Coming off a season in which they finished ninth in the Western Conference and made the playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies were expected to take a step forward during the 2021-22 season – but not a huge step.
In fact, ESPN was forecasting a 42-40 record for them, while FiveThirtyEight predicted they would win 44 games.
Instead, Memphis matured into a real threat, finishing 56-26 while finishing in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating.
The ‘21-22 Memphis Grizzlies led the league in 8 major stat categories:
– Off REB
– Total REB
– 2nd chance pts
– Fast break pts
– Pts in the paint
No other team has led the league in more than 4 of these stats in the same season (data available since ‘96-97) pic.twitter.com/5N4eoGTWAW
— Steven Adams Stats (@funakistats) August 7, 2022
It reached the second round of the playoffs where it took two games from the eventual world champion Golden State Warriors – with one of those wins coming even after franchise player Ja Morant went down with a series-ending knee injury.
JA MORANT put on a show in the Grizzlies GM2 win vs the Warriors 🥷
47 Points (18 in 4th)
& These Nasty Highlights
— 𝘼𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙞 🧼 (@autipulatious) August 8, 2022
Some are expecting the Grizzlies to take the next step and become legitimate championship contenders during the 2022-23 campaign, but that may be expecting too much from them.
In fact, it may be more realistic to expect them to take a small step backward.
The Grizzlies Have Largely Stood Pat This Summer
Barring a major late summer move, the Grizzlies will go into training camp with basically the same roster they had this past season.
The only real addition they made was trading for Danny Green, a veteran 3-and-D wing who spent the last two years with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Green is a nice role player, but he is 35 years of age and won’t make that much of an impact.
It looks like Memphis is going with a patient approach, especially given that Morant has just turned 23 and much of the rest of its core is also very young.
There is an argument to be made for that type of approach, but it isn’t one that will translate to big gains right away.
What the Grizzlies need to become true title contenders is a legitimate second star or superstar next to Morant, and it is unclear whether players such as Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks or Jaren Jackson Jr. have what it takes to get to the level.
If it doesn’t happen, look for the team to be pretenders once again in the always-loaded and competitive Western Conference.
The West Is Too Deep And Talented
There are several teams that will or could be better than the Grizzlies this coming season.
The core of the Phoenix Suns, a team that reached the NBA Finals a year ago, is still intact, and who is to say that they or another team in the West won’t make a move for Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving by the end of the summer?
The Grizzlies have a bright future, but for now, they appear to be a player or two short of having a real shot at their first world championship.