While the college basketball and NBA seasons have just begun, it is never too early to take a look at Draft prospects and some guys who might be sneaking their way up boards come June. One such player is Murray State guard Temetrius “Ja” Morant.
He’s gotten off to a solid start in the first game of the season, having led the Racers in a game against Wright State. He had 26 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and made 10 of his 17 shots.
However, Morant had been getting some sleeper hype before the season even began.
A number of factors contribute to “sleeper” status. They are as follows: a lack of elite level talent relative to the draft class, not a big name in the draft class, few (if any) games on primetime television, and the chance for an expanded role in your team’s offense or defense. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound sophomore meets the majority, if not all of those requirements to be considered a sleeper in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft.
He’s a pretty smooth athlete and definitely an excellent one at the mid-major level. However, he would likely be considered a top tier athlete at any major program in the country. He can shoot the ball pretty well — he shot about 46 percent from the floor last season — and is adept at using screens.
Morant can split defenders pretty well or beat them off the dribble after the screen. He attacks the basket with abandon and gets to his spots thanks to his athleticism and speed.
It’s certainly worth noting he also had 17 “and-1s” last season (h/t The Stepien), which was more than Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Despite his slight frame, he finishes incredibly well at the rim, something that can be expanded upon once he gets to the next level and they throw him on some weights.
Thanks to Morant’s ability to get by defenders and find his spots, his teammates often find themselves open for good looks. More often than not, he finds them with his above average vision. Last season, he averaged about six assists a game and had 11 in his first game this season. It looks like his ability to see the floor hasn’t changed a whole lot.
Moreover, he’s a good rebounder for his position and size, averaging 6.5 a game last season. In turn, we should expect that number to be similar this season, if not slightly better.
The few knocks that Morant has against him right now are his strength, slight build and the fact he doesn’t play “the big boys” on a weekly basis. If he improves even only slightly over last season’s play, he will be a huge steal for a team right outside the lottery or in the early 20s come June’s NBA Draft.
While everyone else might be sleeping on Ja Morant, here’s your opportunity to stay wide awake on what he can do.
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