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Ja Morant the superstar

Ja Morant is box office.

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NBAE via Getty Images

Back in May of 2021, Memphis Grizzlies Point Guard Ja Morant told the NBA on TNT crew that he was a “top five Point Guard in the NBA.” Of course at the time, nobody knew what Morant had in store for the future...but himself.

I don’t even think Morant saw the leap that lay ahead for himself. It is a leap that has NBA analysts and former players drawing parallels to other breakout stars of the past. Breakout seasons such as Derrick Rose’s 2010-11 MVP season, and having Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” as Shaquille O’Neal mention on the NBA on TNT.

As someone who lives in the small market of Memphis, I can easily tell you that this city hasn’t seen anything like Morant. Ja has turned the city of Memphis into a more appealing NBA destination. Not for free agents that play in the league, perhaps, but for fans of the NBA as a whole. Morant has captured the heart of NBA fans across the globe. His passion for the game every night, combined with the show that he puts on makes Morant “box office.”

If I could draw a parallel to what Morant’s 2021-22 season has been so far, it’s comparable to Steph Curry’s 2012-13 season. As someone who watched Curry breakout during that 12-13 season flipping over to Warriors games on NBA League Pass, I can tell you Morant is doing the same thing this season in Memphis, for Memphis.

2021 Play-In Tournament - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

If you’re active on social media, you can usually count on a Ja Morant viral highlight (or two) every night. A simple clip of a crazy Morant highlight, posted to social media, that will make you flip the channel from your favorite team, to the Memphis Grizzlies. From Gritty and in the mud, to high intensity, and up tempo led by “G12” as Kendrick Perkins calls Morant.

Two of the best Point Guards in the game will share the Western Conference Backcourt on February 20th for NBA All-Star Weekend. One at the seasoned age of 33 and the other and the spry age of 22. Two guys that approach the game from an offensive standpoint completely opposite of one another.

Every player that Morant has been compared to in terms of breakout seasons - he’s actually doing it better. More efficient shooting than Derrick Rose MVP season, better overall season statistically and even more team success than Steph’s breakout year.

Morant catching Steph Statistically?

As exciting as Steph Curry’s 2012-13 season was, Ja Morant’s 2021-22 season equally energizing, if not more. Statistically, Morant’s 2022 season is better right now than Curry’s 2013 breakout season. Morant has scored 30 plus points in four consecutive games twice this season. Morant, as of Tuesday morning, is currently riding a six game 30 points or more streak.

Curry didn’t do that in 2013, and when he did, it was in back-to-back games at the end of regular season. There is no doubting the greatness that is Steph Curry, but no one knows Morant’s ceiling, and this is just a gauge of what Morant can be.

2012-13 Steph vs. 2021-2022 Morant (stats as of Monday 1-31):

  • Curry - 22.9 PPG, 6.9 assists, 4.0 TRB, 45.1 FG% (45.3 3PT%), 54.9 EFG%, 1.6 steals per game in 38.2 minutes
  • Morant - 25.9 PPG, 7.0 ast, 6.1 TRB, 48.8% FG (35.7% from 3PT), 52.8 EFG%, 1.3 steals per game in 33.1 minutes

But wait, it gets crazier...

If you compare Morant and Curry this season, Morant is having the better season individually. Morant leads Curry in almost every major statistical category this NBA season.

2021-22 Season Stat Comparison:

  • Curry - 25.8 PPG, 6.2 ast, 5.4 TRB, 41.8% FG (37% from 3PT), 53.4 EFG%, 1.4 steals per game in 34.7 minutes
  • Morant - 25.9 PPG, 7.0 ast, 6.1 TRB, 48.8% FG (35.7% from 3PT), 52.8 EFG%, 1.3 steals per game in 33.1 minutes
Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Both Curry and Morant are having solid seasons for their respective teams, but at the age of 22 what Ja is doing is unbelievable. Similar to what Curry was doing 2013, but Curry’s breakout season of 2013 happened at the age of 25.

You can even break it down to team success throughout that breakout season. In 2012-13 the Warriors won no more than five games in a row. Finished sixth in the Western Conference with a 47-35 record. Currently, Morant and the Grizzlies are 35-18 with 16 days until the All-Star break.

A Potential All-Time Great?

Curry’s own teammate with the Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green says that Morant is one of the smartest players he’s playing against. Green spoke highly of Morant on JJ Redick’s podcast The Old Man and the Three. “When we play against the Memphis Grizzlies, I can feel the chess match,” Green explained. “Like, every possession, they’re (Morant) scoping me out to see where I’m at..I’m looking at their guys to see what they’re doing...It’s like that with Ja,” Green continued.

That’s a huge compliment to Morant coming from one of the NBA’s top defenders in Green.

You can compare Morant to any of the three All-Time great Point Guards that have been listed above, but Ja Morant is one of one. What Morant is doing right now will become the expectation down the road for not only himself, but who comes next. It’s fun to see how the league has progressed over the last decade. What Ja is doing right now feels unbelievable, because it is. Morant leans on his paint scoring, and plays off of that. In a league that has become so three-point dominant, Morant is living in the paint, dominating in that area better than any other guard in the NBA.

History seems to be on Morant’s side as he is in the same breath as Curry and Rose. Two All-Time great Point Guards, that led the way for their respective franchises. Morant is heading in the right trajectory - upwards. For NBA fans, - simply enjoy the flight. We’ve never seen a superstar like Ja Morant before in Memphis.

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