Memphis is a young team that was good enough to sneak into the playoffs last season, but doesn’t quite have a clear path to contention in the West. The easiest avenue for the Grizzlies to get there would be a star turn from Jaren Jackson Jr., the talented but oft-injured big man who enters his fourth season after missing almost all of last year. Memphis prioritized its future over its present by dealing Jonas Valanciunas to move up in the draft for Ziaire Williams, and it will take years to determine how that trade works out. For now, the Grizzlies exist as a fun, competitive team built around Ja Morant that is still plotting its next big move.
The Grizzlies find themselves outside of the Play-In Tournament for the first time in the Ja Morant Era - as a solid top-6 team in the Western Conference. Morant is an All-Star, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate, and the key role players around the team continue their internal improvement while new players like Steven Adams and Ziaire Williams contribute at a high level. The future remains bright.
The Grizzlies find themselves outside of the Play-In Tournament for the first time in the Ja Morant Era - An 11 or worse seed due to injury and regression. Ja Morant does not take the leap, Jaren Jackson Jr. is unable to stay on the floor, key future rotation players like Desmond Bane do not get better, and the coaching staff struggles without last season’s offensive security blanket Jonas Valanciunas. The future, for the first time in years, is bleak.
The Grizzlies find themselves inside of the Play-In Tournament for the third time in the Ja Morant Era - in the mix for any range of postseason seeding from 7-10. Morant remains on the periphery of the All-Star conversation but remains outside due to the old guard of NBA guards still around. Jaren Jackson Jr. does indeed make the leap, and other players continue to improve, but the team misses the regular season stability of play that Jonas Valanciunas provided. The franchise progresses - but progress in the NBA is not always linear.
Ja Morant is extremely fun. The Memphis Grizzlies are quite clearly his team, and they continue to take on his mentality as an explosively competitive and unapologetically audacious group of young players trying to crash the NBA hierarchy’s postseason party years before they’re supposed to. But for that to continue, Morant must keep getting better - especially as a shooter and defender. He is almost certainly up to the challenge.