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Mavs’ Rick Carlisle compares Grizzlies’ Ja Morant to Russell Westbrook

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Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has taken the NBA by storm in his rookie season, capturing the attention of players and coaches around the league with his tremendous athleticism and ball-handling. In fact, that athleticism is what prompted Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, in advance of their matchup against the Grizzlies, to compare Morant to Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook:

That is a lofty comparison for the Grizzlies rookie. Westbrook was arguably the most athletic point guard in the history of the NBA during his heyday with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Carlisle sees parallels.

Indeed, there are similarities. Of course, the leaping ability speaks for itself. But Morant also plays with the same kind of intensity and motor that Westbrook has become famous for throughout his career.

Morant can also go coast-to-coast in the blink of an eye. He attacks the rim with ferocity and can finish over bigger defenders. He might not be as physically strong as Westbrook, but he has been every bit as explosive.

The former Murray State star actually said he modeled his game after Westbrook during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show last April (via Cody Taylor of USA TODAY):

I would say who I try to play like is Westbrook. He’s my favorite player and I just like how he plays all around: He scores, rebounds and passes. And also just the aggressiveness he plays with just like he’s got a chip on his shoulder.

The Grizzlies’ 2nd over-all selection is likely the leading candidate for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, averaging 17.3 points, 7.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds while shooting close to 50 percent from the field through his first 44 games.

More importantly, Morant has the Grizzlies in playoff contention.