The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams, but many have questioned whether or not they will be capable of winning a title down the road.
The modern NBA caters to shooters, so rather than predicting Ja Morant as the NBA’s next title-winning star, many people expect Trae Young or Luka Doncic to take over the league. Both of those players are elite shooters who will likely guide their team to impressive 3-point shooting numbers.
It’s not just a hunch, either — the numbers are there to back this theory up. In the past decade, only a single team to win the title was not a top ten 3-point shooting team. That team had LeBron James on the roster.
This season, Giannis Antetokounmpo proved that an NBA star not named LeBron James can win a title without elite 3-point shooting.
Giannis Antetokounmpo just paved a path for Ja Morant to win an NBA title for the Memphis Grizzlies
Prior to this, Ja Morant had two things working against him. For starters, he was an athletic point guard, something that we haven’t seen succeed in the NBA Playoffs in a long time.
Look at Russell Westbrook, Morant’s most common comparison. Without his sharpshooting counterpart in Kevin Durant, Westbrook has faltered in the playoffs. He hasn’t reached the second round of the playoffs in four of the five years since Durant left. The only season where he did pass the first round, he fell short of the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 in a 4-1 series.
There’s no perfect comparison, but the thought of this was slightly disturbing for Grizzlies fans, even if it was just an afterthought.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ja Morant are very different players, but their paint-scoring dominance and lack of shooting is something that is rarely seen winning in the NBA Finals. Until now.
Antetokounmpo shot 20% from 3-point range in six games against the Phoenix Suns. At the start of the series, it looked like something that was going to cripple the Bucks offensively. By the end of game six, it didn’t matter at all. Milwaukee was able to produce on both ends of the ball and ride their star player to an NBA Championship, even if he wasn’t hitting clutch threes.
That said, Antetokounmpo had a lot of help from the rest of his team, which finished as a top-5 3-point shooting team in the league in 2020-21. If the Grizzlies do want to win with Morant as the team’s point guard, they have to find a way to up their 3-point percentages from the 24th spot that it landed in this past season.
Still, Ja Morant can do it. He wants to do it, as evident by his tweet after the Bucks’ win.
The comparisons between Morant and Antetokounmpo are far and few, but the Greek Freak shot 30.3% from deep this past season. Sound familiar? That was the exact percentage that Morant shot the ball in 2020-21.
Expect the Bucks’ NBA Championship to motivate Morant and the rest of his team into another successful season. With a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. back for a full year, the sky is the limit for a young team that was punching above its weight class last year.