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2020-21 NBA SEASON PREVIEW: MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

@TheWillBaldwin

Predicted finish: 11th in the West (4th in the Southwest, 19th in the power rankings)

Last seasons conference finish: 9th

Overview: 

Last season’s biggest shock may just have been the Memphis Grizzlies. With a rookie head coach and about as young a roster as possible, many thought the team was in line for a high lottery pick. Instead, Taylor Jenkins turned out to be a steal of a hire, Ja Morant had about as good a rookie point guard season as we’ve seen and the rest of the young pieces continued to grow. Now a year later, the question is are they ready to take the next step and hold on to that playoff spot in the play-in or, are they a year or two away with how stacked the west currently is. No matter what happens, this team’s future remains exceedingly bright

The big question for the franchise: Just how good is Ja Morant? 

The real way we’ll answer how good this team will be this season is with how good Morant is. We saw it last season in Dallas as Luka was so good, the Mavericks became playoff locks. Now in Memphis a year later, Morant has a similar set of circumstances facing him and his franchise. If he is that generational, perennial MVP guy he showed flashes of last season, then I’m probably way too low on this team. This obviously an insane ask for a player who is just 21 years-old but for players that great, you usually know very quick. Guys like Durant, LeBron and of course Luka exploded in year two. These are pretty clearly absurd standards to hold Morant but frankly he earned them last season with how good he was. If he can take that step like those other guys did in year two, maybe just maybe this team will surprise everyone. There is a blueprint barely a year old  for this happening after all. 

One move I want to see them make: 

Honestly I don’t want to see them do anything. With a guy like Justise Winslow coming in who hasn’t played at all yet, that’s an interesting piece. Then there’s young guys like Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton who early on in their careers have a chance to take a step and fill a future piece for this roster going forward. This team is so loaded with young talent, I’d hate to see them swing on a win now move for the eight seed (cough Atlanta Hawks cough) when they have so much young talent who needs minutes to try and blossom. Due to this, please don’t do anything rash Grizzlies. Let your young pieces grow. 

Offseason Grade: C

Their biggest move was probably Winslow in season since he took up most of their cap space and still hasn’t played yet. How he fits is anyone’s guess assuming he stays healthy. Otherwise, I thought they slightly over paid Jonas Valanciunas on an extension. In the draft they took sniper Desmond Bane who is by all accounts the love child of Draft Twitter’s 2020 class. It’s hard to give a team anything other than a C when they do so little and none of it was especially good or bad really. 

Young player I’m excited for: Jaren Jackson Jr

Jaren Jackson Jr has the chance to be special. His offensive game is the definition of 2020 NBA basketball and defensively he’s right on the precipice of being outstanding. All I really need to see from him this season is please stay healthy and maybe an improvement on the handle but I’d hate to get picky. As long as Jackson is healthy this year and gets to play a bunch, I’ll be very happy.  

Final Thoughts: 

Few teams are more interesting than the Grizzlies to me this season just because of the Morant blow up potential. If he just becomes a top 15 player immediately and an All-Star then this team will absolutely make the playoffs. If not, they’re probably a year or two away from growing their core into one. Regardless, this team probably has the brightest future in the NBA outside of Dallas and that has to have Grizzlies fans elated.

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