The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the most confusing teams in the NBA this year. As things stand, the team is 9-10 with Ja Morant in the starting lineup and 2-0 without him. Granted, Memphis has played two subpar teams in his absence — still, it’s a weird statistic.
And that’s exactly what has made this Grizz team so strange to watch in 2021 — the inconsistencies. The Grizzlies have a loss against one of the worst teams in the league in the New Orleans Pelicans but are also one of just three teams to beat the Golden State Warriors this year.
And at the center of these inconsistencies, there are a few players who haven’t been able to get into a steady rhythm. You can point the finger at guys like Steven Adams and De’Anthony Melton, but the Grizzlies’ 2021 first-round NBA Draft pick may be to blame.
Memphis Grizzlies wing Ziaire Williams hasn’t had a strong start but has a great opportunity to bounce back in 2021
I want to make it clear that I do not think Ziaire Williams should be “blamed” for any of the Grizzlies’ shortcomings in 2021 thus far. We’re talking about a 20-year-old rookie who was pinned as a long-term project as soon as Memphis drafted him.
Thankfully, Ja Morant’s injury will give Williams a great opportunity to finally get into a groove.
As most Grizz fans probably know, Morant will be out for “a couple of weeks,” which could mean virtually anything considering the source. This Memphis basketball team has been known to stretch out recovery times, for better or worse.
This, however, means that a handful of players will be picking up minutes that were not originally there. It’s not extremely direct — Williams is a wing and has not been anything remotely close to a playmaker in 2021. Still, it may be easier to send more minutes his way, and as a result, allow him to play for longer stretches of time and get into a groove.
As things stand, the rookie has only played more than 20 minutes in a single game on five occasions this season. In those games, the Grizzlies are 4-1 and Ziaire Williams has scored 7.6 points per game, 2.6 higher than his current season average. More importantly, he has put up 7.4 shot attempts per game, which is significantly higher than his season average.
If he’s not shooting well, he will begin to as he earns more minutes. So far, Williams has only played in one game in Morant’s absence, missing the other with knee soreness. If Jenkins is smart, he’ll use this opportunity to get his rookie going.
If Ziaire Williams can play strong perimeter defense and produce offensively, even at just an average rate, the Grizzlies will be in good shape.