Much like an NBA game, the momentum of an NBA franchise can shift suddenly and dramatically. Improbable comebacks occur. And what once looked like a guaranteed loss can rapidly turn into a nailbiter, maybe even a come-from-behind win. It’s why we love the game.
Just last month, after the Grizzlies unceremoniously fired J.B. Bickerstaff as head coach as part of a much larger shakeup, fans were left shaking their heads. After all, newly acquired players had begun to gel into a competitive unit after a flurry of February trades. Chaos in the front office only seemed to indicate a dysfunctional future.
Fast-forward to Tuesday, May 14, and the NBA Draft Lottery. The Grizzlies had done a good job of lowering expectations with their hopes to score no higher than the No. 9 pick, and convey it to Boston. Think about that: High hopes in Memphis would mean coming in 9th place.
Ah, but the NBA rolled out new rules for the lottery this year, adjusting the odds to deter teams deliberately losing games. And as the No. 8 pick went to the Atlanta Hawks, hopes to convey the pick gave way to higher hopes. Could the Grizzlies actually win the lottery and draft the concensus top pick, Duke star Zion Williamson?
Ultimately, the New Orleans Pelicans got the top pick, with the Grizzlies landing at No. 2. And after a microsecond of disappointment – I mean, nobody wants to finish second – Memphis fans cheered. No, Zion Williamson will not play in Memphis next season.
But in all likelihood, Murray State star point guard Ja Morant will. And just like that, there’s hope again in Grind City.
Like many of you, I’ll be scouring the Internet for scouting reports and highlight reels on Morant — I even posted a clip above to get you started. And I’ll perform due diligence for Williamson’s Duke teammate R.J. Barrett, generally considered the other top remaining prospect.
But all signs point to Morant as the Grizzlies point guard of the future. He can score; he averaged 24.5 points per game at Murray State last season. And his competitive fire and fearlessness has drawn comparisons to OKC superstar Russell Westbrook.
But when you look at Morant’s highlight reels – and you will – pay special attention to his court vision and passing. Morant shows a flair for finding his teammates in position to score – a fact backed up by his NCAA-leading 10 assists per game last season.
There are some knocks on his game – and frame. At 6’3” and 175 pounds, he’s thin and will need to bulk up. Scouts also say he can improve on defense and his three point shot. But don’t be confused: Many of those same pundits predict Morant will become an All-Star in fairly short order.
What does it mean for the Grizzlies? If Morant is the future, it obviously seems to clear the way for a Mike Conley trade. And the prospect of molding a Ja Morant-Jaren Jackson Jr. tandem could be tantalizing to coaching prospects. With the draft still more than a month away (let alone free agency and trades), it’s way too early to say.
But for now, there’s hope for your Memphis Grizzlies. And who could have predicted that last month?