The Memphis Grizzlies should seriously look at tanking even after Ja Morant returns

Everyone expected the Memphis Grizzlies to struggle while Ja Morant was out. People have been proven right, and then some. Sitting with a 3-13 record, the Grizzlies are stuck in the bottom of the Western Conference with the San Antonio Spurs. The big difference between the two teams is that the Spurs are expected to tank and allow Victor Wembanyama to find his feet in the NBA, while the Grizzlies had title contention hopes just one season ago.

It’s quite a turnaround for Memphis, who got rid of irritant Dillon Brooks in the offseason just to watch him become one of the leaders of a young Houston Rockets team that is performing better than projected.

Ja Morant, who was suspended for 25 games after a second incident involving a firearm on social media, still has nine games left on his ban. By the time he returns, the Grizzlies are likely to have somewhere in between four to seven wins in a Western Conference that is loaded with talent. Even if he comes back at full strength right away, Morant is not going to be enough to rescue this squad.

Realistically, though, it will likely take Morant somewhere around five to ten games to get back into the swing of things. That’s assuming he’s 100% focused on basketball, but he’s still got other lawsuits to worry about in the back of his head to, along with the challenge of rehabilitating his image on front of the NBA and fans.

The Grizzlies are scoring 105.6 points per game, currently good for 29th place in the NBA. They’re also missing Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams, two key pieces who are likely out for the entire 2023-24 season. They also made some boneheaded moves like trading Walker Kessler away after drafting him, who is now turning out to be a rising defensive presence that Memphis could desperately use at the moment.

Desmond Bane is averaging 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, while Jaren Jackson Jr. is putting up 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks during this Ja-less start to the season, there’s no guarantee that they’ll keep up their numbers when the team’s embattled star returns.

It’s been a fascinating rise and fall for Memphis, who just a few seasons ago became the darlings of the NBA after beating the Golden State Warriors in the play-ins. That didn’t last long, though, as they then decided to embrace a culture of talking shit and not being able to back it up in the playoffs before Morant’s legal issues even began.

If they want to really fix things, the Grizzlies should really think about embracing the tank this season to get a high draft pick that they could either use for good young talent or trade away for a piece that could help Morant.


Jayson Tatum is having fun out there on the court

The Milwaukee Bucks made the bigger splash in the offseason after trading for Damian Lillard, but the Boston Celtics shaped the better roster after adding Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis.

The net effect of that has been another strong start to the campaign for Jayson Tatum, who is leading the Celtics with 28.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals along with 3.2 turnovers per game. Tatum’s also shooting 49.4% overall, 36.7% from three and 80.2% from the free throw line.

The additions to the Celtics squad hasn’t slowed down Jaylen Brown that much, either. Brown is putting up 21.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals, although his shooting splits of 44.6/34.2/71.4 leave some room for improvement. The two co-stars are having fun on the court, though and that’s important for a team that has a legitimate shot at the title this year.

Boston’s quest for the title has been helped, of course, by the strong performances from their marquee additions. Kristaps Porzingis has been healthy so far this season, playing in 15 of 17 games, and is putting up a solid 18.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The Latvian big man has a ton of swagger in his step this season.

Jrue Holiday hasn’t been the defensive force that he’s been known for during his run with the Bucks recently, but that’s got a lot to do with the fact that the Celtics are whooping their opponents a lot in general. He’s still producing 12.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.0 blocks, and his rebounding numbers in particular show that he’s bought into contributing where he can like the consummate pro he’s known to be.

Let’s not let Derrick White get lost in the shuffle, either. Now in his second season with the Celtics after coming from San Antonio in a 2022 trade, White is scoring 13.9 points along with 3.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game.