Taking into account both regular season games and postseason contests, the Grizzlies now have a 21-6 record without Ja Morant this season, and that mark may actually understate how well they’ve played without their All-Star point guard, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Sixteen of those 21 wins have been by double-digits, including a 73-point rout of Oklahoma City in December.
The Grizzlies’ depth is one reason why they’ve been so effective when Morant has been unavailable, and the point guard’s subpar defensive numbers are another, Hollinger observes. The Grizzlies gave up more points per possession with Morant on the court than with any other single player on the court this season.
However, digging further into the data, Hollinger unearths several more interesting details, including Dillon Brooks‘ positive impact on the Grizzlies (especially defensively) and how infrequently he and Morant played together this season. The Grizzlies’ performance with and without Morant has also been skewed by their opponents’ shooting luck, which is one reason why Hollinger, unsurprisingly, concludes the team isn’t actually better off without the 22-year-old.
Interestingly, Hollinger’s data shows that the Grizzlies have actually played well with no true point guard on the court, with Kyle Anderson serving as the primary ball-handler. Hollinger suggests that could be a factor in how the team approaches Anderson’s and Tyus Jones‘ free agencies this summer.
Here’s more on the Grizzlies:
- As expected, Morant has been officially ruled out of Friday’s Game 6 vs. Golden State due to the bone bruise in his right knee, per the Grizzlies (Twitter link). Santi Aldama (right knee soreness) and Killian Tillie (lower back procedure recovery) also remain sidelined.
- After a 5-of-19 shooting performance with four turnovers in Game 4, Dillon Brooks bounced back in Game 5. Although he had just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, Brooks didn’t turn the ball over and was an eye-popping plus-38 in just 24 minutes. He suggested after the game that there’s still room for improvement. “I’m my worst critic. I know I’m playing like trash,” Brooks said, per ClutchPoints (video link). “I know I’m not shooting the three well, but I’m trying to do all the little things.”
- Jaren Jackson Jr., who bested Brooks with a plus-42 mark in just 25 minutes on Wednesday, is realizing how dominant he can be at just the right time, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He’s the key,” Brooks said of Jackson. “They’ve got no one to guard him. No one to stop him. He needs to keep demanding the ball and the Warriors are going to have to adjust and double-team him soon. He’s going to have to learn how to pass the ball out to get his teammates shots. That’s what he needs to do. I try to tell him to stay aggressive, and you’re a walking mismatch out there for every single player that guards you, so just keep attacking.”
- Although the Grizzlies will be playing on the road and missing their best player, Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal isn’t convinced the team’s season will come to an end on Friday in Golden State.
- In case you missed it, Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year on Thursday.