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Where The Grizzlies Best Should Rank Among the NBA’s Best

The 2023-2024 NBA season is slowly but surely approaching, with the Grizzlies first preseason game three weeks away and the first regular season just over a month from now. While other teams still have some business to attend when it comes to their rosters, it seems safe to suggest the Grizzlies have their roster in place to start the season
By Shawn Coleman - September 18, 2023, 8:00 am - 0 comments

The 2023-2024 NBA season is slowly but surely approaching, with the Grizzlies first preseason game three weeks away and the first regular season just over a month from now. While other teams still have some business to attend when it comes to their rosters, it seems safe to suggest the Grizzlies have their roster in place to start the season (at least when it comes to the rotation of players that will play regularly.)

As a result, there may not be much to discuss until training camp starts and the preseason begins. However, this time of year is always fun for content as many outlets and sources begin to make their predictions for the upcoming season. One fun annual tradition that likely can cause a stir among many NBA fanbases is the ranking of the NBA’s top 100 players from many entities that cover the league. The position of some stars across the league (Ja Morant) is pretty consistent among different sources, while the placement of emerging talents (Desmond Bane) can have a wide range of outcomes based on the perspectives of the minds behind each ranking.

The reaction to each of these lists is always fun to see, with plenty of debate occurring within and among many NBA fanbases. And for a team such as the Grizzlies, who have continued to ascend among the better teams in the NBA over the past four years, the amount of Memphis players on these lists continue to grow. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to offer an idea of where many Grizzlies could rank as the season starts and where they could rank once these lists are done again a year from now.

Ja Morant (Start of Season – Top 20; Next Season – Top 15)

In terms of production and impact, Ja Morant remains the best Grizzlies player on the roster. For much of the time that he has been on the court over the past two seasons, he has been one of the NBA’s best all around offensive players. For instance, over the past two seasons, only seven players have averaged 25 points, 5 assists, and rebounds per game (minimum 100 games): Jokic, Giannis, Steph, LeBron, KD, Lukam and Ja. Morant, Devin Booker, and Jimmy Butler are the only players with multiple games of 45+ points, 5+ assists, and 5+ rebounds over the past two playoffs. Without a doubt, Morant can impact the game offensively to a level few others can in the league.

But when it comes to Morant, the questions center on his availability than his actual ability. For instance, Morant has averaged just under 60 games played over the past three regular seasons, and has experienced a significant injury in each of the past two postseasons. In addition, multiple off-the-court incidents He now faces a 25 game suspension to start this year, so his overall impact this season will be delayed compared to previous years. As a result, for this year specifically, Morant may be a few

However, the hope is that a Morant that is motivated more than ever will be the version of Ja the Grizzlies get once he returns. If that is the case, there is a good chant Morant is also fresh and healthy, and perhaps 2024 will be the next level of Morant that can truly help the Grizzlies get to the next level in a season where the franchise is hoping to silence plenty of doubters.

Jaren Jackson Jr. (Start of Season – 25-35; Next Season – Top 25)

The past two seasons have produced different levels of breakout for Jaren Jackson Jr. The 2021-2022 was Jackson Jr. breaking out as one of the best defenders in the league, a status he confirmed by winning Defensive Player of the year last year. The 2022-2023 season saw Jackson Jr. take his next step offensively, especially when it comes to his work on the inside and his consistency. For instance, in the second half of last year, over 23 games, Jackson Jr. averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. He shot 52% from the field and 35% from the three as well.

Jackson Jr. averaged 20+ points per game over the final 37 games of last season, so the ability of him to potentially average 20 or more points per game while playing DPOY level defense is certainly possible this season. Even if Jackson Jr. were not to win DPOY but make the All-Defensive First Team once again, he will now have three seasons of elite level defense while also emerging as a difference maker on offense. That should place him among the best in the game, and the Grizzlies could have two of the top 25 players in the league next season.

Desmond Bane (Start of Season – 40 – 50; Next Season – Top 35)

Like Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane is another example of where the word “breakout” can have different meanings. Over the past two years, he certainty has taken his game multiple levels above where many thought he would settle as an NBA player. He likely is a player many feel has a decent chance to earn the first All-Star nod of his career this season.

And the reason for their being increased hype around Bane to take his game even higher is the opportunity that will be there with Morant suspended. Last season, Bane was one of just 11 players to average at least 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and have a TS% of 60% or better. The other 10 members of that group are clear Top 25 talents. Now, with Morant out, Bane should average at least 15 shots a night, while also showing he can succeed as a facilitator if the defense is focusing on limiting his shots.

