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2018-19 Season Preview Extravaganza | What Is A Healthy Grizzlies Team Capable Of?
Twenty-nine different opposing NBA teams will walk through the doors of Target Center to play the Wolves this season, and we want you to know as much as you can about all of them. We’re going worst to first in order of last year’s standings and telling you everything you need to know. Today, we’ll preview the Grizzlies, who have a chance to form a different identity in 2018-19.
Key Players Acquired: F Jaren Jackson Jr. (draft), F Kyle Anderson (free agency), G Garrett Temple (trade), G Shelvin Mack (free agency)
Key Players Lost: C Deyonte Davis (trade), Tyreke Evans (free agency), Ben McLemore (trade), Jarrell Martin (trade)
The bad news is that the Grizzlies won 22 games last season. That’s the fewest number of wins for Memphis since the 2007-08 season. But there was a reason behind that. The team’s borderline All-Star point guard Mike Conley played in just 12 games. Even if Conley plays the whole season, this team probably doesn’t sniff the playoffs, but this is a player who had 10 win shares in 2016-17, so it’s not far off to say it’d get the Grizzlies to the mid 30s in wins.
As far as structure goes, the coaching situation wasn’t ideal. David Fizdale was fired after just 19 games. He was replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff. The move probably didn’t make a huge difference in wins and losses, but it’s never a great sign for a team when a coaching move is made during a season.
Tyreke Evans emerged as a reliable player again, reminiscent of his early days with Sacramento, averaging 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, Evans walked in free agency to sign with the Pacers.
If you’re looking for a silver lining in Memphis (which Grizzlies fans likely are), it’s that young players were given opportunities that wouldn’t have been there had this team been contending. It was out of necessity, but those opportunities were valuable nonetheless. Dillon Brooks started 74 games and looked like he has a place in the NBA. Same goes for Andrew Harrison, who averaged 9.5 points per game. Both of those players are former second-round picks, so for them to find playing time, and success, is rare. While losing and injuries aren’t fun at all, the Grizzlies were able to find some positives in their situation.
The Big Question:
Can this team stay healthy, and if so, what does that mean?
The Grizzlies are stuck in the middle a bit. They have Conley (30) and Gasol (33) who are ready to win now. Conley is a top-10 point guard when healthy, and Gasol is probably a top-5 center.
If those two remain healthy, is that enough for the Grizzlies to make a push to the playoffs? Well, that answer’s a bit complicated. It depends what the surrounding players on the roster do. Chandler Parsons is only 29, but the injury bug moved into his house. Since signing with Memphis, he’s played in just 70 games and his numbers have dipped drastically.
The X-factor here will be No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. If he gets opportunity, which he should, I think he’s the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. He’s a do-it-all kind of player. He can shoot threes and block shots.
As a preview to my Jaren Jackson Jr scouting report, here are all 26 of his Summer League blocks (per @SynergySST)
He's a monster. pic.twitter.com/UJ3sOYPy29
— Dave DuFour (@DaveDuFourNBA) July 24, 2018
All the talk heading into the draft was Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley Jr. at the top. We all slept on Jackson Jr. and he proved it during Summer League, shooting 14-for-28 from the 3-point line.
Jaren Jackson Jr Went CRAZY in his summer league Debut | 29 Pts and 9 Treys pic.twitter.com/hoAVahPcqy
— Frankie Vision (@FrankieVision) July 3, 2018
Being in the middle is a place most NBA teams don’t want to be, but it’s not so bad when you have a player with the potential Jackson Jr. has.
How Do The Wolves Beat Them?
Memphis had Minnesota’s number last season, going 2-1 against the Wolves.
It’s tough to say how the two teams match up in 2018-19 considering the Grizzlies will look drastically different.
The problem in 2017-18, though, was Minnesota just couldn’t get shots to fall. The Wolves shot just 36.7 percent from the field well below their season average of 41 percent.
Making shots helps you win. That seems obvious!
Well, it is.
For other teams this section will be easier to write. The Grizzlies will have such a different identity with Conley back running the show it’s hard to say what they’ll look like, so let’s move along.
I don’t have the Grizzlies in my top-eight in the West. The West is just so tough. For a team like Memphis, nearly everything would have to go right and they’d need some help.
This team probably falls somewhere between 10th and 12th.
But this is a team that has a chance to transition somewhat smoothly into the next era of basketball with Gasol and Conley handing the baton to Jackson Jr. Add in another young player or lottery pick, and you have a solid foundation for the future.
Describe This Team In 15 Words Or Less
Grit and grind is over. It’s time for the Jaren Jackson Jr. era in Memphis.
So When Can I See Them?
The Wolves host the Grizzlies on Sunday Nov. 18 at 2:30 p.m. and Wednesday Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.
Minnesota will travel to Memphis on Tuesday Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday Mar. 23 at 7 p.m.