Each NBA season brings its share of questions and intrigues. It’s the same thing all the time, a few days before the recovery. Which player will perform? Which coach will be fired? Who am I ? In which shelf? Where squash? For each of the 30 franchises, we have selected the 5 big questions 2022-23 edition, and the seat of the day is assigned to the Memphis Grizzlies.
How to live without Jaren Jackson Jr.?
Seriously injured during the offseason, Jaren Jackson Jr. will start the 2022-23 season on the sidelines. The franchise had announced 4 to 6 months of absence for triple J and the question is therefore whether the return date is more early November or early January. Not really trivial when you know the importance of the boy in the device of Taylor Jenkins. The league’s top blocker and defensive mainstay in Tennessee, Jackson also remains one of the boys capable of taking the lead on offense on some nights. Clearly not a small loss and we will have to do without him for 5, 10, 20 or even 30 games perhaps. Who will replace him ? Santi Aldama seems to be applying for the starter’s place, he has also had a good pre-season, but his coach has already warned that he was not waiting for an individual response to make up for JJJ’s absence but that it was the whole group that was going to have to give a little more.
Can Ja Morant continue to progress?
MIP 2022, Ja Morant took a real big step last year. The question that now arises is whether his current level is roughly what we will have to get used to over the next ten to fifteen years or if the marsupilami leader can still go up a notch. 27.4 points, 6.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds, these are the kind of numbers he gave us this season. Can he do better? And why not in real life! He is only 23 years old, we feel that he still has it under his belt, he has only played his second Playoff campaign this season and that is where he has the best chance of learning. Some progress in defense, slightly higher percentages at long distance and on the line, ever fairer choices, there is a way to improve things. If he stays on the momentum of his last months, it is not towards the basket that he will fly but towards the MVP.
Was last season a dream to wake up to?
2nd in the West last year, Memphis had what could be called a dream season. Nice game, big collective, a group that gets off on it, good results. Honestly, there’s nothing to say it was just a XXXXL year in Tennessee. Now the question is whether the planets have aligned for a few months or if this is the start of something big for the Grizzlies. There was a bit of movement during the offseason (Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton notably packed their bags), there’s Jaren Jackson Jr. who’s going to squat the infirmary a bit at the start of the season, don’t nor forget that the competition has sharpened its weapons whether through recruitment (Wolves) or the return of some injured (Nuggets, Clippers). Les Oursons will also be more expected each evening. Can Memphis send a clear message to say, « we’re up, we’re staying there » or will they take the hit a bit and return to the chasing pack instead? This is the question that Ja Morant and his friends will have to answer.
Which player will stand out and amaze everyone?
What is good in Memphis is that a young talent often hides another. So-and-so is injured? No big deal, there’s a nugget waiting on the bench for extra minutes. Which means that Taylor Jenkins has never been too afraid to launch his youngsters. Which of these toddlers can be the chef’s surprise this season? This player that we know is talented but that we don’t imagine at this level in fact! Will Santi Aldama take advantage of Jackson’s package to find a place in the sun inside? Can one of the rookies surprise from the first year? What about our friend Kenneth Lofton Jr.? Here we would start on Ziaire Williams, who showed a nice bit of potential for his rookie season and who is just waiting to develop. The departure of Kyle Anderson should give him a little more responsibility with the second unit and who knows if in the long term he is not able to tickle the place of Dillon Brooks in the starting five.
What are these Grizzlies missing besides time?
Not the easiest question as it is clear that our feeling is that this group is only going to improve over the years but what does it take to win NOW? The talent is there, the collective too, it is well coached, there are not so many shortcomings compared to the profiles of the players in place. Possibly an inside shooter to bring a different weapon into the racket. Maybe this group just lacks a bit of luck too. The chance to see the competition go down the drain when the Grizzlies are strongest, the chance also to see its leaders avoid going to the infirmary for long weeks. Of the 187 games played by Ja Morant with Memphis, only 119 have been with JJJ. Ja missed the Grizzlies against the Warriors, Jackson will miss part of the start of the season. As much as the excellence shown by Memphis was impressive given the circumstances, it’s hard to dream higher if you still have to have sticks in the wheels.