The Memphis Grizzlies had a successful 2020-21 season but they didn’t necessarily turn any heads. They snuck their way into the NBA Playoffs, knocking out Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors along the way but they were unable to get anywhere in a first-round matchup against the Utah Jazz.
Even so, the team took huge strides forward despite only seeing Jaren Jackson Jr. play in 11 games, never really getting into a groove.
The season was a huge success but national media never really jumped on the Grizzlies bandwagon, as demonstrated in Bleacher Report’s early 2021-22 NBA Power Rankings.
The Memphis Grizzlies ranking in B/R’s power rankings seems like a cop-out
Bleacher Report ranked all 30 NBA teams in order of how they performed last season. Despite this, the descriptions seem to reference next season and a team’s trajectory in the upcoming years. One would think that this would work in the Grizzlies’ favor, but it didn’t seem to.
The Grizzlies are ranked 13th, one spot behind the Pacers and one spot in front of the Trail Blazers. Here was Greg Swartz’s rationale.
“The supporting cast of Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen, Brandon Clarke, Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton and others make this one of the deepest rosters in the West, one where every player is still on an upward career trajectory.”
13th is a ranking that nobody will complain about, but was this selection a cop-out? Here’s why I think it was.
Swartz is absolutely correct about the team’s upward career trajectories, with each player continuing to improve. This alone would allow for the logic of moving Memphis, the lowest-seeded team in the NBA Playoffs, to make a jump up to 13th.
I do, however, firmly believe that the creator of these power rankings did not account for the impact of Jaren Jackson Jr. in 2021-22. Yes, he mentioned the fact that Jackson was out, but perhaps he underestimated the impact of the sharpshooting 6-11 forward.
Jackson shot the ball under 30% last season and his defense leveled out. His return did nothing outside of disrupting team chemistry, which complicated things at the end of the season. Memphis technically improved from deep, knocking down 1% more of their long-range shots compared to a season ago. With JJJ back, this number could skyrocket, which is a scary thought for a lot of the rest of the NBA.
We didn’t see this Grizzlies team even come close to their full potential, which is why Memphis should have been given a higher ranking.
Their current ranking seems like more of a reflection of who they would have been this year if not for JJJ’s injury. Instead, they should be sent into the top ten, especially considering the rapid improvement of almost every player on the roster.
In 2021, Jackson Jr. will be back and gelling with his team, which will go a much longer way than most NBA fans are expecting.