The Memphis Grizzlies’ future lies in the hands of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Unfortunately, Jaren Jackson Jr has been held back by injuries so far in his career. So the two young stars haven’t had a chance to prove how well they can play together. The good news is Jaren Jackson Jr made his return late last season and ended up playing very well in limited minutes. The future is bright for the Memphis Grizzlies since both Ja and Jaren are only 22 years old.
The Grizzlies are holding onto scrapper Dillon Brooks who has come up clutch for the Grizzlies in countless situations. They also are returning Slo-Mo Kyle Anderson and made a new addition in Steven Adams, better known as Aquaman, in a trade with the Pelicans.
The question is: Did this team get better or worse heading into next season?
Point Guard - Ja Morant
Ja Morant has had an amazing start to his career. The rookie of the year has averaged 18.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, 3.9 RPG in his two seasons. He has showcased himself to be one of the most flashy point guards in the league, making countless highlight plays. Whether it be an off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself or a crossover no-look dish... just know you’re in for a show when you watch Ja play.
Last season, he was able to lead the Grizzlies into the playoffs as an 8 seed. For a team that is very young and still building, this is a great sign.
The PG from Murray State should take an even larger step this season by making some minor adjustments to his game. And If Ja is able to develop a consistent 3 point shot, there won’t be much you can do to stop him.
Shooting Guard - Dillon Brooks
This is the guy you love to play with, but hate to play against. Dillon Brooks knows how to get under the skin of his opponents and plays with very high intensity. He’s a hard-nosed defender and doesn’t mind guarding the other team’s best player.
Last season, Brooks averaged 17.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, & 1.9 APG. He doesn’t do much more than score, but he is a player who can get a bucket when needed.
Brooks’ main issue is that at times he takes a lot of unnecessary and difficult shots. Over his career, he has shot 42% from the field, which is an extremely low percentage. If he can learn to get the majority of his shots in the flow of the offense then he will become a much better player.
Small Forward - Kyle Anderson
Kyle Anderson took a big leap last year and became a much better overall player. He went from averaging 5.8 PPG to 12.4 PPG this season. He also improved in pretty much every other category and shot higher percentages.
Kyle Anderson moves with sloth-like speed compared to most NBA players. Somehow he is able to make playing in slow motion his advantage. He eases his way through defenders & makes moves as if he’s in the Matrix. He has a very unique skill-set and has been able to make it work so far in his career.
Power Forward - Jaren Jackson Jr.
Like I mentioned earlier, Jaren Jackson Jr hasn’t had a chance to get a rhythm going because he has been riddled with injuries throughout his career. In his first two seasons, he played 58 and 57 games, and then returned late last season to play only 11. Memphis Grizzly fans are praying that this guy can have a full healthy season because he has all the potential to be great.
Jaren Jackson Jr averaged 17.4 PPG & 4.6 RPG in his best season and then 14.4 PPG & 5.6 RPG last season as the Grizzlies eased him back into the lineup. Jaren Jackson is a bit of a unicorn in that he is a legitimate 7 footer and has the ability to make plays from outside the perimeter. In a limited sample size last season, his shooting percentages did take a hit, but that was to be expected after such a long hiatus. After an off-season of being able to train at full health, he should come back strong for the 2021-22 season.
Center - Steven Adams
The final piece in the starting lineup, Big Man Steven Adams. The Grizzlies and the Pelicans received the award of trading the two strongest players in the league for one another this off-season. Steven Adams for Jonas Valunciunas. Steven Adams's tenure in New Orleans didn’t last very long after it was evident that he just wasn’t the right fit next to Zion Williamson.
With that being said, I think Steven Adams can utilize his talents much better here in Memphis. Adams is one of the league’s top offensive rebounders and he doesn’t have to worry about clogging the paint because JJR spends most of his time outside of the lane. He took a downturn statistically in a Pelicans uniform, but in his best seasons with OKC, he averaged around 13.9 PPG & 9.5 RPG. In Memphis, I can see Adams returning to that double-double machine.
Tyus Jones, Carsen Edwards, Shaq Buchanan, De'Anthony Melton, John Konchar, Kris Dunn, Sam Merrill, Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams, Jarrett Culver, Yves Pons, Brandon Clarke, Daniel Oturu, Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie, Santi Adama
The Memphis Grizzlies made some strange decisions in adding a myriad of point guards to a team that is led by a point guard that will be taking up the majority of the minutes. I can understand having a solid backup or two, but this team practically has 4 point guards on its bench now.
The most important player coming off the bench will be Brandon Clarke. The big man from Gonzaga has proven to be a great role player and comes in and does what’s needed for this Grizzlies team.
Other than that, they drafted Ziaire Williams with the 10th pick who should have a decent role off the bench. He may even have the possibility to move into a starting role depending on how things play out.
Lastly, Jarrett Culver will have a chance to reignite his NBA career after being dealt here from a distant cousin, the Timberwolves. He has shown flashes of potential in Minnesota, so it comes as sort of a surprise that they were willing to let him go so soon. The Grizzlies only had to let go of one of their fifty point guards in Patrick Beverley and in return, they received Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez.
Did The Memphis Grizzlies Get Better Or Worse Going Into Next Season?
The question remains... Yes, the Grizzlies made a couple of changes to their roster, but ultimately they are still a young team that is only going to get better as the years go by. Every player in this starting lineup is under 30 years old, meaning that they will all continue to improve their game. It is very rare that players will digress that early in their careers… except in the case of Ben Simmons.
The main downside for Memphis this off-season was the loss of Jonas Valunciunas, who was one of their best offensive players last season. Memphis has the belief that Steven Adams can play a similar role to Jonas and with the return of Jaren Jackson Jr. they don’t necessarily need Jonas. Also, they know a big man is going to want some money come 2023.
Memphis is thinking about their future, the long-term, the bigger picture. Develop Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr and place pieces that fit around them. Right now, they have a respectable team that could still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs even if chances are slim.