Additions: Jaren Jackson Jr, Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, Omri Casspi
Subtractions: Tyreke Evans, James Ennis
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Dillon Brooks
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Jaren Jackson Jr
C: Marc Gasol
Key Bench Players: Kyle Anderson, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, Wayne Selden, Omri Casspi
I do not understand the hype surrounding the Memphis Grizzlies possibly returning to the playoffs as the 8th seed. Frankly, their two best players, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, are aging and are both past their 30th birthdays. For point guards like Conley, it is usually a drastic decline as their speed and quickness diminish. The fact that he tore his Achilles after only 13 games last season does not help him. Gasol is still a strong defensive presence and scorer in the paint and is now a threatening three point shooter. Outside of these two and rookie Jaren Jackson Jr (more on him later), this is a Grizzlies team without any distinguished talent to help them during a hypothetical playoff run. This is also a team that does not shoot from outside well, ranking 25th in the league in three point percentage while being 24th in the league in three point attempts per game last season. This is not a strong recipe for success.
The previously mentioned Jaren Jackson Jr is the Grizzlies’ most prized offseason addition. Drafted number fourth overall in last June’s draft, the big man out of Michigan State is an extremely valuable talent. At just under 7’0 with a 7’4 wingspan and great mobility, Jackson can be a game-changing versatile defender as a rookie. In just 21.8 minutes per game in his lone season at Michigan St, Jackson racked up 3 blocks per game. In addition, he scored 10.9 PPG on 51.3/39.6/79.7 shooting and 5.8 RPG. Per 40 minutes, Jackson would have averaged 20 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks per game. He has the potential to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate with an ability to shoot from three. Forget Kristaps Porzingis. Jaren Jackson Jr may not be 7’3 with those skills, but do not be surprised if he is an even more impressive “unicorn”. He should start alongside Marc Gasol and together they will have the ability for a multitude of high-low sets, and with both of them guarding the rim, it could be very difficult for any team to score in the paint. Not only will Jackson be Gasol’s future replacement, he can also operate as his frontcourt partner as the Spaniard enters the twilight of his career.
Outside of these three, the rest of the team is a wild card. When healthy, Chandler Parsons was a legitimate three point sniper and overall scorer. His problem recently has been injuries after missing 94 games over the past two seasons. He hasn’t participated in over 70 games since the 2013-14 season with the Houston Rockets. Dillon Brooks had a fine rookie season and should be the favorite to start alongside Mike Conley at the shooting guard position. He’s a decent scorer, shooter, defender, and playmaker but does not excel in any certain area. Outside of their “Big 3”, Memphis’ starting lineup is nothing for opponents to fear.
The bench is even less scary. Kyle Anderson is another versatile player and like Brooks, does not excel in one certain area. At UCLA, the 6’9 Anderson played point guard before transitioning to forward under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. If Parsons goes down with another injury or struggles in the slightest, look for Anderson to start at small forward after he started 67 games in Kawhi Leonard’s absence last season. JaMychal Green is just a player who consistently improves for the Grizzlies and will serve as their first big man off the bench. Capable of playing both frontcourt positions, Green can substitute for either Gasol or Jackson with his 6’9 size, shooting ability (career 35%), and tremendous nose for rebounds (career 6.1 RPG in 22.4 minutes). Garrett Temple was acquired after sending Ben McLemore to the Sacramento Kings and brings above average three point shooting to Memphis. Temple could force head coach JB Bickerstaff’s hand and put him in the starting lineup as a spot-up threat. Omri Casspi is another sharpshooter who won a championship with Golden State in 2018, but lacks the defensive liability to provide meaningful minutes off the bench. Wayne Selden had a solid year in his second NBA season. In 35 games with Memphis last season, he knocked down over 40% of his threes on 3.5 attempts per game. Pair that with exceptional defense and secondary playmaking, and the Grizzlies may have another guard capable of providing rest for Mike Conley.
In my opinion, this will not be the year that the Grizzlies return to the postseason. The West is too loaded and with Dallas, Denver, and Minnesota fighting for the eighth seed, it will not be an easy path. If Conley and Gasol can remain healthy for a full season, maybe the Grizzlies could surprise us. I personally would be betting that the Grizzlies attain a late lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Picture Courtesy of SB Nation
*For yesterday’s article on the Los Angeles Lakers, click here
Up next tomorrow: Miami Heat
University of South Carolina ’21