Memphis Grizzlies 2024 NBA offseason preview: Fresh hope for the immediate future

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 20: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies sits on the bench during their game against the Golden State Warriors in the first half at Chase Center on March 20, 2024 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ja Morant and the Grizzlies could make a deep playoff push next season. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

2023-2024 season: 27-55

Highlight of the season: A Jan. 15 win over Golden State when Vince Williams Jr. (24 points) and GG Jackson (23 points) solved the organization’s years-long wing issues.

With hopes of a better tomorrow. The Grizzlies’ season was dead early in the year, first via the 25-game suspension to All-Star Ja Morant and the injury to Brandon Clarke dating back to last season, and later to Morant himself going down, along with Marcus Smart (20 games played) and Desmond Bane (42 games). The team was so injured it ended up playing 33 different players, which is more than double a normal NBA roster count.

During Memphis' long, injury-plagued season, however, Jaren Jackson Jr. saw an increased level of offensive responsibility, scoring 22.5 points per game and upping his shot count from 13 last year to a whopping 17.6 per game this season. This will prove significant in his offensive evolution, as the 6-foot-11 big man has to cement himself as a viable, and reliable, threat each and every night behind Morant and Bane. The Grizzlies — historically a defensive-oriented franchise — now possess three players all with major offensive upside, and that’s before we get to GG Jackson.

GG Jackson, the league’s youngest player, is a 6-9 dynamic combo forward, capable of playing the wing and a more pure power forward role. He was the 45th selection in last year’s draft, meaning expectations were low coming into this year. Instead, Jackson saw an opportunity in half the roster being sidelined and bullied his way into the rotation. He did so by taking a high volume of 3-pointers (six attempts in just under 26 minutes), while also getting to the free-throw line at a decent clip. He displayed a level of scoring skill from the wing position that Memphis has needed for years, which in large parts is why the fan base is understandably optimistic about next season.

There was also the improved play of second-year man Vince Williams Jr., a 6-4 off-guard who can swing up to the wing. He’s less offensively potent than Jackson, averaging a more modest 10 points per game, but is a high-caliber rebounder for his size (5.6 per game) and a surprisingly effective passer. He should have a role next season, as either a sixth-man or as the final starter in case head coach Taylor Jenkins prefers to have GG Jackson’s scoring punch coming off the bench.

Regardless of how Jenkins structures his rotation next season, the major takeaway from this season will be the arrival of much-needed help, which will stand ready to flank Morant, Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the Grizzlies’ attempt at making a deep playoff push.

Furthermore, additional roster upgrades are still to come. Given the organization’s struggle to squeeze out wins this season, the Grizzlies are projected to select in the mid-lottery this June. If the team stays healthy for next season, Memphis will only add to an even more competitive Western Conference.

It might sound ridiculous that a 27-win team doesn’t have a large amount of needs, but that is indeed the case with Memphis. That being said, one glaring need it does have is rebounding. Jaren Jackson Jr.’s issues on the glass are well-known, and the team is in need of a big, physical center who can come in and turn the backboard battle into an advantage for the Grizzlies.

If Memphis wants Ja Morant 2.0 to run the second unit, Kentucky's Rob Dillingham is an option in the lottery. He was one of the best guards at getting downhill, averaging 15.2 points and 3.9 assists per game. UConn's Donovan Clingan, Duke's Kyle Filipowski and Baylor's 6-11 center Yves Missi could add some size in the lane alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. — Krysten Peek

Draft picks: Nos. 9 and 39 and 57

The Grizzlies are a costly team, with just the four of Morant, Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Smart combining for over $116 million, and they’re currently projected to be around $4 million over the luxury tax line, before adding the salary of the possible seventh overall selection in the draft.

They have a team option on Luke Kennard at nearly $15 million, which they could decline to make their money situation less tight, but that decision isn’t necessarily easy given Kennard’s shooting ability.

Should the Grizzlies try to clear some room to avoid paying the tax penalty, they could look to trade Ziaire Williams, a former top-10 pick, to a team that can absorb his entire $6.1 million salary. Jon Konchar, also at $6.1 million, is another name that could be shopped.

Key free agents: None

Winning. This isn’t one of those situations where the Grizzlies will stay patient, build a culture and kick the can down the road. They’re a young team, but they’ve been to the playoffs before, and they’ve just added several key pieces to their rotation. They do have a long window to compete, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t eager to go out there and join the elites of the Western Conference. Expect them to make a lot of noise in the league next season.

Stay healthy; that's all we need. Smart and Bane combined to play 62 games. Morant missed between his 25-game suspension and undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in January. An unintended benefit of this rash of injuries was the emergence of Williams. Fantasy managers can confidently spend a late-round pick on him, with his role expanding heading into his third season. — Dan Titus