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GBB Roundtable: The sprint to the playoffs

It’s here!

2019-20 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

We have arrived at the re-starting gate for the 2019-2020 NBA season, and the Memphis Grizzlies are about to be tested in ways they haven’t been tested before. The schedule is about to get tougher. The road games are about to pile up. The “five cities in ten days” and statements like it will be used in articles and sentences across airwaves and web pages through Grizz Nation.

Are they up to the task? We begin to find out tonight.

As Memphis resumes their sprint to the playoffs five games up on their closest competition in the loss column, we at GBB took part in a roundtable breaking down what will be in terms of the All-Star Breaks of the future, as well as how these last 28 games may shake out for Memphis.

The Memphis Grizzlies were well-represented at the Rising Stars Challenge last weekend. Considering a hypothetical over/under of 5.5 All-Star Games combined for the trio of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke in their NBA careers, are you taking the over or the under?

2019-20 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: The over here is a lock. You could set this over/under for Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. individually, and I would take the over. The Morant hype train, somehow, is gaining even more steam, so it makes it easy to believe he can be voted in as a starter one day — perhaps even a captain. Jaren Jackson Jr., though he may never get a starter’s nod, has a game that’s endearing to coaches, which will make him a yearly coaches’ selection pick. It’s also easy to see Clarke make at least 1 or 2, if he’s truly on this Pascal Siakam, Draymond Green, or Paul Millsap trajectory.

GBB Staff Writer Brendan Smart: I think that you’ll see that Ja Morant has more projected appearances than Jaren and Brandon due to his highlight reel plays nightly along with his balanced statistics. Morant will make the All-Star Game *Fingers crossed* for a good portion of his career. Despite playing in Memphis, (small market) you have seen how much noise Morant has made on a national scale in just half a season.

So, to answer your question, I’m taking the over, because when Jaren Jackson Jr., finds some consistency (which he will), he will have several All-Star selections. It is too soon to tell with Brandon Clarke based off of his minutes this season, but the potential is there.

GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: Under, but based on a couple of assumptions. The first assumption is that these guys are with the Grizzlies or a similarly sized market. The second assumption is that the voting criteria stays as it is currently. So long as fans have a meaningful portion of the decision-making authority, larger market marquee players will continue to get the attention. Ja could easily make it several times, assuming he continues the mass-appeal style of basketball with which he has started his career. I do think basketball minds and industry-folk could throw more weight toward a potential Brandon or Jaren showing, but it is difficult to imagine with the current talent allocation in the NBA. It is also worth noting that I am conditioned to expect the snub.

GBB Staff Writer Justin Lewis: Definitely the over and I’d put the number at 10+. Ja and Jaren will become perennial All-Stars, and soon.

GBB Senior Staff Writer Shawn Coleman: I will take the over, with it mainly being due to Ja Morant. I feel his persona and skill set will make him a priority for fans and the league for multiple All-Star games in the future. Jaren Jackson Jr. also has the potential for multiple appearances if he continues to improve, while Clarke has the talent to certainly earn a nod if he becomes a featured starter at some point.

The current all-time leader for All-Star appearances as a Memphis Grizzly is Marc Gasol with three. Complete this sentence - Ja Morant will become the new all-time leader for the Grizzlies in the year...

2020 NBA All-Star - Portraits Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

GBB Associate Editor Jack Noonan: 2027. This will give Ja Morant about two or three more years to make his first All-Star Game and then from there that is him averaging on every other year. Morant is only going to get better in this league with the guard play in the West only getting older. He will pass Gasol on this list and will do it faster than we expect.

GBB Writer Lauren Harvey: I think Ja will hit that bench mark in 2026. I’d also be willing to bet that Ja will be the first Grizzly to hit double digit All-Star appearances. There’s no point in putting a ceiling on what he can accomplish.

GBB Writer Darren Jeans: Ja Morant will become the new all-time leader for the Grizzlies in the year 2024.

