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A Season of Challenges and Opportunities for the Memphis Grizzlies

NBA players Tyus Jones and Ja Morant sitting next to coach Blake Ahearn
Tyus Jones (left) Blake Ahearn (middle) Ja Morant (right) photo by D'Angelo Connell Photography

As the 2023/24 NBA season unfolded, the Memphis Grizzlies encountered a series of challenges that exceeded the expectations of fans and analysts. Initially, there was optimism with Steven Adams, the team's starting center, returning from a knee injury that plagued him last season. Unfortunately, his struggles with injuries persisted, culminating in another season-ending surgery. Compounding these difficulties, Ja Morant faced a 25-game suspension due to misconduct, and the departure of key players Tyus Jones and Dillon Brooks significantly disrupted the team's continuity.

NBA player Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart photo by D'Angelo Connell Photography

A Turbulent Season

The narrative of the season was further complicated by significant roster changes and continual injuries. Marcus Smart joined the team in a trade that sent Tyus Jones to Washington, but like others, his season was marred by injuries. Desmond Bane, another pivotal player, spent considerable time recuperating, further adding to the team's challenges. After a promising return, Ja Morant was sidelined again by surgery, leaving the team without its star player.

Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr NBA player of the Memphis Grizzlies
Demonda Bane (left) Jaren Jackson Jr (right) photo by D'Angelo Connell Photography

The cumulative effect of these setbacks was unprecedented; the Grizzlies used a record-breaking 50 different players in their starting lineup throughout the season, the most in NBA history. This frequent rotation of players led many to describe the Grizzlies' season as "tanking"—a strategy where teams lose games intentionally to secure a better position in the NBA draft lottery. However, given the circumstances, "Thrifting" might be a more accurate description. The team used this season to evaluate a wide array of players, assessing their potential fit for the future.

Emerging Talents

Scotty Pippin Jr NBA player of the Memphis Grizzlies
Scotty Pippin Jr photo by D'Angelo Connell Photography

Among the season's highlights were the emergences of GG Jackson Jr. and Vince Williams Jr., who capitalized on their opportunities amidst the team's injury crisis. Their standout performances have likely secured their roles in the team's future. Additionally, newcomers like Scotty Pippen Jr., Jordan Goodwin, and Lamar Stevens made significant impacts, while Jake Laravia displayed potential that could translate into more significant contributions next season. Another remarkable development was the progress made by Trey Jemison. His impressive performances not only exceeded expectations but also demonstrated his potential as a vital component of the team's core. Jemison's ability to make impactful plays and consistently improve has positioned him as a key player to watch in the upcoming season.

Taylor Jenkins NBA coach  of the Memphis Grizzlies
Taylor Jenkins photo by D'Angelo Connell Photography

Looking Ahead

Today marks a pivotal moment for the Grizzlies, as the NBA draft lottery could significantly shape their future. Holding a 31.9% chance of securing a top-4 draft pick and a 7.5% chance at the number one overall pick, the outcomes could greatly influence the team's rebuilding strategy. The draft lottery will air today at 3 PM EST, providing further clarity on the direction of the team as they strategize for upcoming seasons.

Ja Morant NBA player of the Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant photo by D'Angelo Connell Photography

In conclusion, while this season may be perceived as a low point in terms of wins and losses, it has been invaluable for assessing talent and resilience. The trials encountered have not only tested the Grizzlies' depth but also illuminated potential foundational pieces for rebuilding a competitive team. As we look toward the future, it is clear that the experiences of this season will play a crucial role in shaping the next chapter for the Memphis Grizzlies.


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