Memphis Grizzlies: First Quarter Awards

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Rookie of the Quarter: Ja Morant

Last year, we had to rig this award to avoid defaulting it to Jaren Jackson Jr.

This year, the Grizzlies are currently rostering four rookies, one of whom is running away with the league-wide ROY race. Ja Morant has swallowed up the void left by Zion Williamson‘s preseason injury; a standout in a suddenly-deep rookie class.

His relentless, slashing style evokes comparisons to John Wall and Russell Westbrook, although already a better shooter than both. His handle hints at a less-refined but more-audacious Kyrie Irving. And he most certainly has the clutch gene that defines greatness in so many winners.

Morant leads all rookies in both points and assists per game, the latter by almost double his closest rival. He sits third among rooks in steals per game, a category he’d certainly also be leading if Memphis weren’t limiting his minutes.

Load-managing a player this early in his career has been a point of debate, but it’s the prudent route, especially with a player as valuable – and as reckless – as Morant. He’s already being listed as week-to-week with back spasms, underscoring the need. The Grizzlies don’t want to rack up his odometer on a dismal season, and could benefit from more losses, which Morant’s absence will certainly spawn.

Regardless if he sits entire games from here on out, Morant has been an absolute stud so far. He’ll have a strong head-start for whenever Zion enters the actual ROY race.

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