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The fortunate ones of Memphis

The basketball gods have been very kind lately

Charlotte Hornets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

I have never seen the movie Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, but the title tells me that at some point within this movie, there is a run of events that take place that are not favorable to the protagonist.

The Memphis Grizzlies, through the years, have had their series of unfortunate events when it comes to injuries to key players. The largest free agent signing in franchise history dealt with injuries his entire tenure, Mike Conley broke his face in the playoffs, and Tony Allen’s hamstring injury hurt their chances against the Warriors. It was almost as if the Grizzlies were not allowed to have anything nice... until they did.

With the drafting of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant, that run of unfortunate events seemed to be ending — not coincidentally with the end of the reign of Chris Wallace. Then came November 25, 2019:

It what could have been much worse, as this spill led to the franchise player missing four consecutive games after attempting to play the next two. The team would enter into this four game stretch with a record of 5-13, and now without their most talented player.

Prior to the Minnesota Timberwolves game, when Morant started his time off, De’Anthony Melton had seen run in only 7 games for a total of roughly 55 minutes. While spending the preseason recovering from an injury of his own, Melton was not able to crack Coach Jenkins’ rotation with the likes of Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Marko Guduric and Tyus Jones all ahead of him.

The Morant injury opened the window for De’Anthony to earn some playing time — and boy, did he do that. In that four game stretch, Melton’s minutes increased from 8 per game (if he played) to 24 per contest. His stat line was:

9.8 pts, 6 reb, 5.5 ast, 1.8 stl and +15 in box +/-

Melton led the team in +/- during that stretch and was one of only three players with a positive +/- during that time (Grayson Allen, Solomon Hill). The Grizzlies only managed a 1-3 record in that stretch, but the team also missed Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson.

Outside of sitting the second half of a back-to-back, Morant returned for good on December 9 against the Golden State Warriors with his squad sitting at 6-16 overall. Since his return, the Grizzlies are 20-9 in games both Ja and De’Anthony both play (2-1 when only one plays).

What seemed to be a misfortune all too familiar with Memphis and injuries, actually became one the key moments of the season. The fortune of this misfortune was the play of De’Anthony Melton. Playing at such a level forced Taylor Jenkins to continue to give him significant minutes in the rotation going forward. His stat line in the 29 games since Ja’s return:

9.2 pts, 4 reb, 3.1 ast, 1.9 stl, +150 in overall box +/-

With his minutes and usage rate declining with the return of Ja Morant, the surging play of Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones, Melton has steal managed to be highly productive and a vital piece on this team in the midst of a surprising playoff run.

Sometimes bad things happen to an individual in life so that in the long run, the betterment of the masses could be had. Ja Morant had to fall so that Melton could rise.

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