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2019 NBA Draft Profile: Ja Morant

Ja Morant is a special talent at the point guard position and would likely be a real threat to be the number one pick any other year.

Ja Morant
Murray State
Sophomore
Position: PG

Measurements:

Height: 6’3″
Weight: 175 lbs

NBA Combine:

*Did not participate*

College Stats:

Strengths:

Athleticism: Ja Morant is one of the most athletic players you’ll see play the point guard position. He’s lightning fast when dribbling the length of the floor, and extremely quick when switching directions. In the film review at the bottom of the article, you’ll see a play where two Auburn players double team Morant. He does one quick crossover, and the cut on the crossover was all it took to shed both defenders. Also, Morant’s leaping ability is something that we’ve all seen go viral on Twitter with his ridiculous in-game dunks. I decided to insert the videos of his three best dunks this season (won’t do this for every player, but it is necessary for Ja Morant).

Passing/Court Vision: Last season, every casual basketball fan got so distracted by Trae Young’s shooting abilities that they didn’t know he could pass too. I feel like this is going to be the same for Morant, except instead of shooting it’s his dunking that people are going to be too hooked on. Morant throws some beautiful passes every game, a main reason why he led the nation in assists per game with 10.0.

Furthermore, Morant’s assist percentage during the 2018-19 season was an astounding 51.8%, which ranked first in the nation. This means that out of all of the shots Murray State players not named Ja Morant hit, 51.8% of them were assisted by Morant, That’s a crazy stat.

Ja Morant’s court vision is beyond his years, as he’ll throw tons of jaw-dropping half/full court assists every game. His ability to recognize the defense and find open teammates will go a long way in the NBA.

Ability to Finish Around the Rim: An aspect of Morant’s game that stood out to me was his finishing ability at the rim. For a guy that doesn’t always heavily rely on his jump shot, this is crucial. It doesn’t matter if there’s guys jumping with him, he’ll somehow find a way to put the ball in the hoop, whether it’s an up-and-under, or some other crazy reverse layup he’ll pull out of his sleeve. His shooting percentage from 2-point range is 55.6%, which backs up his finishing abilities around the basket.

Efficiency: Ja Morant is the type of guy that you will watch play and once you blink he’ll already have 20 points. He’s such an efficient scorer as he averaged approximately 24.5 points per game on only 16.1 field goal attempts per game. Morant also ranked 9th in the nation in player efficiency rating at 31.6.

Weaknesses:

Turnovers/Decision Making: Ja Morant led the nation in total turnovers with 170 on the season. This is an average of 5.2 per game, which is less than ideal. From what I’ve seen, most of Morant’s turnovers are the result of trying to make a home run pass that will just get broken up or tipped. This could just be his play style, or he could be making these passes since he’s not playing against great competition. I’m not exactly sure.

In the NBA, this turnover number could remain high if he continues to make some of these risky passes, especially because the NBA obviously has superior defenders to the Ohio Valley Conference.

Also, Morant’s usage rate is 33.3%, ranking 15th in the nation and first in the Ohio Valley Conference. If the ball is in his hand for that much of the time, turnovers are going to happen. Overall, I don’t think this is a huge concern, as Morant will learn to adjust his play style a bit to the NBA game, but it is something to watch out for.

Defense: I’m a bit conflicted on Morant’s defense, as he’ll make one or two phenomenal defensive plays per game due to his length or athleticism, while also going unnoticed for the rest of the game. These occasional great plays defensively were good enough for Morant to lead the OVC in defensive win shares with 2.4, which is definitely interesting considering the eye test doesn’t say the same thing.

The potential on defense is certainly there due to the physical attributes, and that’ll be enough for some NBA scouts, but there are certain plays where he’ll be out of place, or certain plays where he’ll leave a man open due to a defensive lapse. His defense is average, but compared to the rest of his game, it’s a weakness in my opinion. That doesn’t mean the physical tools aren’t there to overcome that, but for now, I’m keeping defense as a weakness for Morant.

Shot off the Dribble: I don’t think that Ja Morant has a shooting problem. In fact, his shooting has improved since his freshman year. Morant shot 30.7% from 3 last season, and shot 36.3% from 3 this season. In the middle of the season, most of Morant’s jump shots, three-point or mid-range, were in catch and shoot situations, not off the dribble. However, Morant creating his own shot off the dribble certainly increased as the season went on, which is a really positive sign to see. This play was at the end of the first half against Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This is something we didn’t see a lot of at the beginning of season.

Overall, Morant gets most of his points going to the rim where he’ll finish or get fouled. There’s no problem with that, I’d just like to see Morant take more jump shots off the dribble since the NBA is so highly predicated on shooting in this day and age. I’m fairly confident he’s more than trending in the right direction in this category, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a normal part of his game very soon.

NBA Player Comparison: De’Aaron Fox

I’ve seen so many Ja Morant-Russell Westbrook comparisons, but I think Westbrook is probably one of the most unique players in NBA history. No one is Russell Westbrook. When I watch Ja Morant, he reminds me so much of De’Aaron Fox. First it’s that freak athleticism with the speed and vertical. It’s so rare to see someone that athletic. I also feel as though both players play similar games with that speed. Both players use the athleticism to get to the rim. Both players also have fantastic court vision. In terms of shooting abilities, Fox’s shot has come a long way. He shot 24.6% from downtown in college, and is now shooting 37.0% in his sophomore season in the NBA. Morant’s three-point shot is much further along than Fox’s was in college, but his shot off the dribble isn’t. Any team would be happy for Morant to be the type of player that Fox has become early in his NBA career.

Projected Draft Position: #2

Ja Morant is my top-ranked point guard in this draft by a mile, and the clear number two player on my board. With Zion Williamson going first overall to the Pelicans, it’s pretty clear that the Grizzlies will draft Morant at the second pick and move on from their long-time point guard Mike Conley.

Film Review vs. Auburn (via Twitter @sports_burd):

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