Zion Williamson or Ja Morant? An NBA question of preference nobody saw coming

The bubble burst their command of the West's final playoff seed, but they are in line for another play-in spot — no small feat for a small-market team without established stars in a loaded conference.

Superstar hype followed Morant into this season, and he delivered in his 2020-21 debut, amassing 44 points and nine assists opposite the San Antonio Spurs, but a badly sprained left ankle 12 minutes into his third game of the year has stalled his ascent.

Billed as the ultimate modern weapon — an above-the-rim big who can handle the ball, create for others and defend across multiple positions — he has failed to show so many dimensions in the NBA, attempting 95% of his shots within 10 feet of the basket.

Memphis has actually been 4.2 points per 100 possessions worse with Morant on the floor this season, including a -14.1 dip on defense, which puts him in the league's lowest percentile.

Eight of Memphis' top 10 rotational players are 25 years old or younger, and their two veterans — Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson — were fourth options at best on previous stops.

The Pelicans prioritized rim protection from Steven Adams, but his inability to space the floor clogs the offense, especially for a four like Williamson and his 13 total 3-point attempts.

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