Barely two weeks into the on-going NBA season, a number of players have taken flight with eye-catching displays and one of such players is the 2019/20 Rookie of the year recipient, Jamel Morant.
At just 22 years of age, the Memphis Grizzlies point guard is establishing himself as one of the bankable A-list hoopers in the quest to prove that not only is he ready for the big stage, but built for it.
SO FAR SO GOOD FOR JA
After dropping 37 points on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers — a new franchise record, he followed it up with a 27-point, eight assists outing against the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the Grizzlies’ third game of the season against the LeBron James led Los Angeles Lakers, Morant was the best player on the court, dropping 40 points, 10 assists and three steals in a nail-biting loss. Only three other players in NBA history attained those marks in a game at 22 years old or younger — LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas.
He then delivered a win in overtime, last Thursday, over the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center to accentuate a bright start to the season. He lit up the Warriors for 21 of his 30 points in the second half on 7-of-11 shooting, while gobbling up three of his game-high tying four steals, as Memphis fought back from a 19-point deficit to serve Golden State its first loss of the season 104-101 in overtime.
THE NEED FOR CONSISTENCY
Having expressed disappointment about missing the NBA All-Star game in his first two seasons. Perhaps now is the time Morant set loftier goals especially if the young star continues to perform at this level.
“I was in a position to be an All-Star my first two years and didn’t make it,” Morant said in the off-season. “That bothered me a lot. So, I just stopped focusing on that and just on my play. I’m a winner, and that’s the main goal. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself. I’ve just got to control what I can control, and that’s my play on the floor.”
Thus far, he is achieving all of these and more, but the season is barely a fortnight old, as much more is expected in the coming weeks should he want to be in the conversation for an All Star spot.
Being an awesome 3-point shooter was not part of his package coming out of Murray State, creating a need to prove himself as a threat beyond a certain distance from the basket. For the 2020-21 season, Morant regressed on his 3-point shooting efficiency going from 33.5 percent in the 2019-20 season to 30.8 despite a minor increase in 3-point attempts.
But if this season’s stats are anything to go by, Morant has been knocking down 44 percent of his 3-point shots on six attempts per game and when he gets into the paint he is nothing short of devastating.
Over half of his shots this season have come at the rim, where he’s converting at a ridiculous rate of 71.4 percent, per NBA.com Stats. When he is not creating his own shot, he is making things happen for his teammates, taking advantage of the extra attention defenses are paying him, dishing out 8.0 assists per game, which puts him ninth in the league.
IS AN ALL-STAR SLOT ACHIEVABLE THIS SEASON?
For both the All-Star and All-NBA team recognition to come to fruition, Morant will need his individual improvement to tie into a lot more on-court success for the Grizzlies.
As he showed in the Play-In Tournament against the Golden State Warriors with two clutch shots, Morant is ready for pressure situations and can be depended upon. Despite not being a threat from long range, he can still make his way to a favorable spot closer to the basket.
Ja Morant is insane pic.twitter.com/rInXByAHK1— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) October 30, 2021
Whilst the claim of being a top five point guard in the league is his personal conviction and not quite a popular perspective as portrayed by the 2021-22 player rankings from NBA.com and other publications, his quest for an All-Star and All-NBA selection, going by his displays so far, are seemingly attainable.