GBB Senior Writer Brandon Abraham: 2026. Ja nearly was an All-Star this past season and although guys like Klay Thompson and Steph Curry will be back next season, Ja has that “Star” factor along with his excellent and flashy play to make the All Star game sooner rather than later.

GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: 2027. Even without good health - say he misses a season - this feels likely. He was close this year, and may be the first player to defeat the Memphis “small market” curse in terms of becoming a legitimate superstar. He’s that electric, both on and off the court.

Justise Winslow is pretty clearly a valued new piece by the Grizzlies front office. Was acquiring his services worth essentially missing out on free agency this summer in your eyes?

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Fleming: I’d say yes. Acquiring Winslow was essentially the same as giving him a 2-year, $26M deal, with a team option for the final year. Signing someone like Bogdan Bogdanovic or Joe Harris would’ve probably cost more and for more years. Given his skill set, and his shorter contract, this is another win for Kleiman and company.

Smart: Not sure who Memphis would’ve attacked this offseason. An overall weak free agency class, and a team that is way ahead of schedule, it only makes sense to take the long road and stay out of free agency. Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman reiterated the long term goal when viewing this offseason. “I don’t think we would’ve been able to use that cap space as efficiently as we liked (this offseason).” Kleiman went on to say that the front office viewed Justise Winslow as the compensation of a draft pick and that cap space with the current roster when viewing trades.

I agree with Kleiman, and the front office’s approach to the trade deadline, along with the lookout this offseason.

Peterson: The best questions call for some healthy speculation, but I do think the Grizzlies made the right choice here. Obviously any injury is cause for trepidation, but barring that, Winslow could be a great addition to the roster. I place a premium of fit, and here’s a guy who wants to he here. That has tremendous value. The Grizzlies can get a lot of mileage out of player who is engaged and eager to contribute, and the existing roster has shown that it can share limelight and place team goals over personal goals.

Lewis: The free agent class this upcoming summer was nothing to drool over. Winslow can essentially be considered our free agent acquisition. If healthy, he is leagues above anyone Memphis would have signed. Winslow was a steal and the national media will recognize that in a season or two.

Coleman: In terms of comparing Winslow’s potential and contract to realistic free agent targets this summer, it was worth investing in him as a potential long-term piece. For me, the resulting lack of cap space was not an issue concerning free agency, but in no longer being an advantage in trade talks to acquire more future assets. While the Grizzlies front office may have less room to be creative this summer, they also have earned the benefit of the doubt for us to trust this was the right move.

Gorgui Dieng has already endeared himself to some Grizzlies fans. Will Dieng be a member of the Memphis Grizzlies on February 20th, 2021 (after next year’s trade deadline)?

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Noonan: No, I do not believe Dieng will be a member of the Grizzlies after next year’s trade deadline. Dieng is a great role player that can fit well in many systems, the Grizzlies do not need what he offers especially with the log jam in the frontcourt. In addition, his contract sets up nicely to send as a salary match if the Grizzlies go after a bigger name next trade deadline.

Harvey: I don’t think so. He’s made a fantastic first impression but he’s on an expiring contract next year and I think he is dealt at the deadline.

Jeans: Yes. I can absolutely see Dieng being an important part of this team going forward, and eventually replacing Jonas as the starting 5 on this team (Site Manager’s note - WHOA. HOT TAKE).

Abraham: I don’t think Dieng will be on the roster after next year’s trade deadline. He had a solid game against Portland and figures to be a nice backup center. However, Jaren and Brandon should both get bigger over the offseason and able to handle more minutes at the 5, making Dieng and his expiring contract attractive for contending teams. As the front office continues to collect assets, I think they’ll move Dieng to gather more.

Mullinax: Dieng fills a need at the moment. Brandon Clarke center minutes have not gone well, and in 12-14 minute stretched Dieng makes the team better. Is there value in that beyond this season? Sure. But Dieng’s contract - now the biggest on the Grizzlies roster - is a very movable asset. Tag a couple 1sts (which Memphis now has to spare once they convery their 2020 1st to Boston this summer) and...there are options to make this roster much better while also not losing a single member of the young core.

