The primary time the Memphis Grizzlies got here to Orlando through the 2020 season, they didn’t resemble much of the team they’d develop into that season. Definitely not the team that appeared through the 2021 or 2022 seasons.
The Grizzlies were 2-5 and Ja Morant was beginning to percolate but looked like a rookie.
Playing against a playoff-hungry Orlando Magic team, they put the rookie guard in his place. Orlando won the sport by 32 points and held Morant to eight points on 3-for-13 shooting (he still had seven assists but against six turnovers).
That might need been the worst game of his rookie season. Morant was a dynamo the remaining of the season. The Grizzlies burst through and made the Play-In Game within the NBA’s bubble after the season was placed on hold for the pandemic. They might have been in playoff position if not for the addition of the sport.
The Grizzlies continued that upward trajectory making the playoffs in 2021. They continued to interrupt through and develop, earning the second seed within the Western Conference and staking a claim to future contention, even after a disappointing finish of their series to the more experienced and eventual champion Golden State Warriors.
Memphis was one among the youngest teams within the league last 12 months and grabbed their destiny by the proverbial horns. If anything, the Grizzlies showed every young team just take their step forward and the way quickly the pressure of contention can come.
The Orlando Magic are following the trail of the Memphis Grizzlies as they struggle to grow and develop their team. The Grizzlies leveled up and showed the trail to enhance as a team.
The Grizzlies’ story is actually not over. But they’ve reached a distinct stratosphere.
So how did the Grizzlies get there? How did they go from shedding one era — trading away Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in quick succession and falling to 22-60 before starting their climb back up?
Some Draft Lottery luck helped. Undoubtedly the largest boost to any rebuilding team is a transcendent talent.
That’s what Morant has proven to be. There was probably nothing more transformational for the Grizzlies than that addition with the second pick within the 2018 NBA Draft.
It doesn’t take a deep evaluation to grasp that througout the league, star power is ultimately what lifts teams to contention. There may be a reason teams throw away seasons to grab a top pick — especially in strong drafts and that temptation is already sending teams to the underside ahead of the 2023 Draft.
Morant became the tying bond that helped the Grizzlies turn the page.
Undoubtedly, this has been the thing the Magic have missed for the last decade. And so they actually think — and hope — drafting Paolo Banchero with the highest pick can have the identical transformative effect for the team.
Talent still wins on this league. And the Grizzlies quickly collected several strong players — drafting Jaren Jackson and Dillon Brooks along with adding Ja Morant — helped them top off enough to make their run and break through.
There may be more to it after all. But the whole lot has to begin with the players and the way all of them fit together. And the Grizzlies have found loads of quality role players to surround Morant.
They’ve a powerful pick and roll partner in Jackson who can roll to the rim and finish above the rim in addition to come out to the perimeter. They’ve Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane, two high-level 3-and-D wings who probably exceed that classification.
They’d dynamic guards in De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones to assist off the bench together with a bouncy big in Brandon Clarke. Not to say the veteran know-how that Steven Adams provided.
This was a deep team stuffed with young players who all appeared to work together. It is difficult not to attract the parallels between what the Magic try to do and what the Grizzlies have completed thus far.
Memphis built a young group that seemed tightly knit, played a definite style tailored to their star player and appeared to really grow and construct together. That was apparent when the Grizzlies ran the Magic off their very own court and relished in every highlight-reel moment throughout that blowout.
Memphis led the league in vibes — as much as Orlando looks like a team that thrives on good vibes.
There may be loads to learn in how the Grizzlies built.
All of it centers around Morant and he’s the force that launched the team ahead. But by the identical token, they did greater than just Morant.
Morant missed 12 games in December and still went 10-2. That stretch greater than any probably gave the Grizzlies the arrogance to proceed their climb up the standings. It was a vital moment for the team.
It takes an entire lot more to survive that form of stretch. It speaks to the deeper understanding and culture that exists with the Grizzlies.
Memphis is built on its defense as exciting because the team’s offensive weapons are. They were seventh within the league in defensive rating in 2021 after which stays in sixth in 2022. Their offense rose from fifteenth to sixth in offensive rating last 12 months.
This is a component of the Grizzlies coming into their very own and learning more about what it takes to win. They made the playoffs in 2021 and located themselves in defeat to the Utah Jazz in that series.
Jamahl Mosley has talked about his current Magic team learning to “level up.” What the Grizzlies did last 12 months is what leveling up looks like, albeit perhaps just a few rungs down the ladder.
Memphis straight away represents the young team that’s growing the correct way going through their paces and learning from each experience. If that’s the case, they must be considered one among the favorites and contenders to win a title this 12 months. Memphis is perhaps learning just how tough it’s to achieve true contention (and the Western Conference is simply getting tougher with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets getting healthier).
The Magic are actually just a few steps behind where the Grizzlies are at today. However the Grizzlies provide a transparent map for a way the Magic try to grow and construct. The Grizzlies have walked the steps the Magic try to walk.
They supply a transparent road map for a way a team can center itself around a star and construct its identity right into a playoff team and potential title contender.