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GBB Roundtable: Grizzlies players preview and questions

We look at the many dynamics going on with the different players on the Grizzlies this season

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Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies have a lot to build on, as the 2nd-youngest team in the NBA and as one of the league’s contenders. There are very cool dynamics to monitor throughout the regular season.

What better way to highlight those than through a roundtable?

Shawn Coleman (@StatsSAC), Andrew Katz (@AndrewEKatz), EdMemphis (@EdMemphisPimpin), and Francis Carlota (@SluggaSports) join me to preview the different player storylines to follow this season.

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

What’s more likely to happen: Ja Morant wins MVP, or Desmond Bane joins Ja on the All-Star team

Parker Fleming, GBB Site Manager: I’m going to roll with Ja Morant winning MVP. Desmond Bane could very well be an All-Star, but it’s so tricky picking 12 All-Stars in a loaded Western Conference. If it was 15 spots, I’d lean the other way. With Jaren Jackson’s injury, and with Ja Morant usually starting strong, the superstar guard could become an early-season favorite for MVP — especially if the Grizzlies surge at the beginning of the season.

Shawn Coleman, GBB Associate Editor: I think there is a higher chance that Desmond Bane joins Ja Morant on the All-Star team. The Grizzlies now are expected to be among the NBA’s best teams, so if that occurs, more attention will likely be given to the success of many members of the team. If Bane builds off last season’s success, he could join Morant in the All-Star game.

Andrew Katz, GBB Senior Staff Writer: If I had to choose, I would say Bane makes his first All-Star team this year. With Morant’s style of play, it is unlikely he will play the necessary number of games to be in the MVP conversation. Bane took a massive leap last year and from what he has shown in the preseason thus far, I would not be surprised if he takes another step. Bane showcased his three-point shooting last season, but he has developed his offensive ability to be more than just a deadeye. Look for Bane to be a surprise All-Star candidate in 2023.

EdMemphis, GBB Staff Writer: Great question. My answer may take more time for many to grasp. That said, I believe the NBA is quicker to give a significantly improved Desmond Bane an All Star nod, before they’re ready to crown Ja the new King of the league with an MVP award.

Francis Carlota, GBB Staff Writer: Last season, Ja Morant finished 7th in MVP voting. But there’s a legit argument for Ja finishing top 5 had he not gotten hurt. The answer is Desmond Bane making his first All-Star team. The man born in the dark should see a bump in usage and the greenest of green lights leading to better stats across the board. This could be the year we see two Grizzlies in the All-Star Game.

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Whose development are you most excited to monitor this season

Fleming: Ziaire Williams. He flashed some really good stuff as a playmaker and live-dribble threat during the Summer League. He seemed to have found his touch from 3, and he showed that as well in the last half of his rookie season. Given those offensive flashes and his early defensive chops, he could become a fascinating piece in the Grizzlies’ puzzle.

Coleman: The development of Ziaire Williams is the most important to the team this season. Though it is likely a bit of a stretch to expect a Desmond Bane-type leap in his production, the key for Williams is consistency. If he can improve the efficiency in his scoring while also providing more value in other areas of his game, both he and the Grizzlies will benefit significantly.

Katz: Santi Aldama has shined in the preseason, and I am enthralled by his potential. With Jaren Jackson Jr. out for the beginning of the season, the opportunity is there for Aldama to seize. If he improves his defense and becomes a consistent three-point shooter, the Spaniard could be the reason Memphis is in the title conversation.

EdMemphis: Santi Aldama reminds me so much of when Pau Gasol first arrived. He even resembles Paul’s fluidity, core production of his game, and his surprisingly consistent high volume. David Roddy is the other player of my intrigue.

Carlota: Danny Green. No, I’m kidding. Kennedy Chandler is my pick. There are only three point guards on the roster: Ja Morant, Tyus Jones, and Kennedy Chandler. If Ja were to miss time this season, that leaves the latter two as the only point guards. We know how good and reliable Tyus Jones is, but Kennedy Chandler has a real chance to make an impact this season.

Who’s under the most pressure this season

Fleming: Dillon Brooks has to be the guy here. His dynamic with the Grizzlies is really confounding. His bold shot selection dominates the narrative, but the Grizzlies are always better with him on the floor (leader in on/off differential the past 2 years) — and there’s the other wrinkle where they went 33-17 (66 winning percentage, 54-win pace) in his 50 games missed last season. This season, Brooks’ willingness to defer will be on a spotlight. If he continues impacting winning with his tenacious defense, while dialing it back on his shot selection, his 2023 unrestricted free agency becomes so interesting.

