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GBB Roundtables: Ja Morant’s memorable Rookie of the Year Campaign

Let’s take a trip down memory lane for Ja Morant’s wonderful rookie year.

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2019-20 Rookie of the Year Award Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s really been a good year for Grizz Nation, especially when it comes to Ja Morant. Never before have the Grizzlies had a player ooze with so much swag and confidence on the court, while staying humble and striving for greatness. Never before have the Grizzlies had someone with his combination of flare, “Point God” wizardry, and scoring abilities.

This is the first time the Grizzlies have had someone that could become a superstar — one with the national spotlight, the endorsements, the aurora whenever he steps into an opposing arena, and the killer instinct for the big moments. And he showed lots of flashes of that this past season.

We’re wrapping up Ja week with some nostalgia, as we reminiscence on Ja Morant’s Rookie of the Year campaign.

Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

1) How would you summarize Ja Morant’s season in one sentence?

Parker Fleming, GBB Associate Editor, @PAKA_FLOCKA: Ja Morant made the Memphis Grizzlies an exciting, must-see League Pass team, something we’ve never been able to say about this franchise before.

Joe Mullinax, GBB Site Manager, @JoeMullinax: Audaciously awe-inspiring.

Brendan Smart, GBB Senior Staff Writer, @bsmart21: Ja Morant lived up to they hype, and in some instances surpassed preseason expectations.

Shawn Coleman, GBB Senior Staff Writer, @StatsSAC: While the hype and highlights were validated and plentiful, a true leader and star emerged before our very eyes.

Jordan Peterson, GBB Staff Writer, @JordanP_901: Ja Morant’s season was the hype payoff the Grizzlies fans have long deserved.

EdMemphis, GBB Staff Writer, @SquareBidness: Promising.

2) Ja Morant dazzled in his rookie season. What would you say is your favorite area of his game?

Parker Fleming, GBB Associate Editor: His handles. Ja Morant has proven to be a wizard with the ball, and it’s just awesome to watch him handle the ball like it’s a yo-yo. His ability to make plays off the dribble and freeze defenders with slick crossovers and ball-fakes is absolutely mesmerizing.

Joe Mullinax, GBB Site Manager: His willingness to understand that if he’s going to win, he needs his teammates. The way Morant got to the rim almost at will makes me believe he could’ve scored more if he wanted to. But he prioritized getting his teammates going - passing them the basketball and helping their offensive games flourish in spurts. The selfless superstar will be a good look in Memphis.

Brendan Smart, GBB Senior Staff Writer: A kid that has so many areas that are game-breaking, and his mentality in clutch moments are my favorite. Knowing he belongs in clutch situations, and remaining unfazed, and leading was unexpected and is my favorite area of his game.

Shawn Coleman, GBB Senior Staff Writer: My favorite part of Morant’s game is his ability to close. He knows that his strengths become even more valuable once the opposition tires, and he relishes the opportunity to take over when it matters most. That is a true trait of a star, and he is already one of the best closers in the NBA.

Jordan Peterson, GBB Staff Writer: I like that Ja is able to pull off a large range of plays that make him a threat on multiple fronts. He is not easy to predict and if you think he won’t or can’t “go there” he just makes it happen anyway.

EdMemphis, GBB Staff Writer: The trash-talking factor and the energy it brings to his matchups.

Western Conference Play in Game - Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

3) What do you think is Ja Morant’s best performance this season?

Parker Fleming, GBB Associate Editor: I’d have to go with his game against the Houston Rockets back in January — famously dubbed as the “tell that mother****er about me” game. While he made sure he wasn’t going to be disrespected from downtown. He made countless highlight-reel plays on the way to a Grizzly victory. He finished with 26 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds, and he shot a super efficient 10-11 from the field and 3-4 from 3.

Joe Mullinax, GBB Site Manager: His last one. 35 points, 8 assists, with an injured thumb, his season on the line, against two fellow mid-major guards with similar mindsets in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He was outgunned, outmanned, and outexperienced. And he shined as brightly as ever on the biggest stage of his young career. He had his issues in that game, but Memphis doesn’t compete the way they did without him.

Brendan Smart, GBB Senior Staff Writer: Morant had so many huge performances. The block against Kyrie Irving that led to the first win on the season, and his best performance against the Charlotte Hornets on November 13th in his home state. The clutch factor came in, and Morant drove to the rim, and layed the game winning shot in against 4 Hornets at the rim. 23 points, and 11 assists. The famous talk with the crowd afterwards is still amazing. “This is what I do,” followed by the hug from his father, Tee. Incredible.

Shawn Coleman, GBB Senior Staff Writer: Morant’s best performance this season was against the Lakers back on Leap day, 02-29-2020. Even with the Grizzlies shorthanded and struggling, Morant was ready for the moment against LeBron and arguably the best player in the league. He not only played excellent individual basketball, he made sure that he was going to will his teammates to good games with his passing. He truly was the best player on the court that night.

Jordan Peterson, GBB Staff Writer: The last playoff game on national television was the best impression to end the season on a high note and make that ROY award that much more deserved.

EdMemphis, GBB Staff Writer: The triple-double bubble game.

Memphis Grizzlies v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

4) Favorite Ja Morant highlight.

Parker Fleming, GBB Associate Editor: I’d have to go with the game-winner in Charlotte. He drew the isolation in the final play, got the step, and made a difficult layup among 3 defenders. That’s some real superstar stuff there. Even though the Hornets aren’t a playoff team, the young rookie guard went into an opponent’s arena and made a superstar play to win his team the game.

Joe Mullinax, GBB Site Manager: I’m a huge fan of his mentality, so the way he went after James Harden after a made three (“tell that mother f***** about me”) stands out. This dude told arguably the best offensive player in the NBA the last three years and a former MVP to kiss his ass and respect his 20-year-old game. The audacity is something to behold - and is very, very Memphis. In the NBA team cultures are usually dictated by players more than coaches. With this in mind, the Grizzlies are in good hands.

Brendan Smart, GBB Senior Staff Writer: Morant had such a fun season, and a lot of “what if’s,” that led up to my favorite highlight. Ja Morant’s poster on Aaron Baynes against the Phoenix Suns was incredible. Morant had a few close Encounters up to that point, and going away from the basket against a 7’0 center was perfect.

Shawn Coleman, GBB Senior Staff Writer: My favorite Morant highlight was the game winner against Charlotte. So many factors made it memory, such as being close to home and the first true moment in which Morant could earn a victory with the ball in his hands. Morant has said multiple times this is his favorite moment of the season, as it provided a significant boost to his Rookie of the Year campaign and recognition around the league.

Jordan Peterson, GBB Staff Writer: Well this was fun to research because Ja posterized so many folks this year. The picture of Ja shooting over Anthony Davis sure gets a powerful point across about Ja’s athleticism.

EdMemphis, GBB Staff Writer: Ja Morant’s ENTIRE performance in the Mike Conley homecoming game

Thank you, everyone, for participating in this roundtable. Be sure to follow them on Twitter for excellent Memphis Grizzlies coverage. Want to answer these questions? Comment your thoughts below.

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