Memphis Grizzlies Fans Five Things To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving
The Memphis Grizzlies suffered another heartbreaking close loss at home Wednesday night in a 121-119 defeat to one of the NBA's best teams - the Los Angeles Clippers. This has become sort-of a trend as of late as the young budding Grizzlies, have shown that on any given night they are able to compete with the league's best when they are playing at a high level. This is also compounded by the fact that this same Grizzlies team has also looked bad against teams that you would have liked to see them compete better against. With those things being said, the Grizzlies have provided several key elements that can be considered as things to be 'thankful for' so far.
Ja Morant Exceeding Expectations
As soon as the Grizzlies were awarded the second overall pick in the 2019 Draft, there was a heavy buzz around the opportunity to draft Ja Morant. The common expectation was that Morant would be a great player eventually but he would probably have a typical learning curve similar to the one that Trae Young had last season in Atlanta. He would probably struggle but come to form, resembling a glimpse of our expectations as the season progresses. Morant has destroyed that ceiling by not only averaging a team-leading 19.1 points and 6.6 assists per game but combining that with comfortability, poise, and moxie that is rare in a rookie point guard.
A Clear Coaching Culture
Memphis Head Coach Taylor Jenkins is far from being immune from criticism so far this season. Puzzling rotations, a perceived misuse of Jaren Jackson Jr. at times and lack of coaching challenges have been his main complaints but one thing about him is clear. His voice has weight amongst his players and he has helped build one of the most non-toxic locker rooms that I have seen since covering the team. The Grizzlies have dealt with some tough losses but I have rarely seen the players looking defeated after games when interviewed. This is not to be confused with indifference but they understand that the rebuild is a process and Coach Jenkins clearly does his part to keep spirits high while developing and guiding his players. This is an underrated value in my opinion for a rebuilding organization.
Jaren Jackson Emerging As A Potential Elite Level Shooter
A defensive-minded big man that can stretch the floor is a valuable tool in today's NBA and Jaren Jackson Jr. has stood out so far this season as a player who has been able to do so at a top tier level. After a slow start, Jackson is currently shooting at 42.5 percent from three on an average of five attempts per game which doubles his average of 2.4 attempts per game from last year. As Jackson continues to gain more confidence and keep his fouls under control, his three-point shooting, as well as his total offensive game, could be at an elite level. Although non-conventional, could Jaren Jackson Jr. end up being the 'shooter' that the fans have always wanted?
Brandon Clarke. Period
When the Grizzlies acquired the number 21 overall pick Brandon Clarke via trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, many local and national pundits were singing their praises for adding him to their rebuilding roster. In spite of being overanalyzed in the draft process for being older, undersized, not being able to shoot, and having short arms, Clarke has erased any doubt about his game. His three-point shot has greatly improved and he is one of the most efficient players in the NBA so far. He's an alley-oop waiting to happen and gets off the floor like a roman candle in a glass bottle. He's been an absolute steal and still shows room for growth - which is scary.
A Competent Front Office, Plus Good Fortune
Under the quiet leadership of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Zach Kleiman, the Grizzlies have easily their most competent front office team ever. Tayshaun Prince, Chris Makris, and Rich Cho complete this four-man tandem that has helped create and mold a young team, not just on the court but as a front office themselves. They have made shrewd, calculated decisions acquiring future assets and have hired a coach that fits their philosophy. They also had a boost of luck this offseason as they moved up into the number two pick in this season's draft acquiring Ja Morant as well as being in a position to acquire Brandon Clarke. Imagine the alterComing from the past Chris Wallace led regime it is easy to be grateful for what lies ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from Sports Illustrated's Grizz Maven