MURRAY — The first of many likely awards rolled in for former Murray State Racer Ja Morant on Tuesday when the NBA announced him as the NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month based on games played during October and November.
As the number two overall pick, Morant has lived up to the hype. Morant averaged 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 1.35 steals in 28.7 minutes while shooting 45.7 percent from the field, 41.0 percent from three-point range and 76.5 percent from the free-throw line in 17 starts. He led all rookies in scoring average, assists per game, 20-point games (nine) and double-doubles (three) through the end of November.
He’s had several highlight moments already this season as a rookie, including his career-high 30 points in an overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets on October 27. He took over in the fourth quarter with 17 points, and recorded a game-saving block at the end of regulation on a shot attempt by Kyrie Irving and assisting on the game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime.
He became the third player in NBA history to record at least 30 points and nine assists in one of his first three career NBA games (Isiah Thomas in 1981, Trae Young in 2018).
That wasn’t all he did over the course of the first two months of his NBA career. He also recorded a game-winning shot on a layup with 0.7 seconds on the clock to cap a 23-point, 11-assist performance (his first career double-double) on Nov. 13 at Charlotte, becoming the youngest NBA player in nearly 10 years to make a game-winning basket on the road with under one second remaining on the clock. He followed with 25 points and eight assists in a Nov. 15 home win over the Utah Jazz.
He carried the momentum into a game 10 days later against the Los Angeles Lakers. He scored 26 points, dished out six assists and a career-high five steals. That made him the first rookie to collect at least 25 points, five assists and five steals in a game since John Wall did so for the Washington Wizards on Nov. 2, 2010. He then recorded two straight double-doubles on Nov. 25 at Indiana (19 points, 10 assists) and Nov. 27 vs. LA Clippers (20 points, 11 assists), becoming the first player in franchise history to register consecutive point-assist double-doubles.
He shared Rookie of the Month honors with Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, who earned the monthly award for the Eastern Conference. Morant is the first Grizzlies rookie to be named Western Conference Rookie of the Month since Nick Calathes in February 2014.
He likely won’t be able to repeat this effort in December after he suffered a back injury mid-November. A tough fall landed him on a cameraman and since then he has dealt with some back soreness that reignited against the Utah Jazz. The back spasms which first occurred against the Indiana Pacers on November 25. “He is considered week-to-week, as a period of short-term off-loading is needed. Further updates will be provided as appropriate,” per the Memphis Grizzlies press release.
He is still listed as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award after overtaking Zion Williamson in the opening months of the season.