Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies’ breakout player will be…

Jaren Jackson Jr. Perhaps this is to be expected, given how high NBA Twitter and others are on the potential the unique JJJ has on both ends of the floor. But with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol gone, this is now Jaren’s (and Ja Morant’s) team. Jaren will be expected to carry much more of the load offensively, and the schemes of new coach Taylor Jenkins will be built around what Jaren does well, especially defensively. He will be asked to be “the man” by the end of the season if not sooner, and while he will fail more often than we’d like he will grow from the experience and still post a “Most Improved Player” level type of season.

It all goes wrong if…

One of Morant or Jackson is lost for an extended period of time. This season for Memphis is entirely about the development of their two new cornerstones. The Grizzlies need to figure out who fits best with Jaren and Ja in terms of playing style moving in to a summer where Memphis will have a LOT of cap space, and several restricted free agents that they surely will have interest in (hi, Malik Beasley and Jaylen Brown). The only way to see what skill sets maximize Morant and Jackson is if they are on the court. If these two play less than 70 games this year, it will be a disappointment. They need reps, and while they shouldn’t be forced to play through injury in a likely lost win/loss season they also need to display the ability to stay healthy.

What we’ll be saying about the Grizzlies at the end of the season…

They got better, and took a step forward. That won’t be measured in wins and losses. It will be measured in Morant and Jackson being better in April than they were in October, as well as the discovery of long-term fits (hopefully Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, De’Anthony Melton, maybe even Josh Jackson.) Players like Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson figure to be here long-term due to contracts - same with Jonas Valanciunas. The goal is to see how many of these younger players on rookie deals deserve similar investment, at least in terms of years and opt-ins. Honorable mention goes to the resolution of the Andre Iguodala situation with more assets coming to the Grizzlies - even a 2nd rounder with a young player and cap filler works.

Final prediction

Vegas has the Memphis Grizzlies over/under at 26.5 games won, and that number is horrifyingly accurate. With so much youth, and concerns about just how much this inexperienced roster can succeed in a western conference where literally everyone wants to win now, it is easy to see Memphis winning only 20-25 games. On the flip side, with the skill of Jonas Valanciunas being allowed to be on full display, the elite talent of Morant and Jackson Jr. being able to get playing time free from playoff expectations, and a reserve unit that could surprise some folks with its versatility and facilitation prowess, 28-30 wins could also be possible. It is that fluid. If they improve the way they should over the course of the season, they’ll get slightly above 26.5 wins…but wins and losses don’t matter in Memphis this year. The development of the roster in pursuit of the victories is what will count.

Final prediction: 28-56

Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax)