In an announcement that surprised absolutely no one, Ja Morant has been named the 2019-2020 NBA Rookie of the Year. Morant was selected for the award by a collection of sportswriters, who voted via a first, second, and third place points system. In 67 games played this past season for the Memphis Grizzlies, Morant averaged 17.8 points (on 47.7% shooting, 33.5% from three), 7.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Perhaps more importantly, Ja pulled off something exceedingly rare beyond the numbers - as a rookie point guard, he led a team in per game scoring that was two wins away (in a unique season) from the playoffs. He wasn’t just a source of highlight-reel dunk attempts and tremendous displays of passing. He also was a leader for a Grizzlies team that dramatically overachieved compared to preseason expectations.
He helped establish a mentality of hard work and unselfishness that was on display right up until the end, when Ja had arguably his best game of the season - a 35 point, 8 assists showing against the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoff play-in loss. He did that without his second in Grizzlies command Jaren Jackson Jr. and two other key rotation players in Justise Winslow as well as Ja’s backup, Tyus Jones. That speaks to the toughness and tenacity of a young man who just recently turned 21-years old.
The other finalists had tremendous seasons - Kendrick Nunn was a very solid contributor to the very solid Miami Heat. While his season was limited by injury and conditioning concerns, Zion Williamson was a force of nature when he was on the floor. But Nunn was perhaps the 4th or 5th best player on his own team. Williamson played in roughly a third of the games Ja did. Morant, when combining quality, quantity, and situation, was an easy choice for this award.
From a side gym at AAU tournaments, to a mid-major darling at Murray State, to the #2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, to the Rookie of the Year. The meteoric rise of Ja Morant has been a sight to behold, and Memphis Grizzlies fans are fortunate to have had a front row seat since last June.
The fun part? This is only the beginning...and the best is yet to come.