Speaking on TNT's NBA Tip-off show on Monday, Barkley said while the Grizzlies superstar “had a fabulous year,” it's what is expected of him as the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and a former Rookie of the Year.
“I was a little surprised. Not surprised he won,” Barkley said. “He was (the) second pick in the draft and he was Rookie of the Year. He's doing what he's supposed to do. I thought those other guys came out of nowhere.”
“Those other guys” Barkley was referring to include the San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland, who finished behind Morant in second and third place, respectively. The Grizzlies guard garnered 38 first-place votes while Murray had 20 and Garland got 11.
Some even thought Morant's teammate Desmond Bane was more deserving. But there's no denying Morant's special season. He averaged 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists for the Grizzlies, leading them to the no. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Widely considered the consensus second-best prospect by a decent margin in the 2019 NBA Draft, Morant has looked at least as capable as Zion Williamson, and he's certainly been more available.
But Barkley's comments make sense, given the lofty expectations he had when the Grizzlies drafted Morant. Although, it's still a bit of a surprise to see Chuck come to the defense of some “bus riders” after last night's viral rant.