I've put out a couple of MVP rankings pieces this season, and so far Ja Morant hasn't been included in the top five. That might have to change next time. Morant is the hottest league pass ticket, and the Grizzlies continue to put the NBA on notice that they're no longer an up-and-coming team; they are here.
Two days removed from taking apart the Lakers, the Grizzlies defeated the Warriors, 116-108, on Tuesday to extend their franchise-record win streak to 10 games. They haven't lost since before Christmas, and have won -- double-take -- 20 of their last 24 games. They're No. 4 in the West at 29-14, 3.5 games out of the No. 1 seed and just two wins short of Phoenix's NBA-best 31 victories.
Over these 10 wins, Memphis ranks sixth in offense, seventh in defense and third in point differential, per Cleaning the Glass. For the season, they're fifth offensively and creeping closer to a top-10 defense. The markers of contention are falling into place, and it starts with Morant, who can be, and often is, the best player on the floor no matter who's on the other side.
On Tuesday, Morant posted 29 points and eight assists, a nice little encore after delivering the blocked shot heard round the world against the Lakers on Sunday.
JA MORANT 🤯— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 10, 2022
ONE OF THE MOST ATHLETIC BLOCKS YOU’LL EVER SEE. pic.twitter.com/mSBEajPDtK
Morant's gravity-defying athleticism is a callback to prime Derrick Rose in all its herky-jerky, forceful glory. This guy brings you out of your seat multiple times every game. When he puts you in Ja jail, on his hip working his way into his floater, you're done. When help pushes up, he tosses alley-oop passes from every angle.
The Warriors managed to stunt Morant's dominance for a stretch with Gary Payton II, who's his own kind of must-see show. But this is where the Grizzlies get dangerous. They have other ways to go. They put the ball in the hands of Desmond Bane, who is shooting up the Most Improved Player chart. The Grizzlies are supremely deep. They're big. They can shoot. Yeah, the Warriors were without Draymond Green, but Memphis was without an elite defender and secondary scorer in Dillon Brooks and one of the best offensive rebounders in the league in Steven Adams.
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So, don't go looking for a qualifier to this win. This isn't anything new, the Grizzlies laying it on a top-shelf team. They're 16-8 against teams .500 or better. They've beaten the Warriors twice, the Cavs twice, the Lakers three times, the Suns, the Heat, the Jazz and the Nets (and yes, Durant and Harden played).
Sleep on the Grizzlies at your peril. This team looks absolutely for real.