This season exceeded all expectations for the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant was just named Rookie of the Year, Taylor Jenkins showed immense promise in his first year as a head coach, and a team that was almost unanimously picked to finish last in the Western Conference barely missed the playoffs. By any rational, this was an exceptionally successful campaign.
Still, it’s a blow when any season ends. While the Grizzlies came up short of their goal of making the playoffs, there are several former Grizzlies making an impact this postseason. Let’s check in on how some of our favorite ex-Grizzlies are performing in the bubble.
Marc Gasol’s role with the Raptors has shifted from his days as a member of the Core Four. Gasol was a primary offensive option for the Grizzlies but he’s averaging a career low in shot attempts and points per game with Toronto. Part of this is an expected decline that comes with age but the main culprit is the Raptors are an exceptionally deep team and there are only so many shots to go around. He can still be an effective pick and roll partner with Kyle Lowry at times but he’s no longer a significant part of the offense.
Despite no longer being a key offensive contributor, Toronto still expects Gasol to hit the occasional three and the biggest cause for concern is his dip in three point shooting in the bubble. Gasol was a 38% three point shooter in the regular season but is hitting just 19% from three in the playoffs. Despite his offensive struggles Gasol is still a reasonably effective defender, especially for a team that embraces team defense like Toronto. He still has great instincts and Toronto has been the perfect spot to get the most out of Gasol at this stage in his career.
It’s no secret Mike Conley struggled in his first season with the Jazz, shooting a dreadful 33% from the floor his first two months with the team. Conley’s normally reliable floater disappeared and he was shooting just as poorly from three. It took time to acclimate to a new system, and Mike was just beginning to look like the player the Jazz thought they were getting when the league shut down and that improvement continued when he got to the bubble. Conley stepped up in a major way for the Jazz in the playoffs shooting over 50% from three and nearly becoming a Jazz legend by almost hitting a game 7 winner that was half way down.
The Jazz could decide to move on from Rudy Gobert this offseason, and while Conley does not fit Donovan Mitchell’s timeline he may be the perfect piece to bridge the gap if the Jazz decide to retool. Jazz fans may never be at peace with Conley’s contract or the assets they gave up to land him but these playoffs he has shown the Captain Clutch gene is still strong.
There are Grizzlies fans who insist that if Jae Crowder wasn’t traded the team would have made the playoffs. The smart move was always to build the roster with the future in mind, but Crowder has made it clear that he can be a key contributor on a playoff team. Crowder is starting for a stacked Miami Heat team and playing respectable defense on the reigning MVP, reportedly learning of the assignment shortly before the first game of the Milwaukee series. His shot making has always been spotty but he can still deliver in big moments as Grizzlies fans well know. The Grizzlies would still make the Justise Winslow trade again without hesitation and rightly so but Crowder is showing his value on a legitimate title contender.
Jeff Green has looked like the best version of himself recently with Houston. He’s been remarkably efficient shooting 50% from the floor and has arguably been the Rocket’s third best player. It may just be a hot streak, but it’s also possible after bouncing around the league Green has found the ideal team and role for him. The Rockets are moving on after a thrilling, if messy, game 7 and if they hope to upset the Lakers they will need Green to continue his high level of production.
It’s no secret that Jeff Green is a contentious figure in Grizzlies history. Thankfully, the saga of the Jeff Green pick was resolved at this year’s draft lottery and Grizzlies fans can root for Jeff Green in good conscience if they choose.
Despite rotations tightening in the playoffs, Jamychal Green has logged consistent minutes for the contending Clippers. Green’s been the same reliable rotation player he’s been for much of his career and has been most effective when manning the center position for the Clippers in smaller lineups, giving the Clippers much needed versatility especially when they were dealing with the absence of Montrezl Harrell. Green’s three point percentage is high this postseason (42%) though on a limited number of attempts. Every championship roster has players like Jamychal Green and his consistent play will be needed for the Clippers to advance to the finals.
Despite an early bubble exit, there is still a heavy Grizzlies presence remaining in the playoffs. From starters to impactful role players, it’s always nice to see some familiar faces. It’s very possible one of them will be celebrating a championship in October.