Grizzlies: Can Ja Morant repeat his 44-point season opener this year?

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /
Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Memphis Grizzlies kick off their season tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’ll be the first Memphis basketball game that we’ve seen since June 2nd when the Grizzlies were knocked out of the NBA Playoffs by the Utah Jazz.

It’ll be exciting to see the Grizzlies back in action, even if they don’t play well. Signs do not point to the possibility of the Grizzlies as a whole starting hot, as they’ve dropped their season opener in each of the past three seasons. That said, one player looks like he could have a hot start.

That player is Ja Morant.

Last year, Ja Morant dropped 44 points in the Grizzlies’ season opener

Even though the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t win their season opener last season, fans were on their feet for the entirety of the game. Why, you ask? Ja Morant.

The star Memphis point guard followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019-2020 with a 44-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs. Even for just a second, Morant looked like an MVP frontrunner.

Perhaps more impressively, Morant was the only player on the Grizzlies’ roster with a positive (+/-), finishing at +10 on the night. For those who don’t look into stats like that — that’s really good for a star player in a 12-point loss. Granted, that also sprung worries about the depth of the Grizzlies’ squad last year, but those would quickly be squashed.

Morant went 18-27 from the field, knocking down 50% of his three-pointers on the night. Granted, he only shot two three-pointers, but that doesn’t sound as catchy.

Morant wasn’t just scoring the ball, either — he looked like one of the best passers in the league. The Grizzly point guard finished the game with nine assists, one short of a double-double, and turned the ball over just once. It was a sign of great things to come for this team.

Morant was active defensively too, recording two steals and a block in last year’s opener. You can say what you want about the overall performance of the team — Morant put the league on notice against the Spurs last season.

Can he replicate this?

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Based on last year’s performances near the end of the season, the Grizzly guard has improved his overall game in every way. If that, combined with preseason play, is any indication of how well he’ll perform in the season opener, Memphis is in good hands.