Ceiling, floor for Memphis Grizzlies: Don’t underestimate the league’s best defensive team

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The Memphis Grizzlies finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference last season, but controversy and a disappointing playoff loss marred their success. Already facing adversity, it remains up for debate whether Memphis is capable of notching 50 wins for the third consecutive season.

Here’s our prediction of the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Grizzlies this season:

Ceiling: 52-30 and Western Conference Finals exit

Memphis will be without point guard Ja Morant for its first 25 games due to a suspension after was filmed posing with a firearm in May, the second gun-related incident he was involved in last season. While it’s not ideal, the Grizzlies have succeeded without Morant before. Over the last two seasons, Memphis is 31-15 in such games, and considering the talent added this offseason, the team should remain competitive in the two-time All-Star’s absence.

Although the Grizzlies lost two key role players in Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones, they picked up Derrick Rose in free agency and traded for former Celtic Marcus Smart. The 35-year-old Rose isn’t a much better player than Jones, but he offers plenty of postseason experience and brings invaluable leadership to the locker room. Smart, however, is a massive upgrade over Brooks, as Memphis now has the last two Defensive Player of the Year Award winners in its lineup, win Jaren Jackson Jr. the reigning DPOY.

The return of center Steven Adams, arguably the strongest player in the Association, will be a significant boost after a season-ending PCL sprain limited him to just 42 games. Memphis posted the third-best defensive rating last season (110.7), and with all the improvements it made, it has the potential to be the NBA’s most effective defense, which could be a decisive factor during the playoffs.

Floor: 46-36 and first-round playoff exit

Despite the fact that the Grizzlies should be able to withstand Morant’s suspension, they aren’t the only Western Conference powerhouse to undergo major changes, and it’s unlikely they’ll win as many games as last season because of it.

The West will be a gauntlet, and the Phoenix Suns stick out as the most likely team that will finish higher in this season’s standings and overtake the Grizzlies as a top-two team in the conference. Memphis went 2-2 against Phoenix a season ago, each game before the Suns acquired former MVP Kevin Durant. The Suns didn’t slow down in the offseason, adding All-Star guard Bradley Beal, and Memphis will play them twice before Morant’s return. 

Assuming Morant makes it through the season without causing problems for himself and the team, the Grizzlies will be a playoff-bound team but still have much to prove. Morant has been a phenomenal postseason performer statistically throughout his career, averaging 27.3 points, 8.6 assists and 6.8 rebounds. However, it hasn’t led to success as Memphis boasts a 9-14 playoff record since 2020-21 with several humbling losses along the way, and there could be more to come given the competition it’ll face.

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