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What are the best and worst case scenarios for the Memphis Grizzlies this season?

What are some possible scenarios for the Grizzlies? And where should they fall in the Wild, Wild Western Conference?

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2022-23 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Roster Additions: Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, and Kennedy Chandler (draft); Danny Green (trade); Kenneth Lofton Jr. and Vince Williams (two-way contracts, undrafted and 48th pick)

Roster Losses: De’Anthony Melton (via trade), Kyle Anderson (free agency), Jarrett Culver (free agency), Yves Pons and Tyrell Terry (two-way contracts, free agency)

Last season’s team record: 56-26

Last season’s conference ranking: 2nd

Last season’s offensive and defensive rating: 115.5 (5th); 109.9 (4th)

Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies took the NBA by storm as the surprise team of the league. After a slow 9-10 start, they surged their way to a 56-26 record — ranking 2nd in the league with a comfortable 3 game lead over the 3rd-best team.

Going into this season, the Grizzlies’ expectations are all over the place. There are few that have said they could potentially be the best team in the West, others think last season was a fluke and they’re destined for the play-in, and then there are some in the middle that consider them a solid playoff team.

To continue their success, they’ll have to get through the buzzsaw of the Western Conference — a group that’s reloaded through blockbuster trades and star, some cases superstar, returns.

With saying that, what are some realistic outcomes this season? What must they do to reach NBA immortality and win a title? What would go wrong for the naysayers to be correct?

2022 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

What’s the ‘Best Case’ scenario for your team this season?

For the first time since the 2014-2015 season, the preseason ‘best case’ scenario for the Memphis Grizzlies is winning an NBA championship. That ceiling was determined after their breakout last season, and despite the offseason turnover, they still have the pieces to win a title. As said from local/national radio host Chris Vernon, the Grizzlies are returning 8 of their 9 best players by net rating. The losses of De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson will be felt, but given the developmental success in Memphis, who’s to say the “next man up” won’t emerge.

The Grizzlies got the infrastructure for success in the modern NBA: the superstar engine, the elite shooter/co-star, the elite modern-big defender, a perimeter defensive stopper, and a plethora of good pieces (Steven Adams, Brandon Clarke, Ziaire Williams) the Coach of the Year runner-up can strategically use in different matchups. The Grizzlies were the ones to not catch a break last season, after never getting their full starting lineup for the whole Warriors series — and losing their superstar point guard for the last 3 games. With the right breaks — like any title team — the young Grizzlies could be the ones hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy.

What’s the ‘Worst Case’ scenario for your team this season?

Obviously, besides injury, it’d be developmental stagnation that drops them to the play-in tournament. What would this involve? Jaren Jackson Jr. had a rough offensive season from an efficiency standpoint, and not fixing it could be costly to the team’s ceiling. Dillon Brooks not dialing it back with his erratic shot selection could do so in too. Ziaire Williams and John Konchar not making the expected leaps could make the losses of Anderson and Melton more impactful. Then, the Grizzlies’ trend of “day 1 rookies impacting winning basketball” having an off year would hurt the team’s depth.

If they fall to the play-in tournament, it’d likely make the 2023 offseason the most defining period for the future of this iteration — and it’d be the first disappointing season of the “GrzNxtGen” era.

Orlando Magic v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

What’s the ‘Most Likely’ scenario for your team this season?

Could you teleport me to the future to when I know Jaren Jackson Jr. is coming back? If he’s back by Thanksgiving — which seems to be likely given tealeaves from the team’s comments — then they should be a top-4 seed. Morant, Bane, Jackson, and Brooks were a devastatingly great two-way quartet (+21.4 net rating per Cleaning the Glass), and their strengths help the Grizzlies destroy teams.

If it’s closer to Christmas like everyone on the outside expects, then they’ll fall closer to the play-in range, but they’d finish a few games ahead of it as a 5th or 6th seed. It’s tough to trust them to hold it up as a top-3/4 seed while relying on unproven talent to fill in Jackson’s spot — especially given his transcendent defensive impact.

What are you most excited for going into this season?

The most obvious answer is the spectacular magic of Ja Morant. There has not been a talent like him in Memphis; the flair and swagger he plays with can make the Forum poppin’ Tuesday night against a lottery team in January.

But let’s use something else — I’m excited to see the further development of other complementary players. Ziaire Williams pops to mind here, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops as a 3&D+ wing off the bench. Santi Aldama’s preseason breakout could lead to fun moments for him as well. The coaching staff has fostered a system that bodes well for player development, which leaves a more optimistic view of if a player can hit closer to their ceiling than their floor.

2022-23 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Predict your team’s win/loss record for the season.

Again, I just want to know when Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to be back. That’d be great. Alas, let’s roll with 52-30 if he’s back by Thanksgiving. If not, 47-35.

A 4-game slip shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment in the eyes of the fanbase or analysts, given the strength of the NBA as a whole right now. In the case of this projected record, any sort of disappointment would be regression in the eye test.

Predict your team’s conference seeding.

Instead of using my prior excuse, I’m going to roll with the 4th seed. Memphis is often pegged as the team due for a big regression, but the Grizzlies’ continuity and ~immaculate vibes~ should bode well for this team. There will be teams competing with them for playoff — not play-in — positioning, as the young New Orleans Pelicans and revamped Minnesota Timberwolves are teams hyped up to do so. However, the Grizzlies have surpassed expectations each other, so I’m not going to underestimate them as vastly like most people.

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