The Memphis Grizzlies, for the first time in years, have a collection of players where the lineup combinations seem infinite. Want to go big? Put Ja Morant out there with Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jonas Valanciunas. Want to switch everything? Stick De’Anthony Melton, Anderson, Brandon Clarke, and Jaren Jackson Jr. with any point guard, and it’s game over. Want to go small? Run Clarke at the 5 with Tyus Jones, Melton, Josh Jackson, and Anderson.
Taylor Jenkins has deployed and experimented with a lot of different lineups — some great, some awful. It’s a part of this rebuilding process. You put pieces together to see what works, and luckily for the Memphis Grizzlies, Coach Jenkins has found a lot of nice combinations that’s unlocked a good playoff basketball team.
After the trade deadline, the Memphis Grizzlies lost Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, two rotation players that played heavy minutes and were featured in a multitude of units. With the moves, a little over 40 minutes opens up with what was lost between the two veterans. Though some new members and Josh Jackson will shore up some minutes, there are some lineups they’ve run pre All-Star break that deserve more time over the next two months.
The sample size is small, but diving in more and experimenting with these lineups could pay big dividends.
Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Josh Jackson, Jaren Jackson Jr. — Games Played: 4 (19 Total Minutes), Offensive Rating: 127.3, Defensive Rating: 97.7 (Net Rating: +29.6).
A minor key for the Memphis Grizzlies over these last two months is to figure out what Josh Jackson could provide for this team, and where he would be placed best.
The fit with these four players is interesting, in theory. Jones and Melton are almost always good, as they’re the team’s best net rating of any duo that’s played 200 or more minutes together (+14.1, 358 minutes). Having these two also doesn’t force Jackson into a primary facilitator role, as both of them are exceptional playmakers. It allows Jackson to hone his craft and focus on the defensive side of the court.
When you factor in the two-way play and efficiency of Jaren Jackson Jr. or even a Brandon Clarke, you have a destructive four-man lineup that can be solid on both ends of the ball.
Try running a pick-and-roll against these guys. When the Grizzlies get to switching, the opposing team’s perimeter player has Clarke or Jaren hounding them. Force them into a trap, and you have one of those two swarming the ball-handler alongside either Melton or Josh Jackson.
Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas. Games Played: 12 (23 Total Minutes Together), Offensive Rating: 105.7, Defensive Rating: 82.7 (+23.0 Net Rating)
If you like old-school basketball, this lineup is for you.
You have the traditional, pass-first point that serves as the quarterback of the offseason. You have three hard-nosed defenders that can create offense in the halfcourt. Then, you have the bruising big man that can bully his way into a double-double and a scoring explosion.
It’s a 90’s basketball masterpiece, and it’s smothering opponents.
Melton, Anderson, and Clarke are all exceptional defenders at their respective positions. However, Valanaciunas’ defense is better than people give him credit for. Over his past 19 games, he’s averaging 1.8 blocks per game. He also leads the team in defensive win shares (1.8) and is 3rd in DBPM (1.7).
When you have those four causing chaos at the perimeter, with Valanciunas waiting at the rim, that’s not a bad defensive formula. Offensively, this unit can operate around the interior brilliance of Valanciunas and Clarke.
That one is for the boomers.
Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr. Games Played: 8 (17 Total Minutes), Offensive Rating: 133.3, Defensive Rating: 98.2 (+35.2)
Honestly, this lineup could become the Grizzlies’ Lineup of Death for the time being (until Justise Winslow is back and healthy).
Melton and Clarke are the agents of chaos on defense. On offense, these two will get their buckets in transition or off cuts and rolls in the half-court.
Brooks will give Morant a break every now and then by creating something out of nothing within the halfcourt. He’d also serve as a spot-up shooter in dribble-drive scenarios.
Jackson will be ready to flamethrow it from deep, but he could also serve as the team’s primary option in the post. Not to mention, he would have the spacing to attack the rim off close-out’s.
With Morant, he has a wide arsenal of weapons that he could find in transition or in the half-court. His awesome playmaking will be maximized, given the skill sets of the guys he’d be sharing the floor with. They also offer the spacing necessary for him to attack the paint, where he’s most effective and where he creates most of his scoring chances. Defensively, he’s not a Trae Young-level liability, but those 4 could cover for him.
It might not have the same magnitude as the Hamptons’ 5, but this lineup could be the one the Grizzlies roll out to drop the final hammers on teams.
Tune in for part 2 on Monday where I discuss some lineup combinations with Justise Winslow and Gorgui Dieng I want to see after the All-Star break.