Ja Morant’s highlights backed by MVP level of play has elevated the Memphis guard into rarefied air

Ja Morant is quickly elevating into a conversation with the elite of the elites.

The type that goes by one name. The one who is praised by those who love the sport and recognized by the ones who don’t watch a minute of the NBA action.

Night after night Ja is taking over your social media timelines. Flashy passes, posterizing 7 footers, or snatching the souls of 20,000 fans with buzzer beaters, Ja is gaining traction nightly. And this is just him scratching the surface of his potential.

A year ago Ja was nothing more than an athletic freak of nature who attempted the most outlandish dunks. Nobody truly cared outside of Memphis. Today he might be the league MVP and every kids new favorite player.

But what is it about Ja that has the basketball world teetering between love and hate?

Is it the eerily similar shades of a pre ACL, MVP Derrick Rose? The throwback to the aggressive guard before the finesse game that came with the 3 point revolution? Or maybe it is the caution of anointing him as the next face because we have seen his style of play burn out before reaching its peak?

While the conversation teeters back and forth, Ja just keeps on progressing. He is up to 27.6 points, 6.6 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 threes this season. His box plus/minus ranks eighth in the league, ahead of Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden and Trae Young.

Ja’s highlights are layered on top of consistent, efficient production. His style may generate much of the attention right now, but the substance lends merit to comparisons to earlier MVP campaigns from the likes of Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose.

AI posted league-high 31.1 points, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Ten years later, Rose posted 25.0 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds. Ja is right in that range, and at least one of his predecessors is taking note.

The MVP race is insanely close and currently up for grabs by 5 different players who in different seasons would be running away with the trophy.

Jokic is having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history. Antetokounmpo isn’t far behind. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid already has plenty of pull in the narrative department. And have you been paying attention to what DeMar DeRozan has been doing in Chicago?

It would be tough for Ja to jump all of them, but he is in that conversation.

As mentioned earlier not everyone is buying into the Ja hype.

I understand the caution, the athletic freaks usually burn out. But assuming Morant’s destiny is a fate of compli is absurd. He is dominating his position right now and there is nothing like him at the moment. You don’t have to anoint him anything, but to deny his current greatness is ridiculous.

Ja has his team positioned for a deep playoff run right on the heels of the 2nd seed in the Western Conference. We could look up in May and have a Western Conference finals series in Memphis and that is not something anyone had on their bingo card 3 months ago.

And however you want to define him—MVP contender, #LeaguePassAlert king, you name it—Morant has proved over the last calendar year that he can be the best player in an individual series. He averaged a series-high 30.2 points per game in the Grizzlies’ first-round loss to the Utah Jazz last season, outdueling Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.

Doing that in four straight rounds is another story. But for someone who’s made the impossible happen on plenty of individual plays, that isn’t out of reach, either.

But for now turn on league pass or the nationally televised Grizzlies games, something they hadn’t had since the Grit and Grind era, and enjoy the absolute show Ja puts on each night.

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