Grizzlies: 4 players unjustly ranked higher than Ja Morant on 'Next Gen' list

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/GettyImages
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Paolo Banchero

Paolo Banchero, recently drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick just two short years ago, has been on the rise despite having minimal fanfare compared to other recent first-overall picks -- of course, competing with the likes of Zion Williamson and Victor Wembanyama is tough in itself.

Banchero presents himself as an unselfish frontcourt player with excellent athleticism and mobility and possesses post moves that continue to see refinement from game to game. The forward saw himself further grow this year after averaging a respectable 22.6 points per game which aided the Magic in securing their first playoff berth in four years.

Although their playoff run ended after falling short in the first round, losing a crushing Game 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the franchise should be optimistic given how many young and freshly drafted players performed at a high level and continue to grow.

Despite this success in making the playoffs, and in Banchero's record-setting night during the aforementioned elimination game, it's still questionable at best to rank him higher on a prospective list over Ja Morant.

Although Morant's sample size for the past NBA season is slim, it would be overly optimistic to immediately crown Banchero as a stronger prospect.

The growth of Banchero's game is an easy green flag to spot, and the fact that the team made it to the postseason is an achievement in itself after several lackluster (and lack of) postseason runs since the turn of the last two decades, but airing on the side of caution would do good for Magic fans.

While there is clearly more improvement to be made, Banchero still has yet to assert himself as the linchpin for a team the same way Morant has for the Grizzlies -- With Banchero still finding his footing playing alongside the likes of Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, the hope will be for him to emerge as a frontcourt leader rather than someone who opts to defer said responsibility.

This expectation and bar is set at a reasonable height that would see Banchero possibly surpass Morant as a next-gen prospect, but until it comes to pass it feels rushed to give him a seat at a table that had been declared vacant as soon as Morant's season was disturbed.