It’s too early to call this a rivalry, but hopefully, it’ll become one.
Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant had a legitimate duel with Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards last night. However, the Grizzlies are the only team chasing a playoff spot right now and are currently eighth in the Western Conference, with a likely play-in bid secured unless something unbelievable happens.
In Memphis’ 139-135 win over the T-Wolves last night, which ended in regulation and with no team scoring less than 29 points in any quarter, Morant and Edwards exchanged gaudy stat-lines. The 2020 first-overall pick powered the T-Wolves with 42 points on just 17-of-22 shooting, including 8-of-9 makes from three. He also recorded seven assists and six rebounds. But in victory, Morant — the 2019 second-overall pick — put up 37 points, 10 assists, and two steals while shooting 14-of-25 from the floor and 8-of-11 on free throws. And it isn’t just the numbers, but the highlights recorded throughout, already showing a veteran flow for each high draft pick able to get theirs last night.
Some notables from the highlights.
1:13 - Morant quickly breaks down respected defender Josh Okogie, and in two dribbles, goes from 30-feet out to well inside the paint, stopping on a dime to float one over the 7-foot Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s not quite a top-five point guard yet, but he’s probably a top-five point guard at changing speeds that effectively.
1:42 - Edwards already has an advanced scorer’s instinct, demonstrating superb patience while attacking, from the delayed in-and-out dribble to the finish. Double-clutching isn’t typically recommended, but he has more than enough strength to do so and convert.
2:10 - It’s borderline hilarious how quickly Morant goes from a statue to a spotted cockroach when the light in the bathroom turns on while you’re trying to piss in peace at 3 a.m., but he does so here. He quickly readies himself for the Kyle Anderson touch pass and double pumps in mid-air to dunk by D’Angelo Russell. Even with the athleticism point guards have now compared to the days of Bobby Hurley and Ed Cota, you don’t see this often … like, at all.
2:25 - In back-to-back possessions, Edwards drills home a 30-foot three-point shot, then steps back and hits a contested three, showing what he’s capable of when it’s on. His three-pointer is inconsistent at the moment, but he was born in 2001, so give him a break.
3:42 - Edwards splits the defense of Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones, bumps 7-foot, 265-pounder Jonas Valančiūnas, pauses in the air, and finishes. Straight video game shit.
4:11 - Aaaand Morant drills back-to-back jumpers. The first was created by a crossover step-back on Towns, which was Morant’s only three of the game. The second is a crossover into a jump shot over Jarred Vanderbilt, who had to bite on the move to respect Morant’s world-class [basketball wise] speed.
Morant’s averaging 19.4 points and 7.3 assists per game in his sophomore season while posting 45 / 30 / 74 shooting splits. In his last ten games, he’s up to 23.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on 4 9 / 41 / 75 splits. Edwards, a Rookie of the Year candidate, is up to 18.9 points and 4.7 rebounds on 41 / 33 / 77 splits but is up to 23.4 points and 5.5 boards on 44 / 34 / 76 in his last 34 contests dating back to February 24. He’s also one of the few players who hasn’t missed a game this season.
Both franchises need more contributions outside of their main two or three players each in order to build winners around and or including these stars, but it appears they’ve nailed these two picks, at least.