Almost two decades apart, Pau Gasol and Ja Morant began their NBA careers with a bang for the Memphis Grizzlies.
When Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant was voted NBA Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season, he became the second player in franchise history to earn that honor.
The first was future Hall of Fame big man Pau Gasol, voted Rookie of the Year for the 2001-02 season.
Gasol was the first star the Grizzlies had in Memphis, coming to the team the same year they relocated from Vancouver. He would lead the Grizzlies to their first-ever playoff appearance. When Pau was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008, his departure — leaving in exchange for a package that included his younger brother, Marc Gasol — helped set the stage for the “Grit and Grind” era, the most successful period in franchise history.
Morant is the Grizzlies’ first star post-Grit and Grind. He came to the team during a rebuild that is trending upward, as Memphis nearly made the playoffs in Morant’s first season and appear set up for success sooner than later in his career.
Between Gasol and Morant, whose award-winning debut season was better?