A little over a week into the new NBA season, Ja Morant is averaging 30.5 points per game, and while Memphis is 2-2, the potency of their offense has critics believing that the Grizz can make noise in the Western Conference this year. As is always the case with increasing expectations, these usually come with some demonstrative declarations by supporters, the latest of which comes from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. Jaren Greenberg asked Stephen A. whether or not Morant should have gone first overall over Zion Williamson in the 2019 NBA draft, to which he gave an emphatic "YES."
"Ja Morant is elevating his game to superstar status… The best ability is availability. Durability was his (Zion) question mark going into the league and it has been the question mark since he has been in the league. We don't have that concern with Ja Morant."
Stephen A. Smith, ESPN
It's easy to say that now given that Zion is struggling with injuries and some alleged weight issues, while Ja is having as good of a start to the season as anybody in NBA history. While both players are great, Morant is shooting the ball exceptionally well from deep at 45%, and we expect that to come down a fair bit while likely reducing his point totals. Zion averaged 27 points last season and scored in the top 10, doing so with a field goal percentage of 60%. That's impressive. Morant may be the more durable player, but Zion's efficiency is through-the-roof, and it is hard to pass up on a player with that kind of ability.
"Basketball is a big man's game."
Jalen Rose, ESPN
Jalen makes a great point in his counter to Stephen A, stressing that you take the bigger guy when drafting because they tend to dominate the game more consistently. Of course, we are no longer talking about big men like Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan, but tall and versatile players who bring multiple dimensions to a team on both ends of the floor.
Think about it, the last guard to win an NBA Finals MVP was Kobe Bryant in 2010, and he isn't even a tiny point guard like Morant or Steph Curry. This proves that size is still a big part of individual and team success because it allows you to be more efficient and do so more consistently. While small guys can shoot the lights out and break down defenses, the big wing players have proven to be the most critical pieces on championship teams.
Zion is going to be back and hopefully hit his stride sooner than later, but until he can get his health right, the conversation about Morant being the rightful number one pick in 2019 is going to surface repeatedly. However, when Ja's three-point shooting cools off and Zion is back to attacking the rim, shooting 60% from the field, it will be clear who was the right choice as the top pick in 2019. Ja and Zion are going to be phenomenal players, and their draft order does not really matter to either of them, but Zion's issues are easily solvable so I wouldn't start to doubt him just yet.