The Body Count in Memphis

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Updated: January 4, 2022
ja bane

Narratives are sluggish. They cement themselves into the mind in a way that feels immovable and firmly grounded into the fabric of thought. Yet when these paradigms begin to sway from left to right, the momentum of their dislodging and the magnitude of this impact can rewrite the letter of law that had previously dictated what was with what is. With a league that is currently dominated by its veterans and +30 superstars who have monopolized the majority of facetime of the league, the young often are overlooked as regular-season caveats that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Because of how young Desmond Bane and Ja Morant are, they tend to be slotted in as one of the best young backcourts in basketball…and yet, when we scan through the league, outside of the Steph and Klay, CP3/Booker backcourts, how many more tandems can honestly slide in front of the Ja + Bane explosion with ease? The answer is not many, and this backcourt question stands as a microcosm of the Grizzlies’ place in the NBA. They are no longer a cute young team with spunk, but a dangerous commodity that no one wants to see in a 7 game series. At 24 & 14, check out the body count of L’s they’ve delivered:

Cavs, Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Jazz, Mavericks, Heat, Lakers, 76ers, and now the Brooklyn Nets, the Grizzlies have put L’s on nearly every playoff team and contender in this league including the steamrolling Warriors and Suns. Despite dealing with injuries, they have continued to collect wins and build in their momentum going deeper into the season towards the All-Star break. With the revelation of sophomore guard Desmond Bane whose jumper is more than anyone ever expected from him already, matched with his size and power, he appears to be a perfect match at the 2 next to Ja as their primary facilitator and scoring powerhouse.

Outside of their age and newly formed backcourt, one of the reasons they may be a bit overlooked is the Conference they find themselves in, sharing the West with the 3 best records in basketball. The Warriors and Suns appear to be in their own tier, and until either of them comes back to earth and joins the rest of the pack in the standings, they will remain in their own echelon of greatness. The Jazz, although carrying with them fewer believers in their playoff potential, still remain with a better record than any team in the East at 27 & 10.

If not for the Warriors and Suns’ dominance and projected powerhouse systems come the postseason, how would we view the upcoming Memphis Grizzlies? It is because of how solid the systems of Golden State and Phoenix have proven themselves to be that no one can imagine putting their bets down on the Grizz in a 7-game series against the Dubs and Suns to make it out of the West. And barring injury, this assessment is most likely a logical presumption, especially with the war-tested squads they carry with them in the rings with the Warriors’ dynasty and the recent Final’s appearance by CP3, DeAndre Ayton, and Devon Booker.

However, with this recent Brooklyn win, not just the W but in the way that it felt and the confidence this young Memphis team carries itself with, how would we view the Grizzlies if the postseason wasn’t divided by conferences? If instead of the top 8 of the West and East matched up top to bottom from coast to coast it was just the top 16 teams lined up regardless of their geographic location, how deep would the projections for the Grizz go? Sure, the upside for the Bucks and Brooklyn puts them in a tier next to the Suns and the Warriors but their floor with all the question marks of what we have seen thus far this season hardly would make them a sure bet against Ja and the Grizzlies.

A good example of a team perceptually viewed differently due to age verse on-court impact is the Miami Heat to this Memphis Grizzlies. Miami, because of its vet-heavy squad has been called a black-horse title contender ever since the 2nd week of the season. Yet, as of now, the Grizzlies have yet to ever get whispers of black-horse considerations. However, as the body count continues to grow, and the Ja/Bane backcourt ascends, don’t be too surprised if the narrative dislodges itself and begins a shift throughout the Western Conference.

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