Updated: Oct 9, 2021
In his first year in the NBA, Ja Morant already showed his star power. He compiled an entire highlight reel of posterizing dunks (and missed ones as well). He displayed his toughness at the rim for tough finishes and exhibited all the qualities of a future NBA great as a rookie. And this season, he’s improved his scoring and assist averages while cutting down on turnovers.
But when you look at his statistics this season, there’s one glaring figure that’ll make you shudder. Morant is shooting 22.8% from 3-point range. Out of all players that have appeared in at least 20 games this season and attempted over three 3-pointers per game, the Murray State product ranks dead last.
It’s a very puzzling number considering that Morant shot 33.5% from deep in his rookie year—still below league-average, but respectable. Of course, it’s expected that young stars of his caliber need a few years to refine their skills. But a drop off of almost eleven hundredths from his accuracy from deep is concerning. What’s going on with Morant’s jumper may be a fluke, but it could also be a trend that forces him to adapt in other ways going forward.
Morant’s elite athleticism already provided him with a surefire path to the NBA. He can stop and go on a dime on his way to the basket, and his acceleration is enough to leave the best defenders in his wake. But his secondary traits make his game even more captivating. Morant is an excellent playmaker, as he is averaging 7.5 assists per game with an assist percentage of 36.0 (both 11th in the league). He plays fast and loose, always looking to set up an open teammate with a fancy pass.
He’s also a remarkably strong finisher through contact. Despite weighing in at 175 pounds, Morant is never afraid to bump his defender in mid-air before a finish at the rim. His creativity is simply off the charts; he has a whole package of reverse and 360-degree layups at his disposal.
Still, most of the question marks about Morant’s ceiling as an NBA scorer all circle back to his jumpshot. His rookie season set a solid foundation for growth in terms of both efficiency and confidence. But Morant hasn’t seemed comfortable shooting from outside the paint this season. He did miss eight games with a sprained ankle in January, but he doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects now.
This is not to say that all hope is lost for Morant. He’s only 21 years old, younger than most rookies this season. And we’ve seen plenty of NBA players that developed solid 3-point shots after coming into the league with poor efficiency. John Wall shot just 24.2% from deep in his first three years in the league. He’s improved that mark by almost ten hundredths ever since (33.4%).
Even power forward Paul Millsap was able to find a jumper that worked to his advantage. His first of four straight All-Star appearances coincided with 35.8% shooting from deep on 2.9 attempts per game (212 that season). How many 3-pointers did he attempt throughout his first seven years in the league? 113.
Just imagine what kind of offensive potential Morant would unlock if he shot at least 35% from deep. His scoring average would likely jump into the 20s, and he wouldn’t have to take to Twitter over a snub from the All-Star Game. It might take some retooling for Morant to become comfortable with his jumpshot. But once he figures it out, watch out for that breakout into the NBA’s elite.