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  • Mamadou Tall

Memphis Got One

Every couple of years there's always one player who stamps themself as "one of them." The "them" is an elite class of NBA talent from the present and past. They are the names that are synonymous with all-time great. Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies is the "one."

In two and a half seasons, Ja Morant has elevated himself to the level of the league's best players. In two and a half seasons he has entered the MVP conversation. At 22, Morant is debatably a top 5 point guard. He's a lock for all-star; and is currently sitting at the eighth spot of the NBA's Kia MVP Ladder. He is making that jump from young star to certified all-star.

Heading into the 2019 NBA Draft, the main draw of attention was Zion Williamson. With the first pick of that draft belonging to the New Orleans Pelicans, it was a forgone conclusion that Zion was the first pick. Morant was picked immediately after that. Looking back on it now, it seems like the Memphis Grizzlies were the true winners. Zion Williamson has only played in 85 games (due to injuries) versus Morant's 166 games played. Not only has Morant been more available than Williamson, but he has also already begun laying the groundwork of cultivating a winning culture with his franchise. All in all, three years later, it's clear Ja Morant is the best player out of that draft.

Morant is currently averaging 25 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on 48-35-77 (field goal, three-point, free throw) shooting splits. With a player efficiency rating of 24.67; Morant ranks ninth for players who play 30 plus minutes a game (barely sitting behind Trae Young in PER). His PER of 24.67 is an improvement compared to the 16.7 rating last season.

The rise in play has become infectious to his team. They currently sit at the third spot in the west with a 32-17 record. When I say infectious, I mean it. Not only has Ja Morant elevated his game to new heights, but so have players such as Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Brandon Clarke, to name a few. The Memphis Grizzlies have become one of the league's brightest young teams behind the play of Morant.

Halfway into the 2021-2022 season, Morant has provided fans and spectators with eye-catching plays. These plays vary from explosive dunks, missed dunks, blocked shots, acrobatic layups, dimes, and crossovers. Only special players can make the rounds on social media for missing a dunk. He is one of those players who I expect to see a highlight play from every time he suits up.

Morant is a once-in-a-lifetime type of player. He possesses the athleticism to perform show-stopping plays that could change the energy of an arena. He has the skill to weave through traffic and stop on a dime to make a tough floater. His athleticism at the point guard position mirrors Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in the past. His poise and intensity are identical to that of Chris Paul, and his touch around the basket shows flashes of Kyrie Irving. All of these players I compared him to are all box office in their own right. The combination of all these things has made Ja Morant a box office attraction. The player you start a franchise around.

Every couple of years or so, the NBA opens our eyes to a diamond in the rough. Those gems among the 500 or so players that call themselves NBA players. Ja Morant has always been that diamond in the rough that we were unaware of. From his days flying under the radar as an unranked high school prospect; to him making noise in college on the lesser-known mid-major, Murray State. Fast forward to the present, where he's leading an NBA team into the playoffs at the age of 22.

This league is full of talent. Of all the talent that's scattered around, there are a few gems that shine the brightest. Ja Morant is one of those newly found gems. The Memphis Grizzlies hit the jackpot when they drafted him. The early signs of greatness are starting to show. I can lock it in that this is nowhere near the heights that Ja Morant can take his game. Morant has turned the Grizzlies into a playoff team. All that's missing now is playoff success. Safe to say he's well on his way.

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