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2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Early Edition: No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Apr 28, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) guards Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) in the first half of game six of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports. Memphis looks to bounce back,

The Memphis Grizzlies are an excellent, fun, well-rounded, and deep team. However, the Grizzlies’ depth took a hit with Dillon Brooks landing in Houston and Tyus Jones traded to Washington. Plus, Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension. The big question surrounding Morant is whether he will return when he is eligible or whether the absence will last longer.

2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Early Edition: No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis has a good history of dealing with adversity. The Grizzlies have won 50 games in each of the last two seasons. The Grizzlies posted a 51-31 record in 2022-23 despite injuries to several players. Morant missed 21 contests a year ago. Meanwhile, Desmond Bane (24), Brandon Clarke (26), and Steven Adams (42) were also out for long stretches. Even 2023 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t play in 19 contests.

However, Memphis still secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season. Granted, they were upended by the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the playoffs. While Morant and Jackson Jr. had strong seasons, the Grizzlies’ success resulted from several role players’ performances. Bane, Jones, Santi Aldama, Clarke, and Xavier Tillman Sr. play that was a major reason the Griz didn’t miss a beat without their key players.  Luke Kennard, who the Griz acquired at the trade deadline, and Jon Konchar also filled important roles when they were called upon.

Memphis was one of the big movers and shakers this offseason. The Grizzlies received Marcus Smart from the Boston Celtics as part of the three-team trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics. The Griz sent Brooks to Houston in a five-team deal and signed Derrick Rose and Bane’s rookie deal for five years. They also signed second-round draft pick G.G. Jackson to a two-way contract.

Best Offseason Move: Trading For Marcus Smart

With Morant out for at least the first 25 games and the Grizzlies already having disclosed that they had enough of Brooks’ antics, they needed to upgrade their backcourt. Therefore, the Griz involved themselves in the Porzingis deal after the Los Angeles Clippers pulled out due to the health concerns of Malcolm Brogdon.

Smart steps into the starting role at the point and brings an intensity, style of play, and personality that fits the Grizzlies perfectly. With Smart, the Grizzlies shouldn’t fall off defensively from being the No. 2 ranked team they were a year ago. Smart is a true point guard who should also help the Grizzlies cut down their turnovers, and while shooting is still not a strength, he can knock down wide-open threes.

When Morant returns, Smart can start alongside or come off the bench. If he comes off the bench, he will be a better — albeit older version of Jones. The Griz are 34-15 without Morant over the last two seasons.

Worst Offseason Move: Not Suspending Ja Morant Longer

While it was the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s call to suspend Morant for 25 games, the Grizzlies should extend it. Memphis may do so, as Morant can only return on December 19. Morant does have to fulfill some obligations before returning.

“Prior to his return to play, he will be required to formulate and fulfill a program with the league that directly addresses the circumstances that led him to repeat this destructive behavior,” Silver previously said.

Morant should have been suspended for at least half the season. He already got in trouble with brandishing guns, receiving an eight-game suspension, and other off-the-court issues. It doesn’t seem like he has learned anything, though he has seemingly kept quiet since the latest incident.

What’s Next: Trimming Roster

Memphis has 17 players on standard contracts and fully guaranteed deals. Flushed with frontcourt players, the Grizzlies have nine either listed as a power forward or center.  As a result, Isaiah Todd and Kenneth Lofton Jr. appear to be the most in danger. However, Josh Christopher is also on the “cut watch list.”  Jake LaRavia could be in trouble depending on how training camp goes.

Kenneth Lofton and Isaiah Todd

Lofton appears to be pretty safe, as he averaged 5.0 points on 52.7% shooting from the field and 2.1 rebounds in eight minutes of action over 24 appearances last season. He also played well in Las Vegas during the summer league. However, his defense is a concern.

Todd has been a major disappointment since being selected with the first pick in the second round of the 2021 draft. The Grizzlies received Todd from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for a couple of future second-round selections this summer.

Todd has only appeared in 18 NBA games, all with the Wizards, including six games in 2022-23. The 22-year-old possesses career NBA averages of 1.5 points and 2.0 caroms. He also has produced shooting slash lines of  .222/.192/.500.

Josh Christopher and Jake LaRavia

Christopher came to Memphis this summer as part of the Brooks trade. The 22-year-old guard, the No. 24 overall pick in 2021, has struggled on both ends of the floor in each of his first two seasons. Christopher is an athletic slasher who is at his best when he is attacking the rim. However, he is not a good shooter, and turnovers are an issue.

LaRavia, the No. 19 pick in 2022, is coming off a disappointing season. Particularly considering that David Roddy selected five picks behind him and is a rotational player for the Grizzlies this season. LaRavia did average 18 points during summer league play, so that will give the Griz hope that he will continue to develop. However, the 22-year-old still struggled shooting the ball, his best trait coming out of Wake Forest. LaRavia is an okay defender,  which could ultimately be his saving grace.



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