I recently took questions on Twitter to run a mailbag roundtable. Thank you to those that asked us questions. We’ll split this into 2 parts, and we’ll start with this one around the team’s expectations, surprise player candidates, and disappointing outcomes.
For this roundtable, Parker Fleming, Brandon Abraham, Ben Hogan, and Tev Shakir join me in answering your questions.
Most likely to surprise us this season with a bigger contribution than expected, Konchar, Aldama, someone else?— Daniel Stephenson (@DanielStephen25) August 8, 2022
Bryson Wright, GBB Senior Staff Writer: I think that John Konchar could surprise a lot of people this season. He’s been getting better every season and with De’Anthony Melton getting traded this off-season he will be asked to play a much larger role. As long as Konchar can hold his own on defense and make his catch and shoot looks I think he could be the most important bench player next season.
Brandon Abraham, GBB Associate Editor: I believe Santi Aldama might be a surprise story this season. With Jaren Jackson Jr. to begin the season, he’ll likely have every opportunity to earn a rotation spot at least until JJJ returns. Aldama struggled at first in Summer League, but wrapped it up with a string of strong performances that helped him make the Second Team in Vegas. If he’s given a consistent role and minutes, I think fans will be surprised at his impact.
Ben Hogan, GBB Staff Writer: Tyus Jones. I know he already contributes a lot to the team, especially when Ja is out. But I do think Coach Jenkins may rely on him a bit more this season, even with Ja healthy. With such a young team, if things start going downhill, Tyus is someone he can rely on running with both the first and second teams, so I think he will be leaned on heavily to provide stability.
Tev Shakir, Co-Host of “The Starting 5” Podcast: Steven Adams will continue to surprise fans as a playmaker for the Grizz. As crazy as that sounds, Steven Adams averaged his career-high in assists last season. I consider Adams to be the best passer on the team, of the players that aren’t point guards. With more shooting coming in this season, I expect his assists to go up more. We have to find a better way to make Adams effective on offensive. This will be how.
Parker Fleming, GBB Site Manager: Santi Aldama may end up being the guy that fills in for Jaren Jackson Jr., given the possibility he misses time at the beginning of the season. Aldama has a size advantage over others competing for this spot, which benefits him on the rebounds and with rim protection. He has the fluidity to attack closeouts and ether finish at the rim or make the extra pass. It all boils down to the 3-point shot. He looked like a fringe NBA player last year, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him take a leap to look like a NBA-caliber rotation player — which would be a success, with the context of his projections from draft night and his rookie season.
What should the main measurement for success be when assessing Ziaire’s upcoming sophomore year? (FYI for me it’s volume and consistency in pull ups from the midrange)— Chris Rose (@crose1998) August 8, 2022
Bryson: His measure of success should be a significant jump in scoring from last season and an increased number of shots from the mid range. In Summer league, Ziaire was asked to play on the ball more than ever before and I think we will see the benefits of that this season. I’d also like to see him but into the role as the true 6th man who can come in and get you 13-14 points a game.
Brandon: I think the overall measurement of success with Ziaire should be consistency more than anything. I think expecting a Desmond type leap from him would be unfair, but stringing together a more consistent 82 game season with a larger role would be a great sign for his development. He struggled initially last year before playing well down the stretch and in the playoffs. Ultimately you just want to see him build off of that. He doesn’t have to average 18 points per game for him or the Grizzlies to be succesful.
Ben: Eye test first, numbers second. Ziaire made some decent strides in his rookie season and looked a lot more comfortable as the season went on, but there were times it seemed as if the game was moving too fast for him. I want to see him make better decisions, and just move on after a mistake instead of compounding them or trying to make up for one.
Tev: Respectfully, the Ziaire Williams-Rudy Gay comparisons are pretty spot on. Rudy averaged 10 points per game his rookie season then exploded to 20 ppg the next. Ziaire averaged 8 as a rookie last season, and while I don’t believe his PPG to make that kind of jump, I expect to see a more confident basketball player. Confidence is key! With more opportunities and minutes, I expect Williams to avg around 12-14 points a game.
