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The Long View: Memphis’ biggest growth opportunity of all

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Growth opportunities have been a consistent message all year long, and this series was one of them

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

“Growth opportunity” has been a phrase mentioned in media scrums all season long from Coach Taylor Jenkins. Whether it was a close loss, a rough one, or even a big win, he preached the principle of each situation being a chance to develop.

Between this series and the play-in, I don’t think you’re going to find a bigger growth opportunity than what the Memphis Grizzlies just experienced over these past 7 games. Through the play-in tournament, they learned the importance of closing tight games in crucial situations. With the Warriors game and game 1, they embodied that “road warriors” mentality and secured two massive wins in hostile environments — learning what it takes to stay composed and win big on the road.

And even with blowout losses like last night, or the closer ones from games 2-4, they can learn from it and grow. They found out what it meant to adjust for the same team in a multi-game series. They learned the importance of paying attention to every single little detail. They also got to see the West’s best Utah Jazz — a team with plenty of playoff scars from the past several seasons — and how they operate, get to their spots, and battle through receiving runs.

The growth opportunities run up and down the board here.

Ja Morant got the chance to shine bright and remind everyone that he’s one of the best young players this league has to offer.

Dillon Brooks proved himself as a big-game player that can find his spots offensively and provide gritty defense. Even then, despite the sensational defense he played this season, he still has tape from this series — specifically against Donovan Mitchell — to see where he can take another leap as a defensive stopper.

Jaren Jackson Jr. got some reps in at the 5, and what better way to learn the ropes there than playing against the best defensive center in basketball in Rudy Gobert. Jonas Valanciunas has film to see where he can grow as a pick-and-roll defender. Grayson Allen, Desmond Bane, and De’Anthony Melton got the chance to learn where they can find their spots from deep. Then there are guys like Brandon Clarke, Justise Winslow, Xavier Tillman, and John Konchar who will go into the offseason looking to work towards earning consistent minutes in these crucial moments.

The moments of maturity don’t stop at the players. Taylor Jenkins — one of the youngest coaches in the NBA — got to go toe-to-toe with his mentor, one of the league’s best coaches, Quin Snyder. Through this experience, he knows what adjustments need to be made in a playoff series, or even stylistic tweaks going forward. Zach Kleiman got the opportunity to see what this team looks like in playoff environments, how they’re stacked against a contender, and how to improve from here going forward.

What more can you ask for out of a young team? Better than putting false hope in ping pong balls, right?

Win or lose, the NBA Playoffs are going to be a growing opportunity that will stick with them. These are playoff scars. They will fight to build off this.

It’s only up from here, and the message was clear in postgame: they will be back.

That’s not a prediction. That’s a spoiler.

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