Ja Morant walked into Staples Center last night, balled out, and emerged as the best player on a star-studded court. His 40-point, 10-assist outburst came in a losing effort but is still a hell of an accomplishment considering some of the all-time greats on the opposing Lakers side. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. Carmelo Anthony. Russell Westbrook. Malik Monk.
Too far? Okay, a bit too far.
The third-year point guard was 13-for-21 from the field, including a career-high five triples. But it wasn't so much how many he scored, it was how he scored them. Morant, who sports some of the best handles in the league, dove deep into his bag of tricks, at times looking like The Professor while torching Los Angeles defenders. All of his 175 pounds were flung at the rim and there was a masterclass in angles, spins, and english against the backboard.
And sure, there's the fly in the ointment. Morant missed a free-throw that would have tied the game at the end of regulation. Would you rather dwell on that horrifying truth or watch him get buckets?
Morant's incredible fearlessness, if complemented by a knockdown three-point attack, could bring him into the All-NBA conversation this year. Three games into this campaign, he's averaging 35 points and 8 rebounds for a Grizzlies team that made some noise in last year's playoffs and is only getting better. It's not crazy to think that these are the seeds of a tremendous jump for the 22-year-old and his name could crop up in MVP conversations ahead of schedule.
This isn't the most nuanced or researched analysis yet it feels like the most prudent thing to say. Morant kicks ass. If he's not the most exciting player in the league to watch, he's on a very short list. An already high-ceiling is being renovated and raised.
Whenever LeBron James deigns to hang up his sneakers, Morant should be in position to be a Face of the NBA, if not The Face of the NBA. And that's a tremendous thing because there hasn't been a pound-for-pound entertainer like this since Allen Iverson.
He's simply so good. And so young. Sunday night was a glimpse at an impossibly bright future and countless thrills that lie ahead.