Ja Morant injury robs Grizzlies of NBA's leading young star

By Sports Desk November 27, 2021

Ja Morant sustained a knee injury in Friday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks, dealing a hefty blow to the Memphis Grizzlies' hopes this year.

"Ja Morant exited during the first quarter of Friday's game against the Atlanta Hawks," a team statement read. "Preliminary imaging revealed a left knee sprain. Further updates will be provided as appropriate."

There was immediate concern for Morant, who hobbled off the floor after pulling up while dribbling despite receiving no contact.

The 22-year-old had scored only two points in eight minutes to that point, meaning it was no surprise the Hawks eased to a 132-100 win – their biggest of the season.

For the third time in three years since he was selected second in the 2019 NBA Draft, Morant is scoring the largest share of Memphis' points.

His 22.0 per cent of their scoring this season makes him the ninth-most influential individual in the NBA, with Kevin Durant's 24.3 per cent of the Brooklyn Nets' points leading the way.

In the early part of this year, Morant had been spoken about as a potential Most Improved Player candidate, despite already scoring 19.1 points per game last year – the 36th-most in the league. He ranked 52nd (17.8 points) as he was named Rookie of the Year in 2019-20.

That output has improved to 24.1 points per game this year, despite Friday's lowly output, which means only nine other players have seen a greater improvement in their scoring from last season.

Morant ranks 11th for field-goal shooting improvement (up to 47.6 per cent) and seventh for an upgrade in accuracy from three-point range (now 35.6 per cent).

This rapid progress has made Morant the most prolific under-23 scorer in the NBA this year (458 points), leading a group that also includes preseason MVP favourite Luka Doncic.

The Grizzlies fell to 9-10 with their latest loss, but that middling record is still enough for eighth place in the Western Conference for a team Morant led to the playoffs in 2020-21.

Whether Memphis can stay in touch while Morant is out is another matter. Since he arrived in the league, their point differential has been 0.5 in their favour per 100 possessions with him on the court but -2.1 with him absent.

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    Cornet – 11/17

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Collins – 5/4
    Cornet – 2/0

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Collins – 4/9
    Cornet – 1/3

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