The Memphis Grizzlies selected Murray State guard Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
Morant rose to national prominence as Murray State advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament this spring. He became the first player in NCAA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season, dunking and dishing his way to Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year honors.
The sophomore, who was unranked as a high school recruit, finished last season averaging 24.5 points per game with 5.7 rebounds and 10 assists.
SI draft expert Jeremy Woo's breakdown: From my perspective, Morant is the clear-cut No. 2 prospect behind [Zion] Williamson, with a delineated gap in best-case projection between him and everyone beneath him in the rankings. As a remarkably natural and instinctive playmaker, Morant fundamentally won’t have to change his style of play to succeed, but need only fine-tune and expand his skills. His superior passing vision, ambidextrous touch, explosiveness and change of direction are hard to oversell.
His athleticism has been touted, but Morant takes over games with skill and feel and can play naturally at different speeds, in transition or in the halfcourt. His jumper continues to improve, and should be more than passable as he adds upper body strength. Morant’s high turnover rate was excusable given his heavy usage—his mistakes tend to be aggressive, rather than careless, and at the end of the day, they’re a byproduct of a creative approach you’d never want him to abandon in the first place. It may not happen right out of the gate, but he has the tools to evolve into a star.
Woo's Grade: A
Morant emerged as the clear No. 2 prospect in the minds of most evaluators as the season progressed, and far and away makes the most sense for Memphis here, giving it an heir apparent to Mike Conley at the point, and a long-term partner for Jaren Jackson. The Grizzlies now boast one of the league’s more promising young duos, and Morant’s natural gifts as a playmaker and high-end athleticism create an extremely high ceiling for him as he matures. Memphis should feel good about this choice, and are in a pretty strong position as its rebuild begins in earnest.