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Bad Luck or Sign of Things to Come? Grizzlies Need to Figure It Out

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The Grizzlies had an extremely tumultuous 2022-23 campaign, but how much will they change in the offseason with their strong young core?

Let’s quickly go through a brief and incomplete summary of the bad things that happened to the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2022-23 season:

  • Superstar point guard Ja Morant was suspended for eight games for conduct detrimental to the league last month after an Instagram Live video showed him with a gun at a Denver nightclub. He then spent time at a Florida counseling program.
  • Key big men Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke each suffered season-ending injuries, while wing Desmond Bane missed over a quarter of the regular season.
  • Wing Dillon Brooks emerged as some sort of enforcer/bad boy/wrestling heel that turned into not just a distraction, but a major liability after not only poking and prodding LeBron James but then being ejected twice during the series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, including a Game 3 suspension after hitting James in the groin area. Brooks then failed to back his words up and then compounded that by failing to address the media after his public emasculation.

Memphis’ season ended in emphatic embarrassing humiliation, a 40-point loss in Game 6 that prompted some social media prose from LeBron.

Despite all this, the Grizzlies have a lot going for them. Morant — his off-court issues notwithstanding — remains one of the league’s most electrifying players. Jaren Jackson Jr. rightfully won the NBA‘s Defensive Player of the Year award. Bane is still a dead-eye shooter and a strong complementary scorer, an important ingredient for a team that won 51 games, the Southwest Division, and the West’s second seed.

So as Memphis enters this offseason, how will the team look at this last season after a stunning first-round exit? The front office has to ask itself the following: Was this result due to the team enduring terrible luck? Or does this roster need to be recalibrated?

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Any retooling will almost certainly have to take place via trade. Only Killian Tillie and, yes, Brooks are unrestricted free agents this summer, with a $1.9 million team option on Xavier Tillman after the 24-year-old power forward started 29 games for Memphis during the regular season.

Brooks made $11.4 million on the final year of a three-year, $35 million extension, with his shenanigans coming at the worst possible time for both player and team. Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said he’d address Brooks’ future with the team at another time, but is bringing him back really feasible after what transpired? His 14.3 points per game during the regular season came with under 40% shooting from the field and 32.6% from 3; those numbers fell to 10.5 points on 31.2% shooting and 23.8% from downtown against Los Angeles.

Morant, Jackson, and Clarke are locked in long-term, and a lucrative extension for Bane will surely come. Memphis has all its own draft picks and Golden State’s first-rounder in 2024 protected just selections 1-4. There will be some room to bring in a replacement for Brooks via signing or trade if the Grizzlies choose, and Kleiman said they’d be “very aggressive” in the offseason.

Was this season a turbulent sign of things to come for Memphis? Or was it just a season from hell on the path to being a perennial title contender as Morant enters his prime? These are the questions Kleiman and Co. need to figure out.

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