Parker: Ziaire Williams will take a leap this year, and it’d be unfair to measure the leap by scoring average — although it seems fairly plausible for him to crack double-digits in this category this season. There are a plethora of scoring weapons on this team that command shot attempts. Offensively, it’d be nice for him to find consistency from 3-point range by cracking league-average efficiency there, while also alleviating playmaking responsibility from Tyus Jones. Defensively, he showed a lot of promise as a defensive stopper, so it’s going to be interesting to build upon that.
I got one— Cifer (@CiferVA) August 8, 2022
What would you say would be the either the over/under for the grizzlies or what would be considered a disappointment?
Bryson: The Grizzlies have taken a step forward every year since Ja Morant was drafted in 2019, so I think falling into the play in game or losing in the first round would be a disappointment. With a young team, you always want to see development from one season to the next so taking a step back would be disappointing. Playoff success is the most important thing now that the Grizzlies are moving from a rebuilding team to a contending team, so in terms of seeding, it doesn’t matter whether or not the Grizzlies get the two seed again. As long as they are hitting their stride going into the playoffs they should take another step towards their ultimate goal of winning a championship.
Brandon: I would consider the season a disappointment if the Grizzlies find themselves back in the Play-In Tournament, particularly if they falter in that and miss the playoffs. The Clippers and Nuggets should be better than they were last year, so 56 wins, and the 2-seed is probably asking for much, but falling down to the 7-10 range would be quite disappointing.
Ben: Falling down the standings in the West to the play-in games. There will be some growing pains with the youth on this team, as well as adjusting without Jaren Jackson. But, Ja is a superstar and there is plenty of talent on the team to keep the Grizzlies afloat until Trip comes back.
Tev: This upcoming season would be a disappointment if we are watching the NBA Playoffs without the Memphis Grizzlies. Losing Melton and Anderson will hurt the Grizz more than we think. Also, Jaren missing the first few months of the season doesn’t help either and we can’t expect Ja to play all 82 games. There are many question marks with this young team but they’ve always managed to overcome and win.
Parker: Falling into the play-in game would be a disappointment. Growth isn’t linear, but this team proved themselves to be an elite squad last season. Finding themselves in a do-or-die situation through the play-in signifies a step-back, which may force the Grizzlies to be more aggressive in the 2023 offseason.
What's your expectations for the new season?— Alex| Lil Nas X cousin (@AlexNda09) August 8, 2022
Bryson: My expectation is for the Grizzlies to stay in the 3-5 range in the standings and make a deep playoff run this year, whether that is to the WCF or beyond. It will be tough at the beginning of the season with Jaren possibly missing time and a lot of new rookies who will be asked to contribute. However, as long Morant, Bane, Jackson, and Brooks stay healthy and we see some solid development from Ziaire Williams heading into the postseason, the sky is the limit.
Brandon: My overall expectation for the Grizzlies this season is to finish somewhere in the 4-6 seed range in the Western Conference. It will be tougher next season, and the Grizzlies will have to start the season without Jaren Jackson Jr. Regular season success isn’t the barometer as much, though, as the squad should prioritize being healthy for the playoffs. I think they’ll be able to survive the non-JJJ games to start the season and make the playoffs. I think expecting them to make the second round again is fair on the fans side of things, but personally I wouldn’t lose too much sleep if they lost a close first round matchup depending on the opponent.
Ben: The Jaren injury was a big blow to my expectations this upcoming season. Two months ago, I probably would have said WCF. Now, I can see a Top-5 seed in the West, while pushing a 2nd round opponent to the limit. Depending on the matchup, the WCF is still a possibility. We will just have to see how long Jaren is out and how he looks when he does return from injury.
Tev: While I don’t think we will be a 2nd seed again, I expect the Grizz to make the playoffs. However, let’s prepare ourselves to watch the Grizz in the play-in tournament. The West, per usual, will be LOADED with good teams. By mid-season, we will be ready to put our best foot forward as a team.
Parker: The Grizzlies will likely finish in the 3-6 range, while comfortable playing away from the play-in. This team won 56 games last season without Dillon Brooks for 50 games and Ja Morant for 25 games. Losing Jaren Jackson Jr. might sting the most, given this defensive impact. However, this team shows the ability to step up in the absence of their best players. If healthy, we should be looking at a playoff team that wins 48-56 games.