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Biggest surprises and impressions of 2022

The Memphis Grizzlies took a massive leap in 2022, and with rises like that, surprises and impressions are made along the way

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2022 NBA Playoffs - Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies caught the NBA world by storm in 2022 en route to a 56-26 record, while taking the eventual champs to 6 games in the conference semifinals. What they accomplished as one of the youngest teams in basketball was unreal, and it’s become a foundation for sustainable success going forward.

With a year like this one, many impressions and surprises are made. Brandon Abraham (@bcabraham), Shawn Coleman (@StatsSAC), Brendan Smart (@bsmart21), and Xavier Dotson (@ZayTimeTakes) join me to discuss what surprised and impressed us in 2022.

A continued roundtable — find our favorite Grizz moments of 2022 here.

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

Which player impressed the most?

Fleming: Desmond Bane has to take the cake for me. Yes, Ja Morant’s performance was unlike anything we’ve seen in franchise history. However, the emergence of Desmond Bane changed the trajectory for the Grizzlies. They found their cornerstone on the wing, a top-tier 3-point shooter, and another rising star in the backcourt. The shooting was always there, but his growth as a live-dribble creator was incredibly impressive.

Abraham: Ja Morant is the easy answer, but it’s the one I’m going with. He’s been better than advertised and has grown into the guy for the Grizzlies. Jaren Jackson Jr.’s growth offensively this season, and his defensive 2022 overall, has been great. Desmond Bane’s leap in 2022 makes him a legitimate and very good #2 options alongside Ja. The Grizzlies will go as far as Ja Morant takes them, though, and he’s shown the capabilities to wow and surprise everyone even more than he already has.

Coleman: Jaren Jackson Jr. From his historic January to begin the year, to being arguably the league’s most impactful defender this season — Jaren has been a force defensively. This has not allowed for JJJ, but the Grizz as well, to take the next step foward.

Dotson: Desmond Bane, of course. I never imagined Bane becoming a 3-level scorer and a perfect backcourt partner to Ja Morant. However, Bane has continued to grow offensively and defensively for the team and has become significantly valuable for the Grizzlies’ long-term success.

Smart: The easy answer would be Ja Morant. He’s improved his game in all areas year after year, and a lot of it gets hidden in the new Superstardom of expectation.

With that being said, I’ve been impressed with the Grizzlies new core group. Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane have etched themselves in Memphis for many more years to come. Starting with Jackson’s progression on both ends of the floor, but mainly defensively.

He’s become a blocking monster on defense, and is now in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year, deservedly so. Don’t let the last few games fool you, Jaren has improved on his fouling issues early in games. The last few games have been tough, but the Block Panther will be okay.

Flipping over to Desmond Bane, his progression on the offensive end of the floor aside from his shooting has been sensational. Being that secondary ball handler on the floor with Ja raised the Grizzlies ceiling without question. His ability to finish at the rim and create off the dribble has been huge this last year for Memphis.

3) What surprised you the most in 2022?

Fleming: I’m going to say Steven Adams. My expectations upon his arrival here were modest, but his slide in New Orleans was interesting. He’s become a glue for the Memphis Grizzlies with his screen-setting, playmaking, and his brute force on the glass. He’s been pivotal for the growth of the Grizzlies backcourt, and for preserving Jaren Jackson Jr. His play has been a pleasant surprise for Memphis, and he was rewarded with an extension — something unexpected when he joined the Grizzlies.

Abraham: The Grizzlies draft night strategy surprised me the most in 2022. I thought there was no way they would make selections with their original picks in the draft, let alone trade in and add an additional first. The Grizzlies banked on their development to ease the losses of De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson instead of making a move for a (healthy) veteran this past offseason. While it has been a mixed bag so far this season, Aldama has filled in nicely in Kyle’s role and Konchar (or Danny Green) figure to at least be solid backup two guards in a playoff rotation.

Coleman: Bane and Ja’s offensive potential. Not only Bane’s three scoring ability, but the fact that the duo is arguably a top five offensive duo in the game. This is a championship backcourt, and one that thrives against the tougher competition or bigger stage.

Dotson: The amount of discipline that this young team has. Many times this year, our stars and role players were injured or in and out of rotation, yet they would still find a way to win games. I credit Taylor Jenkins for having his players respect him and buy into his strategies. But, again, this team is still extremely young, and their success and chemistry are rare and significant accomplishments.

Smart: Making it to the second round, and (almost) knocking off the dynasty Golden State Warriors was fun. Now, this Grizzlies core group is in a unique situation that they’ve never been in — expecting to do it again, but finish the job. From an organization standpoint, player standpoint, and fan standpoint... This season feels different. You just never know how quick expectations can change. This expectation is for a dynasty in Memphis for years to come. Yes, Klay, a dynasty.

What impressed and surprised you about the Grizzlies this year? Give your take below.

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