He won’t be here this time next year - too many teams could have big/good contracts/players to move, and this Grizzlies front office is in prime position to take on a Hield/LaVine/Booker/Beal type, should they become available.

Much has been made of the upcoming schedule for the Grizzlies. Pick out a consecutive stretch of four games out of the remaining ones for Memphis and explain why you think those will define the season.

Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Fleming: In the first week of March, the Grizzlies are playing the Hawks twice, the Nets, and the Mavericks. Though 3 of those games are on the road, a 3-1 week would be huge for this playoff push, and a 4-0 stretch here is doable. It’s also worth noting the Grizzlies have the Magic at home and Portland on the road right after. If the Grizzlies start March with a bang, I love their playoff chances.

Smart: The upcoming four game road trip out West. The Memphis Grizzlies start their road trip Thursday night with a back-to-back that starts in Sacramento against the Kings who have lost two straight games. Then, will travel to Los Angeles for a matchup with the Lakers on Friday night. Following those two tough games, Memphis will stay in Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.

Winning one of the two games of the first back-to-back will play a huge role in this road trip. Following the meeting with the Clippers on Monday night, the Grizzlies will travel to Houston to take on the small ball Rockets Wednesday. Memphis has a shot at splitting this road trip, and holding that four game lead on Portland for the eighth seed.

Peterson: I wish I could be more original, but I put a lot of stock in the next four games out of All-Star Break for a few reasons. How the team starts out of the break can set the tone for the homestretch, especially given the caliber of talent the Grizzlies will be facing on the road. No one is expecting them to come out of that road trip with a bouquet of wins, but even losses with strong showings can build momentum and confidence.

Additionally, having a strong showing out of the All-Star break can take some pressure off the team as the playoff race intensifies by widening the cushion of games between the Grizzlies and those chasing their position in the rankings.

Lewis: Saturday March 21-28. Memphis will have 3 home games and 1 on the road. Two of those games are against the Pelicans, a team chasing them for the eight seed. The other two are home games against top Eastern Conference teams. These are barometer games, but games they need to win at home.

Coleman: The week of March 21st-March 28th will be in the midst of a brutal stretch for Memphis. This week will contain four games of an eight game stretch against playoff contenders, with games against the Celtics, Raptors, and two games against New Orleans. With three of these games at home, The Grizzlies will likely need to win two or more of these contests to avoid a huge swing in the standings.

OK, we’re putting you on the spot. The Memphis Grizzlies will finish the season with a record of _________, placing them ________ in the Western Conference.

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Noonan: The Memphis Grizzlies will finish the season with a record of 42-40, placing them 8th in the Western Conference. The rest of the season may be a bumpy ride with the schedule ramping up a bit but this team can handle that as they have shown many times before. The Trail Blazers will continue to stay on their heels, but when all is said and done, the Grizzlies will be the surprise team in the playoffs which will give this young roster invaluable experience going forward.

Harvey: The Grizzlies will finish 40-42 and 8th in the West. I know what some of the projections say but those same projections had this team dead last in the West. I see no reason this group can’t keep proving people wrong.

Jeans: The Memphis Grizzlies will finish the season with a record of 46-35 placing them 8th in the Western Conference PLAYING LEBRON JAMES AND THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE NBA PLAYOFFS.

Abraham: 42-40, good enough for 8th in the West. The Grizzlies schedule is tough, but if they take care of business against their main competition (Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio) they should be able to hang onto that final spot in the standings.

Mullinax: Before the season my hot take was that Memphis would have a winning record after the All-Star Break. A lot has transpired since then, of course - the Grizzlies are better than expected, and these last 28 games look even more brutal. But I am sticking to my prediction. Memphis will go 15-13 over these last 28 games, giving them a final record of 43-39 and the 8 seed in the playoffs.

From a top-6 pick possibility to the postseason. What a time to be alive!

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