While some teams view losing in the playoffs as a failure in their season, this should not be the case with the Memphis Grizzlies. With just one guy on their roster 30-years-old or older, the Grizzlies are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and they definitely outperformed the expectations placed on them coming into the season.
Last year in the NBA Bubble, the Grizzlies wound up fighting their way to the 8-seed/9-seed play-in game in the Western Conference and took on the Portland Trail Blazers, but Damian Lillard was too much for them to handle. Overall though, the Grizzlies learned a lot about themselves playing in the bubble and being invited to Orlando last season may have been the best thing to ever happen to this franchise.
Losing Jaren Jackson Jr. to a meniscus injury in the bubble definitely hurt Memphis early on this year and they were still a young team trying to learn and gain experience early on during the 2020-21 season, but Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and others really took a big step in their respective careers this season.
After winning Rookie of the Year last year over Zion Williamson, Ja Morant put together yet another fantastic season, averaging 19.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists and shooting 44.9% from the floor. Near the end of the season, Morant was talking to the media about his recent play and stated that he believed that he was a Top-5 point guard in the league.
While many believed that Morant was foolish to say this, he backed up his words on the court and truly did look like one of the best point guards in the league during the last month or so of the Grizzlies’ season.
Not only did the young guard help lead his team past the San Antonio Spurs in the 9-seed vs. 10-seed play-in game, but then they were able to pull off a huge upset in San Francisco over Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in order to claim the 8-seed in the Western Conference. Against the Spurs, Morant had 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists and then against the Warriors, he exploded for 35 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
However, these were not the last of Morant’s amazing performances. The Grizzlies claimed the 8-seed, leading to a first-round matchup with the Utah Jazz in which they were given minimal chances to win, yet alone win a single game! This did not stop Morant and this young team from attacking their opponents and doing what they do.
Memphis ultimately lost the series 4-1 to Utah, but in this series, Ja Morant scored 23+ points in every single game, including a Game 2 performance in which he dropped 47 points on 15-26 shooting! With a combined 73 points through his first two playoff games of his career, Morant became the first player to score as many as 71 points in his first two career playoff games since the NBL merged with the BAA to create the NBA as we know it today before the 1949-50 season.
What Memphis’ 21-year-old guard has done in his first two seasons in the league is quite remarkable and given how well he ended this season, there is no doubt in my mind that Ja Morant can live up to his own words of him being a Top-5 point guard in the league.
From Ja Morant’s monstrous performances to end the season, to Dillon Brooks growing into one of the fiercer two-way wings in the league, to Desmond Bane likely making the All-Rookie team this year, there is a lot to be happy about moving forward if you are a Grizzlies fan! This team is in great hands and they could be one key offseason acquisition away from solidifying themselves as one of the top teams in the Western Conference.