The Memphis Grizzlies’ injury reports were long last year, and have been for the last few seasons. It started with Mike Conley going down early last year, but you had several depth issues in the front court from last season. This left a lot of minutes up for grabs by guys that you likely have never heard of. This did help guys like Andrew Harrison and Dillon Brooks get heavy minutes and decent usage. Brooks is a guy that is looking to keep trending upwards, coming off a very underrated rookie season. If Memphis can stay healthy, they will be a tougher team to face compared to last season.
When you look at the Southwest division, Houston is going to lead the way again. We saw New Orleans take a step forwards, and they will look to fend off San Antonio who fell to third last year. Dallas is in the midst of an exciting rebuild, which leaves Memphis. They have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, which is a nice duo, and now have some stronger younger pieces. It will be between them and Dallas this year again for a battle of not finishing last, but Dallas just looks to have more younger talent that can give them a few extra wins.
For about 80% of Marc Gasol’s career, he averaged less than one three point shot per game. In 2016 he averaged 3.6, and in 2017 he averaged 4.4 per game. Gasol shot 38 and 34% from three in the two seasons, and early on during preseason we continue to see Gasol taking threes. With the modern day NBA being three ball heavy, it makes sense for Gasol who is already a terrific shooter to adjust his game a bit. We saw his brother Pau do it a bit as well over the last few seasons, alongside a few other notable centers.
Jaren Jackson Jr is a 19-year-old rookie out of Michigan State. He is a power forward that is stretched out to 6’11. The foul trouble will be an issue for him in terms of consistent minutes, but Memphis will look to carve out a bench role to at least start the season. He has a lot of talent, and averaged three blocks per game at Michigan State. Jackson is somewhat of a raw talent, but has the athleticism and size to play in this league for a very long time. He could gain some time at both the front court spots.
Memphis desperately missed Mike Conley last season, and on both sides of the ball. Conley has played 56, 69, and 12 games over the last three seasons, and has developed the injury prone tag to his name. 2016 was a breakout year scoring wise, averaging 20 points per game, but also 6 assists. Conley does a lot for this offense, and if he remains healthy, this Grizzlies team will be significantly better than last year. Defensively Conley is one of the better backcourt defenders, and has averaged over 1 steal per game since his rookie season, and a few years over two.