook multiple hurt. Start looking at them. Derrick Rose was every bit what Ja Morant is. But he was not a great shooter. He had to finish at the rim, and he got hurt.”
Morant is not a great shooter. Though he is shooting a career-high 34 percent from three this season, on four and a half attempts per game. His eFG% is 53.5 and TS% is 57.8 all slightly above league average.
Again, Cowherd has a point and may even be right. But he hasn’t earned the right to have his critique of NBA players heard without the belief that there is a bias beyond on-court play.
We all remember Cowherd’s rant in 2010 about a rookie John Wall doing the “Dougie” in pregame player intros. Cowherd used it as a referendum on Wall’s intelligence and proof that he couldn’t lead a team to a championship. As if dancing and winning are mutually exclusive.
Cowherd’s preferred point guards Jason Kidd, John Stockton, and Steve Nash would never. You know that trio. The non-dancing group with one NBA title between the three of them. A title won by Kidd in the twilight of his career when he was no longer All-NBA or All-Star level.
That same year Cowherd implied players without dads couldn’t be good leaders. Certainly a coded shot at any NBA point guard with no father.
I’m a big believer, when it comes to quarterbacks and point guards. Who’s your dad? Who’s your dad? … Strong families equal strong leaders. Talent? Overrated. Leadership? Underrated.”
Cowherd has a history of making either overtly racist comments or using dog-whistle language.
Ja Morant & Desmond Bane Backcourt Duo Putting League On Notice | Memphis Grizzlies Are Legit
Morant may never win a title but that won’t necessarily prove Cowherd’s position. An NBA title is a 1-30 lottery probability. Most players that play in the NBA will never win a title, most will never make a conference finals. That’s how this insanely competitive league goes.
But the points about Morant being too reliant on his athleticism are fair, and to have an extended career he will need to become a more efficient shooter. The message is valid. Too bad we have no faith in the messenger.
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