Murray State’s Ja Morant is one of the most compelling prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft. Based on the mock drafts that are circulating from a variety of publications, only Duke’s Zion Williamson is more coveted. In fact, there are some (including myself) that believe Morant will be the better pro.
With those kinds of expectations, it’s natural for NBA 2K fans to anticipate using Morant in NBA 2K20. Morant is projected to land with the Memphis Grizzlies who have the second overall selection. If that holds true, Grizzlies fans will have a dynamic young player to control next season. Fans of Morant and 2K’s MyLeague and MyGM modes will undoubtedly manuever through the game’s sandbox modes to acquire the promising young player for their teams.
We’ve heard a lot of different player comparisons for Morant, but the most common one, and the one I also agree with likens him to Sacramento Kings up-and-coming star De’Aaron Fox. It’s possible Fox’s in-game attributes could be used as a bit of a base for Morant in the initial ratings, and as the season progresses, Morant’s play will dictate the fluctuations.
Fox began the 2018-19 season, his sophomore campaign, rated a 78. However, he had a breakout year averaging 17.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals, and he made 37 percent of his threes. By Week 5 of the season, Fox’s overall rating had risen to an 83, which is where he ended the year.
Don’t expect Morant to come through the proverbial door rated that high. I predicted Williamson would likely get that same number with his initial player rating, which is really high for a rookie in 2K. However, Williamson is a special case because of his otherworldly athleticism and immense fame. With Morant almost certainly set to be picked second, 2K has traditionally had that pick rated a tick or so below the consensus top selection.
It’s a pretty safe bet Morant’s physical attributes will be comparable to Fox’s, but not equal. Let’s look at some of the more important categories.
When you think of Fox, one of the first attributes that come to mind is speed. You could make the argument he is the fastest player in the NBA. In NBA 2K19, Fox ended the season with a speed rating of 96, which is one point lower than the Washington Wizards’ John Wall and two behind the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook who leads all active players with a 98.
Having watched those players at some point this season, I’d say Fox deserves the highest speed rating. I’d also point out Fox is probably one of the most underrated players in 2K, meaning he didn’t get enough love for his play and production, but I digress.
If Fox is rated a 96 in this category, it stands to reason Morant will come in at either a 94 or 95 in this category. That’s plenty of speed to be a problem in the game, especially in the hands of someone with the stick skill to perform advanced dribble moves.
Fox’s open-shot three rating is an 80, which is probably accurate. Morant made about 36 percent of his threes in his sophomore season at Murray State, so I would be surprised if he checks in with a rating higher than 77 in this category. That would be fair as it leaves room for some regression as he gets acclimated to the pro game. Many guards have their least impressive three-point shooting seasons as rookies.
One of Fox’s least-respected areas in the game is his dunking ability. Throughout the season, Fox showed off some dynamic hops, but he still only had a 60 dunk and 45 contact dunk rating.
Comparably, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball had an 85 dunk and 60 contact dunk rating. With all due respect to Ball, whom I still like as a player, he’s nowhere near the natural athlete or dunker that Fox has shown himself to be through two seasons. Ball dunks more often, as it relates to per-game average, but Fox shows more sophistication and bounce.
Morant is also an exceptional leaper. I’d argue he’s a superior dunker than Fox and Ball. However, if Fox is in with 60 and 45 dunk ratings, Morant can’t be expected to check in higher than 65-50, even with this mixtape.
The one area where Morant may have better grades than Fox (at least higher than the Kings’ star had when he broke into the league) are the passing-related categories. Fox averaged 10 assists per game last season for Murray State. In Fox’s lone season at Kentucky, he dished out four dimes per contest.
To close the season, Fox had ratings of 80-77-80 for passing attributes. I’d venture to say Morant will be equal or higher. Something along the lines of 82-82-82 would be sensible. Lastly, Fox finished the season with a ball control rating of an 86. Morant should be close, but 2K will probably make him pay a bit for the 5.2 turnovers he averaged per game with Murray State as a sophomore. Therefore, Morant’s ball control rating might be in the 82-83 range.
In totality, Morant will likely be a fun, but flawed player to control at first. I suspect he starts the season rated a 79 overall. That would be quite the compliment considering last year’s No. 2 pick, the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III began as a 78, but rose to an 81 by season’s end.
If Morant hits the ground running and can have some success as a rookie, it’s easy to see how he could be rated as high as an 83 by the end of the year. Likely NBA Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks began this season rated a 79, but ended as an 87. The 8-point leap is enormous, but it’s possible, so a 4-point jump is on the table.