Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
Those are only a few of the great point guard battles the NBA has blessed us with throughout its existence.
We’ve also been robbed of a few potential rivalries as well. Injuries prevented us from really seeing a prime Penny Hardaway duke it out with John Stockton, Jason Kidd, or Magic Johnson — a player people often compared Young Penny to. In addition, I feel like every basketball connoisseur has dreamed of the battles MVP Derrick Rose could’ve had with Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, or Damian Lillard.
As we enter this new decade, the next generation’s great point guard “rivalry” is clear as day. It’s going to be Ja Morant and Trae Young.
The numbers they’ve put up at this stage of their careers have been historic, comparable to some of the league’s all-time great players. GBB Senior Staff Writer Shawn Coleman even illustrated how evenly their numbers line up, a true barometer that these young guards will be compared to throughout their careers.
The talent and potential these young players possess transcends beyond the numbers. They have the games to become the NBA’s next faces of the league, while providing a number of fantastic point guard battles over the 2020’s.
Everyone has taken notice of Ja and Trae, fans and players alike. Both players finished in the top 10 in fan voting for the All-Star game, with Trae tallying the most votes among the Eastern Conference guards. In addition, they both finished in the top 7 among the player votes, only validating that these votes weren’t a product of social media, or market, hype — ala Zaza Pachulia, Alex Caruso, and Tacko Fall.
Both players are young guys who had legitimate All-Star hype this year, despite age, NBA status, or team recored — in Trae’s case. Though their games are totally different, the audacity of the players — as our faithful leader Joe Mullinax puts it — is riveting. They simply do not give a damn about one’s status in the league. Ja Morant and Trae Young will play their games, and they might disrespect your favorite team in the process.
Ja Morant is a savage on the floor. He’ll drop a flashy dime over the simple pass, and he’ll pull out his Ja-oggles, or Ja-noculars, after his teammate completes the finish. He’ll talk shit to your favorite team’s best players; he doesn’t care if it’s James Harden or Kyrie Irving. If Morant bullies a defender to the paint for a bucket, he’ll remind you that his opponent is simply too little for him. He’s ended the likes of Aron Baynes at the rim, but Ja has also become the greatest missed dunker of all time, annihilating the elites such as Kevin Love and Anthony Davis and nearly ending their careers …
OHHHH MY - Ja Morant almost just ended Kevin Love. pic.twitter.com/l6tb7MrZH6— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 21, 2019
Dunk of the year from Ja Morant if this goes in. Good lord pic.twitter.com/GZX3NxtJRI— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 1, 2020
… or his own.
Nothing is too big for the Rookie of the Year frontrunner, as he rises up for every occasion — whether it’s the fourth quarter, a game with major playoff implications, a matchup against the league’s biggest stars, or Andre Iguodala.
Trae Young possesses the same level of flash as Morant, but he expresses it in a different fashion. He drops the same gorgeous passes, including his lobs where he leaps with his oop’er to his alley. He’ll blast a 3 from anywhere on the court, regardless of the time on the shot clock, or the distance of the shot. One thing to make clear with Trae Young, legs need to be closed when he has the ball in his hands, as he’ll disrespect a defender by nutmegging them.
A nice omission from Bleacher Report’s video: Trae Young nearly drained this stepback 3 after nut-megging Fred VanVleet. It definitely would’ve been the most savage perimeter move I’ve ever seen on a basketball court:
Putting aside the violent dunks, or the disrespectful nutmegs, Ja Morant and Trae Young have a chance to build something special. Their combination of stellar playmaking and scoring prowess has driven them to early success, and their games will only grow.
Though Monday’s obliteration won’t do justice, by the conclusion of this week, we will have seen our first season of Ja-Trae point guard battles — a matchup that could run the 2020’s. Yes, it might not be the best version of these teams we’ll ever see, but it shouldn’t erase the pure joy these players will bring you. Who knows? The best version of these teams could be meeting in an NBA Finals down the distant road. With the talent of these floor generals, and the players and assets built around them, it’s not far-fetched.
Think about what point guard battle you grew up, or enjoyed, watching. Whether it’s Magic and Isiah, Curry and Westbrook, Nash and Kidd, or West and Robertson, Ja and Trae could join that discussion over the years.
They are that legit. And their time is coming.