With the trading of franchise legends Marc Gasol and Mike Conley over the past few months, the “Grit and Grind” era of the Memphis Grizzlies has officially come to an end as they embark on their rebuild to put together a roster that is more compliant to the modern NBA. While it’s expected that the Grizzlies will have go through a few more losing seasons before coming relevant again in the deep Western Conference, Memphis fans should be excited of the young core that their team has put together.
Jaren Jackson Jr., who was the 4th pick back in the 2018 draft, has already shown that he can play the role of the ideal modern NBA big man for the Grizzlies. On offense, he has skill getting to and finishing at the rim, but his 3-point shot will allow him to shine as a multi-dimensional offensive threat for years to come. On the defensive side, he has the length and verticality to be an elite level rim protector, but he also has the lateral quickness so that he can hold his own when he has to switch onto perimeter players in the pick and roll. If he manages to keep this up, he can avoid being played off the court by smaller teams, which will allow him to dominate on both sides of the court.
As Memphis has seemed to discover their Gasol replacement in Jackson Jr., they hope that Ja Morant, the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 draft, can replace Conley’s production. Morant certainly has a long way to go if he ever wants to be the lockdown defender that Conley was, but his quickness and length will allow him to at least be a pest on opposing guards if he puts in the effort. There is much less worry on offense for Morant, as his explosive attacking mentality should translate to the NBA right away. His jump shot has some room for improvement, and that may be the key for Morant if he wants to be one of the leagues next great scoring point guards, but all of the other tools seem to be there.
The rest of the roster for Memphis features an interesting combination of more young players and some veterans that will help the team mature and grow. In an interesting move, they were able to get Andre Igoudala from the Warriors, and while everyone assumed that we would be waived the former Finals MVP still remains on the roster as they try and flip him to a contender for more assets. The team also resigned center Jonas Valanciunas to a three-year deal, as he proved at the end of last season that he is a great fit next to Jackson Jr. in the front court. However, the long-term front court partner for Jackson Jr. may be Brandon Clarke, who the team traded up to get in the draft, as his explosiveness around the rim would allow Jackson Jr. to flash his perimeter skills and take pressure off of him on defense.