Honestly, I’d be pretty satisfied if you told me at the beginning of the season that the Memphis Grizzlies would be thrashed with injuries — including no Jaren Jackson Jr., only 2 games of Justise Winslow, and 7 games without Ja Morant — and with COVID, and they’d still be at .500.
I still am, but the timeline hasn’t been pretty since the conclusion of the 7-game winning streak. People think the front office is sabotaging the season partly because they rested a few players after having 4 games in 5 nights. They’re questioning Coach Taylor Jenkins’ rotations...when he’s adamant about a 10-man rotation, even with 10 players. It’s “data accumulation” season after all!
It seems like the most insufferable timeline for a team that’s in the thick of a playoff race in year 2 of a rebuild, but here we are. Let’s talk about these “concerns” with a roundtable, featuring myself (@PAKA_FLOCKA), Justin Lewis (@J_Timberfake_), Jordan Peterson (@JordanP_901), Ben Hogan (@NotTheGolfer), and Jesse Cinquini (@CinquiniJesse).
Ja Morant is in the middle of a harsh shooting season. How concerned are you about his shooting on a scale of 1-10?
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: Probably about a 4. He’ll snap out of this slump in particular, as there will be a progression to the mean that my “Core 4” co-host, Nathan Chester, mentioned in his recent column. I have it higher than a 1-3, because I saw what teams were doing to him in the bubble, and I’m hoping it’s not a sign of things to come in high-stakes games. However, I'm buying his relentless improvement mentality to make him more of a threat from downtown.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: 3. He’s a second year player tasked with running an entire team. While his shot not falling is a concern, it’s not unexpected. He’s a fighter and worker. He will figure it out.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: My concern is a 1. Where a fan sets his or her expectations dictates whether concern is warranted. I am not concerned long-term about Ja Morant. Not one iota. Not a smidge. It’s frustrating when his struggles align with losses, but he is a mere mortal with incredible resilience.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Ben Hogan: 6. I’m more concerned for the near future than I am the long term. Ja’s shooting percentage has dropped from 48% last year to 46% this year. But, his shooting percentage inside the 3-point line has actually improved. The problem is that his 3-point shooting has dropped from 34% to 21%. Ja is a slasher and does most of his work near the rim, and teams know that and have adjusted. The stat that sticks out the most to me is that according to NBA.com, about 70% of the threes Ja has shot have been where the closest defender is at least six feet away. That shows that defenses are giving him that shot. The reason I’m not panicking more than a 6 is because Ja doesn’t rely on his jumpshot, and is still getting his points.
GBB Staff Writer Jesse Cinquini: I’m at a four. Ja Morant is the league’s worst three-point shooter this season when factoring in both percentage (20.6%) and volume (3.3 attempts per game). But as GBBer Nathan Chester highlighted in his recent piece on the audacious point guard, the law of averages is bound to catch up to a percentage that has nowhere to go but up.
Should we really be concerned about Justise Winslow after 2 games? If so, why? Or if not, what sticks out?
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: I’m not concerned at all. Though the offense hasn’t been good, I’m really enjoying his defensive activity. Since Tony Allen, the team has needed a perimeter stopper that can slow the opposing team’s go-to guys, and Winslow looks like the part. He looks healthy, just rusty, and he’ll round his game to be an impactful player for the Grizzlies’ present and future success.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: Absolutely not. He’s played two games with some tenacious defense and ended the night healthy. His health is of utmost concern. The rest will come back to him with time.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: With a hope-for-the-best-but-expect-the-worst fan base, it is hard not to brace for dashed expectations. But I budgeted for Winslow rust in my expectations. I’m not concerned right now. We are experimenting. Sometimes it feels like dress rehearsal, but I appreciate that he’s mentally ready to contribute.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Ben Hogan: No. It’s only two games. Sure, his shot looks rough as he has had his fair share of airballs. The thing is though, he looks healthy when he runs and jumps. That’s huge. He’s played some really good defense in the first two games as well. And that was against guys like Devin Booker and Luka Doncic, which are not easy assignments. His jump shot may be a work in progress right now, but it seems like everything else is on schedule. The shot will come around.
