Ja Morant made his first five three-point attempts in Murray State’s second round NCAA tournament matchup against Florida State. He was everything scouts, fans, GMs and coaches expected, and more: a lightning rod offensive talent who carried the Racers to a No. 12 seed, one highlight-reel play after another.
But while Morant finished with 28 points on 8-of-21 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from three, his teammates couldn’t help but watch. Murray State’s future top-3 draft pick nearly outscored the rest of of the Racers’ roster. Morant actually scored or assisted on 19 of his team’s first 23 points. There was no way he was going to keep it up; not unless he received more help.
Almost every time Morant created an open look for a teammate, it resulted in a miss. It allowed Florida State to key in on the future top-3 draft pick without fear of help from anyone else on the floor. It rendered their offense virtually ineffective; if Morant didn’t get or create the basket, the Racers almost never got one.
Murray State lost to FSU, 90-62, ending Morant’s magical sophomore season two games into the Tournament. But the exit shifts the focus to June, where this incredible talent will be a player who can help revitalize one of the NBA’s struggling franchises.
Ja Morant is a dynamic offensive talent
Most mock drafts have Morant going second in the 2019 NBA Draft behind Zion Williamson and Zion Williamson only. Williamson has been labeled as the best player in college basketball history. Morant’s play this season has lifted him right below Zion.
The cock-back tomahawk against Alabama; jumping over a player for a dunk against UT-Martin, the vicious dunk against Eastern Illinois — and now a flurry of threes in his NCAA tournament exit. There have been major moments that have defined his stellar sophomore year. He will look to take those talents to the next level.
The NBA reformed its Draft Lottery process last summer, evening the odds at the top pick in the draft. The team with the worst record in the NBA used to have a 25 percent shot at pick No. 1. Now, the odds at the best player are split 14 percent apiece between the three teams with the worst record, with team No. 4 at 12.5 percent, and No. 5 at 10.5 percent.
That means Williamson and Morant will each more than likely end up on one of New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland or Atlanta. Any one of those teams would salivate at the chance to add Morant to its back court.
Morant, of course, will have more talent around him at the next level. And if his Murray State career is any indication of what he’ll do in the NBA, his loss to Florida State is only the beginning of something even more special.