To say that the Memphis Grizzlies got a new look this offseason is an understatement.
Last season 28 different players donned a Grizzlies jersey (yes…28), and of those 28 players guess how many are on the roster for this season…just 4.
The grit and grind days are well and truly over, and now, the Grizzlies have a young core surrounded by a strange mix of experience. No, they won’t be doing well, but I low-key rate Memphis, and I’m very keen to watch this team play. They have the potential to be quite exciting. No doubt they will end up with the best odds for the draft lottery come season’s end, so this season will be spent developing their youth and building their core as much as possible.
I have to start off with the biggest name on the Memphis team, Ja Morant. Trae Young 2.0. To get lucky in the lottery (projected for Pick #8) and have the perfect replacement for Mike Conley Jr. lined up was an absolute blessing. Ja Morant is likely to be the franchise’s biggest name for a long time. He seems to be the perfect point guard. Quick, agile, quality dribble, flashy passer, and great perimeter shooting. He produces great numbers and high offensive efficiency, and essentially carried Murray State through to the NCAA tournament in March. Morant is a legitimate chance to win Rookie of the Year, especially since he will be the Grizzlies’ number one guy, just like Trae Young was to Atlanta last season.
Memphis continued their great draft form in a more calculated manner. Firstly they traded Conley Jr. to the Jazz for Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Pick #23 and a future first round pick, and then they gave up a future second round pick to the Thunder to swap up to Pick #21.
All up, this was a HUGELY beneficial trade for the Grizzlies. They gained a promising shooter in Allen, quality experience and depth in Crowder, but more importantly they most likely got the steal of the draft in Brandon Clarke. He had an incredibly impressive Summer League, and rightly earned MVP, averaging 15 points @ 55%, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks all in 22 minutes a game. If he can continue this form, the Grizzlies will have their young big 3 in Morant, Clarke and Jackson Jr. An incredibly exciting trio.
Due to the crazy amount of new players and transactions, here is a brief summary of all remaining Free Agency acquisitions and trades for Memphis:
- Josh Jackson, De’Anthony Melton & 2 future 2nd round picks from Phoenix for Kyle Korver, Jevon Carter
- Andre Igoudala & future 1st round pick from Golden State for Julian Washburn
- Solomon Hill & Miles Plumlee from Atlanta for Chandler Parsons
- Dwight Howard from Washington for C.J. Miles (who then agreed to a buyout with Memphis)
- Tyus Jones signed for 3 years/$26.5m
In essence, Memphis traded for a lot of mid-priced expiring contracts, taking a punt on some stars past their prime, but who can still make an impact and can mentor their young core. Memphis is going to have A LOT of cap space come Free Agency 2020 ($45m at this stage).
PG: Ja Morant Tyus Jones De’Anthony Melton
SG: Dillon Brooks Grayson Allen Andre Igoudala
SF: Kyle Anderson Jae Crowder Solomon Hill
PF: Jaren Jackson Jr. Josh Jackson Brandon Clarke
C: Jonas Valanciunas Miles Plumlee
What I find incredibly intriguing is that Memphis actually have quite a lot of depth. And whilst most of those players are quite young (2 first year players, 3 second year players, 2 third year players), they have stacks of potential. Morant’s obviously going to be a superstar in the league, and I’ve discussed Clarke’s potential to be the next biggest draft steal.
On top of this, Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to be Memphis’ other young star, and he was very impressive in his rookie season. He seems to be quite an athletic and a quality talent on both ends of the floor. With a bit more responsibility and growth, Jackson Jr is a candidate to watch for Most Improved Player.
In the same draft class you also have quite the polarising young player in Grayson Allen, who was touted as one of the best shooters in the 2018 Draft, but was disappointing in his first year. After his recent Summer League ejection, questions are continuing to be raised over his erratic style of play and attitude and whether he is too much of a mental burden as a teammate. If Allen can overcome this, whilst improving on his offensive efficiency, he can contribute a lot to this Grizzlies team.
One other young star with question marks over his potential and ability to improve is former-Sun Josh Jackson. Having been projected as an athletic and versatile future all-star, it’s safe to say that his first two seasons have been disappointing. If you couple that with multiple off-court misdemeanours, you can see why the Suns were keen to move him on. The Grizzlies have an opportunity to reform someone with heaps of potential still there in Jackson, especially as a former 4th pick.
Moving onto the more experienced side of the team, there is a lot of uncertainty. Dwight Howard has recently agreed to move to the Lakers after a buyout with Memphis, and there has been a lot of talk over Igoudala’s contract and the potential for him to be traded to a contending team. It’s likely that Iggy will get traded pretty early in the season, but if Memphis can use him as a mentor and quasi-coach for as long as possible it will definitely aid in their young core’s development.
Guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee are all decent enough players, but are yet to prove themselves as consistent contributors. It’s most likely that Valanciunas will play the largest role of the older guys this season, as he has already shown he’s got talent provided he can stay healthy.
Predicted Wins: 20. With a focus on player development and getting minutes into their youth, it will be an experimental season for Memphis. They will be looking for growth in their 1st, 2nd and 3rd year players and potentially attracting a big free agent next season.
How far Memphis will go: 15th seed. Lottery Pick – will most likely end up with a top 5 pick.
Best Player: Ja Morant – I think he’ll take to the NBA like a duck to water. I think he’ll also win Rookie of the Year. For the third time, Trae Young 2.0.
Golden Nugget: Brandon Clarke – if Summer League is anything to go by, I think he’s absolutely ready for the NBA, and I love the way looks on the court and the way he plays. Will become their starting Small Forward by the end of the season.
Coach: Taylor Jenkins. This will be his first year as head coach and Jenkins will be the second youngest in the league (34). Having worked for a few years under both Quinn Snyder and Mike Budenholzer, he can lay claim to having excellent coaching mentors, and is known for his competitiveness and elite basketball IQ. He can certainly fire up the Grizzlies and is set to have an immediate positive impact.