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The Grizzlies will be the internet’s favorite team after acing the NBA Draft

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Memphis is set up to be a cult favorite right away — and much more in the future.

The Memphis Grizzlies just laid the foundation to become the most exciting young team in the NBA. That’s the easiest takeaway after Memphis aced the draft on Thursday, using the No. 2 overall pick on Murray State point guard Ja Morant and swinging a trade to nab Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke with the No. 21 pick, using assets acquired in dealing Mike Conley to Utah earlier in the week.

The Grizzlies had the difficult task of transitioning out of the successful Grit-n-Grind era that resonated with the city in a unique way. While Memphis fans shouldn’t expect a playoff trip immediately, they can take solace knowing there’s a terrific young core in place that complements each other well on both sides of the court and should be able to grow into a contender as the league’s current stars get older.

Memphis’ rebirth began around this time last year, when they selected Jaren Jackson Jr. at No. 4 overall. Jackson is coming off an impressive rookie year as a 19-year-old and has every tool to eventually become one of the best players in the NBA. It is almost impossible to find a 6’11 big man who can shoot threes, block shots, and guard the perimeter as a switch defender, but Memphis has one. Just want until he starts creating his own offense off the dribble, too. Jackson is an amazing talent.

By adding Morant and Clarke in this draft, Memphis found two more players who can complement him and help create a team with dynamic versatility on both offense and defense.

Morant is the perfect point guard for Jackson and Clarke

Morant made daily SportsCenter appearances this season for his incredible dunking ability, but he wasn’t the No. 2 overall pick strictly because he’s athletic. Morant’s best skill is actually his passing vision. Now, he has two tremendous frontcourt targets in Jackson and Clarke.

Jackson will be deadly in pick-and-pop situations, forcing defenses to cede room on Morant’s drives so they can cover his deep ball. Clarke, meanwhile, is an elite athlete who will be finishing alley-oops off Morant’s passes for years. Imagine some of the passes Morant threw at Murray State with the type of leapers he’ll now have in Memphis.

Morant finished No. 1 in the country in assist rate this year without anything close to an NBA prospect on the team. The dimes are going to be coming at a fast and furious rate in Memphis.

Memphis defense will put a wall around the rim

Morant’s biggest weakness is his defense. Fortunately, he has two monster shot-blockers behind him now to clean up all of his mistakes.

Jackson projects as an excellent rim protector after being an elite college shot blocker and averaging 1.9 blocks per-36 minutes as a rookie. Clarke is just as good, finishing in the top-15 in the country in block rate at Gonzaga, off the strength of his ridiculous leaping ability and sharp instincts.

If there’s an area where Jackson struggles, it’s as a rebounder. Clarke should help there, too, especially on the offensive glass. Morant also rebounded well on both ends for a guard.

It’s going to be nearly impossible to score efficiently at the rim against Jackson and Clarke when they fully mature as players. This is the best possible defensive pairing to cover-up Morant’s shortcomings.

The Grizzlies are going to be so much fun

Morant is going to be the engine for a thrilling offense in Memphis. He’s going to make a killing pushing the ball in the open floor with an ideal running mate in Clarke. He’s also a relentless downhill attacker who should eventually slice up teams in the pick-and-roll, with Clarke as a great lob or short roll option and Jackson as a dynamic, all-around threat.

The biggest obstacle to Memphis having the brightest young future in the NBA is the first-round pick they owe to the Celtics, which is top-six protected next year and unprotected in a potentially stronger 2021 draft. In a perfect world, the young Grizzlies can experience their growing pains next season, keep their draft pick, and then be good enough in 2021 to remove much of the pain involved with that trade.

The Grizzlies aren’t just young on the court — they’re young off it, too. New head coach Taylor Jenkins is 34. Their general manager, Zach Kleiman, is 30. Franchisee Robert Pera is only 41. Memphis is building is something that should only get better and better in the coming years.

The Grizzlies were the only team to earn two “A” grades from us in the NBA Draft. Morant and Clarke are that talented. Add in Jackson, who has all the ability to eventually grow into a superstar, and Memphis suddenly looks like a future contender.

The Grizz will be fun in the present, but they could be so much more than that in a few short years.