Everything everyone says about Ja Morant, he is.
Any NBA team wanting to draft him would be getting an amazing player who, more than anything, is very intelligent. For the most part, everything about his game suggests that he has a high basketball IQ. Because he takes the ball up the court for his Murray State squad most of the time, he is always watching everything that happens and sees things most simply do not.
Even individually, he can process how he is being guarded and adjusts to it.
He is also a fearless and versatile scorer, meaning he will pull up from the outside or he will drive through three defenders and make a rainbow layup fall through the net.
That fearless driving to the basket is something he relies on quite a bit, and he is able to do it because he dribbles well and controls his body in the air.
Just as impressively, his court vision is something that even guys from bigger schools do not have.
Morant not only makes good passes, but makes good flashy passes and does not screw up often.
He leads the NCAA in assists per game at 10.5, which is 2.7 higher than the next-highest player.
But, as is the case with all humans, he is not perfect. There are some things he would need to work on before getting on his first NBA court.
For one, his vision is also one of his ‘curses.’
He really does make excellent passes and has great vision, but he also averages 4.8 turnovers per game. Considering he does play at a mid-major level, that number is a little high.
Most of his turnovers come when he tries to do too much, which is not a huge issue, but one that needs to be toned down for the next level.
Finding his range
The actual technique is fine and he can make them, but, more specifically, his three-point shooting may need to improve. Since the NBA is such a heavy three-point shooting league, everyone, even big men now, need to shoot them well.
Morant can make space for himself and knock down mid-range jump shots, and he can make floaters in and around the lane. But he is only shooting 33 percent from three-point range.
Why is that a problem?
He drives to the basket better than most, but at the next level, there will be bigger and stronger guys to block the lane. Getting his shots blocked more might become an issue, and even then, getting hit by bigger men will affect his body more than getting hit now does.
If he does end up with the Chicago Bulls, like most Chicago fans want him to, think about who he would be driving against. Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Bucks will be in his way. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond of the Pistons will be in the lane. And, if the Cavaliers get what they want, he will have to go against Zion Williamson. This is not to say he will not be effective at all.
Overall, he is still good
In fact, his calmness and abilities right now, should he translate to the next level well, will help him continue to do what he does now.
He leads the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring, at 24.1 points per game. He gets to the basket better than most can. Morant is not a ball hog, as he makes opportunities available for everyone around him and makes great passes.
But keep in mind, he is still doing this against mid-major opponents. He also did not have an amazing game against fellow OVC powerhouse Belmont on Jan. 24. Morant did have 20 points and nine assists, but he also shot 2-7 from three-point range and had five turnovers.
There were definitely scouts at the game, and playing spectacularly against your biggest conference competition is a must for the scouts. Murray State lost that game by 13 points, and it was even a home game.
Even against bigger schools, he has had mixed results.
Against Alabama, he had 38 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but had 10 turnovers and shot 0-4 on threes. Then against Auburn, who was a top-10 team at the time, he had 25 points, seven assists and eight rebounds, but shot 1-6 from three-point range.
So the sky really is the limit for Morant. He has the abilities and skills to compete at the next level. But keep an eye on his turnovers in big moments and track his outside shooting as his conference tournament gets closer.
He will definitely be a top-10 pick, but cutting down on turnovers and being more consistent from three-point range is a must for him at the next level.
Featured image courtesy of Sports Illustrated.