If no Zion - would JA do?

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Sometimes, by not getting what you want - you get what you need. The National Basketball Association isn't built on guarantees or easy breaks and the Cavaliers will have a decision to make if they do not 'win' the NBA draft lottery. In a draft class brimming with talent at the top, Murray State's Temetrius Jamel "Ja" Morant sticks out as the 'best of the rest' behind Duke's Zion Williamson.

Morant's meteoric rise over the past year has been well documented, but his triple-double against Marquette in the NCAA tournament made him, and Murray State, a national darling. The sophomore point guard's dominant season culminated with a dominant game when it mattered most.

Averaging 24.5 points per game and 10 assists on 49.9 percent shooting is bound to get the attention of NBA executives, but it was how the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year produced his numbers that has the association excited.

Morant isn't just an athlete, he's an athletic marvel. At 6'3 180, he's got ideal size and length for the point guard position and the amount of points he's been responsible for on the year is impressive - he accounted for 55 of his team's 83 points in the tournament game against Marquette.

“We didn’t see the jump he’s had this year coming,” Murray State assistant coach Casey Long said in an interview with the New York Times. “But we knew the work ethic he put in and his ability that allowed him to make the jump.”

That ability and work ethic, coupled with his tremendous tape from the tournament and 2018-19 season in general, is what has teams salivating over the potential of adding Morant to their team.

Duke's R.J. Barrett is Morant's main competition for the second overall selection in the NBA Draft. The highly recruited two-guard/small forward was a standout on the most polarizing roster in the NCAA last season, and he may have been more than that had be been able to star on a team not built around a player like Williamson.

What isn't speculation, however, is that the center of the NBA will revolve around Morant and Barrett once a freshman named Zion Williamson is off the board. While conventional wisdom points to Morant being the pick, nothing with the Cleveland Cavaliers is ever routine and it'll make for endless weeks of speculation if the lottery is not in their favor.

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