A Look Back at the 2021 Memphis Grizzlies

July 8th, 2021

By Alan Lu

The Memphis Grizzlies had a solid season, as they were able to surpass expectations. They won 38 out of 72 games in the regular season, and Ja Morant dominated in the play-in tournament, as he led his team to successive wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors.

He even helped lead his team to a Game 1 win in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, but Donovan Mitchell came back for Game 2, and Utah won the next four games to win that series, as they eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis Grizzlies’ star point guard, Ja Morant played very well this year, and he was terrific in the play-in tournament, as he was able to help lead his team to get to the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Joe Robbins/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Pelican Debrief)

G Ja Morant
2021 (MEM): 63 GP, 19.1 PPG, 7.4 APG, 4 RPG, 45 FG%, 30 3PT%, 73 FT%, 16.7 PER, 54 TS%, 3.2 WS, .074 WS48

Morant is a star point guard who saw his numbers taper off in the regular season, but he dominated in the play-in tournament games, and he also led his team to a surprising win in Game 1 of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs before his team eventually lost their series to the Utah Jazz. 

He is a tremendously athletic point guard that can really score and make plays on offense, and he also showed off a very good floater.  He is a really talented point guard that could end up being one of the best league in the future.

Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars (4.5 stars potential)

Memphis Grizzlies’ center Jonas Valanciunas (pictured in the middle) had a very good season as he averaged roughly 17 points and 12 1/2 rebounds per game for his team this past year.
(Photo:
Brandon Dill/Associated Press)

C Jonas Valančiūnas
2021 (MEM): 62 GP, 17.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 59 FG%, 37 3PT%, 77 FT%, 24.4 PER, 64 TS%, 7.8 WS, .213 WS48

He had a solid season, as he especially excelled as a shooter, scorer, and rebounder this year, and he was able to make big contributions to his team this past season.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Memphis Grizzlies’ swingman, Kyle Anderson had a good, all-around season for his team this past year.
(Photo:
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images, via Fansided’s Beale Street Bears)

G-F Kyle Anderson
2021 (MEM): 69 GP, 12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 47 FG%, 36 3PT%, 78 FT%, 17.2 PER, 58 TS%, 5.6 WS, .143 WS48

He had a very good season, and he excelled as an all-around player for the Grizzlies.  He did just about everything well, and he is a versatile forward that can play and guard many different positions.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

G-F Dillon Brooks
2021 (MEM): 67 GP, 17.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 42 FG%, 34 3PT%, 82 FT%, 12.1 PER, 52 TS%, 1.4 WS, .033 WS48

Brooks was able to put up counting numbers in volume, as he was able to score the basketball, but he wasn’t particularly efficient this year.  He didn’t quite shoot the ball as well as others.  He is a scorer that was able to get some assists, but it’s uncertain what else he adds to the table.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

G Grayson Allen
2021 (MEM): 50 GP, 10.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 42 FG%, 39 3PT%, 87 FT%, 12.8 PER, 59 TS%, 2.7 WS, .101 WS48

He is a very athletic combo guard that excelled as a shooter and scorer in his role for the team.  He looked to be fairly middling statistically in the other areas, but he played fairly well in extended minutes this past season.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

When Jaren Jackson got hurt in the Orlando bubble last year, he missed the rest of the 2020 season, and he was expected to miss all of this season, too. He came back to play late in this season, but did he come back too soon? He didn’t quite shoot as well as hoped when he returned back to action.
(Photo:
Joe Robbins/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Beale Street Bears)

F-C Jaren Jackson Jr.
2021 (MEM): 11 GP, 14.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 42 FG%, 28 3PT%, 83 FT%, 18 PER, 55 TS%, 0.7 WS, .123 WS48

After missing most of the season due to a knee injury, Jackson came back late in the season, and the Grizzlies worked him slowly into their lineup.  Jackson wasn’t nearly as effective of a scorer or shooter, but he seemed to commit more to the boards and to the defensive end.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting power forward on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3.5 stars potential)

F Brandon Clarke
2021 (MEM): 59 GP, 10.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 52 FG%, 26 3PT%, 69 FT%, 17.3 PER, 56 TS%, 4.2 WS, .142 WS48

