Grizzlies: The NBA’s top stars are struggling while Ja Morant thrives

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Memphis Grizzlies as a whole have not been playing their best basketball of all time, but that doesn’t mean that the team’s stars aren’t thriving. While Jaren Jackson Jr. isn’t playing his best ball, a pair of Grizzlies are picking up the slack.

Those Grizzlies are Ja Morant and Desmond Bane.

But the comparison doesn’t end there — the two Grizz guards are thriving in the same league that is seeing a handful of its star players have their worst seasons in years. So what’s going on to allow these Grizzlies to succeed in such a strange year of basketball?

Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies never bent the NBA rules

According to Grayson Anderson (JxmyHighroller on YouTube), one of the key pieces of this drastic shift in the NBA is the league’s sudden rule change. This rule change has stiffened the standard for what qualifies as a shooting foul, and as a result, players like James Harden and Damian Lillard are struggling mightily to maintain impressive stat lines.

Here’s what their numbers look like.

  • James Harden: 19.8 points, 42.8% FG
  • Damian Lillard: 20.3 points, 38.7% FG, 27.9% 3PT FG

For Lillard, every number listed above is the lowest that he’s seen since his rookie year — that’s nearly a decade. For Harden, his scoring total is the lowest it’s been since he was coming off of the bench in Oklahoma City. His field goal percentage is the lowest that it’s been since his rookie campaign.

What trait do these players share that Ja Morant does not? It’s simple — they bend the rules to create unique scoring opportunities.

As an example, we’re all accustomed to seeing Harden and Lillard pump fake and follow this by moving into the defender and hurling a shot with no chance of going in at the basketball hoop. It’s hard to watch and has been an extremely frustrating part of the league for years. This season, the league clamped up on its rules and those calls aren’t working.

This makes these players’ games extremely one-dimensional compared to what they were getting away with before. Other players with similar playstyles who are struggling include Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Bradley Beal.

Why is Memphis Grizzlies PG Ja Morant unaffected?

It’s simple — he never relied on free throws to get points. Morant is as pure of a bucket-getter as the NBA has seen in recent years. Almost all of his points come from inside scoring and as he has added a long-range jumper to his game, Morant has become unstoppable offensively.

Bane falls under a different, but similar category. While he was never been the inside scorer that Morant is, Bane uses his pump fake to create open shots rather than create free-throw opportunities. As a result, his efficiency hasn’t changed while the rest of the league is struggling to match their scoring outputs from past years.

Next. Diagnosing the Grizzlies' 3 biggest problems right now. dark

Even if the Grizzlies have struggled as of late, they’re in good hands with Morant and Bane, especially with the NBA’s updated rules.