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Can Ja Morant Be The Answer For Memphis?

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

It is no secret that last season did not go as planned for the Memphis Grizzlies. But perhaps things are about to change. The addition of Ja Morant gives the Grizzlies some life and hope for the future. But is Morant the answer for all of Memphis’ problems? Perhaps. Let me explain.

Last year was supposed to be the rebound year after an awful showing from an injury-ridden squad resulted in a 22-60 record for the 2017-18 campaign. That was the first time the Grizzlies missed the playoffs since the 2009-10 season. Instead, even with a healthy Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies simply could not keep up with the rest of the NBA and began to fall hard around Thanksgiving.

With the season going nowhere and two aging veterans who still had some value, every Grizzlies fan knew that the time was now to move on from Gasol and Conley. Both were key pieces in the Grit and Grind era, but the new NBA just did not allow for the Grizzlies to find success with an aging crew. The only bright spot from the previous two seasons was the drafting of Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson played well in his first season, with his greatest moment being a game-winning shot against the Lakers over Lebron James. Though his season was cut short with injury, he will be ready to go for the 2019-2020 campaign.

With a rebuild on the horizon, it was time to depart with two beloved franchise players. Gasol was sent to the Toronto Raptors and won a title, while Conley was shipped to the Utah Jazz. The Boston Celtics own the rights to the Grizzlies first-round pick if it fell outside of the top 8 and the Grizzlies were on the border of conveying the pick. If the Celtics were to get the pick, the rebuild would be pushed back another year.

However, luck was on the side of the Grizzlies, and New Orleans Pelicans for that matter, the night of the lottery. The Grizzlies grabbed the second overall pick, handing them their point guard of the future in Ja Morant out of Murry State. Morant came out of nowhere. His electrifying plays and crazy athleticism put him on many teams’ radar.

But it is not just his crazy athleticism that has Grizzlies fans excited, but also his playmaking. Morant makes some mistakes, but the talent to become an elite passer is there. It is nice to have a point guard that can score at a high rate, but his first job is to run an offense and distribute the ball to his teammates.

Ja Morant is the first Division I basketball player to average double-digit assist in a season since 1994-1995. Even though he played a little Murray State, that is not an easy task to accomplish. Morant played well in the NCAA tournament and showed his talents on a national stage. When the Grizzlies moved Conley after the lottery, there was no hiding the fact that the Grizzlies wanted Morant.

Morant gives off some Russell Westbrook type vibes. This can be good or bad depending on who you ask. This does not concern me too much. Westbrook does not work well in the modern NBA because he refused to adapt and does not play well with others. Morant is different. He is the kind of player that will put forth an effort not just to improve his game, but also be behind his teammates 100%.

Morant will fit nicely alongside Jackson. The biggest concern surrounding Morant is his size and shooting. Morant is on the smaller side of 6’3 and needs to add some weight to finish at the rim. Shooting around 36% from three just does not cut it anymore in the league. But, since he is a rookie, patience needs to be given before anything is decided. However, his game will translate nicely into the league.

In a league that is moving away from “Big 3s” and towards “Dynamic Duos”, Memphis is ahead of the game in the future by pairing Morant and Jackson. Morant’s ability to pass the ball, finish at the rim and make plays for his teammates means that, yes, he is the answer to all of Memphis’ prayers.


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