He didn’t quite shoot the ball as well as he did before, but he still had a fairly solid season, regardless.  He excelled at attacking the basket, and he did a very good job of rebounding and defending when he was on the court.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Memphis Grizzlies’ rookie swingman, Desmond Bane is a sharpshooter that shot the ball really well, and he played very well this past season, as he was able to make the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie Second Team this year.
(Photo:
Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal)

G-F Desmond Bane
2021 (MEM): 68 GP, 9.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 47 FG%, 43 3PT%, 82 FT%, 12.2 PER, 60 TS%, 2.9 WS, .093 WS48

Bane did a great job of shooting and scoring in his role to help his team this past season.  He’s a sharpshooter that really excels at knocking down threes, and he also helped out as a facilitator and rebounder when he was on the floor.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

F-C Xavier Tillman
2021 (MEM): 59 GP, 6.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 56 FG%, 34 3PT%, 64 FT%, 14.7 PER, 60 TS%, 2.9 WS, .127 WS48

Tillman had a very good, all-around season this past year for the Grizzlies.  Not only he excel as an inside scorer, but he showed off a passable outside shot, and he showed some all-around skills, as he surpassed expectations and went above and beyond the call.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

G De’Anthony Melton
2021 (MEM): 52 GP, 9.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 44 FG%, 41 3PT%, 80 FT%, 15.2 PER, 57 TS%, 2.2 WS, .103 WS48

Melton had a solid season this year.  He excelled as a shooter, and he also showed off a solid all-around game in his role for his team.  He didn’t seem to play in enough games, but he played well when he was on the floor.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Tyus Jones
2021 (MEM): 70 GP, 6.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2 RPG, 43 FG%, 32 3PT%, 91 FT%, 15 PER, 51 TS%, 2.8 WS, .110 WS48

He didn’t shoot the ball very well, but he did a very good job as a facilitator and defender when he was on the floor.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

G John Konchar
2021 (MEM): 43 GP, 4.3 PPG, 3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 50 FG%, 38 3PT%, 83 FT%, 14.8 PER, 61 TS%, 1.7 WS, .145 WS48

He didn’t play nearly as much as hoped this year, but he did just about everything well when he was on the floor.  From an analytics’ perspective, Konchar rated very well statistically across the board.  He will need to shoot the ball more, and find ways to get onto the floor more, but he played well when he was out there.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Backend roster player, possible backend of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

F Justise Winslow

2021 (MEM): 26 GP, 6.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 35 FG%, 19 3PT%, 57 FT%, 6.2 PER, 39 TS%, -0.7 WS, -.066 WS48

Winslow did not have a very good season, and he really struggled to shoot or score the basketball.  While he fared better in the other elements of the game, it didn’t wash away the horrendous shooting he put forth this year.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Expected 2022 NBA Role: Backend roster player, possible backend of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Winslow has a team option that the team can exercise for next season.

F-C Killian Tillie (Two-Way)
2021 (MEM): 18 GP, 3.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 33 FG%, 30 3PT%, 82 FT%, 8.5 PER, 46 TS%, 0.2 WS, .055 WS48

Tillie is a stretch big that was able to get some playing time, but he didn’t play very well in limited minutes in the NBA, and he could’ve used some time to play in the G-League this year.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend of the rotation player in the NBA (Rotation player in the G-League)
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (2 stars potential)

F-C Jontay Porter
2021 (MEM): 11 GP, 2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 53 FG%, 38 3PT%, 60 FT%, 9.2 PER, 64 TS%, 0 WS, .019 WS48
2021 (G-League): 9 GP, 7.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 34 FG%, 18 3PT%, 56 FT%, 14.0 PER, 42 TS%, 0 WS, 0 WS/48

Porter wasn’t expected to play much, but he shot the ball well in limited minutes.  He was very foul prone, and he didn’t seem to do much else, but it’s good to see that he’s finally able to get some playing time after missing the previous two years with knee injuries.  On the other hand, he didn’t play nearly as well in the G-League, and he shot the ball poorly at that level.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend of the rotation player in the NBA (Rotation player in the G-League)
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (2 stars potential)

Porter has a non-guaranteed contract for next season.

