Hey, the Grizz are good. Like, surprisingly good. This young Memphis Grizzlies team has stunned everyone, including fans, with its performance this season. While they could have literally been one of the worst teams in the league, instead they’ve got the 14th best record overall right now. And get this, most Vegas oddsmakers have the Grizzlies making the playoffs this year (albeit most likely with an eighth seed in the West). But based on projections made in the preseason, this 28-26 team is exceeding all expectations. (Most sportsbooks had them at 27 wins for the season, total.) Yes, their schedule following the All-Star Break is super tough, but many think the Grizzlies will make a big playoff push.
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Ja Morant is Killin’ It
First off, the Grizzlies have Ja Morant, a 20-year-old phenom and potentially the favorite for Rookie of the Year this season. The super athletic point guard plays smart, and he’s having one heck of a season, garnering praise from his peers and NBA legends. With swagger, confidence, and leadership abilities, he’s taken this young Grizzlies team to unexpected heights. He also put on quite the show at the NBA Rising Stars Challenge over All-Star Weekend (he led Team USA to victory with teammate Jaren Jackson, Jr). Morant has got poise, speed, passing skills, and scoring ability (he leads the team in average points per game with 17.6 and assists with 7.1), and he only stands to improve.
According to Morant, “We are just young, very athletic, and just get out and run. I feel like we all have something to prove. We just go out with this chip on our shoulder. We keep proving people wrong. But we go out every night and play together.”
Morant is a true producer, known also for his 4th-quarter ability, and he sparks this team’s offense (with a little help from Tyus Jones at backup PG). They may be young, but the Grizzlies’ starting lineup of Morant, Jackson, Jonas Valanciunas (who is having one of his best seasons yet in terms of shooting), Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson is intimidating and fun to watch.
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And They Got New Big Man in Gorgui Dieng… and Don’t Forget Justise Winslow
He’s been called the steal of the trade deadline, and he just might take the Grizzlies’ performance to a new level as they embark on this playoff push. Dieng was part of a deal that sent him and Justise Winslow to Memphis. Coming from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had Karl-Anthony Towns to focus on at center, Dieng is a big man who is able to shoot the three, score points in the paint, rebound, and block.
Though he’s only played limited minutes so far, he looks good. Dieng’s presence should also help out Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas when it comes to minutes and workload.
What about Winslow? While he might not play immediately due to hip and back injuries, it’s clear that the Grizzlies hope to incorporate him at least some this season. Winslow is smart and athletic, and with his playmaking and versatile defensive skills, he could certainly fit into this starting lineup. Most agree that Winslow is part of a long-term plan for the Grizzlies, however, and he may not see many minutes right away as he works toward getting 100% healthy.
The Grizzlies are hitting the West Coast to take on the Sacramento Kings tomorrow night, followed by the Lakers on Friday night. Next Monday, they’ll face the Clippers in LA and then the Rockets in Houston on Wednesday before returning home to continue their playoff push!