The Memphis Grizzlies set NBA history this past week. First off, they smashed the NBA record for biggest margin of victory at 73 points, as well as numerous franchise single-game marks. After the win against Dallas, they accomplished a spectacular milestone, as they became the 1st team since 1995 to have 4 consecutive wire-to-wire wins.
It’s truly impressive to see them do this without Ja Morant, but also rotation players like Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, and Ziaire Williams. They’ve really embodied the “next man up” mentality, something that’s stuck with them the past 3 seasons, to surge through this past week.
Now, we’re looking to see how the Grizzlies can build on this consistently — defensive rotations, offensive production, tenacity and engagement. But first, I want to ask our Site Manager Joe Mullinax a few questions about this recent stretch of play.
1) What’s been your biggest takeaway from these past 4 games?
Taylor Jenkins is a good basketball coach. He’s doing some of his best work having to reorganize scheme, especially offensively, on the fly. So much of the offense goes through Ja that the fact that they have found ways to redistribute that scoring throughout the roster in such short order is truly impressive. Defensively, behind the efforts of Jaren Jackson Jr. the team is improving and finding their spots in rotations better while still creating those deflections and “stocks” they value so much.
Jenkins isn’t perfect. But the overall work of developing this roster is on full display during this run without Ja.
2) Who has really caught your eye during this stretch?
Jaren Jackson Jr., and specifically creating off the dribble for himself. This is the level of production I had been waiting to see return from his pre-injury play in the Bubble. He continues to be a threat as a volume shooter and a rim protector, and his rebounding improvements are noticeable. But the Grizzlies offense becomes so much more deadly when Jackson Jr. can get get to the rim from the perimeter with the ball in his possession. He’s quite literally unguardable if that sticks around.
3) Desmond Bane is getting a lot of talk as an underrated player and MIP candidate. Where do you stand on those fronts?
If you read GBB regularly you know I love Desmond Bane and always have. His growth wasn’t unforeseen by me - his ability to create off the dribble was vastly under-appreciated by many coming out of TCU, and his commitment to growing his game shouldn’t be a surprise either. That being said, he won’t be a MIP candidate. Ja Morant, Tyler Herro, Anthony Edwards…those types of performers are the peak of that pecking order. But what Desmond has done is made it clear that he belongs on this Grizzlies team for many years to come. If/when “the trade” for a third star comes, it almost certainly won’t involve Bane. He’s too valuable.
4) Is this stretch showing how valuable Tyus Jones is as their backup point guard?
Yes and no. It’s showing his value in terms of how good he is at basketball - that’s never been in question, at least when it comes to his elite assist to turnover ratio. Is that worth being re-signed by the Grizzlies? Not if it means him being paid roughly what Grayson Allen got paid by the Bucks, which may be fair market value for Tyus. With Morant in the fold you shouldn’t pay $10 million to a player that shouldn’t play next to Ja for long and should only get 12 or so minutes per game.
It’s similar to the Grayson and Jonas Valanciunas circumstances - with Bane and De’Anthony Melton displaying their abilities with the ball in their hands, once Ja is healthy I’d explore Tyus trade destinations. The Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks could use an offensive facilitator that doesn’t need to score to be effective, for example.
5) O/U on Ja Morant’s return at December 11th (this Saturday, 2 weeks after diagnosis)?
Oh I’m taking the over. I wouldn’t expect to see Ja again until the end of the month - maybe around December 29th and the Lakers. There’s no need to rush him back, and while he may return prior to my date of the 29th to be back December 11th seems rushed. Knees are different than ankles to return from in terms of the severity of potential re-injury. That should not be toyed with, and the main positive of their performance without Ja so far is that it bought them valuable wins - and time - for Morant to return when he’s 100% ready.
It’s a big week this week, as the Memphis Grizzlies have a game tonight then a 4-game home-stand. Let’s see how they build on this.