No surprise, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant named NBA Rookie of Year

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been named the 2019-20 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year.

Morant earned 99 first-place votes (498 points) from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. The Miami Heat’s Kendrick Nunn finished second with 204 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson was third with 140 points. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Morant led all qualified rookies in scoring average (17.8 points), assists (7.3, 10th in the NBA) and double-doubles (15) and recorded the only two triple-doubles by a rookie this season. He joined Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Magic Johnson (1979-80), Isiah Thomas (1981-82), Damon Stoudamire (1995-96), Allen Iverson (1996-97) and Trae Young (2018-19) as one of seven rookies in NBA history to average at least 17.0 points per game and 7.0 assists per game.

Morant increased his averages to 19.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and a league-best 9.9 assists during the NBA’s eight-game seeding schedule at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He finished the season by registering a game-high 35 points and eight assists in the Grizzlies’ play-in game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Aug. 15.

The 21-year-old Morant won three consecutive NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month Awards to open the season and became the second player in franchise history to be named NBA Rookie of the Year (Pau Gasol in 2001-02). He set franchise rookie records this season for assists per game, total assists (488) and assists in a single game (14, twice), helping the Grizzlies set single-season club records for assists (26.9, 2nd in the NBA) and number of 30-assist games (20).

As a rookie, Morant emerged as one of the NBA’s top scorers in fourth quarters, totaling 433 points in final periods, which ranked seventh in the league behind James Harden (511), Trae Young (496), LeBron James (493), Damian Lillard (459), Giannis Antetokounmpo (448) and Donovan Mitchell (438). Morant averaged 7.0 points in fourth quarters, joining Allen Iverson (7.0 in 1996-97) as the only rookies to average at least 7.0 fourth-quarter points since the league began keeping quarterly statistics at the start of the 1996-97 season.

The South Carolina native was selected by NBA assistant coaches to participate in the NBA Rising Stars as part of NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 and helped lead the U.S. Team to a 151-131 victory over the World Team on Feb. 14 at the United Center in Chicago.

Morant, who played two years collegiately at Murray State University, received the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy, named in honor of one of the NBA’s founders, during tonight’s TNT broadcast. Gottlieb coached the Philadelphia Warriors to the NBA’s first championship in 1946-47.

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