With lower than a month remaining within the common season, the playoff races are heating up. The brand new play-in event will enable extra groups into the thick of issues because the season winds down. One workforce trying to make a return to postseason play is the Memphis Grizzlies, led by dynamic level guard Ja Morant. Memphis at present owns the eighth spot within the Western Convention, due to wonderful workforce basketball.
Morant would be the face of the franchise, however he has had a minor sophomore stoop this season. His taking pictures percentages are down throughout the board, which embrace 74 p.c from the free-throw line and 27 p.c from behind the three-point line. Like most everybody within the league this yr, he has missed a handful of video games which have prevented him from entering into the kind of rhythm that he would love.
Memphis is the true definition of the phrase “workforce” as they’ve collected wins with a well-balanced assault. They don’t have one or two celebrity gamers that carry them on a nightly foundation. They don’t depend on that which both, which makes issues troublesome for the opponent as they put together their defensive methods. The Grizzlies are troublesome to sport plan for, which is a credit score to their unselfish play.
Contributions have come from everybody on the roster, from high to backside. Kyle Anderson has been an ideal slot in Memphis. Dillon Brooks is seemingly unstoppable when he will get going. Brandon Clarke continues to impress and Grayson Allen has been a revelation for this workforce. It doesn’t cease there both. De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman have been wonderful additions by the entrance workplace and the continued improvement of Tyus Jones has been essential to lessening the load on Morant.
The actual shock has come on the heart place. Memphis was alleged to be a two-headed monster with the younger duo of Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. The fourth-overall decide within the 2018 draft lastly made his season debut final night time towards the Los Angeles Clippers, which makes what Memphis is doing much more spectacular.
With Jackson sidelined for basically the whole season, the one different heart on the roster is Jonas Valanciunas. Memphis was involved about having the veteran massive man shoulder an excessive amount of of the load, however he has delivered on a nightly foundation. The nine-year vet is having a profession yr in Memphis. Sadly, the workforce introduced on Sunday that he would miss a while attributable to a concussion.
Not solely has the Lithuanian produced some unimaginable numbers to date this season, however he has additionally been a key cog to the Grizzlies’ profitable methods. Valanciunas has a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 24.13 which ranks 18th in the league amongst all gamers. That could be a outstanding accomplishment for a middle in at this time’s sport.
The rebounding numbers alone are fairly spectacular. Valanciunas has basically led the workforce in that division every sport and has accomplished it by a large margin. He currently ranks third in the league in rebounds, behind solely Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert.
During the last 30 days, Jonas Valančiūnas leads the NBA in rebounding, averaging 14.5 RPG
Amongst gamers averaging a minimum of 10 RPG in that span, solely Cities, Giannis, Westbrook, Jokic, Vucevic, and Porzingis are averaging extra factors than Valančiūnas’s 18.2 per sport pic.twitter.com/dx13yuhHbv
— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) April 12, 2021
Valanciunas has 40 double-doubles this season in his 50 games performed. As of final week, the one gamers with extra double-doubles this season have been MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook.
Valanciunas has been getting higher because the season progresses. He averaged 15.0 rebounds per sport in March. His numbers in April are a mirrored image of how nicely Memphis has been enjoying. He’s averaging 20.6 factors, 12.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per sport this month. He’s taking pictures 68 p.c from the ground, 46 p.c from three-point vary and 86.2 p.c from the free-throw line. His greatest sport this month got here towards the Indiana Pacers when he poured in 34 factors and grabbed 22 rebounds.
No @NBA participant has extra point-rebound double-doubles this season than Jonas Valančiūnas (40).@JValanciunas‘ fortieth double-double, recorded tonight, represents a brand new single-season profession excessive (39 in 2019-20). pic.twitter.com/xIeYUzlZD5
— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) April 15, 2021
Earlier than Valanciunas went out with a concussion, the Grizzlies had gained seven of their final ten video games. They’re now 0-2 with out him however the losses weren’t unhealthy by any stretch of the creativeness. They got here up brief in an additional time sport towards a red-hot New York Knicks workforce, then misplaced to the Dallas Mavericks on a ridiculous floating three-pointer by Luka Doncic. On Monday they fell two factors brief in a double-overtime thriller in Denver towards the Nuggets. With out JV on the ground, Jokic erupted with 47 factors, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
Sharing the ball has been a relentless theme for this younger Memphis workforce. Solely the Golden State Warriors common extra assists per sport as a workforce. The Grizzlies additionally lead the league in steals per sport, which is a testomony to their effort on the defensive finish of the ground.
Taylor Jenkins deserves a lot of the credit score in Memphis, although he doesn’t need the highlight. The second-year head coach has the Grizzlies enjoying elite protection regardless of being one of many quicker groups by way of tempo of play. Their defensive score ranks seventh within the league whereas additionally boasting the eleventh greatest web score. The street forward doesn’t get a lot simpler for them although.
Memphis is in the midst of a brutal seven-game street journey. It began nicely for them, with wins over the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. After the double-overtime loss in Denver, they beat the Clippers in Jackson’s season debut and now head to Portland for 2 video games towards the Path Blazers. Their street journey wraps up with one other go to to Denver earlier than going through Portland for the third time in six days.
The final time Memphis made the playoffs was through the 2016-17 season. Together with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, that roster included gamers like Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Chandler Parsons, Brandan Wright and Zach Randolph. This Grizzlies workforce could not have the identical degree of veterans, however their expertise runs extraordinarily deep.
Including Jackson again into the fold ought to give Memphis a potent punch heading into the postseason. With Valanciunas now lacking video games, Jackson ought to have the chance to shake off the rust. Whereas they aren’t heading to the NBA Finals this season, this can be a scary Grizzlies workforce that may derail the hopes of a championship contender within the West.