Russell Westbrook Impressed by Grizzlies Rookie Ja Morant
Russell Westbrook is a one-of-a-kind talent. Few players can outrun the nine-time All-Star in transition, and even fewer match his competitive edge. But there are at least a few players who have drawn comparison to Westbrook in previous seasons, including the potential 2019-20 Rookie of the Year.
Westbrook discussed the similarities between him and Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant on Tuesday, adding brief praise for the Murray State product. Despite Wednesday night marking Houston's third matchup with the Grizzlies this season, the contest will be Westbrook's first against Morant. The Rockets are 1–1 against Memphis this season entering Wednesday night.
"Ja [Morant] is going to be a great player. He's an unbelievable talent who's having a great year," Westbrook said at the Toyota Center. "His athleticism, the way he moves, plays, his intensity, I see some similarities there."
Morant has outpaced Westbrook in their comparative rookie seasons. Memphis' point guard is averaging 17.6 points and 6.8 assists per game this year, with both metrics slightly ahead of Westbrook's numbers in Oklahoma City in 2008-09. Morant is also shooting 49.3% from the field this season, nearly 10% better than Westbrook in his rookie year. Morant certainly has a long way to go to match the 2016-17 MVP's career, but he's certainly off to a good start.
"We'll try to contain [Morant] as well as we can, but he's one of the quickest guys in the league," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said on Wednesday. "Russell hasn't played against him yet so that will probably be fun for him."
Westbrook will return to the floor on Wednesday night after missing Monday's win over the Knicks due to an index finger sprain. Tip-off from the Toyota Center is slated for 7 p.m. CT.