The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the biggest surprise teams this season. They were expected to be good enough to make the playoffs but nobody knew that they were this good.
End of the Grit and Grind Era
It all started when the Grizzlies realized that the Grit and Grind era has come to an end and they started trading their former starters. Marc Gasol got traded to the Raptors for Jonaz Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C J Miles and a 2024 2nd round pick during the trade dealine before the 2019 playoffs. Mike Conley soon followed suit four months after, getting traded to the Jazz for Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver.
Towards a probable future
In 2019, the Grizzlies hit the jackpot selecting Ja Morant from the 2nd pick of the Draft. It was decided that the team would be built around Morant as he quickly rose to stardom with the Grizzlies, winning the Rookie of the Year that season with averages of 17.8 ppg, 7.3 apg and 3.9 apg.
Seeing the potential in Ja, the Grizzlies surrounded him with valuable complementary pieces in Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Kyle Aanderson and so on. This culminated in the Grizzlies making the Play-In tournament and ultimately reaching the play offs where they got bullied by the Utah Jazz in 5 games.
This was however, seen in a positive light as the Grizzlies experiments gave them fruits of their belief in Ja Morant and that he is a franchise caliber player. So entering into this season, they noticed that some changes needed to be made.
The trade that connects the puzzle
They realized that Jonas Valanciunas although was scoring but his and Jaren Jackson’s playing style clashed. So they traded Valanciunas in the 2021 off season to the Pelicans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and a 2022 protected 1st round pick.
The acquisition of Adams completed their team as a whole because now teams had a hard time scoring against them in the paint. This meant the offence would be relying more on Ja Morant . He came in like a Juggernaut with averages of 27.7 ppg, 6.6 apg and 5.8 rpg. He is currently in the MVP conversations in just his 3rd year in the league!
Also, the sudden improvement in defense by Jaren Jackson turned out to be a favorable outcome for the Grizllies as he became one of the major shot blockers in the league. The duo of Morant and Dillon Brooks pair well with one another and their offence gives their opponents a run for their money.
This season, they are perched on the 3rd spot with a 44-22 record and they are closing on the Warriors for the 2nd spot. It is going to be exciting to see what the Grizzlies will be like in the Playoffs. Will they go out in the 1st round itself due to their lack of experience or will they go all the way? Only time will tell.