Ja Morant, a former two-star recruit who blossomed into a projected lottery pick as a sophomore at Murray State, will declare Wednesday for the 2019 NBA Draft, The Athletic reported, citing unidentified sources.
Morant’s name took off after he starred at Chris Paul’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp last summer, but the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder climbed into the top reaches of most draft boards during the course of the 2018-19 season in which he averaged a double-double (24.5 points and 10.0 assists) while pulling down 5.7 rebounds per game, too.
Drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook, Morant’s well-rounded skill set — a scorer who also can distribute the ball — was on full display in the Racers’ two games in the NCAA Tournament, most notably with a triple-double (17 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds) in a first-round victory over Marquette.
“I think people have gotten so enamored with his athleticism and his speed and quickness, which are obvious, but when you break him down and you really look at how he plays, he’s really one of the best passers in college basketball,” an unidentified NBA scout told the Arizona Republic. “He has a great feel for timing and touch. He knows when to put a pass on a laser, when to loft it. Come off of ball screens, throwing the lob and putting it in the pocket.”
In fact, as good a Morant was this season for the Racers, his physical skills might be even better suited for the NBA, where the speed of the game will play to his strengths as teams look for guards who can push the ball up the floor quickly in an effort to score early in the shot clock.
If there is a question about Morant (beyond why he blossomed so relatively late), it’s his defense at the NBA level, at least in the near term because of his slight build.
“He’ll need to get bigger and stronger. He’s small in terms of body composition, but he has a fighter’s mentality. He has a chip on his shoulder, but in a good way,” the scout told the Republic, touching on an intangible that teams also like.
The Knicks, Suns and Cavaliers currently have a 14% chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick this draft (according to tankathon.com), likely to be used on Williamson, with their chances of getting the Nos. 2 and 3 picks at 12.7% and 12%, respectively.