The expectation heading into summer was that the Memphis Grizzlies would make a strong push to be more competitive next season and go deeper into the NBA playoffs. Now, any plans along those lines may have to be altered – dramatically – given the recent actions of two-time All-Star Guard Ja Morant.
For the second time this year, Morant popped up in an online video with a gun in his hand. In a tightly-worded statement, the Grizzlies announced Morant’s indefinite suspension pending further investigation.
In addition to the torrent of reaction throughout the league, the media and various portals and platforms, everyday conversations are awash in “Ja talk.” The likelihood of a second suspension is a sure bet. That leaves the Grizzlies organization with already tough decisions that are made more complicated at this point because of the uncertainty of the coming suspension.
While Morant does not appear to have appeared broken any laws, his latest escapade sets him up for disciplinary action under the league’s authority to act in response to actions deemed detrimental to the league. The Grizzlies’ need to get better means that the front office has to figure out how to do so with that heavy backdrop.
That means revisiting the drawing board and possibly not trading Jones.
It was widely anticipated that backup point guard Tyus Jones would be used as trade material to improve the roster. If Jones is traded, it would force shooting guard Desmond Bane to play more at the point and take him away from the shooting guard spot. Bane had surgery on his toe this week and is expected to be ready by the start of the season.
Luke Kennard could conceivably handle the point position but that would mean moving him out of the much-needed role of designated three-point shooter.
Currently, there is only one open spot on the 15-man roster. Some of the young players the Grizzlies have signed likely will be traded or released in the off-season to make room for more veteran players.
While the defensive-minded Dillon Brooks has not been officially removed from the active roster, various outlets have him ruled out of returning next season. Looks like a sign-and-trade deal is in the future of one of the best wing defenders in the league.
Ziaire Williams and David Roddy – two of the younger players – and Brandon Clarke, who will be returning from a season-ending injury, may attract some attention.
And, the Grizzlies have a wealth of draft picks at their disposal.
The Grizzlies currently have three picks in this year’s draft: one first-round pick and two second-round picks. The second-round picks usually are players drafted to put on two-way contracts that don’t count against the 15-man roster.
Kenny Lofton Jr. broke out last summer and his continued development is a key part of the team. Jake Laravia, who was looked upon to make a big impact last season, was up and down to the G-League team last season. The team wants him to be a spot-up consistent shooter similar to Kennard.
Big man Santi Aldama may not be with the team much this summer. He will be a member of the Spanish National Basketball team. The Grizzlies would like for him to build off the unexpected but welcomed contributions this past season. He needs to improve his strength in defending bigger players in the post.
Meanwhile, the wait is on for the Grizzlies as the NBA works through an investigation of the Morant’s matter. The number of games that Morant will miss could determine how the Grizzlies approach free agency.