GBB Staff Writer Jesse Cinquini: Not at all. Winslow spent nearly a year without stepping foot on an NBA court. It was all but a guarantee that he would showcase some rust. If these 1-for-10 and 3-for-14 showings persist for weeks, then there’s a reason for concern. But two games is far too minuscule a sample size to panic.
On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you about Jaren Jackson Jr. not making his return yet?
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: 0. We’re seeing what happens when a big man is rushed back to injury with Kristaps Porzingis (who suffered the same injury). He looks a step slower, he’s a big factor in his team’s defensive regression, and they’re apparently taking calls for him. Sure, I understand the frustration, but I’d take what’s happening in Memphis over the alternate realities.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: 0. It’s not their window, and...well...look at the Kristaps Porzingis nightmare. I’d rather be patient with him than risk his future.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: Concerned wouldn’t be the word. I am eager, but I trust the folks assessing risk tolerance better than my own eagerness to see him play. Short gains risking long-term peril isn’t palatable to me, so I’ll harness my patience.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Ben Hogan: 1. Did I think that Jaren would have returned by now? Yes. Am I concerned? Nope. I want a completely healthy Jaren when he returns, and not have to worry about him being reinjured when he does return. Also, I’m going to put my trust in this front office once again. They haven’t really done anything wrong for me to question how the Jaren injury recovery is being handled. But, as I have said before, a little more transparency about it would be nice. If Jaren hasn’t returned a month from now, then I might be a tad more worried.
GBB Staff Writer Jesse Cinquini: Three. A torn meniscus is one of the more severe injuries in basketball. Yes, most players with Jackson Jr’s injury haven’t sat out this long to recuperate. But Jaren isn’t most players. He’s chock-full of superstar potential, and the Grizzlies don’t want to risk him possibly reinjuring the meniscus to win a few more games in the here and now.
Once the Grizzlies team is healthy, who are you most concerned about falling out of the rotation?
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: Xavier Tillman will likely be a casualty from the rotation, but I’m most concerned about Desmond Bane falling out of the rotation. There’s not much separation between him, Grayson Allen, and De’Anthony Melton, and I’m afraid that his lack of experience will make him the odd man out. His development is the most crucial out of the 4 shooting guards, as he has the best chance of sticking around for the next great Grizzlies team.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Justin Lewis: It has to be Xavier Tillman right? There’s no fathomable scenario that Dillon, Grayson, or Melton fall out completely, but Tillman plays in a crowded front court when you consider Anderson is best as a 4 for this team.
GBB Staff Writer Jordan Peterson: With Kyle’s elevated versatility, I think he is an asset on any lineup. I don’t want to see Melton lose steam. He’s shooting 10% better from three then last season so far, and I think the league is already showing us just how important those offensive weapons are.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Ben Hogan: De’Anthony Melton. Once the Grizzlies have a healthy roster it just becomes a numbers game. We have already seen it, as the Grizzlies do have a glut of options on the wing. Melton can play the 1 or 2, and Tyus is already the backup to Ja and I think that Justise may also get some minutes as the primary ball handler as well. Then you have DB, Grayson, and Bane. It just feels like Melton will be the odd man out unless he somehow forces Coach Taylor Jenkins to play him. Hopefully Coach Jenkins rolls with the hot hand out of those guys, but we have seen that he has a preference for playing Dillon and Grayson.
GBB Staff Writer Jesse Cinquini: John Konchar’s current status as a fringe rotation player is in jeopardy of evaporating once the Grizzlies are at full strength. He’s a high IQ player who can do a bit of everything on the floor. Although Konchar has not found the range from deep with consistency this season (26.7%). Three-point shooting has long been his swing skill. Showcasing no improvement in this area, it’s difficult to picture Konchar as a rotation staple in the future.
Thank to these writers for tuning into this roundtable. Leave your thoughts below on these questions, and follow them on Twitter!