Best Landing Spots for Murray State Star Ja Morant in 2019 NBA Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 21, 2019

Best Landing Spots for Murray State Star Ja Morant in 2019 NBA Draft

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    With NBA scouts focused on Ja Morant to open the NCAA men's basketball tournament, he triple-doubled in an upset win over Marquette on Thursday.

    The Murray State sophomore couldn't have sold himself any better, having flashed his signature explosiveness but also his elite-level playmaking skills and improved shooting with a pair of three-pointers. 

    Entering March Madness, Morant was gaining steam as the potential No. 2 pick behind Zion Williamson. And after the first-round victory, his case looks even stronger.

    He'll be a huge draw for lottery teams hoping to add their next franchise point guard.

    Based on Morant's strengths, weaknesses and style, he'd benefit from landing with a select handful of teams that will give the best setting to develop. 

    Only projected lottery teams were considered as attractive landing spots in this list. 

Honorable Mention: New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks could help jump-start Morant's career. Or they could delay it from taking off—it all depends on how the front office does in free agency. 

    Like most rookies, Morant would benefit from starting his career surrounded by veteran talent to take pressure off him. And the Knicks will have the salary-cap room and mindset to sign the top available free agents. 

    Playing with Kevin Durant would be an obvious plus for Morant. 

    On the other hand, landing in New York if the Knicks falter in free agency a month later would be a nightmare situation, just as it's been for Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, the team's last two lottery picks

    If the Knicks did draft Morant on June 20, we'd likely know by July 6—the first day of free agency—whether he should celebrate or brace for turbulence. 

Phoenix Suns

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    For Morant, there would be pros and cons to landing in Phoenix. But mostly, he'd enjoy an immediate starting role and the team's expected trajectory behind budding stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. 

    Phoenix has leaned so heavily on Booker, even for playmaking. And while there may be questions about Morant's shooting, which could hurt his effectiveness early in his NBA career, his vision and passing should carry over.

    With Booker being the offensive focal point and Ayton entering his second year, Morant would have to adjust to a lower usage rate. Instead, the NCAA's 2018-19 assist leader could play to his greatest strength: the ability to break down defenses and set up teammates. 

Chicago Bulls

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    Morant would have the chance to beat out Kris Dunn for the starting spot and join a promising young core of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. 

    The Bulls rank No. 29 in offensive efficiency, so it's easy to picture them targeting Morant, who just became the first NCAA player since 1992 to average at least 20 points and 10 assists, per Sports Reference.

    He'd be able to defer shooting as much early on and show off his playmaking, with LaVine, Porter and Markkanen carrying the scoring load.

    Chicago ranks No. 10 in the league in three-point percentage, so it should help mask Morant's shaky shooting range and accuracy while he develops his jump shot. 

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Trading Marc Gasol signified the Memphis Grizzlies' acceptance for a need to rebuild. And that means Mike Conley could be next to go. 

    Morant could plug right in for the 31-year-old Conley, who could serve as an ideal mentor if the Grizzlies didn't feel the need to rush a trade. 

    Either way, Memphis could use a new young guard to build around after drafting its franchise big man in Jaren Jackson Jr. last year. And Morant would benefit from a rim protector like Jackson, who can also roll to the basket or pop out for a three.

    If Conley was moved in the offseason, Morant would immediately receive the same high-usage, ball-dominant role he has with the Racers. 

Orlando Magic

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    Surrounding Morant with a solid defensive core could be the right way to build around the 6'3", 175-pound point guard. 

    The Orlando Magic would need to luck out and move up in the lottery for a chance at Morant. While they rank No. 7 in the NBA in defensive efficiency, coach Steve Clifford needs a playmaker with Markelle Fultz's future unknown. 

    Morant would give the 22nd-ranked offense in efficiency a needed jolt of explosiveness to put pressure on opponents off the dribble.

    The Magic rank No 26 in pace, and Morant led the nation in transition points. 


    All advanced stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.