Ja Morant played good basketball with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2019-20 NBA season.
The NBA’s Rookie of the Year, Morant averaged 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game for a team that finished 34-39 and came pretty close in making it to the NBA Playoffs as an eight seeds.
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers had other plans, however.
Entering the 2020-21 NBA season, the expectations will be higher for the Grizzlies and Morant.
“For him to continue to get stronger,” retired NBA vet and current Fox Sports Memphis color commentator Brevin Knight told me on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show.
“That’s first and foremost because of the way that he plays the game he is going to physically get his body into a better place so he can take the hits, because you don’t want to take away from his athleticism. You don’t want to take away his aggressiveness with getting to the basket but, you know over time if you are a slight of frame, those hits start to build on your body. For him to get stronger physically and then on the opposite end for me, it’s the midrange game. Everybody wants to talk about you know, shoot the 3’s but with his quickness and his ball handling ability is going to allow him to get anywhere on the floor that he would like to and with a lot of screen-and-roll situations, we found a lot of teams that like to go under the screen to try to beat him to the paint. So that little 15-19 foot jump will present itself. I would like to see him continue to get good at that shot off the dribble; not a standstill, but coming off the screen and off the dribble and being able to step into that jump shot. If he’s able to knock that down at a normal clip, then that would be fine. The other thing on the defensive side is that I would like him to be able to get into the passing lanes more. He’s athletic, he’s long. Defensively, he would be able to create easier opportunities for himself so that you’re not always having to score against the defense all the time. So those are for me the basketball things, but outside of that, it’s going to be continuing his leadership skills and how to get the most out of this team on a regular basis. Listen, he has every tool. He has the tangibles, the intangibles to make this organization go and so I only look forward to bigger and better things from him.”
In addition to his game on the floor, I asked Knight if he sees similarities in Morant’s game and Detroir Pistons guard, Derrick Rose.
“No,” he said.
“I know some people like to say that. But Derrick Rose’s game was so physical. And that’s not Ja Morant’s game at all. His game is quick, fast, and slithery and get by you, and use that explosion but it’s not a physical game. Derrick Rose was a physical basketball player. He was also a guy that once he got into the paint, he WANTED the contact. He played with contact. So if you want to talk about explosion, then yes they are very similar – a young D-Rose now when he first came in Chicago and when he was taking off and dunking on you in a heartbeat; that is the similarity between the two. The other difference is Derrick Rose is a basketball player. I don’t call Derrick Rose a point guard. He’s not a 2-guard…he’s a basketball player. You need him to run the team? He runs the team. You need him to get down here and score? He’ll come down there and score because that’s his mentality. Ja Morant is a pure point guard that can do ALL of the other things. So that difference keeps them in two different categories but, in terms of explosion? Just as explosive as Derrick Rose.”