Ja Morant’s game in the NBA this season can be described as both daring and haunting. After his all-star snub last season, the No.2 pick in the 2019 draft started the season with dangerous intentions. He averaged 30.4 points, 7.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds in his first five highlights-packed games.
Nike Basketball recognized the Mount Rushmore-sized chip on Ja Morant’s shoulder in the âSays Whoâ commercial, which perfectly captures his desire to defy the odds. Here, the intention to make the Memphis Grizzlies a championship team is unmistakable.
Ja Morant is averaging career highs in various statistical categories for the Memphis Grizzlies this season. He leads the team in scoring, assists and stealing, among others. His 24.1 PPG is 5 points above the previous season’s average, highlighting just how much he’s improved this season.
Perhaps the most astonishing fact about this campaign is that the third-year goaltender leads the NBA in inside points despite his setting and the position in which he plays. His ability to get into the teeth of the defense and generate open looks for his teammates is crucial. part of the Grizzlies offensive.
The Memphis Grizzlies, however, were 9-10 before the 22-year-old playmaker fell with a leg injury against the Atlanta Hawks. With back-to-back wins in their last two games, they only have one game over 0.500, which places them fifth in the Western Conference standings. With the way they play, the Grizzlies will even have a hard time making the play-in.
As impressive, if not as romantic as the tagline is, can this version of the Grizzlies bring Memphis to their very first NBA title behind the scorching form of Ja Morant?
Ja Morant can’t do it alone
Ja Morant needs help. Every championship team over the past 30 years, with the likely exception of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, has had an excellent 1-2 punch. The Memphis Grizzlies don’t have the same type of superstar combo that will cause headaches in the opposing team’s defensive schemes.
Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. haven’t always stepped up to be strong side options after Ja Morant. Utah Jazz, in last season’s playoffs, clearly recognized that. They forced the other Grizzlies players to beat them repeatedly. Memphis couldn’t, which is why they were almost swept away by Utah in this series.
Morant definitely needs more of this:
If Ja Morant leads the Memphis Grizzlies to the playoffs again this season, there has to be consistent production from at least one of his teammates. Without it, there is no way to overtake the star teams of the West. The Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz will be nearly impossible to beat in a seven game streak with the way they’re built.
With Morant injured, some or a few of them may just do it regularly:
The level of talent after Ja Morant is plummeting. The same cannot be said of the aforementioned teams, the healthy Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets. The Dallas Mavericks, along with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, are also deadly.
Defense needs to improve dramatically
The Memphis Grizzlies are currently the worst team in the NBA in terms of defensive standings. Ja Morant will have to get his team to reverse their defensive performances if they are to make this Nike publicity a reality. If they can play a respectable defense to match their offense near the top ten, then they might stand a chance.
What’s very confusing is the Grizzlies’ excessive drop in their defensive play. They were ranked sixth last season and third in interceptions. Their defense was one of the main reasons they made the playoffs.
It was far and little in between:
Almost every NBA championship team in the past 20 years has achieved a Top Ten offensive or defensive rating, with a few notable exceptions. The 2001 Lakers placed second in attack, but were a meager 21st in defense. This team, however, had the best Shaq and Kobe Bryant, which was enough to win the second of three consecutive championships.
The 2004 Pistons had a miserable offense in 18th place, but were second in defense. They were famous for bludgeoning the much-favored Shaq and Kobe Lakers due to their ruthless defense.
The 2020 Lakers were 11th in attack but third in defense. They had LeBron James and Anthony Davis making up for any impairment.
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Ja Morant and the current Memphis Grizzlies aren’t even in the same conversation as the aforementioned teams. If they want to answer with “Says Who”, they better make sure they play better in defense. They already have; there shouldn’t be any excuse why they couldn’t do it again.