The Memphis Grizzlies were one of the surprise teams in the NBA last season. After squeaking into the postseason via the play-in tournament two years ago, Memphis finished with the second-best record in the entire league in 2021-22, and the team advanced to the second round for the first time since 2015. The Grizzlies were ultimately bested by the Golden State Warriors in six games in the conference semifinals, but they certainly put the league on notice. Now, they’ll look to build off that success that they had last season and take another step forward in the coming campaign.
Here’s a quick glance at Memphis’ offseason, and a preview of what things will look like when the 2022-23 season tips off.
- Traded De’Anthony Melton to the 76ers for Danny Green, 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft (David Roddy).
- Drafted Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia with the 19th overall pick in the draft.
- Lost Kyle Anderson to the Timberwolves in free agency.
Top of the key: More Morant
Perhaps no player in the league made a larger leap than Ja Morant last season. He went from an extremely promising young player to a bona fide star. He made his first All-NBA team, his first All-Star team, was named the league’s Most Improved Player and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting. He was also one of just five players to average over 27 points, six assists and five rebounds per game, along with Nikola Jokic, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic and LeBron James — not bad company for Morant.
The Grizzlies also took a major step forward last season, and that’s no coincidence. Morant lifted the whole team with his play, and while he was far from the only key contributor, he was certainly the engine. He has clearly established himself as one of the best guards in the entire league, and at still just 23 years old, it’s scary to think about how high his ceiling truly is. The question now becomes how much better can Morant get? He was ranked 12th in our annual CBS Top 100 player rankings heading into this season. Can he climb into the top 10 after the season, or even the top five? If he’s able to do that, then perhaps the Grizzlies will be able to follow suit and make their first conference finals appearance since 2013.
Next on the agenda: JJJ’s health
Jaren Jackson Jr. is coming off of a stellar season in which he played in a career-high 78 games and averaged 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He led the league with 2.3 blocks per game and was named All-Defensive First Team. Heading into the new season, though, his health is a question — and concern — for Memphis. At the end of June, the Grizzlies announced that Jackson would be sidelined for 4-6 months after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
Jackson is not expected to be out on the floor on opening night, and at this point, it’s unclear how long he will remain sidelined. However, both he and Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins were optimistic about his return at media day.
“We are still trying to figure out Jaren’s firm timeline,” Jenkins said. “I think he is still on the same initial timeline as we said. … All the images are showing good signs of healing and I think the timeline is the timeline right now, but we’ll have more updates as we get going forward.”
The Grizzlies are obviously hopeful that Jackson won’t have to miss too much of the season because he’s an integral part of what they do on both ends of the floor.
One more thing: How much will the rookies contribute?
The Grizzlies had two picks in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, and they traded a useful player in De’Anthony Melton in order to acquire one of them. The team selected Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia with the 19th overall pick in the draft, and David Roddy with the 23rd overall pick, acquired from Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see how much those two guys are going to contribute as rookies.
At Wake Forest last season, LaRavia started in all 33 games he played in, averaging 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 34.2 minutes per performance and was named Second Team All-ACC. Meanwhile, Roddy averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for Colorado State, and he was named Mountain West Player of the Year. Both players were obviously extremely productive and could provide value despite their lack of professional experience. It’s typically tough for rookies, or young players in general, to receive consistent playing time on contending teams. The Grizzlies aren’t the deepest team in the league, though, so perhaps LaRavia and/or Roddy will crack the regular rotation.
Timberwolves at Grizzlies, Nov. 11: The first-round playoff series between the Grizzlies and Timberwolves last season was chippy and entertaining. The Grizzlies ended up coming out on top, but the Wolves made it interesting, and a rematch will provide some worthwhile watching, as both teams have plenty of young talent, and are trying to establish themselves as legitimate contenders in the West.
Grizzlies at Pelicans, Nov. 15: This game represents not only a battle between two up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference but also a battle between the top two picks from the 2019 NBA Draft. Zion Williamson went first in that draft, while the Grizzlies selected Morant second overall. Williamson and the Pelicans have bested Morant and the Grizzlies all four times the two players have squared off against each other since, but they didn’t get a chance to meet at all last season, as Williamson missed the entire campaign. Getting to watch those two young stars go at it is reason enough to tune into this one.
Grizzlies at Warriors, Dec. 25: There’s a nice little rivalry brewing between the Grizzlies and Warriors, which is why this game got Christmas Day billing. Two years ago, it was the Grizzlies who bested the Warriors in the play-in tournament in order to advance to the postseason. The Warriors got some revenge last season when they ousted Memphis in six games in the second round. There was no shortage of trash-talking between the two teams, which adds some intrigue to this matchup. The league’s Christmas Day lineup is great, and this game is a big part of the reason why.