Ja Vs. Shai
And more in this week's hodgepodge
Clip of the Week: Jazz Daddies
I was watching Jazz-Pelicans while my wife read her book. A commercial break came on, so I started scrolling through NBA Twitter. A few seconds later, I heard Mrs. Poetry ask, “Did that basketball team just tell this man he’s having a baby?”
Yes, that’s us giggling in the background at the situation's absurdity. I am uncertain about how the logistics for this were arranged, but the man’s reaction sure looks legitimate. Imagine being the 20,001st person to find out that you’re about to be a daddy.
Thought of the Week: Ja vs. Shai
I was recently on a podcast with Stephen Cagan, owner of the NBA University Twitter account (link coming soon!), and he posed an interesting question: would you rather have Ja Morant or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?
You might think the answer’s obvious. Ja is playing better than ever, even after coming off of an All-NBA Second Team year, and he’s leading the Grizzlies to another high seed in the West. Shai has never made an All-Star game and plays for the 13th-seeded Thunder.
Here are the statlines:
Shai: 31 points, 5.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.7 stocks on 51/32/93 percent shooting splits
Ja: 28 points, 7.8 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 stocks on 46/36/74 percent shooting splits
Shai is a far better defender at this point (and he’s much bigger); Ja attacks the boards more aggressively, has league-best explosion, and is already a proven playoff star. Both players live in the paint and possess streaky outside shots.
The stats are relatively similar, but there’s an important difference: Ja is in arguably a nearly ideal situation for a scoring point guard, while Shai exists on a team that forgot to add shooting or screening to its roster for the second year in a row.
The Grizzlies have surrounded Ja with two-way players designed to make his life easier. Desmond Bane has become a top-five shooter in the league: he’s canning an astonishing 45% from three on nearly nine attempts per game. Dillon Brooks routinely grades out as one of the best defenders in basketball on the wing and is roughly league-average from deep on significant volume. Ja’s power forward, Jaren Jackson Jr., is simultaneously a DPOY candidate and an able long-range gunner. Finally, and most underratedly, living mo’ia statue Steven Adams is arguably the best screen-setter in basketball.
Having a giant with a preternatural sense of timing and an instinctual understanding of angles bulldozing clear paths to the rim is an underrated asset for any young guard. Here’s a simple play where Adams screens not one but two defenders, clearing the lane for Morant (who patiently waits for Adams to do his work) to walk into the paint for an easy lay-in:
Unfortunately, Shai doesn’t have the benefit of any of that.