The Memphis Grizzlies may find themselves coming into the 2023-24 campaign without superstar Ja Morant in tow for the first 25 games as a result of a league-issued suspension, but they are still a unit viewed in high regard.
Even with such a key figure sidelined for a third of the year, fans, analysts, and oddsmakers alike still are penciling in Taylor Jenkins’ squad as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
Interestingly enough, however, despite their lofty projections, ESPN recently pushed out their annual preseason player rankings list where zero Grizzlies were found placing better than 31, with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. residing in said slot.
This, of course, is a stark contrast to years past when Memphis regularly saw itself being represented within the top 20, with last year’s list having Morant registering as high as nine.
Now, the 24-year-old has fallen back 26 spots, with the folks at ESPN labeling him as the nauseatingly low 35 best player in the association, with their main reasoning for his drop being a result of his off-court issues — a questionable decision when ranking an NBA player, emphasis on the word *play, but we digress.
Grizzlies star Ja Morant issues 2-word response to No. 35 ranking by ESPN
In response to the polarizing piece, social media was seemingly flooded with posts lambasting the publication for its placement of the point guard, with one user on X, formerly Twitter, labeling the No. 35 rank as “madness.”
Reacting to this particular sentiment, Morant himself issued a quote response, opting to type out two short yet strong words: “no Uturns ✍🏾”.
Naturally, Morant seems to have a gripe with this assessment of his league-wide standing, and rightly so.
In a way, the publication’s analysis seems to somewhat counter itself, as it notes that the reason why he was not selected to an All-NBA team last year was “in large part” due to his off-court happenings.
Such a selection is awarded to just three players at each position who are deemed to be the best of the best, which means that even ESPN’s staff understands that, when on the floor, Morant is often in the discussion for a top-three or at minimum a top-five point guard label.
And yet, on a list that suggests it’s focusing on players slated to play (there’s that word again) in the NBA this coming year, the Grizzlies cornerstone finds himself submerged behind a whopping eight players at his same position, many of whom have accomplished far less from an individual standpoint.
Coming into his fifth year with two All-Star nods, an All-NBA selection, and averages of 22.4 points, 7.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.0 steals on 47.2 percent shooting from the field under his belt, there’s no question that, when on the court, Morant is easily a top-15 player in the game that not only produces impressive individual accolades but also helps impact overall team success.
Falling outside the top 30 is simply disrespectful to Morant as a player. If he didn’t already have enough motivation to come out swinging once eligible to return in mid-December, ESPN certainly added more fuel to the fire.