The Memphis Grizzlies are back, and these young cubs have their first set of playoff scars on them. It’s going to be interesting to see how they respond this season, especially given the roster shakeup that occurred over the offseason. All things considered, are they going to keep humming and continuing growing? Or will growing pains ensue?
Let’s get it with another roundtable.
1) What is the best-case scenario for the Grizzlies this season?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: They win almost 50 games (47 or 48) and are in the hunt for the 5 seed more than the 7 seed. That would mean being very solidly in the PLAYOFF mix, not the PLAY-IN. That would be quite the accomplishment given what Memphis did with the roster, specifically moving on from Jonas Valanciunas - arguably their best player over the last two seasons. But if Ja makes an All-Star leap, and Jaren legitimately is in the Most Improved mix...this could very well happen.
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: If everything tracks with the wish list — Ja Morant’s All-Star berth, the Jaren Jackson Jr. “Most Improved” campaign, the added dosage of Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton, and a Brandon Clarke bounce-back season — then this team could be in the conversation for the 5th seed. Given the fascinating situations in the West with the Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson injuries and the coaching changes of Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups, the Grizzlies’ continuity could allow them to sneak through any potential pains from their foes.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: The best-case scenario for the Memphis Grizzlies for the 2021-2022 season is a Western Conference 5 or 6 seed. I cannot imagine a world in which the Grizz overcome the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz and Warriors, but I can imagine the Grizzlies contending with the Mavericks, Trailblazers and Nuggets. To avoid the play-in tournament would be the best-case scenario, but I hope I am proven to be too conservative about the Grizzlies' ceiling.
Host of “The Starting 5” Parish Sharkey: Top 5 seed. With continued growth from Ja this team is ready for the next step
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: Best case scenario is that Jaren stays healthy and he becomes the monster we think he can be and the Grizz win their first division title in franchise history.
2) What is the worst-case scenario for the Memphis Grizzlies this season?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: There is a lot of room for variance with this Grizzlies team. While I believe it is more likely the best-case scenario listed above happens than this, it’s important to acknowledge that this Memphis team could potentially take a step back. No one will mistake me for a Jonas Valanciunas super fan, but his contributions to the offense especially when things got “stuck in the mud” were pretty valuable. With that gone, who will save the Grizzlies when that same adversity strikes? If they don’t figure it out (and also deal with some injury concerns), falling out of the play-in entirely is also possible.
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: Obviously health-aside, the worst-case scenario would be falling out of the play-in — while 1-2 of Sacramento, Minnesota, and New Orleans pass them. If that results from stagnation and the lack of more veteran guidance, it’ll create some looming questions going into the offseason.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: I can best characterize the worst-case scenario as falling below an 8-seed in the regular season. While Memphis is a small market, the fanbase has grown to expect some post-season action. This Grizz team will have a lot of questions surrounding it if it isn't able to chart a path of improvement with the roster in which it has currently invested.
Host of “The Starting 5” Parish Sharkey: Lottery, but I don’t see this happening at all.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: Jaren never finds his form, BC continues to struggle and Bane has a sophomore slump. That mix of disaster leads the Grizz to miss the play in all together.
3) What is the realistic outcome for the Grizzlies this season?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: The inbetween of best and worst case. The Grizzlies will be in the 7-8-9 seed mix, competing with the likes of the Clippers, the Trail Blazers, the Pelicans, and others in the bottom half of the conference standings (assuming the Lakers/Warriors/Nuggets/Jazz/Suns/Mavericks are the top six, not necessarily in that order). Assuming health, the Grizzlies are too good to fall too far back. But they did theoretically weaken themselves on offense, at least on an individual basis, when trading Valanciunas. Will Steven Adams’ abilities defensively offset that some? Yes - as will Jaren Jackson Jr. being healthy. So Memphis will be better, and at this stage of the “rebuild” that’s all we can ask for.