Coleman: Dillon Brooks logically has multiple reasons to put together one heck of a season. In the final year of his current contract, Brooks not only wants to have a significant pay day on his next contract, but also wants to prove he clearly should be apart of the Grizzlies future. More consistency on offense and remaining healthy are two areas where Brooks can find this success.

Katz: The obvious answer is Dillon Brooks, but I want to zag. With his most recent injury, Jackson has officially earned his reputation as injury prone. Last year, Jackson played 78 games, the most of any Grizzly. It seemed he had turned a corner, but Jackson’s offseason surgery has him out for at least the first month of the season. If Jackson is to prove doubters wrong when he returns, he will need to stay on the court, and that goes beyond health. He had the second-most fouls in the league last season, and during the playoffs he was constantly in foul trouble. If Jackson returns to being one of the league’s best rim protectors, while staying out of trouble, the Grizzlies title odds will soar.

EdMemphis: Ja Morant, especially with Jaren out. Folks will be watching to see can he lead a winning team without his defensive wizard.

Carlota: Let’s not over-complicate this: Ja Morant. Memphis’s current and future championship dreams will lay on his shoulders until the day he isn’t a Grizzly, which is hopefully when he retires. Yes, Memphis won games without him last year. But the 2nd Team All-NBA player enters this season with immense hype. The pressure is on him to stay at that level and even improve in his 4th season.

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

Which rookie will make the most of their minutes this season?

Fleming: Jake LaRavia, but it’s a narrow margin. He and David Roddy didn’t totally generate enough separation to run away with the (temporary) backup 4 spot during preseason. LaRavia gets the edge here, because of his defensive activity. His ability to generate turnovers and to perform in the team defense construction should net him early playing time. Whenever the shot comes around too, it’s going to be tough to keep him out of any rotation.

Coleman: Though I feel Jake LaRavia has the higher ceiling, David Roddy may be a more consistent immediate contributor. The main reason is the confidence Roddy displays in his offensive game, as his aggressiveness was clear when he had his chances during the preseason. In time, LaRavia will likely start to offer plenty of value once he settles into his role. Though Roddy’s role may be small, he likely will offer some good offensive production off the bench.

Katz: Maybe it is because I have written about him a lot over the offseason, but I think David Roddy is the most likely to stand out. Roddy’s minutes could be inconsistent with Memphis’s logjam at forward, but if he is given the opportunity, he will earn his spot in the rotation. Whether he is hitting corner threes or displaying his playmaking ability, Roddy will be impactful for Memphis in 2022.

EdMemphis: David Roddy, as he has always been a stat-stuffer, and he brings a physical element to the wing.

Carlota: Jake LaRavia. Am I biased because I did my player preview on him? Maybe, but he has all the tools to be an efficient contributor on both ends of the floor. As long as he plays with confidence, he’ll make a positive impact.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

What is your “hottest take you actually believe in” regarding any Grizzlies’ player this season?

Fleming: Jaren Jackson Jr. starts churning out All-NBA production in 2023. I’m not saying he will be on an All-NBA team, but his production could equate to an All-NBA level. Last season, he was damn near an All-Star replacement with his defense alone — and with subpar offensive efficiency. If his offense rises closer to his pre-injury level, and couples with his elite defense, Jackson is an All-NBA caliber big man.

Coleman: If the Grizzlies can have a great start to the season defensively, Dillon Brooks can put together a valid resume for All-NBA Defensive team honors. Even when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns, if the Grizzlies emerge as one of the best teams in the league defending the three, Brooks will continue to show his value as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. If he can add a few more blocks and steals to his production, he can build a solid case for All-Defensive honors.

Katz: If he plays enough, Brandon Clarke will average a double-double. Last year, Clarke shook off his sophomore slump and returned to the electric alley-oop threat Grizzlies fans had come to know. Clarke shined in the playoffs last year, coming up big time and time again against Minnesota. A double-double may seem far-fetched for a bench player but last season Clarke averaged 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds, per 36 minutes. If Clarke plays like he did in the Timberwolves series last year, he could earn enough playing time to average a double-double.

EdMemphis: Santi Aldama will force his way into the starting lineup permanently, in similar vein to how Pau did when Memphis originally favored Stromile Swift and the late Lorenzen Wright. Ironically, Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Aldama are also a very similar trio to the former.

Carlota: Jaren Jackson Jr. will shoot at or above 38% from 3 and average at or above 7 rebounds per game. I believe in Trip. He’s taken massive strides defensively and is a real DPOY candidate. But Jaren’s shooting and rebounding have stagnated. This season, I actually believe they’ll improve.

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