Spring has indeed sprung across much of the country, and with the warmer temperatures comes some good news for the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies announced today that within the next week Justise Winslow should be making his debut for Memphis, and the return of Jaren Jackson Jr. should be expected as well in the next seven days. Brandon Clarke, while not returning as soon as Winslow and Jackson Jr., is expected to play again this season, per the Grizzlies. Grayson Allen remains out for the season with a hip injury.
Justise Winslow, of course, was the prized piece of the trade with the Miami Heat before the deadline last month involving veterans Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, as well as noted Grizzlies-avoider Andre Iguodala. His debut should come with a grain of salt and somewhat lowered expectations for this particular season, as he likely will work his way in to the starting lineup and those types of minutes. Justise was always viewed as a long-term addition, and in the short-term his size, defensive acumen, and playmaking should add solid depth to a lineup that desperately needs it, especially on the wing. A goal for him should also be to stay off the injury report - beyond likely minutes management and nights off - as much as possible as he gets acclimated alongside Ja Morant and company.
In the here and now, the return of Jaren Jackson Jr. will make much more of an impact. Jaren’s shooting ability from beyond the arc (39.7% this season) and defensive skill (1.6 blocks per game) have been sorely missed. He immediately strengthens the starting lineup, making life easier for Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jonas Valanciunas, and Kyle Anderson while allowing for De’Anthony Melton to return to a reserve role to strengthen an already strong reserve unit. Perhaps Melton sticks with the starters, but regardless of your Anderson or Melton preference Jaren’s impending comeback is great news for the playoff hopeful Grizzlies.
Some questions come from this positive news, of course - for example, who will be the odd men out in the next week or so? Immediately John Konchar and Anthony Tolliver probably will see reduced minutes - Konchar is on a two-way contract, and Tolliver on a ten-day, so they are not longed for this season’s version of the squad, at least in the case of Konchar until the G-League season concludes. Once Clarke returns though, will that mean less Josh Jackson, who has come on strong recently? Could the Grizzlies return to a rotation where no player sees more than 28-30 minutes a game? Memphis is in the midst of a playoff race they are currently leading, but that was never the goal this season. Do they shorten the rotation in the pursuit of the postseason, or stay the “process” course and let the proverbial chips fall where they may?
We at GBB will break that down in the days to come. For now, enjoy the warming trend, both in terms of the weather outside and the thawing out of the Memphis injury report on the horizon.