Missing Ja Morant for several weeks will spell the end of the playoff hopes this season for the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Says who?” - Ja Morant in Nike commercial voice.
Of course the bears of Beale Street would have rather had their superstar point guard leading them on the floor Sunday night against the Sacramento Kings. But if there was ever a way to start off the not-so-“Ja-lly” holiday season for the Grizzlies with Morant out recovering from a sprained knee, their pillar to post beatdown of the Kings Sunday was the way to go. The bench was terrific. Players that had to step up did just that, leading Memphis past a Sacramento team that had shown real signs of life in recent games.
That was not the case on Sunday. And the Grizzlies were able to take advantage.
Some quick takeaways from a game that Memphis - both the fan base and the team - desperately needed to feel that, at least for one night, everything is going to be OK.
Desmond Bane was the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft
This may be a bit of hyperbole. But man, Desmond Bane in his sophomore season with the Memphis Grizzlies has all the makings of an elite role player for this team when they hope to contend for titles in the next couple of years. Bane took on a larger role for the Grizzlies in this game, becoming more of a facilitator with the second unit when Tyus Jones was on the bench, and maintained his increased levels of scoring with 18 points, second on the roster. He went to Summer League several months ago on a mission to grow his game and expand on the skill set that he displayed multiple times during his college career at TCU. He clearly, at least to this point, has been successful.
Starter, reserve, whatever. Desmond Bane is a tier below Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. in terms of trade value, but when you combine production with the contract value that comes with the 30th overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft? He just might be the third most valuable member of the roster at the moment.
Dillon Brooks is back to villany
The Grizzlies missed his energy while he was out due to injury. They missed his leadership, his steady hand defensively, and his ability to create shots for himself without needing others to help him create offense. 21 points on 17 shots, with only one made three, is a strangely efficient line from Brooks - he did not just rely on his outside game. He attacked the rim often and dunked multiple times off of cuts and dribble penetration. He snagged six rebounds - massive for a team that needs to find ways to replicate other things Ja Morant does well - and was a smart defender on the wing, only picking up two fouls across his 21 minutes of play.
Ja Morant is the leader of the Memphis Grizzlies. But Dillon Brooks is their spirit animal. They’re that much better for having him back...and he is probably close to the same trade value tier that Bane inhabits for Memphis. He can perhaps be had...but it’ll cost you.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes! Vital development in his game as he hopefully continues to transition to more minutes at the “5”.
- Brandon Clarke should never be out of the rotation ever again. Like, ever. 15 points on 8 shots in 16 minutes played. 6 rebounds. He is fully engaged. He has to continue to get run.
- Good Ziaire Williams things! He is getting more and more comfortable offensively. 4-5 shooting without a made three is evidence of that - he is finding his spots beyond just spotting up in the corner. Again - vital development.
- Don’t get too ahead of yourself. Sacramento was down a couple of key players - Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes are arguably two of their four best. But Memphis was of course without Ja Morant, and they were able to handle business. They need to rack up wins wherever possible with Ja out, regardless of circumstances.
The once again .500 Memphis Grizzlies are back in action Tuesday night against the Raptors in Toronto.