2019 NBA Draft Profile: Ja Morant
Vitals: 6-3, 175 pounds, point guard
Birthdate: Aug. 10, 1999
College: Murray State (2 years)
Stats: 24.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 10.0 apg, 1.8 spg, 49.9% FG, 81.3% FT
NBA.com consensus mock draft: Second pick to Memphis
Stock watch: Rising, holding steady at No. 2
Google “Ja Morant meteoric rise” and you’ll find a handful of articles that use that exact phrase to describe the South Carolina native’s ascent from mid-major recruit to coveted draft prospect. Morant was already somewhere on the NBA’s radar screen – an admittedly “way too early mock draft” by Bleacher Report in October 2018 listed Morant 23rd – but he zoomed up the rankings during his sophomore season with the Racers.
Morant’s combination of finishing ability at his position – witness some of the point guard’s dunks over bigger players that went viral this winter – and distributing skill is very rare. As CBSSports.com described of the latter trait, “Morant is the best and most creative passer in this draft – one-handed lasers, no-look zips, he’s got it all in his package. Morant led the NCAA last season with a 51.9 percent assist rate, and he’s the first player to average at least 10 assists per game since 1994.” NBADraft.net described of Morant, “Has a fearless style and is willing to put his body on the line and initiate contact in order to make plays ... A high-level athlete for a point guard with elite speed and quickness, as well as explosive leaping ability.” The 19-year-old averaged 8.2 trips to the foul line in ’18-19.
Areas of improvement
Like many young players, his perimeter jumper appears to be at least partly a work in progress. Morant shot 34.3 percent from three-point range in his college career, but also showed year-to-year strides, going from 30.7 as a freshman to 36.3 last season. “How efficient will he be as a scorer early in his career?” ESPN.com asked in its Morant scouting report, before also addressing his in-between game. “There are still questions about his pull-up jumper (low-release set shot) as well as his ability to finish through contact given his frame and the fact that he doesn't have a consistent floater at this stage. Left-hand dominant as a driver.”