Are Grizzlies capable of getting to next level with Taylor Jenkins as head coach?

Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports)
Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports) /
Memphis Grizzlies
Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in peculiar territory — not rebuilding, but not yet contending for an NBA championship.

Yes, the front office has gone on record saying they aren’t going to sacrifice the future for short-term gains. The only problem with that ethos is there’s undeniable unquantifiable value in having at least one sage veteran on a team. Think Udonis Haslem for the Heat or Taj Gibson on the Knicks.

It’s why guys like Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill were perfect for this team when they suited up for the Grizzlies during the 2019-20 season. They were great role players and taught guys like Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, and Jaren Jackson, Jr. a ton of NBA knowledge.

The Grizzlies don’t have that veteran presence on the team this season, so Head Coach Taylor Jenkins has been the default voice of reason for his players. It hasn’t worked out well.

Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins may not be the man who takes the team to the top

The Grizzlies are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, giving up 114.2 ppg (29th out 30) and a defensive rating of 113.0 (27th out of 30). Part of that is due to the heart and soul of the defense, Dillon Brooks, being out for the first 10 games of the season. But, that’s still alarming.

The bigger issue is the head coach being at odds with the very ethos put forth by team executive Zach Kleiman. Taylor Jenkins has made a lot of puzzling decisions over the course of the young season.

Like totally ignoring Brandon Clarke for games a time, only to have him erupt for 20 points and 9 rebounds in a game. Or ignoring Xavier Tillman for games at a time.

How about prioritizing John Konchar over Ziaire Williams against the Charlotte Hornets? Williams was a DNP. How does that happen?

Some of his decisions in playing vs not playing certain individuals make you wonder what’s going on. Is he relying on analytics too much? Are certain players not meeting a certain required threshold that he’s set?

Jenkins has used 106 different lineup combinations with little to show for. To put it into perspective, the Utah Jazz have only used 55 different combinations of players this season.

Jenkins tries different combinations of players, but they are ill-constructed. In four of the team’s five losses so far this season, the Grizzlies have had a lead and squandered it away.

Against Charlotte, the team was up 8 points halfway through the third quarter and ended up losing the game. Against Portland, the Grizzlies were up 8 a few seconds before halftime and lost the game in spectacular fashion. Same for the Lakers game when the Grizzlies were up 10 points and lost the game.

Are the players not listening to Jenkins? Is there that much of a talent deficit? Maybe it’s a bit of both. But the buck stops with the head coach and the ability of Taylor Jenkins to make adjustments and find the right lineup combinations is a storyline to keep an eye on as the season goes on.

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