The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the rising teams in the West to watch out for. Last year they made the playoffs for the first time in three years, which is a great sign of progress no matter how you look at it.
The main question now is: will they be able to replicate or surpass their recent success?
That said, here are three bold predictions far too early for the Grizzlies this 2021-22 NBA season.
1. The Grizzlies will advance to the play-in tournament, but there’s a catch
The Grizzlies made the playoffs last season thanks to the play-in tournament despite finishing ninth in the regular season. They have amply deserved it, however, as they have been improving at a steady rate since Ja Morant arrived in the 2019-20 season.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that the Golden State Warriors – one of the most powerful teams when they were in full health – were understaffed in 2020-21. Apart from Klay Thompson’s absence, Steve Kerr and his team were trying to find the identity of the team through the various pieces given to them.
While the Warriors still don’t look like the beefy roster they once were, we can’t expect any below-par performance from them in the next campaign. Thus, the Grizzlies’ chances of qualifying for the playoffs for the second year in a row are in serious jeopardy.
Teams that qualified for the playoffs last season will do so again this year. Of these teams, only the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks seem uncertain. They both went through coaching changes which made their performance quite difficult to predict. Yet on paper, the Trail Blazers and Mavericks are much better than the Grizzlies. That said, Ja Morant and his team will easily qualify for the play-in again, but they will struggle to come out of it.
2. Memphis will be doing mid-season trades
The Grizzlies’ front office seems to be actively making changes to the roster. They’ve had a pretty busy offseason with business here and there. It’s interesting how they got people like Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Beverley via trade, but then sent them back to another team within days. Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman seems to have a clear vision of what he wants and doesn’t want either.
With that in mind, Grizzlies fans should expect Kleiman to make roster changes by the February trade deadline. It certainly won’t be a job that would bring a generational star into the fold. Memphis does not yet have that power and that calling. Rather, it will be the addition of role players and veterans that perfectly complement Morant and Dillon Brooks’ play styles.
1. Jaren Jackson Jr. will have a rebound year
Jaren Jackson Jr. came back from a meniscus tear and posted some decent numbers. He averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23.5 minutes, but in just 11 games (four starts). In the playoffs, he recorded similar averages of 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. Given that this was his comeback year and that he played a limited number of games, we cannot fully judge Jackson’s progress. We can’t say he failed to improve on his second season where he posted 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
If fans and analysts really want to see how Jackson has fared so far, then they should keep their eyes on him in 2021-22. Not only will he be one hundred percent healthy, but Jackson will come out with a vengeance. The Morant-Jackson two-player game will experience a strong resurgence. Other than that, Jackson should be able to keep doing his thing: outclass the slower tall man using his footwork and cunning.