Grizzlies Analyst: Morant Has Transformed Memphis

The Grizzlies have overhauled their roster, and it all started with the No. 2 pick in the draft

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
February 12, 2020 - 7:13 am
Ja Morant Grizzlies

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The Memphis Grizzlies (27-26) started the season 6-16, and things did look good. In fact, they looked awful.

Since then, however, they are 21-10 and a game over .500.

It’s no secret why.

“They were very lucky on that fateful day in May where they got the No. 2 pick,” Grizzlies radio voice Eric Hasseltine said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They were very stern and astute in their decision-making to take Ja Morant. I don’t mean that as any disrespect to R.J. Barrett, who I think is a terrific player. They knew they wanted a new, young, dynamic, athletic point guard to be able to shop Mike Conley on the open market and try to move off that contract and really move away from what this team had been for 15 years, which is not what the NBA was today.”

The Grizzlies paired Morant with power forward Jaren Jackson, drafted Brandon Clark, turned Kyle Korver into De’Anthony Melton and Josh Jackson, signed Tyus Jones and kept Jonas Valanciunas, among other roster moves.

“The opening night roster, guys really hadn’t played together,” Hasseltine said. “It was a whole new group. It was interesting to watch this all come together. Everybody they brought in is very, very selfless, very much about team basketball and making an extra pass and trying to get up and down the floor and trusting one another. It’s clicked. A lot of it is just because they’re playing the game the right way.”

Morant, though, has been the straw that stirs the drink. He leads the team in both scoring (17.6 points per game) and assists (7.0).

“He was so fearless in the first month of the season, so fearless of doing anything, attacking the rim,” Hasseltine said. “He was not worried about getting knocked to the floor. He was not worried about taking a shot.”

Morant also jumped over Kevin Love on a dunk attempt in December.

“If he makes that dunk, it’s comparable to what Vince Carter did to Frederic Weis, but we didn’t know who Frederic Weis is,” Hasseltine said. “We know who Kevin Love is. It’s maybe even a little bit better. But that’s how he played. The thing he had to learn was when do I hit the gas pedal, and when do I ease up? When do I go full breakneck speed, and when do I slow down and try to get set up in an offense? His biggest challenge right now is he has games where he can absolutely take over and he can really dominate, but he doesn’t do it until the fourth quarter because he’s trying to get teammates involved in the first three quarters. . . . That is an incredible grasp of the game. He’s figuring that out.”