The New Look Grizzlies Clawing Back into Playoff Contention

The rebuilding project has gone according to plan thus far in Memphis. The Grizzlies following their dominating victory in Madison Square Garden Wednesday night they are currently sitting in the 8th spot of the Western Conference Standings. They are currently 24-24 under new head coach Taylor Jenkins and this young, talent nucleus

After the era of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol the Grizzlies came to a conclusion, the Grizzlies have been sitting at the bottom of the conference for the past two seasons. While at the bottom of the conference, the Grizzlies made moves and acquired draft picks that have braved the rebuilding challenge. Now this team has become a competitive organization that they are now.

As a team, the Grizzlies have one of the best offenses in the league. They take advantage of their youth and athleticism and behind Ja Morant being the catalyst for their offense, they are 4th in the league in pace. That impressive rating is a key element in why they are 9th in the league in scoring. They also are taking advantage of their trips to the free-throw line, as they are currently 10th in the league in free-throw percentage. Another reason for their success is their hot hand from the three-point line. Jaren Jackson and Dillon Brooks are both shooting 40% from three this season. Ja Morant is not far behind them shooting it 39% from three.

Breaking the team down individually, first-round pick Ja Morant has looked like a lock thus far for rookie of the year. He has averaged 17.5 points per game with 7.2 assists per game and has been a joy to watch with his athleticism and court vision. He has shown all signs of looking like a potential star in this league and was 10th in all-star voting in the Western Conference. He has shown to have great chemistry with Jaren Jackson. Jackson was last year’s first round pick for the Grizzlies and he has been putting up solid numbers in his own right, averaging 17 points per game and 1.6 blocks per game.

However, these two top five selections are not the only impact players the Grizzlies have acquired from draft night. Dillon Brooks, who was a second-round drat pick by the Rockets back in 2017, was immediately traded to the Grizzlies following his selection. His impressive career at Oregon translated well to the pros thus far in his career. He is a legitimate offensive weapon for this team averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting 42% from the field. Fellow first-round draft pick by Memphis alongside Ja Morant, was Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke. He has embraced his 6th man role on this team, leading the bench in scoring with 12.2 points per game and currently has the best field goal percentage on the team with 62% of his field goal attempts, going through the hoop.

What is currently holding this team back, is their play on defense. Veterans Jonas Valanciunas and Jae Crowder, although key contributors on the glass and offensively, they have not stepped up as the defensive anchors this team needs thus far. Ja Morant is actually the team leader in defensive rating, which is 132nd in the league. Young teams typically struggle defensively and this is certainly the case in Memphis. They are 26th in allowed points per game this season. A lot of that ranking has to do with their inability to efficiently defend the three and their constant fouling, as they are 25th in three point defense and average more than 21 personal fouls per game. In order for this team to make any sort of postseason noise, they have work towards cleaning up their act defensively.

However their young core of Dillon Brooks, Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke, and Jaren Jackson have become the new faces of the franchise. If Josh Jackson can come around and play to his potential and draft slot as a top 5 pick, that trade with the Suns might turn into a bargain and a huge win for the Grizzlies. Stay tuned and stop sleeping on Memphis!

Check out their highlights from their win over the Knicks:

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