Already considered to be one of the best shooters in the league, if Bane can can average 20-5-5 going into the 2024 calendar year, he certainly will be in the conversation to be a potential All-Star. If he also can be among the best three point shooters in the league once again next year, he truly will become one of the best perimeter offensive players in the league. And as a result, Bane could easily be considered among the top 35 players in the league.

Marcus Smart (Start of Season – 55-70 Range; Next Year – 45-55 Range)

After making the All-Defensive First Team in three of the previous four years and winning Defensive Player of the Year during the 2021-2022 season, Marcus Smart regressed a bit last year in terms of his defensive impact. He also missed 20+ games for the second time in three years. Though he is only 29, Smart’s style of play certainly could be taking a bit of a toll on his body after many years of deep playoff runs.

However, Smart also maintained a bit higher level of scoring and shooting offensively and took a step forward in terms of his ability to lead an offense as a primary ball-handler. This is the role Smart will assume quite significantly to start the season for the Grizzlies, combining with Desmond Bane when it comes to point guard duties until Ja Morant returns. If Smart can meet expectations as a facilitator, his offensive value will certainly be on display. His track record alone should provide faith he can bounce back from last year, and place him among the top 60 to 70 players in the league currently.

Furthermore, a potential return to being one of the best perimeter defenders in the league is certainly in play for Smart as well. Both Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. made All-Defensive teams last year, so Smart should fit within the Grizzlies defensive strategy like a glove (pun intended). If Smart can play with intelligence and consistency on offense helping others take their games to another level offensively while also playing elite defense, he can help the Grizzlies be in the best possible position once Morant returns. And Smart if can help Memphis experience a new level of success in the postseason this year, he also could be in the conversation to be among the 50 best players in the league once again.

Steven Adams (Start of Season – Top 100; Next Year -Top 80)

Steven Adams should absolutely be listed among the top 100 players in the NBA entering the season. Yes, he did not play after late January last year due to a knee injury, but the Grizzlies have remained consistent with the opinion he will be ready to go to the start the 2023-2024 season. If that is the case, Adams resume during his time in Memphis clearly shows he is among the best centers in the league.

Adams is the best offensive rebounder in the league, and also regained some of his defensive impact from previous seasons. However, the main value that Adams provides is in the support he offers to the Grizzlies best players. Each of them play at a higher level with Adams on the court, and advanced metrics all place Adams among the best centers in the league in terms of positive play impact.

Yes, Adams does not have the counting statistics others have, and the value he provides is more in how it improves the play of others than his own. But the Grizzlies have proven to be at their best when he is available. If Adams is once again healthy this year, and multiple Grizzlies take their games to the next level once again, Adams should easily have a resume to be considered among the top 80 players next year.

A few players who could be “honorable mentions” to this list in terms of having a shot to be in the Top 100 players of the NBA a year from now are Luke Kennard and Santi Aldama. Kennard will likely be featured with the Grizzlies more than he has at any previous point in his career, and with him being at the top of the 3P% leader boards over the past few years, he could emerge as a significant part of the offense. If he continues his elite production, such as making 150+ threes at a 45% or better clip, being the best three point shooter in the league is a pretty good bullet point to have for a top 100 player.

Santi Aldama being considered a top 100 player is likely a long shot. However, if the Grizzlies once again experience health issues with their front court, Aldama could be in line for significant playing time. If he averages over 20 minutes a game and double digit points, the rest of his game could progress to where he could get Top 100 consideration. Again, this development is not likely and may not be all that positive if more impactful Grizzlies players are hurt, but Aldama certainly could take another level or two with his game in the near future.

To keep things in context, I highly doubt that the Grizzlies will have seven players in the top 100 of the league next season. However, the main point to show is that the youth of the Grizzlies core and the bigger opportunity some new veterans will get in Memphis this year could lead to another very good season even if there are struggles with health. Over the past few years, Memphis has sacrificed reliable depth in order to improve the quality of their potential playoff rotation. If each of the aforementioned players can remain healthy and at least sustain previous levels of success with a few bounce backs/breakouts, the Grizzlies will be in good position for the 2024 postseason.

Furthermore, several Grizzlies could be considered among the best players in the NBA beyond this year.


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