G Tim Frazier
2021 (MEM): 5 GP, 1.6 PPG, 3.2 APG, 1.6 RPG, 15 FG%, 0 3PT%, 33 FT%, -0.5 PER, 18 TS%, -0.2 WS, -.169 WS48

Frazier is basically a career backup point guard, but he didn’t really do anything well last year in the NBA, and it was a surprise that he lasted the entire season on the Grizzlies’ roster.

2021 Season Grade: F
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Frazier will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G-F Sean McDermott (Two-Way)
2021 (MEM): 18 GP, 2.2 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 39 FG%, 23 3PT%, 100 FT%, 7.2 PER, 53 TS%, 0.2 WS, .050 WS48
2021 (G-League): 6 GP, 17.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 44 FG%, 32 3PT%, 88 FT%, 17.1 PER, 55 TS%, 0.3 WS, .080 WS48

Considering that he seemed to be a run of the mill prospect that had little draft buzz, McDermott actually was a solid shooter that could pass and rebound in college.  He averaged just a shade over 13 ½ points per game at Butler in his senior season in a year where there was no NCAA Tournament, it was very surprising that McDermott immediately locked down a two-way contract.

He wasn’t expected to get much playing time, and he didn’t play too well in the NBA.  He didn’t quite shoot well at either level, but he was able to provide some scoring and rebounding in the G-League.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend of the rotation player in the NBA (Rotation player in the G-League)
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (2 stars potential)

Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach, Taylor Jenkins did a very good job this year, and he helped lead his team to get to the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Pete Thomas/USA Today Sports, via Fansided’s Beale Street Bears)

Head Coach:
Taylor Jenkins
2021 (MEM): 38-34, won 2 play-in tournament games, 1-4 in the playoffs
Coaching career: 72-73, 1-4 in his playoff coaching career

He did a very good job of coaching his team, as he led them to more wins than expected, and he also coached really well in the play-in tournament.  He won two impressive games over the Spurs and the Warriors, and he even was able to lead his team to snag a Game 1 win over the 1st seeded Utah Jazz before eventually losing in that series.

Also, give credit to executive Jason Wexler for building a good roster, and for drafting well, as they managed to get two very good rookies in Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman.  Ja Morant is looking to be a superstar that could be one of the best players in the league in the NBA’s future.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3.5 stars potential)

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Memphis Grizzlies’ Season:

The Grizzlies were a well-built, well-run team that won more games than expected.  They do have plenty of young, inexperienced players, but the Grizzlies have a talented team that fit well together.  Ja Morant was terrific in the play-in tournament, and the Grizzlies were able to exceed expectations and get to the playoffs this year.

The 2020-21 Memphis Grizzlies’ Season Grade: A-

The Memphis Grizzlies’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Jonas Valanciunas
F Jaren Jackson Jr.
F Kyle Anderson
G Dillon Brooks
G Ja Morant

Key Reserves:
G Grayson Allen
F Brandon Clarke
G-F Desmond Bane
F-C Xavier Tillman

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
G De’Anthony Melton
G Tyus Jones
The 17th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
G-F John Konchar

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
The 51st Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
G Tim Frazier – Not Expected Back

Players with an Impending Team Option:
F Justise Winslow – Not Expected Back

Projected Players Cut From Next Season’s Roster:
G-F Sean McDermott
C Jontay Porter (On a non-guaranteed contract for next season)

Projected Offseason Plan for the Memphis Grizzlies:
The Grizzlies have enough cap space to sign one big free agent, or a few mid-tier players.  I feel like they would probably try to push their chips in to try to make a big move to sign a star player in free agency, as they could look to sign a versatile wing player or forward that can shoot, defend, and play off of Ja Morant.

In the draft, they could look to draft players that can shoot, defend, and play off of Ja Morant, and the Grizzlies could be well suited to try to build a very talented, versatile roster, which would at the very least make them a tough out in the playoffs next year.

The 2022 Memphis Grizzlies’ Expected Win-Loss Record and 2022 Season Prediction:
46-36, 8th in the Western Conference in 2022

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
The Memphis Grizzlies had a pleasantly solid season this year, and they are expected to continue on an upward trend.  They have a rising star in Ja Morant as well as a lot of talent and depth, and they could be a mid-tier playoff team that could sneak up on teams and maybe win a round or two next year, and perhaps be like how the Atlanta Hawks fared this past year.

I primarily looked at Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and No Trade Clause for research purposes to help with this article. Thanks for reading.

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