The summer of 2020 will be remembered as the time when everything stopped because of Covid-19. But one of the tiny silver linings from the entire ordeal was how the NBA card market boomed at an exponential rate.
During this time, the demand for basketball cards grew at an insane pace. A couple of factors can be attributed to this development. Some of these include the release of Michael Jordan’s Last Dance documentary on Netflix and the massive clamor of fans for anything related to basketball after the season abruptly ended.
As a result, more and more people entered the hobby as the pandemic locked everything down. Old collectors came back to discover an exciting new world while new ones were finding joy in the cardboard for the first time. Combined with the resurgence of box breaks, the card market was immersed in a full upward swing. And even now, there’s no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.
And while the NBA card market was trending upwards, there were two players from last year’s draft class who were commanding more demand than any of their fellow rookies – Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. It's been hotly debated in the NBA cards game – of these two young stars, which is considered as the better investment option for card fans?
The case for investing in Ja Morant
The primary reason to invest in Ja Morant’s rookie cards is this – he’s the true face of the Memphis Grizzlies, thanks to his clear role as the team’s leader and number one option on offense.
For the former, it’s quite evident how Morant is willing to play his heart out on the court. He also actively involves his teammates in the manner a traditional point guard normally would. As result, he is considered the de-facto leader of this young squad.
When it comes to the latter, there’s no question that he’s the main option Memphis uses to get buckets. From a respectable 17.8 points per game last season, Morant is now averaging 22.6 points per contest this year. He’s also dishing seven dimes and grabs two rebounds for his sophomore campaign.
Take these two factors – his leadership role and all-around offensive game – fans will have a lot of reason to catch Ja Morant’s games. This will help drive up his card value and provide a great return to those who invested in him.
Why you should steer clear from Ja Morant rookie cards
Morant’s elite athleticism puts a lot of wear and tear on his young body. With him carrying much of the offensive load, there may be instances when Morant will miss a significant number of games due to injury. This won’t bode well for his card stock as it will lead Memphis to lose games because of his absence.
Another cause for concern when it comes to Ja Morant is his lack of range from the perimeter. Last season, he connected on 33% of his 2.7 attempts from downtown. This season, he’s shooting from three with a 28% success rate. That won’t cut it in a league that shoots three-pointers at a high volume. If Morant can’t become a legitimate threat from the arc, his card value peak may plateau, at least relative to his draft class counterpart.
The case for investing in Zion Williamson
Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to Zion Williamson. As it stands, the top pick of the 2019 draft boasts a 2.2 box plus/minus score. He also has a 3.1 offensive box rating, which puts him among the best in the league.
Zion Williamson had 32 points tonight in a loss to the Jazz on 73% FG. He is the youngest player in NBA history with consecutive games of 30 points on at least 70% FG pct. He's also the first player to do this at all in Pelicans history h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/dERkhBbUVs
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2021
On any given night, Williamson will use his efficiency on the offensive side of the court to win games. It can in the form of monstrous dunks or how he barrels defenders down at the post to get an easy two. These highlights in the form of a polished offensive game will certainly convince more fans to invest in Zion Williamson rookie cards.
As we saw from the NBA bubble, hype has also factored in heavily into a card's value. It just so happens that Zion has made a living off of highlight plays that would hype up any crowd and collector base. If he can reach his ceiling, his peak could conceivably be much higher than Ja Morant's and that's worth a gamble in itself.
Why you should steer clear from Zion Williamson rookie cards
The main factor that would make Williamson’s rookie cards a poorer investment option than that of Morant is his role in New Orleans. As it stands, Brandon Ingram is positioned on top of the Pelicans’ pecking order because of his offense. The former Laker has a 4.5 offensive box plus/minus rating, which is considerably higher than Williamson’s 3.1. Moreover, Ingram handles the ball more, giving him an offensive edge over last year’s top pick
If this trend continues, Ingram would solidify his place in New Orleans as the team’s number one guy, especially for clutch situations and big-time shots. This will relegate Williamson to a secondary role within the Pelicans’ system. In essence, he’ll be Robin to Ingram’s Batman. If this happens, Ja Morant will have a clear lead when it comes to card value.
As it stands, both Morant and Williamson are great investments for card collectors. Their respective performances as sophomores are impressive and they’re developing well as the season progresses.
Between the two, Morant is the better and safer investment option for card collectors. His role as the Grizzlies’ face of the franchise ensures all the opportunities he needs to become a bona fide star in the league.
On the other hand, Williamson’s superstar timeshare in New Orleans and the team’s current standing in the West makes him riskier choice to go with. But high risk comes with high reward. If he manages to raise his overall game to a different level and lead NOLA to the playoffs, fans can expect Williamson’s cards to overtake Morant by a mile.