But somewhere in the middle lies the truth...
The Memphis Grizzlies currently sit in ninth place in a Western Conference six-team race for seeding in the NBA Play-In Tournament — a tournament that will decide whom takes the seventh and eighth seed in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
According to Five Thirty Eight the Grizzlies have a 36% chance of making the playoffs with five games remaining on their schedule. Currently a half game behind the Golden State Warriors for eighth in the West, the Grizzlies are in a unique situation given how brutal the second half of the 2021 schedule has been to them...and they’re among the youngest teams in the NBA.
What the Grizzlies are doing right now, and even last season, is unheard of for a team with their average age. So, no matter your stance on the Grizzlies, we can all agree on the fact that this team is ahead of schedule.
Now with that being said, progression is not only for the Grizzlies players, but a young coaching staff as well. Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins is the second-youngest coach in the NBA at 36 years of age.
You might notice Jenkins getting a bit more animated during timeouts this season, along with calling more challenges. Not only that, but he’s taking up for his players more when a referee misses a call throughout a game, and has handled so many challenges in his first two seasons really well.
Jenkins is the a huge reason the Grizzlies are in the spot their in right now. The Grizzlies sit in the middle of the NBA in points per game this season, but lead the NBA in a lot of scoring sub-categories.
Figuring in the injuries and a historic second half of the schedule haven’t turned out that bad. The Grizzlies are not even supposed to be in this situation right now, based on schedule alone. Then, having injuries has been rough on every single team this season in these unprecedented times, but Jenkins has game-planned well.
With that being said, what has happened with the Grizzlies in the last week or so has to do with how Jenkins integrated his cornerstone star Jaren Jackson Jr., back into the rotation. Jackson, coming off of a surgery that saved his entire meniscus, roared back into the rotation, but coming off the bench as Jenkins wanted to manage his knee recovery.
Then, benching solid backup point guard Tyus Jones for a very rusty Justise Winslow. Trying to collect data on a player that won’t have an impact on this season isn’t necessarily an ideal move. Add in how well the bench unit had been playing with Jones at the helm, and the Grizzlies looked lost. Oh, and Jaren was running with the bench unit as well, and is obviously the best player with that unit. All of this combined led to the Grizzlies as a whole into a state of culture shock.
Listen, it happens in any job - and we all have bosses that respect, but there are some decisions that make you raise your eyebrow a bit. A roster that has tremendous respect for Jenkins didn’t know what was going on. It was just too much at one time for Jenkins and the Grizzlies. He is learning, and just like last season, he had things he needed to grow on.
The good news for Memphis is there is a sign of life with this team as the Grizzlies snapped their losing streak on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors — a game in which Jenkins inserted Jackson Jr., back into the starting five.
Returning to Normal:
As the Grizzlies return to normal rotations throughout games, just remember that this team is young, and still figuring this thing out. Memphis currently sits 16-18 this season in “clutch situations.” Under three minutes, and with the score differential at five points, Memphis is still figuring out how to close out games.
With five games remaining for the Grizzlies, look for Jenkins to setup a 10-man rotation, potentially even an 11-man rotation, as Memphis makes their push for the eighth seed in the play-in tournament.
Chemistry will be needed, and the good news for Jenkins and the Grizzlies — depth will be needed. The Grizzlies have that, and it looks like they’ll look to build on that in their final five games.
While the frustration was at an all time high, you have to be thankful that Jenkins experienced another tough situation that he can learn from, because it has always been about bigger things than this season, and that’s the truth.