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: The Grizzlies are likely to be the 7th seed this season, but will fight for the 6th seed up to the final hour of the regular season. I’d have Phoenix, Los Angeles, Utah, and Denver in the top-4. However, there’s a lot of variance in that 5-10 range, and the Grizzlies finishing at the top of the play-in would still be a good measure of growth.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: The most realistic scenario is that the Grizzlies are in the play-in tournament. This prediction is no knock to the effort the Grizzlies have put in to amass a roster of talent and health. This prediction is an acknowledgement that the Western Conference may get shaken up here-and-there, but there are consistently 5 teams who feel impossible to catch. From there, the Grizzlies usually compete with 2-3 additional tough matchups.
Host of “The Starting 5” Parish Sharkey: 6-10 range. Still a young team and will have growing pains with no added veteran with a dash mentality (i.e. PJ Tucker like).
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: I personally believe a 6 six seed is realistic for Memphis. Ja is a man on a mission and he’s about to take over the league. Jaren will find his form and the depth will show throughout the season.
4) For the Grizzlies to avoid the play-in and get a top-6 seed team, what must happen on their end (injuries to other teams aside)?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: Morant must be an All-Star and Jaren must make a MIP-esque leap. Their now undisputed two best players have to be superstar (Morant) and star (Jackson Jr.) level players. The Grizzlies have a very solid rotation, but this league is all about key plays made by your big-time players. That’s Ja and Jaren in Memphis.
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: If Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. take the expected leaps this season, they should be in the mix for the 6th seed. Dillon Brooks’ health and play could be the deciding factor. He’s going to slot in as a good 3rd option for this team, but he’s the clear-cut perimeter stopper for them here. They’re going to need him to escape the play-in and get a top-6 seed, as their defensive warrior and their spiritual leader, especially considering the loaded perimeter talent in the Western Conference.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: To avoid the play-in tournament and achieve a Top-6 seed, the Grizzlies will have to maintain depth and know when to abandon poor rotations. That is a delicate balance because some part of the regular season should serve as laboratory for determining what works and what doesn’t. But knowing when to leverage whom will allow the Grizzlies to earn some key wins against key teams when it matters.
Host of “The Starting 5” Parish Sharkey: JJJ will have to stay healthy and continue on his upward trend.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: It really has to be a perfect storm. Bane has to up his scoring with his new opportunity and obviously it’s going to heavily rely on Jaren’s progression which is trending up.
5) Which tier do you have the Grizzlies in? The one with the Mavericks, Warriors, Clippers, and Blazers for the 5th and 6th seeds. Or, the Wolves, Pelicans, Kings tier that are fighting for play-in positioning.
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: Wolves and Kings? Wow...anyway, I would have them in the play-in positioning tier. It’s hard to see them passing the Lakers/Warriors/Nuggets/Suns/Jazz/Mavericks. From there there are the Trail Blazers, the Clippers, and Memphis for me. Those three teams are the ones that could, in theory, jump up to the top six or so.
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: I have them in the tier with the Mavericks, Warriors, Clippers, and Blazers. With all the things I said about the expected leaps, the continuity they have will make up for any mishaps that young teams without many veterans typically experience. With the Grizzlies’ “next man up” mentality, I think they’re ready to fill in for the losses of Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen. Also, Taylor Jenkins is one of the most underrated coaches in the league. They’re going to be fine this year.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: I predict the Grizzlies will be in the tier with the Mavericks, Warriors, Clippers and Blazers fighting to avoid the play-in tournament. I know the Grizzlies have improved, so my prediction hinges on a couple of other teams’ stagnation.
Host of “The Starting 5” Parish Sharkey: Fighting for 5th and 6th seed. They were in that tier last year without JJJ but lost to teams like the Pistons and Magic down the stretch while not closing out games against the Nuggets and Mavs. That made the difference between 5th and 9th.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: Well, I don’t think the Clippers are in that tier but the Grizz 100% belong in the 5-6 seed tier.