The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Next up? The Memphis Grizzlies.
2020-21 season record
38-34, 8th in Western Conference
Steven Adams, trade
Jarrett Culver, trade
Ziaire Williams, No. 10 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Santi Aldama, No. 30 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Jonas Valanciunas, trade
Grayson Allen, trade
|PG||Ja Morant||Tyus Jones||Kris Dunn|
|SG||Dillon Brooks||De'Anthony Melton||John Konchar||Sam Merrill|
|SF||Kyle Anderson||Desmond Bane||Jarrett Culver||Ziaire Williams|
|PF||Jaren Jackson Jr.||Brandon Clarke||Santi Aldama|
|C||Steven Adams||Xavier Tillman Sr.||Killian Tillie|
3 key storylines
How does Taylor Jenkins manage the rotation?
On one hand, the Grizzlies shipped out two key rotation players from last season in Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen. On the other, they still need to navigate a complicated rotation moving forward.
Allen moving out makes room for De'Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane to play major minutes on a nightly basis, but what's up with Steven Adams?
The Grizzlies lose 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in trading away Valanciunas. That's not the type of production they will get from Adams, who has career averages of 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, but perhaps his veteran presence will be needed in the youthful Memphis locker room.
There is also another reason Adams may be required, which brings us to our next point...
Can JJJ stay healthy?
Memphis has plenty of young talent around Ja Morant but none with the star power of Jaren Jackson Jr.
Trouble is, the big man hasn't been able to stay on the floor.
Still just 22 years old, Jackson managed just 11 games last season after a long rehab from what was initially a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Averaging 20.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes in his short career, Jackson is a high level scorer and despite an odd-looking shot is a 37.4 percent shooter from long range on 4.5 attempts per game. Aside from health, the big question facing him is which position suits him best? If he's able to stay on the floor, it wouldn't totally shock to see him slide to the five to make room for Melton in the starting lineup.
Can Ja take another leap?
The 2020-21 season got off to a rocky start for Morant, with the high-flying guard sidelined for eight games early on with an ankle injury.
The second-year guard was solid during the regular season, averaging 19.1 points and 7.3 assists per game, but it was in the postseason where he took his game to the next level.
Memphis was eliminated in five games by the No. 1 seed Utah Jazz, but it was through no fault of Morant, as he put up 30.2 points per game in the series. The marquee performance came in Game 2, as he attempted to drag the Grizzlies to a 2-0 lead by exploding for 47 points to go along with seven assists.
Recently turned 22, could Morant make his first All-Star appearance in 2022? If he plays anywhere near the level he did in the postseason, he most likely will.
5 games to watch
Oct. 28 at Golden State Warriors
How about an early season test on the road against Stephen Curry?
Golden State took the season series 2-1 last year, with Morant struggling to score the ball. Tallying 14, 14 and 16 points in the three matchups, Morant will be looking to have a bigger impact this season.
Both the Warriors and Grizzlies reached the Play-In Tournament last season, with the Grizzlies being the team that advanced. Despite that, expectations for both teams are flipped going into this season. This one gives Memphis an opportunity to make an early season statement.
Nov. 22 at Utah Jazz
How about a little postseason rematch?
The Grizzlies stunned the Jazz on the road in Game 1 of their opening round matchup in the playoffs last season. They'll look to pinch another big road win in this one.
As mentioned above, Utah had no answer for Morant in the series but the same could be said for Donovan Mitchell. Pouring in 28.5 points per game, Mitchell put the Game 1 loss, which he was absent for, in the back of Utah fans' minds. Perhaps Memphis could deliver a little slice of revenge in this one.
Nov. 28 vs. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are an interesting team.
If you asked them, I reckon they would argue they are on the same tier as Memphis despite holding the longest postseason drought in the league.
Each roster is brimming with youthful talent and looking to make a statement in the Western Conference. From a pure entertainment factor, the matchup between Morant and De'Aaron Fox should be an absolute delight.
Jan. 19 at Milwaukee Bucks
For a young team, there is no bigger test than hitting the road to face the defending champs.
The Grizzlies have caused the Bucks some troubles over the past couple of seasons and I wonder how much Taylor Jenkins has to do with it. Working alongside Mike Budenholzer for years, the familiarity is strong.
From a player's perspective, Grayson Allen and Sam Merrill have traded colours in the offseason. During Media Day, Allen mentioned the transition being an easy one due to the terminology being largely the same between Jenkins and Budenholzer.
A classic master vs. apprentice matchup.
Feb. 12 at Charlotte Hornets
You're absolutely lying if you tell me you don't want to see LaMelo Ball square off with Morant.
The pair faced off just once last season with the Grizzlies taking out the 130-114 win. Ball finished with 17 points and five assists while Morant had 15 and 11.
It's time for round two.
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