It’s a new year!
We made it out of 2020, and though 2021 is going to start with tons of injuries, the future is still bright for the Memphis Grizzlies. Instead of doing our 5 Questions with the opposing team’s SB Nation blog, I decided to collab with our Site Manager Joe Mullinax to talk about the Grizzlies’ outlook in 2021.
1) Who’s going to benefit the most from all these absences?
GBB SITE MANAGER JOE MULLINAX (@JoeMullinax) - Am I allowed to say everyone? Because that is how it has worked out to this point. From rejuvenating Tyus Jones in a larger role to players like Desmond Bane and John Konchar showing their value in larger than anticipated roles, every player in the back court has been given ample opportunity to contribute. In the front court the minutes are even more open, and the likes of Kyle Anderson and Gorgui Dieng have at times prospered as well. Memphis’ record isn’t great, but many have shown bright sides and reasons to be optimistic for a time when the roster is actually healthy, and the likes of Anderson and Dillon Brooks don’t have to carry so much of the burden.
2) What are you making out of this Brandon Clarke slump? Is he as broken as people suggest?
MULLINAX- No, he’s working himself back in to shape. He was injured, he was out of game condition, and he has rarely shown success as a starter even when at his best. I understand the logic of starting Clarke - it keeps him alongside Tyus, he is one of the team’s best players at this stage, etc. But he is not being put in the best position to be successful at this point. As a reserve, he can play at his most elite because his athleticism and finishing ability shines through against bench players. He can still be alongside Jones, and especially De’Anthony Melton, and keep that energy and momentum that made the bench unit last year so special. He can enter games about halfway through the first and third quarter and get that time with those players, while still being in a place to make the most of his talents. It’s just time to take a step back and allow for him to be that player again, and not force him to be something he isn’t.
3) Name your favorite realistic option in each of these situations: 2021 free agent target, 2021 trade target, and 2021 draft pick.
MULLINAX- This is tough. As you have stated Parker, this year is very important for the Grizzlies, and analyzing the “data collection” process that Zach Kleiman discussed here in year two of the rebuild has been at the forefront of my mind. But the beat marches on, and these questions are fair ones. I reserve the right to change my mind...but here it goes.
2021 Free Agency Target - DeMar DeRozan. A lot would have to happen for DeRozan to be here, considering the money he will likely cost. But he fits the bill as a “wing scorer”, and while he is not a sharpshooter from beyond the arc his combination of offensive skill set and winning experience would be valuable for Memphis. The Grizzlies could be a combination of fun up and comer and land of opportunity for a vet like DeMar to still play a large role on a team trying to be good.
2021 Trade Target - Marvin Bagley III. Hear me out. Bagley is a few months older than Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. He has had a very slow start to his career, and his dad’s meddling may fly in the face of the Grizzlies “standard.” But he is a Lottery talent despite the overdrafting, who could potentially be available for cheap. No key component of the core should be available. But if 10th/11th man types and a 1st round pick in a season the Grizzlies can get Bagley? It’d be worth pulling the trigger...but it is unlike the Kings are that desperate.
2021 Draft Pick - Oh man, the best silver lining to these injuries ever. The 2021 draft class appears to be stacked on the wing...and if you haven’t noticed, Memphis could use one of those that can score the ball on all three levels and create. Jalen Suggs from Gonzaga is my current favorite...but there are plenty of options that could look real nice alongside Jaren and Ja long term. Be happy the Boston Celtics got 14 overall last year...
4) What do you want to see from Ja and Jaren this year once they return?
MULLINAX- The same thing I have wanted to see all along - growth. Morant has shown evidence of that already, and I anticipate that will continue. Jackson Jr. still has work to do on that front - first and foremost, he needs to stay on the floor. He’s not “injury prone” yet...but he’s not far off. Jaren has to show the ability to compete night in and night out and be worthy of that 1B status next to Ja’s 1A. The Bubble was promising. But Jaren needs to put together a larger sample size of such production.
5) Your biggest hot take for the Grizzlies in 2021 that you kind of believe
MULLINAX- I think the hot take I have...is a lack of hot takes. Which, for those that have followed me for a while, is indeed a hot take! This is the last season without the burden of expectations. The Grizzlies should play every game to win regardless of injuries, and if they’re not good enough to win, enjoy a Lottery pick. If a trade falls in to your lap? Awesome! If it doesn’t? That’s OK too because you have already acquired multiple long-term assets. The hot take here is that the middle way is the direction Memphis should follow - internal development and growth, with an opportunistic eye looking forward.
Cheers to the new year, Grizz Nation. Let’s make it the best one, and let’s hope for good health and progression for our Memphis Grizzlies.