Ja Morant

Ja Morant became the top-rated point guard in this year's draft class after a stellar sophomore season. 

The New Orleans Pelicans won the No.1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft lottery and will presumably select Duke forward Zion Williamson with the first overall pick. While Williamson should be a great player in the NBA, Murray State point guard Ja Morant will have the biggest impact in the league and should be the No.1 pick.

Despite not having as good of a supporting cast as Williamson, Morant led the Racers to win the Ohio Valley Championship, as well as an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. With all the hype growing throughout the season, Morant averaged 19 points during March Madness, including a triple-double in the first round against Marquette. His performance during March Madness should be considered because he helped a non power-five team defeated a Big East team in Marquette, which was a better team than Murray State.

Morant proved he’s more than capable of leading a team and being an effective distributor, as he averaged 24.5 points per game with 10 assists. Morant is a better shooter than Williamson outside the three point line in a three-point centric league, shooting 36.3% from behind the arc compared to Willamson’s 33.8%. He also shot 81.3% from the free throw line, compared to Williamson’s 64%.

Unlike Williamson, Morant is a better shooter outside the three point line, shooting 36.3% from behind the arc compared to Williamson’s 33.8%. He also shot 81.3% from the free throw line. Morant performed well against stronger opponents, scoring 25 against the Tigers, 28 points against the Seminoles and 38 points against the Crimson Tide.

Williamson benefited from playing alongside R.J Barrett and Cam Reddish, which helped him become an impactful player for the Blue Devils. If Morant played at Duke, he’d be the overwhelming favorite to be the first pick in the draft.

While both players are potential franchise cornerstones, Morant is more of a polished shooter than Williamson is at this point in their careers. Williamson has yet to possess a reliable jump shot, which may not develop. While Williamson is seen as a transcendent player who can change a franchise, Morant is a player who can be a dominant point guard and run a team’s offense for the next 12 to 15 years.

If Williamson doesn’t live up to the hype of being the next LeBron James, Morant could become a better player. One of the biggest things that Morant benefits from is that he’s been relatively healthy throughout his career, despite recently having knee surgery.

The biggest example of this is when Williamson suffered a knee sprain after his shoe exploded against North Carolina. He returned for the 2019 ACC Tournament, where he averaged 27.0 points per game to help lead Duke to the ACC Tournament Championship.

Being 6-feet-7 inches and 285 pounds raises the question of what the grind of professional basketball will do to his knees and back, which is why the Pelicans should consider taking Morant over Williamson. He claims that he added 100 pounds in high school and that the weight gain came during his junior year. The quick weight gain could lead to injury problems during his career. Despite this, many experts think he’s too short to be a big man in the league.

New Orleans can rebuild around Morant and use the assets it gets from trading star forward Anthony Davis to build a solid foundation for the next decade. Another team that needs a point guard could give the Pelicans an offer they can’t refuse and trade up to the top spot, such as the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks or the Orlando Magic, who would be a great fit for Morant.

Regardless of where Morant lands, the team that drafts him will be set at point guard for the next decade and will have a great building block for the future. Even though Morant isn’t as exciting as Williamson, he’s a great player that a team needs to turn a franchise around and can develop into the best point guard in the league within the next five years.

Contact Jason Clampitt at clampijt@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.