The Memphis Grizzlies will enter tonight’s game against Utah with a record of 4-7, and there is a sample size of games sufficient to address questions about the current state of the squad. Below is my personal take on the season thus far.
How have the Grizzlies performed based on pre-season expectations?
While the Grizzlies’ record itself is unsurprising, I would never have predicted the team would have gotten their four wins against Brooklyn in overtime, Minnesota by double-digits, and two road wins against the Spurs and Hornets. Sure, many of the losses were downright frustrating, but each win has felt somewhat redemptive with flashes of just how fun this team is when it all come together.
In what ways have the Grizzlies exceeded expectations?
Ja Morant came to the Grizzlies with plenty of hype in tow, but he has somehow managed to exceed expectations nonetheless. When it comes to rookies, rust and a little unharnessed recklessness is in the budget. Morant has appeared polished, dynamic and smooth. In his 10 games, Morant is averaging 18.3 points, 5.8 assists and shooting 48.3% from the field. He’s made highlight reels and earned himself a game-winning performance against Charlotte.
In what ways have they deviated from expectations?
No one predicted that Jaren Jackson Jr. would have such an inconsistent level of productivity to start the season. His performances have seemingly been hot-or-cold. The good news is that fans tend to remember primacy and recency. In other words, how did Jackson start the season and how has he been performing in the most recent games? Answer: Jackson was the top scorer in the first two games of the season with 17 and 24 points respectively. Jackson has also been the top scorer in two of the three most recent games with 23 and 24 respectively. If he is able to harness his tendency to foul and be aggressive on offense, then his 5-game slump will be merely a blip on the radar.
Who, if anyone, has been an unsung hero?
While Brandon Clarke has certainly received recognition for his performances both in the pre-season and early in the regular season, Jaren and Ja receive the bulk of the coverage. Fans may have hoped the Grizzlies drafted a solid player in Clarke, but he is contributing an average of 11.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and shooting 60.7% from the field. It cannot be overstated how exciting it is to see the the 2019 draft bear fruit for the Grizzlies.
Should the fans continue to be patient with this team or is frustration warranted?
Living in a basketball town is an overwhelmingly positive thing, except that sometimes patience can feel like a mighty ask. While folks have seemingly been on board with the rebuild and next generation rhetoric, there is still a tendency to make mountains of molehills and lose proper perspective. Many of the “frustrating” things are predictable growing pains consistent with any program in rebuild-mode alongside young talent. There is no harm in celebrating wins and lamenting losses, but it is an exercise in futility to hyperbolize either outcome. The Grizzlies deserve our ongoing patience and right-sized frustration.