‘I Feel Like We’ve Been Making Statements Since I’ve Been Drafted Here’

The Oakland Raiders had a very interesting draft day. The team traded up for four separate selections and selected 10 players in total, including two top-10 picks: Kolton Miller of UCLA and P.J Haidet of Utah State with the first pick overall In an interview, head coach Jon Gruden discussed what he was looking for when it came to drafting players from college football specifically saying “I want guys that are going to be here”. This statement led many people on social media questioning if Gruden’s past statements about not taking certain prospects during the season were false or true

a promising newcomer The Memphis Grizzlies have made playoff runs in each of the previous two seasons, and with Ja Morant playing like a superstar early in the 2021-22 season, the team’s potential might be much higher. Morant does, in fact, want greater respect, and he is working hard to acquire it.

The Grizzlies fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in a close game on Sunday, but they were one of the teams generally projected to make a run to the NBA Finals. Morant, on the other hand, does not believe Memphis’ good start or his outstanding performance should come as a surprise to basketball fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5 eZgug3nLc

When Ja Morant was picked in 2019, the Grizzlies weren’t thought to be much of a playoff club. Nonetheless, the No. 2 overall choice catapulted the organization into a more competitive position almost immediately.

During the 2019-20 season, Morant earned the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and led Memphis to the play-in tournament, where the Grizzlies were defeated by the Portland Trail Blazers. Last season, he led the Grizzlies to the playoffs with a 35-point effort against the Golden State Warriors and then put up high numbers in a defeat to the Utah Jazz in the first round.

The 22-year-old continues to demonstrate why he is one of the league’s brightest rising talents. Based on his performance in the first few games, this may be his year to become an All-Star.

Morant has been a force to be reckoned with. He shoots 58 percent from the field and averages 35.0 points, 8.0 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. The perimeter shooting is the most striking feature. Morant’s long ball was a weakness entering the NBA, but in three games, he is 8-of-18 from beyond the arc.

Naturally, the sample size is modest. The season has barely just begun. But Ja’s leadership and skill have already rubbed off on players like Desmond Bane, who recently said (h/t Drew Hill of the Daily Memphian) that the Grizzlies would join Morant in “war.”

Memphis seems to be starving. Morant wants to win more respect for his squad as he leads the Grizzlies through a stacked Western Conference.

Basketball fans, according to Morant, are sleeping on the Grizzlies.

Ja Morant is well aware of his accomplishments during his short stay in Memphis. He’d want the rest of the basketball world to notice as well.

On Sunday, Morant put on a show for the Lakers, scoring 40 points and throwing out ten assists. After missing a late free-throw that would have knotted the game with two seconds left, the former Murray State star vented his disappointment. Regardless, the Grizzlies’ guard sent a clear message to LeBron James and his teammates.

Morant believes the Grizzlies have been sending those types of signals for years (h/t the Daily Memphian).

“Since I’ve been recruited here, I feel like we’ve been making statements.”

–Ja Morant, as reported by the Daily Memphian

He is correct.

In last year’s play-in game, Morant and the Grizzlies beat Stephen Curry and the Warriors. They stunned the Utah Jazz by winning Game 1 in Salt Lake City, despite the Jazz’s subsequent four-game winning streak.

Memphis is only going to become better with Morant maturing into a superstar and players like Bane and De’Anthony Melton making significant contributions. Even in a stacked Western Conference, it’s time to acknowledge their accomplishments.

The Grizzlies are an up-and-coming squad.

Grizzlies star Ja Morant high-fives Jaren Jackson Jr. during Sunday's game against the Lakers

Grizzlies star Ja Morant high-fives Jaren Jackson Jr. during Sunday's game against the Lakers On October 24, 2021, in Los Angeles, California, Ja Morant celebrates his three-pointer with Jaren Jackson Jr. during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center | Getty Images/Harry How

Memphis is a club to keep an eye on in the West this season, particularly if Morant develops into an All-NBA player.

Morant and Melton provide backcourt scoring and playmaking depth for the Grizzlies, while Bane seems like he might be the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft after making the All-Rookie team last season and starting in place of the injured Dillon Brooks, averaging 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists.

Jaren Jackson Jr. might be responsible for a lot of Memphis’ year-over-year improvement. The former Michigan State star just signed a four-year, $105 million rookie contract, and as an athletic 4-man who can stretch the floor and provide the Grizzlies with a true rim protector on the other end, he has tremendous offensive promise. He’ll have to remain healthy, however, after missing a significant portion of last season due to an injury suffered during the Orlando “bubble.”

Memphis is likely still a couple years away from contending for the Western Conference crown. Morant, on the other hand, compares the Grizzlies’ club to the last scene of the Breakfast Club. To put it another way, don’t overlook them.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

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