Grizzlies predicted to fizzle out in Group A of In-Season Tournament

Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Memphis Grizzlies may be viewed as a legitimate NBA title contender heading into 2023-24 but, unfortunately, expectations for them don’t appear to be such as lofty when it comes to the upcoming inaugural In-Season Tournament.

On August 15, the league officially released the schedule for this newly implemented event, which involves all 30 organizations across the league being broken up into one of six groups (three from each conference) consisting of five teams.

The Grizzlies find themselves thrust into a rather competitive Western Conference Group A with the likes of two legitimate title-contending clubs in the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers and three total teams who claimed 37 or more victories just last season in the two aforementioned teams and the Utah Jazz.

The Grizzlies are deemed ‘unofficial No. 1 seed,’ but are still underdogs

Despite coming into the tournament (and the season as a whole) fresh off their second-consecutive second-seeded finish in the Western Conference standings, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz recently made the bold claim that Memphis will likely still be trying to find its identity by the time the festivities roll around which, in turn, will only hurt their chances of advancing in the tourney.

“Even though Memphis is the unofficial No. 1 seed in Group A, Ja Morant will still be serving a 25-game suspension, thus wiping out any chance he’ll be playing in November. The Grizzlies will still be trying to integrate Marcus Smart into their system instead,” Swartz wrote.

Swartz would continue to make the argument that, of all members of Group A, the Suns should be viewed as the unquestioned favorites to advance to the quarterfinals.

“LeBron James hasn’t taken the regular season seriously since he was in Miami, while Utah and Portland will almost certainly be lottery teams in 2023-24. This leaves the Suns, who should be hungry to prove this new core with Bradley Beal is championship-worthy and look to get some early playoff-style reps while they can,” Swartz wrote.

Though not having Ja Morant in the mix is bound to negatively impact their odds, Memphis finds itself coming off a 2022-23 campaign where they ranked as the third-best defense in the league (110.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and now boast a roster with the two most recent Defensive Player of the Year recipients in Marcus Smart and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Despite Swartz’s projections, should this new menacing tandem further strengthen the club’s defensive production while the likes of Jackson and recently re-signed rising star Desmond Bane hold down the fort in the scoring department, the Grizzlies could theoretically make themselves a serious threat to the currently favored Suns.