It’s been three years since Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were drafted first and second, respectively, in the NBA Draft. So far, it’s fair to argue that Morant has made the case that he should’ve been picked first by the New Orleans Pelicans instead.
No disrespect to Williamson (who arguably still has a higher ceiling than Morant), but skills can only take you so far in today’s league. Morant has established himself as a culture changer, a leader, and a proven winning player. Here are four reasons why the current Grizzlies point guard should have been picked first in the 2019 Draft.
You’ve heard it before - availability is the best ability. For as great as Williamson’s potential is, he has yet to complete a full NBA season. Zion has only played 85 games in three seasons compared to Morant’s 167 games. That’s a huge difference in itself. It doesn’t help that the Pelican continues to nurse a foot injury that has kept him out all season while Morant is currently leading the Grizzlies as the biggest surprise of the regular season. In terms of durability, Morant has had the edge over Williamson so far.
Before Morant arrived in Memphis, they were an inconsistent team that didn’t make it to the playoffs three straight years in a row. Since the second pick was drafted, the Grizzlies have been competitive and now find themselves in the playoff race led by their franchise player. This is a testament to how much of a winning impact Morant has brought to Memphis so far. As for Zion, it’s unfortunate that the Pelicans have yet to achieve anything relevant since he got on board.
It’s also fair to argue that Williamson has yet to change the culture in New Orleans. How does he do just that if his health doesn’t allow him to? It also doesn’t help that Williamson has already dropped subtle signs that he’s unhappy in New Orleans. Right now, Morant has definitely raised his team’s ceiling more than Williamson has.
When Morant arrived in the NBA, his jump shot was inconsistent, and his defense wasn’t where it should be. It only took him a season and a half to improve his game. Three years later, Morant is now considered one of the most lethal offensive players averaging career-high 25 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.9 assists a game. Morant is also arguably one of the most entertaining players to watch in the league today with his electrifying crossovers and finishes.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about Williamson because he’s barely been available every season. It also doesn’t look good on Zion that he continues to put on weight and hasn’t shown any improvement in his game so far.
A superstar’s leadership skills are what elevates their team. Morant has been well-loved and respected in his locker room in the past three years. It’s one of the biggest reasons why the Grizzlies have brought back their Grit and Grind culture because that’s exactly who Ja is — a determined player who doesn’t back down against anyone. Even if leadership isn’t seen in the box score or stat sheet, this is undoubtedly an important attribute for a franchise player. A leader leads by example, and so far, Morant has shown that while Williamson has not.