By now, the secret’s out.
The Memphis Grizzlies are good. And Ja Morant is a true
With 11 wins in a row, Memphis has suddenly found itself as the
third seed in the Western Conference, and if there’s one team that
has the capability of destroying your playoff bracket, it’d be the
Interestingly enough, most people have come to know those facts,
because behind Morant, the Grizzlies are simply no longer capable
of being ignored. Not by me, not by you, and, apparently, not by
the universe of NBA fans.
Although the fan vote is now only one of three voting processes
that determine the starters for the All-Star Game, the fans serve
as a very interesting focus group that does a good job of revealing
the perceived value of a player’s contributions.
Historically, there have been players who've seen their deserved
vote totals inflated due to having support from bigger markets, and
this season is no exception. But the reason this is reported in the
first place is because, truth be told, the fan votes usually get it
The NBA released its second return of NBA
All-Star votes on Thursday afternoon, and currently, Steph
Curry enjoys a narrow edge over LeBron James as the overall leading
vote-getter, while Kevin Durant leads all Eastern Conference
players. If voting ended today and the fan vote carried the day,
Curry and Durant would be the All-Star Game captains.
But LeBron trails Curry by just 77,034 votes, so LeBron could
catch him. Considering the fact that the winner of that race gets
the honor of being captain, it’s just the latest installment in
what has become an awesome rivalry between the Chef and the
The other thing that jumps off the page when you review the
second returns, though? It is Morant who is currently second among
Western Conference guards, leading Luka Doncic by a sizable margin
of about 223,000 votes. It’s difficult to imagine Doncic making up
that ground, and unless something dramatic happens, Morant appears
to be headed to Cleveland as an All-Star starter.
Who had that in the office pool?
The Grizzlies star addressed the fact after Thursday night’s
“I don’t even know what to say honestly,” Morant said when
apprised of the fact that he was in line to become a starter over
“I’m mostly in like a little emotional moment just to see how
much fans I got who want to see me in the All-Star game… Thank
ya’ll, [I] love ya’ll for rooting for me.”
Even still, for those who don’t actually root for
Morant, his rise has been inspiring to witness.
At just 22 years old, the third-year point guard is averaging
24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per contest, including
26.7 points per game during the team’s 11-game win streak.
While some young players see the likes of Curry and LeBron and
fawn, Ja comes to snatch their crowns. With him in the lineup, the
Grizzlies have gone 2-1 against both the Lakers and Warriors this
season, and recently defeated Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets at
the Barclays Center during Memphis' current win streak. If you lump
the Phoenix Suns in there, the Grizzlies have an impressive 6-3
record against those teams altogether, and that sample size is
indicative of a larger truth: Memphis is a damn good basketball
team. And they’re being led by a point guard who has potential
rarely seen at this level.
As a lead guard on a young team, and as a player who is still
fighting to earn his notoriety in a league full of international
stars, Ja has already mastered one of the most difficult things for
someone at his position. He knows how to pick and choose his spots.
Despite his superhuman athleticism, the one constant in his game is
that he rarely forces anything on the floor, and never presses or
panics. He defers and makes plays when he should and takes over
when he should.
Typically, it takes a young guard time to develop those
instincts. Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose all had
that gift, and like Ja, they were atypical in that they were
tremendously effective from Day 0. They all became All-Stars in
their second year (not a coincidence), with Kyrie becoming a
starter in his third and Rose becoming the league’s youngest MVP in
history in his third.
Morant’s rise to starter, assuming it happens, would be more
impressive than Irving’s considering the fact that he plays in the
Western Conference, and the fact that his team currently sits at
And although Lillard had much more success in his third season —
the Portland Trail Blazers won 51 games in 2014-15 — he also had
another All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge.
Truth be told, Rose is really the only other point guard who, at
this point, is an appropriate comparison for Morant. Ja is simply
taking us places rarely seen in the NBA, and the fact that he’s
doing it in the Western Conference makes it all the more
At a certain point, if the Grizzlies continue winning, we are
going to have to start asking ourselves what it would take for
Morant to start peeling off some MVP votes from the presumptive
As we enter play on Jan. 14, Durant and Curry — the two likely
All-Star Game captains — would probably land somewhere in the
top-five if MVP voting were to take place right now. Giannis
Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and LeBron James are all not strangers
to the award, and each of them have reasons both for and against
But at a certain point, just like he has with the West All-Star
scene, Ja is likely to crash that party, as well.
On Thursday night, he surpassed Doncic. And as he works on
keeping Luka in his rearview mirror, it would probably be wise for
us to consider that this is only the beginning for Ja.
Fortunately, based on what the fans told us in the second
return, the secret’s out.