The Memphis Grizzlies are ahead of schedule. A team that’s built around the prodigious talents of a 21-year-old point guard is not supposed to be sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference at 28-14. What’s more, this upstart squad is closer to the third seed (the 28-12 Utah Jazz) than the 5th (the 22-18 Dallas Mavericks). To call these Memphis Grizzlies a playoff contender would be to sell them short. They have to be regarded as darkhorse title contenders.
At the same time, a 2021-22 season that concludes with a Grizzlies championship doesn’t feel like a realistic possibility. The Warriors and Suns both sit at 30-9. With a surplus of veteran talent each, they each feel considerably ahead of the boys on Beale Street. The Jazz (28-12) have been hit with an influx of injuries and COVID-19 exposures of late. They may very well be even better than their record indicates. That’s to say nothing of the Grizzlies’ Eastern Conference foes. The Brooklyn Nets (25-13) and Milwaukee Bucks (26-16) both have a case as title favorites. They’re not even leading the Eastern Conference pack. That honor belongs to the Chicago Bulls (26-11). With all of those teams ahead of them in the championship pecking order, should the Grizzlies be buyers or sellers at this year’s deadline?
NBA Rumors: Should the Memphis Grizzlies be buyers or sellers at the deadline?
The Memphis Grizzlies as buyers
If a team projects as outside of the league’s championship contention picture, does that preclude them from adding talent at the expense of rebuilding tools? It’s not hard to argue that, when your two best players are 22 and you’re 28-14, it shouldn’t.
Interestingly, the Grizzlies entered this past offseason with a clear seller’s mentality. They traded Jonas Valanciunas, the 17th and 51st overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and the 10th overall pick. The move seemed to signal a focus on the future. Somehow, the team improved in the present anyway.
Chaulk it up to the development of the aforementioned 22-year-olds. Ja Morant is enjoying a career season with averages of 24.7 points and 6.7 assists per game. Jaren Jackson Jr. has shown tremendous signs of growth as well, averaging a well-rounded 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. His ability to consistently space the floor has allowed the Grizzlies to start a conventional five like Adams without missing Valanciunas’s more well-rounded offensive skillset.
Otherwise, the Grizzlies have done an impressive job of assembling talent around their tantalizing young duo. Players like Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke and more make for solid contributors. With a well-rounded roster featuring a surplus of floor-spacing, defense, and secondary ball-handling surrounding Morant and Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies have the clear appearance of a win-now team.
Grizzlies not prioritizing prospects
It doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for a guy like Ziare Williams, who the Grizzlies selected with that 10th overall pick they acquired from New Orleans. He’s averaging 18.4 minutes per game. Xavier Tillman, a 23-year-old combo big coming off an impressive rookie campaign, is seeing 14.5 minutes per night. Both of these young players show plenty of potential and could be of much use to one of the league’s rebuilding clubs.
Identifying a trade target for the Grizzlies isn’t particularly difficult. The trade market is ripe with veterans who could contribute to this club’s cause. Names like Myles Turner, Jerami Grant, Eric Gordon, and Buddy Hield could all be gettable for Memphis, either directly or in three-team deals.
Why wouldn’t they take a swing at one of those players?
The Memphis Grizzlies as sellers
Possibly, for a reason we’ve already alluded to: the Memphis Grizzlies are not real NBA Championship contenders. There is no shame in that for such a young squad, but, it is a solid reason to avoid making win-now moves. These Memphis Grizzlies are winning anyway: should they part with valuable future-focused assets?
Meanwhile, trade rumors have swirled around Anderson’s name since the offseason. Granted, those rumors may have spawned from the Grizzlies’ preseason appearance as a rebuilding team. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies could probably acquire another intriguing young player or a first-round pick for the 28-year-old’s services.
Otherwise, from a seller’s perspective, the Grizzlies don’t have a ton of assets they should be willing to part with. Anderson is tied for Steven Adams as the team’s oldest player, at 28. Adams is too functionally integral to the team’s success: at 28-14, trading him for a first-round pick would be overkill.
Of course, there’s a third option for the Grizzlies: do nothing at all.
In fact, that may be the most prudent path for this club. If a future-focused package for Anderson becomes available, it may be wise to unclog a congested frontcourt and move on from him. Otherwise, standing pat may allow this team a rare NBA opportunity: the chance to be good now, and great later.
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