Steven Adams was sorely missed during the final 36 games of last season and throughout the entirety of the playoffs while sidelined with a lingering knee injury. Though the hope was that he’d be a full go for the upcoming campaign after months of rehab, it was officially announced Sunday that the Memphis Grizzlies will remain without their prized big through 2023-24 as he undergoes surgery to repair his right posterior cruciate ligament.
With this news, fans and media pundits alike are left to wonder what GM Zach Kleiman and company might be planning to do in an effort to try and fill the 6-foot-11 hole now found down at their pivot position.
While the most entertaining move would easily be for the club to scour the trade market for an outsourced replacement option, perhaps the most likely course of action, at least to start off the year, will be for the Grizzlies to simply promote from within and put their “next man up” mantra to the test.
Should this latter route become a reality, based on how they went about replacing Adams last season it appears Xavier Tillman will be utilized as the new starting five.
And while the team did find success with such a lineup (Memphis went 17-11 when starting Tillman after Adams’ injury), Locked on Grizzlies host Joe Mullinax seems to be quite weary about the upside they would have come playoff time.
Grizzlies get harsh reality check on expected Steven Adams replacement
"“Could the Grizzlies be the four or five seed with Xavier Tillman as their starting center? Yea, I think that’s possible. Are they going to lose in the first round? Yea, I would almost certainly pick anybody to beat the Memphis Grizzlies in a first round playoff series if Xavier Tillman is their starting center,” Mullinax said.“That’s just the reality. That’s not a knock on [Tillman]. I think X is a really good NBA reserve big. That’s what he needs to be. He can’t be a starter in a playoff if you want to go win a championship. Even just the Western Conference Finals. That’s the goal, to be in the NBA’s final four and if you lose to the Nuggets or the Suns of the Warriors or the Lakers there’s not really shame in that because they’re positioned differently than Memphis right now. But I think the goal is the Western Conference Finals, and if that’s the goal you’re not making it as you’re currently constructed.”"
Despite their win-loss successes, the production of the Grizzlies seemed to drop drastically with Adams out of and Tillman in the lineup, as the club ranked just 13 in win percentage (.556), 13 in offensive rebounding (10.3), 15 in total rebounding (43.1), ninth in defensive rating (112.6), and 13 in net rating (2.2) with the veteran out compared to when he was in where they ranked third (.674), first (13.4), first (49.4), first (109.2), and second (5.4), respectively, during his 42 games on the floor.
It goes without saying that the 30-year-old will be a tough commodity for Memphis to replace this coming season, but Mullinax suggests that, if they do wish to still aim for a deep playoff run, perhaps acquiring another player via the trade market could be their best bet.