While they lost to Florida by 28, Murray State became everyones favorite team to root for. A 12 seed with an explosive playmaker in Ja Morant, it was fun to watch. During this season, Ja’s athletic ability has been all over ESPN, which will culminate in him likely being a lottery pick. Regardless of where in the lottery he goes, it will be too high.
In Ja’s Defense
Over the last two seasons, Ja Morant’s minutes have increased from 34.0 MPG to 36.5 MPG. This can be misleading, as the slight minute bump has coincided with a large usage bump, from 20.4% to 33.2%. He has taken more shots this season (6.8 more a game,) but has actually improved his shooting and three point percentages. This has equated to 24.4 points per game (almost double last year.) What is even more impressive is his increased assist numbers, going from 6.3 to 10.2. This offensive output and his ability to take more efficient shots shows he can adapt and improve his game. This will come in handy as he transitions to the NBA, and Ja Morant should be enticing for any team looking for a point guard.
As much as I love Ja Morants’s ability to improve his game, there is one thing I am very concerned about. To steal an old adage from football, “ball security is job security.” While Ja has shown an ability to do well under a higher work load, it also has its drawbacks. Morant’s turnovers per game jumped from 2.5 per game to 5.3. This should be expected as Ja Morant becomes the primary ball handler. However, this is still concerning because once he gets to the NBA, he is playing with better players across the board. Early on, it will be rough to watch sometimes. With thay being said, he has shown an ability to adapt, and an NBA team would draft Ja expecting him to figure it out.
Another concern is his three point percentage. While it has improved, it is still not very good, sitting at 34.4%. In the NBA, this would put him tied for 119th best in the league, with Eric Gordon. That’s not awful, putting him right behind Lou Williams and right above Oladipo (before he got hurt.) The problem is, how will Morant adapt to the longer three? If he can maintain this percentage from three, it is manageable if he is surrounded by shooters. Given there is a chance it gets worse, watching him miss a lot of threes and settle for long two does not help anyone, except the other team.
Does Any of This Matter?
I’m not saying Ja will be a bad NBA player. I hate that phrased being prematurely used, as I’ve expressed before. He will be a good player given time to develop. The problem is, if he is taken within the top three picks, the fans won’t want a prospect. They will want a player who can succeed day one. Based on his abilities, Ja will succeed to a point, but there will be growing pains. A year from now, Ja will be a very promising young player, who some will call a bust because he did not shoot out of the gate like a bat out of hell. As I’ve mentioned above, if anything, Ja Morant can adapt. If he does, then I agree with Morant Sr. about where his son should be drafted.