Zion Williamson is the top prospect in this class without a doubt, but where everyone falls behind him is rather muddled. As we approach the NBA Draft, Murray State’s Ja Morant is making a very good case as the second-best prospect in this draft with his elite vision complementing above-average athleticism and sky-high potential. Here are the lottery teams who are both best suited to benefit from Morant’s talents and stand a realistic chance of landing him.
5. Atlanta Hawks
Could you imagine Morant and Trae Young in the same backcourt? Highlight passes for everyone! The Hawks want a prospect that better complements Young, but if they have faith Murray’s size (6’3″ with a 6’7″ wingspan) can translate to defensive production, they’d jump at the chance to pair him and Young together. The playmaking would be nothing short of ridiculous and the offensive firepower would be frightening. It would likely take a few years for the pair to really get going, but the sky would be the limit once they do. It’s a bit of a pipe dream because a front-court talent is so much higher on the priority list, but man, wouldn’t it be fun?
4. Memphis Grizzlies
It would require a good amount of luck, but if the Grizzlies find themselves with a chance to grab Murray, they should leap with joy. An heir apparent to Mike Conley who can work through his mistakes with fellow young potential star Jaren Jackson Jr. is the most ideal outcome Grizzlies fans could imagine. They would create a foundational 1-2 punch that would come to define Grizzlies basketball for the next decade. Memphis currently possesses a 26.5% chance to land a top-four pick, so it’s not completely out of the question, and they nearly traded Conley at the deadline last year. Would they hesitate to trade him if they landed in the No. 6 position and could jump up a few spots to try for Morant? It’s not nearly as crazy as it sounds.
3. Chicago Bulls
Morant would fit beautifully as Chicago’s future point guard, and would flourish serving up dimes for Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. The question mark comes in terms of his fit with Zach LaVine, another ball-dominant guard with high-level athleticism and defensive question marks. If it comes down to it, Morant’s ceiling is much higher than LaVine’s, and more closely fits their timeline with their other young prospects. At the end of the day, you take the talent and figure out the rest. Morant has a chance to be as good as anyone not named Zion in this class, and would be the final piece of an exciting young core.
2. New York Knicks
The Knicks need anything resembling hope after a brutal 2018 season that saw their best player traded and the team completely bottoming out. Morant could be the light at the end of the tunnel; he’s a good enough prospect that he could be used as tempting trade bait should the Knicks decide to swing big, but could be the next star of New York City otherwise. His potential chemistry with Mitch Robinson in the pick and roll is mouthwatering, and his passing skills would provide a big boost to Kevin Knox’s offensive game if they don’t land any potential free agents. David Fizdalewas happy to let the kids play through their mistakes last season, and Morant would come along quicker if he were given a long leash for his rookie season. Kyrie Irving coming to New York would immediately take the Knicks out of the running for Morant, but if it’s just KD? Morant is a talented passer who would fit in well with veteran superstar teammates. Morant is the next-best thing if they can’t land Williamson.
1. Phoenix Suns
Morant to the Suns is the most obvious fit in this draft. Phoenix has had a gigantic hole at point guard since they traded Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, and their young big man in DeAndre Ayton would benefit immensely from a guy who can dish out pinpoint passes during the pick and roll and in the post. Devin Booker has developed into a decent ball handler and can run the offense in a pinch, but he averaged four turnovers with only six assists as the de facto point guard this year. A talented and natural point guard would be the final piece to complete this young Suns core, and Morant would thrive in an offense with that many threats around him. A defensive backcourt of Morant and Booker would leak points until Morant bulks up and learns to utilize his wingspan when guarding on the ball, but they can more than make up for it on the other end of the court. It’s a fit that makes too much sense to not happen- unless Phoenix lands the first overall pick, in which case they quite the choice to make.