Ja Morant was rightfully awarded his Rookie of the Year honors last Thursday, so Grizzly Bear Blues has dubbed this week “Ja Week” in honor of his ROY honors. To kick things off for Ja Week, we’re gonna go with something simple yet awesome by taking a look at his five best plays of his rookie campaign.
With so many dunks, nasty assists and filthy dribble moves, Ja was a walking highlight reel every night. With so many highlights, it was difficult to narrow it down to just 5 plays, but here are my personal favorite plays by the Grizzlies Rookie of the Year.
5) Ja brings out the Joggles (Jaggles?) vs. Rockets
I’m going to start off ranking Ja’s 5 best plays by cheating and showing a series of plays, as Ja put on a show against the Rockets on NBA TV. All night long, Ja was in his bag scoring at ease and setting up his teammates with some nasty dimes.
He starts off with a nifty behind the back pass to Jaren for the 3-point play and follows it up by wow-ing Daniel House with his dribbling prowess before setting Jaren up to put House on poster. The Rockets game was kind of like Ja’s introduction to the rest of the NBA as it was a nationally-televised game, and he showed out against the Rockets and James Harden.
4) Ja slices through the Jazz defense
Ja decided to welcome Mike Conley back to FedExForum by putting on a show. Earlier in the game, Ja put Emmanuel Mudiay on skates with a nasty finger roll that started at the free throw line (a play that would be an honorable mention on this list). In the 4th quarter of that game, Ja flashed a little bit of potential all in one play. He grabs the rebound, shows off his insane handles as he dribbles around and past Joe Ingles and Tony Bradley before finishing it off by showing his hops with a big dunk.
3) Block on Kyrie Irving
It took Ja just 3 games before making his first big-time highlight play. After starting the season 0-2, the Grizzlies were in a close game against Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. With the score tied and seconds remaining, Ja had the difficult task of trying to guard Kyrie Irving with the game on the line and boy did Ja deliver. He played stellar defense, staying in front of Kyrie and used his length to swat Kyrie’s game-winning attempt away. The play was huge as the Grizzlies would go on to win in overtime, thanks to a Ja assist to Jae Crowder for the game-winning three-pointer.
2) Ja puts Baynes on a poster
Ja spent the first two months of his rookie season attempting to dunk on anyone and everyone. It took him a little bit to finally get his first poster but it was well worth the wait.
In a close game against the Phoenix Suns on December 11th, Ja got matched up with Aron Baynes with less than a minute left in the game and a 4 point lead. He saw his opportunity to close the game out and took advantage. Ja took Baynes off the dribble at the right wing, dribbling into the paint and finished strong with his right hand while all his momentum was going left.
The dunk is arguably the greatest dunk of this past NBA season and was the first highlight used on the NBA’s promotional commercials, as the NBA made it’s return in The Bubble in Orlando. It’s going to be tough for Ja to top this dunk, but you can bet on him trying throughout his career.
1) Game Winner vs. Charlotte
It took Ja just 11 games to get his first game-winner, and boy was it sweet. In what was essentially a homecoming game for Ja in Charlotte, just a two-hour drive from where Ja grew up, Morant put on a show in front of family in friends. With the game tied at 117 and seconds left on the clock, Morant took Cody Martin to the basket and finished with an insane layup over Martin, Cody Zeller and Miles Bridges with just .7 left on the clock. The tough finish led to Ja Morant’s father running down the sideline pumping his fist, as Ja flexed and yelled what was surely some expletives to the crowd.
In his acceptance interview on TNT, Ja even admitted this was probably his best play on the year.
Ja's favorite memory his rookie season was his game-winner against Charlotte, with being so close to home it was a special moment for him— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 3, 2020
It’s safe to say that Ja Morant had a hell of a rookie season. These 5 plays may have been some of the best, but there are still hundreds of dunks, assists and dribble moves that I failed to mention in this piece. That’s a testament to how great Ja was this past season.
In honor of Ja Week, be sure to leave your favorite Ja plays in the comments or send them to us on Twitter @sbnGrizziles.