Through five games of the NBA season Ja Morant is averaging a career best in points per game, 3P%, eFG%, and TS%. After almost two weeks of play he’s an MVP candidate.
If we redo the 2019 NBA draft, Morant should go No. 1 over New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson.
That was a bit of hyperbole, and we’re not actually serious. Or are we?
Drafted the same year, Morant won Rookie of the Year. Morant has played in 135 games to only 85 for Williamson. They say the best ability is availability, right?
But last season Zion was an All-Star, Morant was not.
Morant’s Grizzlies squad made the playoffs last year and look poised to do the same this season. Zion and the Pelicans? Not even close.
Then, of course, there is the drama in New Orleans. Williamson has had three coaches in three years, and suffered a mysterious injury this summer the public only found out about last month at Pelicans’ media day.
This isn’t really about Williamson, who in his limited play has shown he can be the most devastating interior scorer in the NBA. He was a monster last season, averaging 27 points per game on eFG% of 61 and TS% of 64.9.
That is elite production.
No, this is about Morant’s leap. The second pick in the 2019 draft is the cornerstone of the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s among the league’s most exciting young players and looks like he’s improved from last year.
We know about the athleticism. It leaps off the screen.
Ja Morant had himself a night with 37 points and THIS BLOCK 🚫 pic.twitter.com/zg7XVxzW9Q
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 21, 2021
But he’s also gotten better shooting the ball and operating out of the pick and roll. When the game truly slows down for Morant, look out. He’s putting up these kinds of numbers and highlights, and his game has more room to improve.
The talking heads that fill the morning sports shows think it’s a legitimate question.
"I love Ja Morant, the only reason I'll take Zion over him is because pound-for-pound and inch-for-inch, I'm going to take the bigger player."
Who would you rather have?
RT for Ja
LIKE for Zion pic.twitter.com/cKmswsbPYv
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) October 29, 2021
We have no idea who will turn out to be the better player. So much of that is about circumstance and opportunities. Team success will be a large part of how this all plays out, and contrary to what many believe, that isn’t only up to the player.
The Pelicans organization seems like a disaster right now. Is that Zion’s fault?
Either way, fans should be excited about the future of the league. Both Morant and Zion look like they’ll play a huge role for years to come.
The comparison game is what people do. Morant and Zion are friends. They grew up in South Carolina and played AAU ball together. It’s a pretty safe bet they don’t think about this in the same way fans do.
We can wait a few more years before we start deciding who should’ve been picked higher or who’s the better player. Time will tell.