Ja Morant: Intelligence
Our scouting grades represent the composite opinion of at least three different scouts. Each category is graded based on how we view a player’s current ability level relative to NBA players at the same position (guard, wing, forward or big). A grade of 1 indicates replacement level, a grade of 5 indicates NBA average, and a grade of 10 indicates historically elite. Our composite scouting notes help provide context for our grades.
Morant is generally aware of the entire floor on the offensive end, as he is capable of making passes from anywhere on the court. Occasionally he will put himself in a bad spot when driving to the rim under the hoop, but more often than not he seems to be aware where all nine other players are. On the defensive end, however, it often feels like his innate understanding disappears as he positions himself poorly, loses his man while ball-watching, or gets blindsided by a screen. Improving his understanding of how opposing offenses work will go a long way to helping him be more aware, but he will likely spend the early part of his career struggling in this area.
Morant’s situational awareness needs to be fine-tuned, particular within the half court offense. He struggles to make quality decisions when he cannot create separation, such as forcing the issue onto the defense and poor shot selection. He is good at finding his shot when the shot clock is low, but doesn’t do anything outside the ordinary to create for himself. Defensively, he recognizes opportunities to create impact plays, such as jumping passing lanes and going for weak side blocks, but his ability to execute these plays without leaving huge gaps behind him is still suspect.
Morant struggles as a decision maker which contributes to his high turnover numbers. In particularly forcing passing reads off the dribble. This is where the pull-up jumper could become useful in his game, when his defender is playing the drive and he is unable to apply enough pressure on the defense to make a read off the dribble. He also has a tendency to force simple passes like lobs off sets and in transition.
Morant is extremely decisive about what he wants to do when he gets the ball in his hands: create baskets. What he is less certain about is how he wants to do it. Some players are planners, but Morant is more of a go-with-the-flow attacker who is willing to take what the defense gives him. He has always been the most explosive athlete on the floor and as a result will often hold off on making a play until the last possible second.
Anticipation (A to C)
Very good at seeing openings as they happen, Morant can find holes in opposing defenses and will attack them himself or whip a pass through to a teammate who has just made himself available. His offensive anticipation is impressive, often finding teammates as they realize they are open (or in some cases hitting a teammate who didn’t realize they were open and having the ball fall out of bounds), which creates a number of opportunities other primary initiators might miss. He has the potential to be a dynamic high-risk high-reward passer in the NBA.