The Future of the NBA: Ja and Zion
The future for the NBA is now, Ja and Zion are going to be the new faces of the NBA for years to come (I understand that Giannis, Kawhi, and Curry aren’t that old, but they’re not nearly as young as Zion 19yrs old and Ja 20 yrs old). I can’t remember the last time the first two overall picks of the NBA draft were this exciting and talented. Let me get back to why I named the title what it is by prefacing that LeBron is why I think the rise of unselfish superstar is even a thing in my opinion. During the early stages of LeBrons career, he was almost frustrating to watch because of how effortless it was for him to drive and get to the rim. The frustrating part was how little he actually did it. The part of his game that I overlooked as a young nba fan has now permeated the landscape of todays game.
LeBron has always been a pass first get his teammates involved first type player. Now you might be asking isn’t this article about the newcomers to the nba? Yes it is but if you look at their game it might be in my opinion a direct result of watching LeBron and how he played. Let’s talk about Ja who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players.
Memphis took a huge risk with Ja and it paid tremendously. I’m also speaking to the risk it was to deal Mike Conley. Conley was a huge piece of what Memphis did in the early part of this decade, he wasn’t a superstar but still is in my opinion one of the better point guards in the NBA. Memphis couldn’t have asked for a better player to have as their point guard than Conley. Conley isn’t a brash and outspoken player, he let his game do the talking for the better part of his career. After several head coaching changes over the last few seasons, the grizzlies outlook on the future looked bleak, after a 33-49 season they secured the number two overall pick and had decisions to make. Would they hold onto Conley? (who had cemented himself as an above average NBA starter) Or would they pick the exciting but unproven Ja Morant.
The trades and acquisitions made by Memphis could be an article in itself but for time sake I’ll spark note them for you. They traded Conley for Crowder, Korver, Allen, draft rights Bazley(who they then flipped for Brandon Clarke looks like a really good player right now) and a 2020 first round pick. Grizzlies than shipped Kyle Korver and Jevon Carter to the Suns to acquire Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton and the Suns 2020 and 2021 second round pick (lmao speaks to how inept the Suns front office actually is, Suns could’ve had Luka or Trae Young team up with Devin Booker right now, smh.) They then traded Crowder close to this years deadline. Crowder helped Memphis get into the playoff race before he along with Andre Igoudala (who had been traded in the offseason but would not report to Memphis) were dealt for Justice Winslow(who can ball and contribute to most NBA rosters) which now gives Memphis one of the younger exciting rosters in the league. Long story short, their future looks bright and the face of that team is Ja Morant.
Let’s talk about the first overall pick a bit, as a Spurs fan I was able to watch every minute of his NBA debut. Zion and his 4th quarter explosion showed everyone the hype was warranted. Coming out of college, the only knock on his game was his lack of range shooting the basketball. (He was a man amongst boys in the NCAA, no one could stop him from getting to the rim, why shoot from deep when you can lay it up and dunk at will). Zion hit 4 three point shots in the 4th quarter of his debut helping close the gap on a Spurs lead. He scored 17 straight points in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Alvin Gentry eventually pulled him out of the game, as he just got back from injury. Pels eventually lost the game, but what I witnessed that game along with whoever else watched that game knew he was going to dominate this league for years to come with his ability to be a playmaker and his unrivaled athleticism. He doesn’t look to score first, he looks to get his teammates involved first. This is why I consider him and Ja to continue what LeBron introduced, being an unselfish superstar.