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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Ja Morant

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Ja Morant

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Ja Morant

School: Murray State
Position: Point guard
Age: 19 (turns 20 in August)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 175
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: 44 in.

2018/19 stats: 24.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 10.0 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.8 bpg, 49.9 FG% (6.3/11.3), 36.3 3PT% (1.7/4.8), 81.3 FT%

Player comparison: Russell Westbrook/Dennis Smith Jr.

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 3rd, NBADraft.net 2nd, Bleacher Report 2nd, Sports Illustrated 2nd, Ringer 3rd

5 things to know:

1. Morant had a breakout season at Murray State, emerging as a mid-major diamond in the rough much like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum did before him. Morant was a consensus All-American and conference player of the year as a sophomore. This was one year after he earned no such accolades as a freshman.

2. He stands out first because of his athleticism. Morant jumps off the screen for his speed and quickness with the ball as well as his leaping ability. At 6-foot-3, he can play well above the rim and finish with power much like Russell Westbrook does at the NBA level. The question is whether he can do the same in the NBA, as he may measure in a few inches shorter than Westbrook. Also, he probably has to add some weight to finish through contact.

3. Morant also appears to have a rare ability to pass the ball. He was the first player to average double-digit assists in Division I college basketball since 1994-95. And he did that while playing with mid-major teammates. Many of his assists did not come easy. Morant is uniquely good at passing on the run and mid-air while leaping around the rim. He is likely to be an elite passer in the NBA.

4. One concern with him at this point is outside shooting. He improved year-over-year in college, but topped out at 36.3 percent this past season. Though he did so with volume (4.8 3PA/g), he will have to continue to improve to max out his potential as an NBA guard in today's game. Working in his favor is the fact he was an 81 percent free throw shooter in college. That suggests he has good feel for shooting the ball.

5. Like Zion Williamson, the projected No. 1 pick, Morant is from South Carolina. He and Williamson grew up less than two hours apart and were teammates on the same AAU team, the South Carolina Hornets, in 2014-15. The two split ways as Williamson became a super prospect, while Morant developed more slowly as a late bloomer.


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Isaiah Thomas expected to miss several more games due to calf injury

Isaiah Thomas expected to miss several more games due to calf injury

WASHINGTON -- Isaiah Thomas has missed the Wizards' last two games with a left calf strain and it sounds like he will be out at least a little while longer.

The Wizards guard caught up with NBC Sports Washington at his holiday toy giveaway at the Boys and Girls Club in Northwest D.C. on Saturday and gave an update on how he's feeling.

"I'm good," he said. "I think I will be out a few more games and then be able to come back."

Thomas nearly played on Thursday in the Wizards' home win over the Sixers, according to head coach Scott Brooks. He pleaded with the coaching staff to play, but was advised not to as a precaution.

Thomas categorized the injury in a similar way, that the team is just playing it safe.

"I always feel like I can play, but the medical staff wants to be cautious about it, knowing it's a long season. There's a bigger picture and I'm just listening to whatever they've got to say," he said.

Thomas, 30, is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts with the Wizards. He is averaging 12.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 41 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game.

With Thomas out, the Wizards have gone 1-1 with Ish Smith in his place in the starting lineup.


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Why Isaiah Thomas brings his kids to help him at charity events

Why Isaiah Thomas brings his kids to help him at charity events

WASHINGTON -- Isaiah Thomas likes to bring his sons with him just about wherever he goes. They walk with him into the Wizards' locker room, they shoot around on the court at Capital One Arena; he's even brought them to the podium for postgame interviews.

On Saturday, Thomas brought one of his sons to the Boys and Girls Club on 8th St. in Northwest Washington and for a specific reason. Thomas wanted him to help give back.

Just as Thomas was handing out toys to underprivileged youth, so was his son. The contrast was not lost on Thomas, who knows his son is well off as the kid of a millionaire NBA player. Not everyone is as fortunate.

"When I can do these types of things, I always want my kids to be around it," Thomas told NBC Sports Washington. 

"To be able to give back and see how blessed we are and how blessed he is and how we can put smiles on peoples' faces, especially around the holidays; it's definitely a point of emphasis to do that and bring my boys around to see it."

Thomas said his father instilled the same lessons in him when he was growing up in Washington state. Every Saturday morning at 6 a.m., his dad would take him to a shelter to serve breakfast to the homeless.

"That was something I was born into doing," Thomas said.

Thomas grew up going to the Boys and Girls Club himself and has partnered with them and World Vision throughout his NBA career to give back. Their efforts nationally have allowed him to continue the relationship no matter which team he has played for.

"Isaiah Thomas has been an amazing partner for World Vision," aid worker Brian Duss said. "Isaiah wasn't even in D.C. four days before he partnered with us at a school in [Southeast] to give away 400 backpacks filled with school supplies."

Before handing out toys and taking pictures with the children, Thomas addressed the crowd with a microphone. He spoke of his experience going to the Boys and Girls Club as a kid and explained the impact he hopes to make in the D.C. community.

"Whatever you need from me, I'm always here for you," he said. "I hope everyone has a happy holidays."