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Step by step with the Memphis Grizzlies

An inactive offseason isn’t fun but patience could prove to be beneficial

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The discourse regarding the Grizzlies offseason since it began earlier this month has been one of overall disappointment amongst fans on Twitter. The Grizzlies, fresh off a 56-win season that saw them finish with the 2nd-best record in the NBA before falling to the eventual NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs, return the core from last year’s team. After the season, Kleiman spoke about the Grizzlies championship aspirations and implied the Grizzlies would be more aggressive in the market, pursuing win-now moves instead of some of the asset accumulation moves they’ve done over the last few seasons.

2022 NBA Summer League - Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Grizzlies believe in their plan and how Kleiman made sure to note that they won’t make moves just for the sake of making moves. Despite this, the general consensus has been that this was a boring and unspectacular offseason by the Grizzlies who have essentially replaced De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson with 4 rookies and a 35-year-old Danny Green recovering from a torn ACL. “The Grizzlies are taking a step back” or “The Grizzlies are going to regress this season” are just two of the common themes I’ve seen regarding the Grizzlies outlook next season. By definition I suppose fans aren’t technically wrong, as it’s not likely the Grizzlies win 56 games and finish with the second-best record in the NBA. That shouldn’t be the barometer for success, however.

There are a number of factors that could cause the Grizzlies to take a slip in the standings next season, but outside of Jaren Jackson Jr.’s foot injury, most of it is out of their control. The Los Angeles Clippers figure to be right back in the championship picture with Kawhi Leonard expected to return to the Clippers lineup after missing all of last season with an ACL tear suffered in the 2021 playoffs. The Denver Nuggets also get back Jamal Murray who missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in April of 2021. Michael Porter Jr. recently suffered a setback in his return from his back injury, but getting him back in the fold after just 9 games last season would also increase the Nuggets’ championship ceiling. Golden State figures to remain in the upper echelon of contending teams in the West, while Dallas will be looking to prove last year’s Conference Finals trip was no fluke. Memphis certainly needs to keep up with these teams in order to win their first NBA Championship, but losing Melton and Anderson are not the reason the Grizzlies may not see the same standard of regular season success next season. The Grizzlies’ success ultimately comes down to the growth and health of their core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks. The Grizzlies will ultimately go as far as those 4 go.

Ja Morant has taken a leap every season since being drafted by Memphis and figures to improve upon his Most Improved campaign that saw him finish Second Team All NBA. Jaren Jackson Jr., once he returns from injury, will look to take the leap offensively that he took defensively last season. Piecing together his shooting and post presence with his All-Defensive abilities will certainly help the Grizzlies. Desmond Bane still has room to grow after a stellar sophomore campaign and can take on larger offensive responsibilities. Dillon Brooks will look to get more comfortable in his role alongside those 3, having limited time to do so last season.

A common rebuttal is that others wish the Grizzlies had done more in free agency and trades throughout the offseason. On the free agency front, there wasn’t much for the Grizzlies to do. Jalen Brunson is the best player to change teams, with all the big name players staying with their incumbent teams. Players such as Bruce Brown, Malik Monk, Otto Porter Jr. and Donte DiVincenzo are all solid but none of them really move the needle enough to swing the offseason as a success or failure. What often goes ignored is the player input as well. Fans wanted Otto Porter Jr., and Memphis may have very well been involved in trying to sign him before he ultimately signed with Toronto. Porter chose Toronto over the Warriors in part because of his fit,but also made sure to note his wife is from Toronto. It’s hard for Memphis to compete with variables like that in negotiations.

Minnesota Timberwolves Introduce Rudy Gobert Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

On the trade front, the Kevin Durant sweepstakes and subsequent Rudy Gobert trade has really mixed up the trade market. GBB Site Manager Parker Fleming recently wrote about the shifting trade market and how it impacts the Grizzlies. Put simply, there haven’t been great opportunities for the Grizzlies to make the “all in” move many would like to see (Kevin Durant aside). The Rudy Gobert trade raised the price for any real game changing targets. The Jazz getting 4 first round picks, a 2026 pick swap, 2 former first round picks and 3 very solid role players for Gobert certainly bumped the already unrealistic price tag for Kevin Durant way up.

On the surface I get why Minnesota made the move. They’ve been essentially a non-factor in the post season after their Conference Finals visit in the 2004 playoffs. With just 2 first round exits since the 2003-2004 season, Minnesota wanted to make a move that would put them in playoff contention for the foreseeable future. The core of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert will likely win plenty of regular season games over the next few seasons, but there are plenty of questions regarding the oncourt fit come playoff time. Time will tell if the Timberwolves aggressive move was worth it. It’s also worth noting that there is still plenty of time for things to get crazy again this offseason. The recent reporting of the Celtics offering Jaylen Brown for Kevin Durant could make him available if the Celtics are unable to send him to Brooklyn for Durant.

Ultimately the Grizzlies have decided that mortgaging a lot of their future assets for Rudy Gobert or Dejounte Murray wasn’t worth it in the grand scheme of things. Would either of those players be worth their asking price and help push Memphis over the top? It’s debatable, but personally I don’t think it truly does. By standing pat, the Grizzlies retain their assets and can navigate the trade landscape, as it ultimately unfolds either later this offseason or into the 2022-2023 season and beyond. There will come a time the Grizzlies need to make more aggressive moves, but I can’t blame them for not doing too much in a weak free agent class coupled with a frozen and inflated trade market.


I disagree with the notion that the Grizzlies have taken a step back this offseason. Teams around them have certainly taken steps forward whether it be via health (Clippers, Nuggets, Pelicans) or new acquisitions (Timberwolves, Blazers, Mavericks) and the Grizzlies need to be able to take the steps forward with them but not necessarily at the cost of their future. Zach Kleiman can’t be afraid to ultimately pull the trigger on a big move, but he also has to be cautious and can’t pull said trigger too early.

The Grizzlies still have an extremely bright present and future. They’re currently +1600 to win the NBA Finals despite the lack of major moves this offseason. They’ve still got a solid core, other young guys on good deals, and contracts that would be desirable in trades. Extensions for some guys may impact trade making abilities later this summer but overall the Grizzlies return the core of a 56-win team. Losing Melton and Anderson will likely hurt them some in the regular season as the rookies will take some time to develop into their roles, especially with JJJ out to start the season. However, both players had limited impact in the playoffs when the games really matter.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of the regular season, as it determines things such as seeding and who has home court etc. But as the team moves forward with a championship mindset, the goal is to put together a team good enough to win plenty of regular season games, but more importantly the goal is to put together a team good enough to win the final 16 games. Moving on from Melton and Anderson does not hurt them much in their pursuit of the final 16 wins. Until the Grizzlies make a big move it will be up to Ja, Bane, JJJ and Brooks to lead the charge in the playoffs. Considering those 4 played just 20 minutes together against Golden State, it’s fair to believe that more minutes for those 4 alongside continued improvements from Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke will help them next season.

The inactivity isn’t sexy, but the Grizzlies return the core of a team one can believe was a Morant injury away from defeating the Warriors in the second round. Another year of development and growth could prove to be more beneficial than any trade the Grizzlies could have made.

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