Are the Memphis Grizzlies better without Ja Morant?

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

Whether you’ll admit it or not, all Memphis Grizzlies fans have had a single question enter their head at some point throughout the team’s 10-2 stretch without their star player — are the Grizzlies better without Ja Morant?

The answer to the question is an unequivocal no. This, however, hasn’t stopped fans from openly asking the question, which is what one fan did for ESPN’s NBA mailbag. Here’s what he said.

"“I can’t believe the Grizzlies are doing so well without Morant. Do you think they are better off without him and if so what should they look for if they trade him?”"

But before we pounce on this person and call them a total moron, it’s important to explore the side of this that caused him to feel this way.

The side-by-side numbers indicate that the Memphis Grizzlies are, in fact, better without Ja Morant

A couple of games ago, I wrote an article about how the Grizzlies have been one of the most elite teams in the NBA without their star player. In that article, I brought up a few stats that indicate that Memphis has been objectively better without him. Here are a couple of those numbers as of two games ago.

With Morant:

  • 9-10 record
  • 115.1 defensive rating (last in NBA)
  • 109.7 PPG

Without Morant:

  • 9-1 record
  • 99.8 defensive rating (first in NBA)
  • 111.8 PPG

There’s no doubt about it — Memphis has played better basketball without its star player. This, however, does not mean that they are a better team without their star player. Allow me to explain.

What you’re witnessing isn’t a team that suddenly turned into an NBA contender without their likely NBA All-Star healthy enough to play — it’s a team that happened to get hot while its star player was sidelined.

You’re seeing a handful of players play their best basketball and, quite frankly, play at a level that they cannot maintain. For example, for a large portion of Morant’s absence, Dillon Brooks was shooting over 45% from three-point range. This would have been the highest in his career by a wide margin but has since dropped to 34.1% which is the lowest in his career.

Depending on when Morant returns, we will see this Grizz team come back down to earth. We already saw them take a disappointing loss against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday in a game where Memphis just ran out of options. Brooks scored 37 points and the next-highest scorer was Steven Adams with 13.

I’m not saying Memphis won’t continue to play good basketball — just warning you that it’s not something you should get used to. This basketball team is better in the long run with Morant, even if that’s hard to see in the scope of this specific season.

Next. 3 trade proposals that land Jaylen Brown in Memphis. dark

Look at it this way — Morant will be rejoining a Grizzlies team that is 10-2 in his absence. That thought should terrify fans of any other team.